GFL Top 5 Fights to Watch; Don’t Miss These Matchups this Weekend
In the headline bout NJ Mac takes on Rob Gonzales for the Interim 147lb USMTA / WC Title, with the winner meeting the 147lb Champ Chanon Kuldraree in their next bout. These 2 fighters are both experienced Muay Thai fighters, though they have contrasting styles. NJ Mac has impressive footwork and mobility which he will need in defending the aggressive attacking style of his opponent, Rob Gonzales.
These two fighters come from competing schools, which ads to the rivalry and interest in this bout. Rob Gonzales trains at The Wat in Downtown NYC, whilst NJ Mac trains at Rebel Thaiboxing on Long Island. Full Rules Muay Thai requires a physical and mental discipline unlike other combat sports as the risk of injury is great. The sport is known as “the art of eight limbs” because it is characterized by the combined use of fists, elbows, knees, shins and feet. I have seen a spinning elbow that was so fast that at 60 frames per second the camera did not capture the contact between the elbow and the fighters chin. This fight has the making of a great battle between two experience and disciplined fighters.
Bout of Note: Another fight of note is the Womans’ USMTA title fight between defending champion Raquel Harris against Nicole Richiusa. Raquel had cleaned house in the 105lb division beating many of the best females in this weight class. Nicole comes as a legit contender looking to dethrone Raquel for her USMTA title.
In the main event at Fight Hard MMA we have a great match up. Take a country kid from Missouri who never backs down and add to the cage a rowdy, stubborn Illinoian who doesn’t know how to quit and you get the potential for fight of the year. Both fighters are ranked within the top 50 Middleweights with Gwaltney (21-18-2) ranked 44 and (6-2) Kurtz ranked 49.
It’s no secret Gwaltney is a favorite of Fight Hard president Kenny Nowling and rightly so. Gwaltney, from Streator, Il., leaves every bit of himself in the cage every fight. His fight with Adam Cella two years ago is still talked about among local fight fans. Gwaltney has turned in many memorable performances and Nowling hopes to catch lightning in a bottle again when he puts “2 Strong” in the cage with Kurtz.
Kurtz, from Jackson, Mo., is no stranger to the spotlight, having fought only in high profile match-ups for the past year-and-a-half. His whirlwind 18 months included two trips to the Scottrade for Bellator MMA and three main event slots for Shamrock FC where he faced Cella, Kevin Engel, and Joaquin Buckley to name a few. Kurtz’s keep-moving-forward-style makes him a fan favorite, but it’s his exciting come-from-behind wins that make him a threat. Though Gwaltney is the hometown favorite with a height and reach advantage, Kurtz has fought higher caliber fighters winning twice at Bellator within the last year.
Bout of Note: A rematch of one of Knuckle Junkies’ Amateur Fights of the Year nominees in 2015 will see Demetrius Wilson facing Charles Johnson, this time as pros. Since that bantamweight clash in April of last year Wilson has gone 3-1 as a pro, highlighted by a victory over Ian Lujan at Victory FC. Johnson made a successful pro debut in June over Austin Ward in Kansas City and was a staple of the Fight Hard amateur events. In their last fight, it was apparent Wilson had a size and strength advantage, winning the first two rounds decisively before Johnson, the former Southeast Missouri track star, was able to use his footwork and speed advantage to frustrate Wilson in the third round of the fight. It will be interesting to see what tweaks both will make in this fight.
Huber has been fighting since 2006 with a professional record of 18-10, having fought in many high level fights at WSOF, Victory FC, Titan FC and RFA. His last win was in April 2016 at WSOF 29 against Clay Wimer who was 6-0 at the time and thought to be a rising star. Even in his last few losses he has gone the distance only to lose in close decisions. At 31 he has fought through many rounds of MMA coming, being victorious in 2 out of every 3 fights. This has kept him in the picture for the past few years but has delayed if not eliminated his shot to fight at the highest level of the sport.
