One of the most epic encounters in Colorado history took place nearly a year ago between two tough-as-nails up-and-coming pro fighters in Colorado’s middleweight division. The Fight to Win: Superheroes card brought fans a bloody battle between Todd Meredith, a wrestler with heavy hands and a grinding style, and Adam Stroup, a tall striker with an iron chin, who, amazingly, has almost all of his wins coming by submission.

This battle won the award for 2012 “Fight of the Year” in Colorado, as Meredith edged out Stroup in a controversial decision. The back-and-forth affair included devastating clinch work, a first-round flash knockout, submission attempts and powerful ground-and-pound, which netted broken hands and busted faces. Both fighters sustained a lot of damage and sat out of competition with injuries for at least five and a half months.

After suffering his first loss against Meredith, Stroup was the first to re-enter the cage, taking on an old foe in his Sparta Combat League debut on Nov. 9, 2012. He wanted to fight a new challenger, but it didn’t happen that way. After opponents kept dropping off the card for one reason or another, Stroup eventually faced Michael Matthews and won their rematch by unanimous decision.

In his second fight back at SCL: Rivals on February 23, after even more competitors kept dropping off the card, Stroup faced Willie Smalls as another short-notice replacement. Stroup finished Smalls the way Smalls almost always gets finished: by rear-naked choke.

Although his last win was less than grinding, Stroup did take away some valuable experience from the fight.

“I always want to improve my wrestling skills,” said Stroup in an exclusive interview with The MMA Corner. “He was able to take me down easy that first time. I feel like I always want to improve my wrestling, because that’s a huge part of the fight.”

So far, Stroup’s only loss was to Meredith, a wrestler, so it’s understandable that he wants to continue to improve in this area, especially considering the background of his next opponent.

Stroup has grown fairly tired with the fact that most of the guys at his experience level in Colorado either get injured in training, are signed with less-than-tolerable promoters or simply duck the challenge. At this point, he’s ready to move up to the next echelon to improve his skills as a fighter.

For the SCL: Army vs. Marines IV card this Saturday night, Stroup faces his toughest challenger yet in Jason Clayton, a man who will most certainly not drop off the card. Clayton brings a record of 6-1 as a pro and 7-1 as an amateur, and is a very well-rounded fighter, with his only pro loss coming by way of submission to Donnie Liles, an IFL veteran that has also won on the Strikeforce stage and holds wins over some UFC fighters. Since the loss to Liles, Clayton has been on a three-fight winning streak, all by decision.

In Clayton, Stroup finally got what he’s been waiting for—a great match-up against his toughest opponent yet—and he is ready for war.

“I definitely think it’s contrasting styles, because he is going to want to take me down,” Stroup explained. “I don’t really think he’s going to want to fight on his feet, but if he does, that’s great. I think it’s a cool match, because he’s going to want to take me down, and I’m going to want to stand-up.

“You know, he’s got a lot more fights than me, and it seems like he’s riding a big wave. Especially, with some of the guys he’s been beating. He’s near the top of the 185-pound fighters in Colorado.”

It’s amazing that Stroup considers a takedown to be a contrasting style, considering all of his fights have hit the mat and all but one of his wins have been by submission, but that’s been more of his opponents’ own undoing. Stroup’s stand-up game is crisp, and, as a 6-foot-3 middleweight, he is extremely rangy and dangerous on his feet.

Stroup trains at Factory X Muay Thai in Englewood, Colo., which may have originally been a Muay Thai school, but has since transformed into an exceptional MMA gym. And Stroup is excited about his camp.

“I feel really good,” explained Stroup. “I definitely feel this is the best I have ever been, by a longshot. I wanted to fight some of the best, and I have a lot to prove. I’ve put a lot of hard work into this, so it’s going to be a good fight.

“My head coach is Marc Montoya. JJ Pugsley is my jiu-jitsu coach and Malcolm Havens is my wrestling coach. Another guy that helps me out a lot is Andres Hermida. He used to be my jiu-jitsu coach, and I still talk to him a lot about strategy, what I need to improve on and stuff like that.

“My main sparring partners are, of course, Chris Camozzi and all of the other guys at Factory X. Matt Dorsten is another guy that’s been helping me out a lot.”

With the tremendous foundation that his camp brings to the table, Stroup, who has never been finished in his eight total fights, looks to inflict major damage in upsetting his more experienced opponent. He has no real prediction, but, in the true heart of a fighter, he’s just planning to win.

“We’re both really competitive,” Stroup admitted. “I think it’s going to be up and down, all over the cage, a barnburner. I think it’s going to be really violent, you know? I’m looking forward to it.

“I’m hoping for a finish, either a choke or a TKO, or just a flat knockout. I really want to finish this fight. I’m coming out hard and looking for a finish.”

Poised and ready to finish Clayton in his biggest fight yet, Stroup will move up the Colorado rankings quickly with an upset of the more experienced fighter. With this being the final bout on his current Sparta contract, he is ready for a step up in challenge, but he’s pretty much open to any fight, barring any sleazy promoters. Stroup is a professional fighter, so for him it’s not just the sport he loves, it’s his livelihood.

“After this, I’ll either sign with another promotion, or who knows? I’m always looking for more money, so whoever wants to pay me to fight for them, I will. I’ll fight in a parking lot, if I have to,” he admitted.

Barring any injuries, Stroup will be ready to get right back into action. But, while he’s waiting for his next challenge, he has plans for a little bit of activity outside of MMA.

“These last two fights were close together, so I’m just in and out of the gym,” said Stroup. “There’s not really a lot of time to do other things. After this fight, I want to take a little time off to go camp or do something outside of the gym. But, for the last couple months, it’s been all about getting ready to fight.”

As much as Stroup wants to take a small break from training, he will definitely be itching to get back to work. His biggest frustration of the last six months has been his opponents falling off cards. With a win over Clayton, he will have no problem drawing some bigger names for his upcoming bouts.

Stroup is a professional MMA fighter. He wants to fight as often as possible, but he wants to make sure he gets paid, because his craft is what he chose to dedicate his life to. It’s his sole source of income.

Stroup has a few parting words for his fans.

“I just want people to know I work hard for this, and it’s an honor. It’s an honor to be a part of this sport. I give everything I’ve got, and I train as hard as I possibly can. I fight until the bloody end. I appreciate the support and I hope I embrace what the sport’s really about.”

Adam would like to thank everybody at Factory X, coach Marc Montoya: “he helps me out a lot,” Performance MMA, 5280 Armory, Rome’s Saloon, Ride the West RV, Marlee Liquor Mart and BDM Exhaust: “These people have all come forward to support me and help me out along the way.”