Strikeforce, heavyweight tournament, opening round at the IZOD Center, Fedor, madness! But while everyone and their mother is pontificating and gesticulating about Saturday night’s main card, there’s a lot to love about the undercard, which won’t be broadcast on Showtime but will get some air on HDNet. So who the hell is taking part in this opening act? Hey, bro, MMA Journalist has got you covered.
- Kevin Roddy vs. Jason McLean – A few years ago, Kurt Pellegrino-trained Kevin Roddy was one of the top five lightweights in the Northeast (at a time when the division included Frankie Edgar, Jim Miller and Deividas Taurosevicius), and with his concise jiu-jitsu and dangerous guard, it wasn’t hard to see why. Unfortunately, when fighters started to realize that the key to defeating him was to get on top and not make any mistakes, Roddy began amassing losses – usually by way of a decision, and sometimes by the narrowest of margins. The bottom line, though, is Roddy’s dangerous as hell, and opponent Jason McLean, a tough wrestler, will have to work hard to not leave his arm or neck exposed lest K-Rod take them home with him.
- Anthony Leone vs. Josh LaBerge – Josh LaBerge may be some New England badass, but he’s going to have his hands full with Anthony Leone, who’s been pounding on and submitted dudes in everything from the UCL to Raging Wolf in Upstate New York to sanctioned shows in New Jersey and Massachusetts. Last year Leone fought in both the WEC and Bellator and tasted defeat for the first time, but the kid is no less of a banger. Watch for him to out-scramble LaBerge and drop bombs from above.
- Sam Oropeza vs. Don Carlo-Clauss – Don Carlo-Clauss is another wrestler-type, but as a Fight Factory exponent, Sam Oropeza gets beat on regularly by one of the best wrestler-turned-mixed martial artists in the world (Eddie Alvarez), so don’t expect Oropeza to wither. Instead, you can count on either his precision striking or his deadly submissions to shine through.
- Igor Gracie vs. John Salgado – Igor Gracie’s got top-notch jiu-jitsu (duh) in his favor, but he’s susceptible to being out-hustled, and when John Salgado is in shape and prepared, he’s the master of the hustle (and maybe “The Hustle” as well, but I leave whenever disco music is played). You can count on Gracie to do his best to get it to the ground so he can work his wizardry, and you can count on Salgado to do his best to sprawl-and-brawl.
- John Cholish vs. Marc Stevens – Now this bad boy of a matchup could easily headline any regional Northeast card. On one side, you have the area’s current lightweight darling in John Cholish, who sports killer Muay Thai and ace jiu-jitsu (courtesy of Renzo Gracie). On the other side, you have Marc Stevens, who may have fell short on the last season of TUF, but for years has used his wrestling and grappling game to make his mark on the local scene. Though Stevens has the edge in experience, the Cholish Train is going to be a hard thing to derail right now. This one’s definitely a toss-up.