Coming up later this week, SWFight.com compiled a four-fighter list where we listed who we thought had the opportunity to make an impact in the near future and compete for world title contention. We discussed potential championship caliber fighters Rustam Khabilov who had high praise from his Head Coach Greg Jackson, John Dodson, who has already been minutes from the title and teammate Erik Perez who is on quite a streak in the UFC. We also named FIT NHB fighter Tim Means as being a fighter to watch for despite a loss in his last outing.
Today however, we are looking at some of the other notable names in the MMA community ready to make their mark and be the next wave of successful New Mexico trained fighters gaining immense recognition. On the horizon, several of our athletes have big opportunities forthcoming. We are labeling this group the “rest of the best” as we continue to highlight some of the fighters who are on point on their winning ways or have big opportunities coming up and may be ready for a breakthrough in the near future.
Chavez Dojo’s Joby Sanchez (4-1) has made a mark for the XFC promotion and after battling an injury is expected back in action after summer. Sanchez is a dynamic, explosive young athlete who has loads of potential. His teammate Rafael “Barata” de Freitas (6-0-1) suffered a set back when he fought Antonio Banuelos to a draw this past March but the Flyweight is still in prime position to make a mark for the division. The Jiu Jitsu World Champion has been seen through Facebook and Twitter training with the guys over at the Jackson-Winklejohn gym. Adding John Dodson and Diego Brandao will be very beneficial to the improvement of Barata.
Staying with the lighter weight classes, Adrian Cruz (4-0) looks to stay on his hot streak with a possible return to action in 2013. It has been rumored but not announced that Judgement MMA fighter may be paired with Felipe Chavez (6-3) in the near future, possibly for the Bellator or Triple-A-MMA promotion. Cruz is coming off of a victory in his Bellator debut where he submitted Nick Gonzales with a submission typically seen in Gi Jiu Jitsu competitions. Chavez just won in the Triple-A-MMA inaugural show a few weekends ago returning to the cage after a layoff of over three years defeating Ron White via triangle choke.
Speaking of Bellator, we have several fighters rumored to be competing for them on the horizon. Included in that fray is Mean 1 MMA and Jackson-Winklejohn fighter Lionel Lanham (5-1). Lanham’s last bout was under the Bellator banner and he quickly dispatched his opponent in 49-seconds.
The lighter weights seem to be fruitful in New Mexico and that continues in trend as Jackson-Winklejohn fighter Andres “Bullet” Quintana (4-1) is scheduled to fight on May 24th in Mexico. Quintana is one of the brightest lights in the new wave of our younger MMA fighters and with a Bellator win already under his belt; the sky is the limit for Quintana. In that same young grouping, FIT NHB fighter Ray Borg (2-0) was featured recently on Sherdog as one of their featured prospects. Borg is scheduled to fight for King of the Cage later this month.
The UFC is holding two events in May and in two events unfortunately we only have one local competitor. Donald Cerrone (19-5) is looking to bounce back from a loss and is still in the mix at 155-pounds to become top contender material once again. He draws Strikeforce vet K.J. Noons and the pairing almost assuredly will mean fireworks as both fighters love to strike.
Mid-way through the summer the action will heat up as UFC 161 on June 15th will feature several locally trained fighters. Shawn Jordan (14-4) will return to action against Pat Barry and Isaac Vallie-Flagg (14-3-1) will once again pair up with a UFC vet, this time against Sam Stout. Both fighters will be featured as Jordan fights on the main card and Vallie-Flagg is rumored to be on the FX/televised portion of the event.
If we are talking about dark horses in the race to bring New Mexico another world title then we should be talking about Cub Swanson (19-5) and his impressive win streak heading into his bout with Dennis Siver. Swanson brings the best of the teachings of Albuquerque’s premier striking coaches and has delivered emphatic statements in his last several outings. Training in Albuquerque by way of the Jackson-Winklejohn camp, Swanson is very close to title contention and may be one win away from a chance at UFC gold.
There is plenty of local MMA as well, King of the Cage is expected to be back in Albuquerque in June and Bellator is rumored to return at summer’s end. In between it all, regional shows will be going down in Carlsbad as well as other areas and fight fans can’t forget that the next Jackson’s MMA Series event is still planned in the near future. For all of your New Mexico MMA news and coverage stay tuned to SWFight.com for event announcements, in-depth fight breakdowns and all the combat sports news