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Pictured: Frank Baca

Bellator 97: Baca enters 135-pound tournament, Sanchez featured on undercard

It is well known to regional fight fans that the FIT NHB gym is full of premier MMA talent. The downtown Albuquerque gym features King of the Cage Champion Brenda Gonzales and exciting UFC Lightweight Tim Means. The coaching staff of Jon Judy, Tom and Arlene Vaughn have produced quality talent on the regional and national scene which is best exemplified in three fighters who have had their upcoming bouts announced for the fall.

Last week, it was officially announced that young, undefeated and top prospect Ray Borg will face the toughest challenge in his young career when he faces off with the “San-I Warrior” Angelo Sanchez in the August Triple-A-MMA event. Bellator MMA formally announced their Bellator 97 event on July 31st as well, naming two more fighters from FIT NHB to compete in prominent shows awarding the huge opportunities.

Frank Baca (16-2) and Donald Sanchez (28-13) represent two of the most successful King of the Cage Champions and the duo have fought several times in front of local crowds in New Mexico. Now their talents will head over to Bellator MMA where the promotions format allows fighters a quick path to championship contenders with a few big wins.

Baca has won eleven of his twelve fights, including wins over Isaac Colon and Teddy Pots.  He has earned the opportunity to bypass a regional fight and get himself right into the mix of the Bellator Bantamweight Tournament. Baca will be paired with Bellator vet Anthony Leone (12-5) who is on a three fight win streak. Leone is in his second run with the Bellator promotion, and after going 0-2 in his first stint Leone has really had a resurgence with two wins for Bellator including a judge’s decision over former champion Zach Makovsky.

Leone comes from a style of fighting that is grappling heavy and effectively smothering. With no knockouts on his record, the Team Bombsquad product has seven decision victories and five submission finishes. Baca on paper is more well-rounded as he has six knockouts, five submissions and five decision victories on his extensive resume. The FIT NHB fighter has long been considered one of the state’s premier regional talents and will take on his toughest opponent since fighting world ranked Mamaru Yamaguchi back in 2010.

Baca’s teammate Donald Sanchez also brings in the FIT NHB pedigree of effective striking, grappling and general toughness. He will draw Hard Drive MMA’s Cliff Wright Jr. (7-4) in his Bellator debut and the two Featherweights are matched up similarly in opposing styles alike Baca and Leone. Wright Jr. is a submission specialist who has won each career fight with either a choke or an arm-bar. That will completely contrast from Sanchez as the Albuquerque fighter is one of the most offensively talented strikers in our area. Sanchez has finished off twelve career opponents with strikes and is well-known for his two epic bouts with Santa Fe’s Angelo Sanchez.

Baca and Sanchez have been two exceptional regional fighters who are long overdue for their chance in the spotlight. Sanchez has the opportunity to get one fight close to that rare 30th career win and Baca is in a tournament where the victor earns a six figure contract and promotional Championship fight.

Stay tuned to SWFight.com for more Bellator 97 coverage, bout breakdowns and analysis. As always we encourage the fight fans of New Mexico to get behind our hard working locals. Baca, Sanchez and the rest of the Bellator undercard will be featured on the live Spike.com stream on July 31st.

About Phillip Lujan

Phillip Lujan is one of the lead contributors and a featured writer for SWFight.com. Specializing in MMA breakdowns and analysis, Phillip is considered the MMA aficionado on staff. With nearly ten years of experience in combat sports, gazing through the eyes perceptively as a fan and a cornerman and from fight manager to analyst. He can be reached on twitter at @KingStark24 or through email at marcello.lujan@gmail.com.