Sometimes it takes years for fighters to get their big break and so many talented athletes don’t ever come across those very special opportunities that can really propel you into the spotlight. As a fight promotion, Bellator MMA has been a proving grounds of sorts for dozens and dozens of athletes who were looking for their shot to step out of their regional circuit and make an impression on the regional scene. Fighters like Zach Makovsky, Michael Chandler and Pat Curran have used Bellator to really make a name for themselves. On October 25th, two fighters will be looking to do the same and while they are both very fresh into their professional careers, they have the opportunity to use the win over the other to take a huge leap in the right direction. It just so happens that one of those fighters will be representing the Bellator 105 event’s location of Rio Rancho.
Steve Garcia (1-0) is a very technical and methodical fighter who despite his inexperienced professional record draws high praises from his reputable coaches down at the Lutrell’s MMA & Fitness gym in Rio Rancho. While he may not be the hyped up name like his fellow 135-pound fighters on the card (Adrian Cruz, Frank Baca), he definitely brings the same caliber of talent which can be inexplicably displayed in his 13-0 amateur record. While fighting in Roswell, Gallup and Carlsbad; many local fight fans may in fact remember Garcia from his bouts on the undercard of the Holly Holm headlined fight cards.
Amongst the talents that Garcia is equipped with is impressive “fight IQ” which can be described best by noting a fighter’s intelligence level in a fight where he is adaptive, analytical and methodical. A lot of inexperienced fighters fight without patience, wading into the fight and leaving themselves open for counters or takedowns. Garcia is very poised in his attack and has no problem slowing down a fight in order to find an opening. His dominant performance over Alan Lerma back in April showed just that as he slowly picked his opponent apart until he was able to find the necessary opening to finish the fight. Garcia showed his ability to break down a fight as it happened, clearly adapting as the fight went on adjusting when necessary. The well-polished striking acumen of Garcia is a by-product of his extensive amateur MMA career as well as a good amateur kickboxing career.
Garcia’s improvement can be pinpointed to having a very solid fight team which is led by Chris Luttrell formerly Head Coach of Mean 1 MMA (now re-branded as Lutrell’s MMA), who has very talented fighters in his stable including Javier Palacios and Felipe Chavez. Coach Lutrell has invaluable experience in the fight game and Garcia is surround by several high level talents. Add the training Garcia has at Danny Romero’s Hideout Gym and the cross-training at the Jackson-Winklejohn gym and what you end up with a extremely impressive training camp.
With only one single professional fight under his belt, Garcia may not have seen a big-time opportunity come his way for a couple of years but he got the call back at July’s Bellator 97 event held in Rio Rancho to take on a formidable opponent. Garcia was scheduled to fight wrestling standout Shawn Bunch. Unfortunately for Garcia, an injury forced him out of the bout a week out from the event and Lovato Total Fitness fighter Russell Wilson took his place. Garcia wouldn’t give up on the lost opportunity however as he pursued the match-up once again despite Bunch’s victorious performance over Wilson.
Bunch (2-0) is a wrestling machine, labeled as a U.S. World Team member and former Olympic alternate; he has showed his proficiency for the double-leg in his short MMA career. Back at Bellator 97, Bunch showed off his vastly improved stand-up skills capped off by a near finish over the very tough Wilson. The American Kickboxing Academy (AKA) product left New Mexico with a split decision victory and found himself on a collision course with his originally scheduled opponent.
Considered to be one of Bellator’s premier prospects, Bunch will have a tall task on his hands, literally, as Garcia will have an estimated six (maybe more) inches of height advantage headed into the bout. While it may be hard to find weaknesses in fighters with unblemished records, Bunch did slow down immensely in the third round of his bout with Wilson and allowed Wilson to land significant strikes and even take his back for a long duration in the final frame. The lack of offense and minimal defense on the part of Bunch allowed Wilson to nearly take the Judge’s decision after Bunch clearly won up to that point. Garcia’s condition may play a huge role in the fight in that if the fight goes into deep waters once again, Garcia has the talent, patience and diligent pace to finish a tiring fighter.
This fight will be telling for each fighter; Bunch has the opportunity to not only stay perfect but show more improvements in his striking game and his conditioning. Garcia can use this win to really send his name into the MMA world as he would be defeating a highly touted prospect. Garcia has the talent to pull it off and definitely will enter the cage with the technical striking advantage. His long frame will undoubtedly play a part in the striking department and will make it very difficult for Bunch to get close enough to earn his patented takedowns. Bunch will almost always enjoy the wrestling advantage and should he put Garcia on his back he may find himself in the advantageous opportunity to once again earn a win over a hometown fighter.
Stay tuned to SWFight for more event coverage, bout breakdowns and analysis. Join us in sending our support to Garcia and the Luttrell’s MMA fight team in their fight week preparations and make sure to make your way out to Santa Ana Star Center on Friday night for the Bellator 105 event. For more updates, including fight night results follow the SWF twitter handle @SWFight and my personal handle @KingStark24.