Ben Lugo is 1-0 as a pro, having had an extensive amateur career since 2013 in which he fought 16 times in less than 3 years. He launched his pro career in April of this year by beating Randy Rowland who was then 1-0. Lugo has not fought to a decision since March 2014, having knocked out several opponents and having submitted and been submitted on other occasions whilst he honed his skills as an amateur.
Huber is Lugo’s most experience opponent to date. Not only does Huber have experience having fought 28 times as a pro to Lugo’s 1 pro fight, he has gone the distance in 4 of his last 6 bouts. Though he may not be a KO threat he has submitted his opponent via Rear Naked Choke in 3 of his last 5 wins. Lugo has youth on his side being 5 years younger than Huber, as well as a slight reach advantage. He is equally adept on the ground as Huber, as both fighters having finished many opponents via rear naked choke. Lugo also has shown the power to finish the fight quickly. If the fight goes into the later rounds it will be hard for Lugo to get the win, however, expect Lugo to press the action early and look for the KO.
Warrior FC “Caged Chaos” takes place this Saturday at the Harlan Center pitting undefeated Nathan Maness (6-0, 10-0, including amateur record) from North Carolina against hometown Kentucky fighter Brandon Bell for the Warrior FC Lightweight Title.
This bout may seem lopsided but it is far from that. Maness is coming off a tough shoulder injury that he incurred in January and has not been in the cage for almost a year. Additionally Maness is climbing 2 weight classes to fight at lightweight having gone from 135lbs to 155 lbs for the contest. Brandon Bell (4-5) is basically fighting in his backyard and has won three of his last five fights, his last win a first round TKO over Shane Robinson. Though he lost the Lightweight Title to a retiring Matt Metts via decision this past April, he is know to be a tough, strong fighter having never been knocked out.
All said Maness is still the favorite in this bout. He was ranked as the No. 1 pro bantamweight in the Southeast, and had already decided to step in weight well before this bout. In 10 bouts (6 as a pro) since 2013 he has never lost, having finished 5 or 50% of his opponents. His last fight was in 2015 at Coliseum Combat XXXIII, when he knocked out Michael Ricketts with one of the best shots of the year. He also holds wins over other notable fighters, Isaiah Ferguson and Jeremy Pender.
The tale of the tape also seems to be in Maness’ favor as he has youth (25 years to Bell’s 31 years), height and reach advantages. If Maness can quell the hometown crowd and if his shoulder is full healed he should come away with the victory, though do not expect a 1st round finish.
1. Xcessive Force Fighting Championship: TJ Laramie v David Hale
TJ Laramie is an 18-year old stud athlete who has looked mighty impressive early on in his MMA career.
The Ontario native is 3-1, having finished each of his first three opponents in under three minutes. In January, Laramie obliterated Yvon Agenord via knockout in just 25 seconds, landing him the No. 1 spot on our GFL top 5 highlights.
Since then, Laramie dropped an razor close split decision to the highly touted Vince Murdock, but the loss will prove to be a great learning experience for the young prospect. Hale has only 5 fights since turning pro in 2009. Though he is only 3-2 he has only fought high level winning opponents. He has had 5 bouts cancelled over the past 18 months, so its clear he is taking his career seriously at this point and needs a win over an opponent like Laramie to propel him.
With a 15 minute fight under his belt, Laramie heads into his bout on Saturday night against David Hale as the heavy favorite. Will the Canadian once again earn another violent finish, or will Hale prove to be another stiff test in the Xcessive Force cage?
Bout of Note: Craig Shintani (5-1) vs. Scott Hudson (5-2-1). Currently riding a 5 fight win streak Shintani will look to fight for the first time in 2016 and will look to capitalize on his spectacular first round KO of Wolfgang Janssen at Hard Knocks 45. Hudson moved to Thailand in 2015 to train at Team Quest Thailand he went 2-0-1 in the far east most recently fighting to a draw at WSOF Global with the then 6-1 Islam Makoev. This is a fantastic match up between two high level strikers looking to make their name in a crowded Canadian Lightweight division.