After the usual holiday lull things really pick here in the Northeast MMA scene, and goodness gracious, 2012 will be no different. In February, the Cage Fury Fighting Championship returns to the Resorts Casino in Atlantic City (on the 4th), while Ring of Combat kicks off the new year with an installment at the Tropicana (on the 10th). Then there's a new show kicking off on the 18th, something called Rockout Knockout, which will take place at the Asbury Park Convention Center (remember that frigid hell?). The promoter is Justin Blair, who's been running sanctioned boxing and kickboxing shows (Friday Night Fights) in New York City since forever, and is apparently chomping at the bit waiting for New York to make doing MMA shows okay. So! What bouts in particular will make February awesome? Glad you asked!
-Joey Gambino vs. Kenny Foster, CFFC 13 on 2/4/12 - Gambino, it seems, is the next big featherweight thing coming out of the Northeast. And why not? The dude hits hard, comes prepared, and is exciting to watch. But uh oh, here comes a real test in Bellator vet Foster, who's so tough he eats raw lumber and craps patio furniture. This is spectacular matchmaking, with the winner likely garnering some "big show" attention.
-Brad Desir vs. Luciano Cristovam, CFFC 13 on 2/4/12 - Hey, is Desir the real deal? I don't know, but the dude needed only 36 seconds to submit AMA FC's Shane Mallory, who was a well-credentialed wrestler, so maybe he is. We'll know more, though, after he faces Cristovam, who's a jiu-jitsu black belt and instructor at the Team Renzo School for Gifted Youngsters.
-Mike Wade vs. Frank Lester, CFFC 13 on 2/4/12 - Wade comes across as a pretty scrappy individual in the cage, and we saw how scrappy Lester can be from watching him on TUF 9. My prediction for this fight: scrappadiddlydocious. Or something like that.
-Tom DeBlass vs. Carlos Brooks, ROC 39, 2/10/12 - DeBlass was last year's breakout star, so he should have a lot of momentum going into his title defense against TSMMA striker Brooks. Also, the stakes are getting higher and higher for the Ricardo Almeida black belt with each successive win, as each win brings him closer to the "big show". Can he steamroll over Brooks, or will Brooks play the role of spoiler? I don't know, but whatever happens, it should be fun.
-Uriah Hall vs. Daniel Akinyemi, ROC 39, 2/10/12 - Though he's only fought sporadically over the years (blame his job as a paramedic for that), Akinyemi has proven to be a very heavy-hitter when leather starts flying. Of course, we all know Hall is an ace striker with awesome kicks, so expect this one to be a thrilling battle on the feet while it lasts.
-James Jenkins vs. Dwayne Shelton, ROC 39, 2/10/12 - I've been monitoring Jenkins' career ever since he won that underground kumite in Myanmar, and I can say that since joining up with Team Serra/Longo, he's become quite the beast. Shelton is the saltiest of veterans, and therefore, should be a great test as to Jenkins' ability. Booyah.
-Ryan Vaccaro vs. Michael Parker, RoKo 1, 2/18/12 - Team Pellegrino's Vaccaro ran into a bit of hard luck in ROC when the competition became super-stiff (no shame in losing to Marcos Galvao, though, am I right?), but he was the king of getting dudes down and brutalizing them. Now he gets to spread his wings a bit and take on Parker, who's a West Coaster with experience in Bellator and King of the Cage. Will Vaccaro's wrestling mojo work against someone from the Land of Hippies and Pot Smokers?