Wrestling has become the staple of success for mixed martial artists and it can be seen best when a fan gazes over the top rankings. With a quick gaze over, one would find that in each division there is at least a handful of fighters on the list that have extensive wrestling backgrounds. Amongst those fighters, Bantamweight Champion Dominick Cruz, Welterweight Champion Georges St. Pierre, newly crowned Middleweight Champion Chris Weidman, Light-Heavyweight Champion Jon Jones and Heavyweight Champion Cain Velasquez all come from wrestling backgrounds that include High School awards, Collegiate All-American Status and Division I National titles.
On July 31st, two New Mexican fighters will challenge this wrestling status quo with their unique MMA talents at Bellator 97. The Bellator 97 show will include eight local fighters, two of which will fight non-local Bellator fighters all of whom have accomplished wrestling resumes. (*Note: Originally three fighters were scheduled to take on non-local fighters however Steve Garcia of Mean 1 MMA was forced to pull of out of his bout with Shawn Bunch due to injury)
One of MMA’s most talked about prospects, Bubba Jenkins (3-0) will be taking on Mike Barreras. Jenkins is the 2011 Division I Champion and Freestyle Junior World Champion. Wrestling for collegiate powerhouse Arizona State, Jenkins was one of the most talked about collegiate talents of the last several years. He is competing now in MMA, where he has amassed three career wins in a 20-month span. In all three bouts, Jenkins used his wrestling to the take the fight to the mat where he would have dominance over just about any regional opponent. He won his first fight via TKO and the next two by way of submission.
With ties to Ray Yee’s Albuquerque Kickboxing Academy and Lovato Total Fitness, Mike Barreras (5-6) is one of the more notable fighters of New Mexico’s “Old-School” MMA culture. He has a large fan base is well known as a fighter and a teacher as Barreras ran the program at New Mexico Elite Wrestling. Surprisingly and quietly, Barreras has a wrestling background of note just like Jenkins. Barreras was a standout High School wrestler at West Mesa where he was a State Champion. From High School, Barreras took to the collegiate level where he wrestled for Adams State and then Central Oklahoma University.
The second wrestler making the trip to Albuquerque is Will Brooks (9-1). Brooks was groomed by the Bellator promotion to be the next title challenger for Michael Chandler’s Lightweight Title before knockout loss to Saad Awad at Bellator 91 derailed those hopes. Will Brooks returns to Santa Ana Star Center looking for redemption and along with him comes hype and huge expectations. A successful High School Wrestler, Brooks also has an impressive football background that was derailed due to injury. Brooks has traditionally throughout eight fights worked the takedown and imposed his will as he hunted a TKO or submission finish.
Drawing the task of trying to halt the aggressive Brooks will be Chris Avila of Team Four Corners. Avila has won several fights by TKO and will be very dangerous for Brooks in that Avila’s style makes it very hard for fighters to be comfortable inside the cage. Avila has shown his ability to hang tough in the stand up, going toe to toe with the UFC’s Tim Means in their King of the Cage title bout. It will remain to be seen if Avila can keep the striking pace while also fending off the effective offensive wrestling of Brooks.
Fight fans get excited for some high profile wrestlers to be featured on a local show and get even more excited to see some of our locals put their talents to the test against them. Stay tuned to SWFight.com for more event coverage, bout breakdowns and analysis.