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Huge Week For New Mexico MMA: From Talented Locals To The UFC & Invicta FC

New Mexico is well-known for its storied culture in combat sports and the area is a stomping grounds of sorts for martial artists to make a name for themselves training in one of the several high level gyms that the area hosts. Whether the fighters are local or if they made their way to area to attempt to go on the next level in their career paths, New Mexico is a MMA hot-spot and every now and again, fans of the region are treated to a fight week that is packed with locals competing.

Starting on Thursday, July 9th and ending on Sunday, July 12th the New Mexico area will be part of at least four events and each individual bout that includes a fighter from this region will be significant for their own unique reason. In the instance of one bout, a fighter has the chance to earn himself a spot in the top 15 rankings world-wide while launching himself into perennial contendership while another fighter is looking to rebound from back-to-back losses and regain some of the momentum he had obtained prior to those outings.

Regardless, this weekend is one of great importance. With that being stated, let’s break down the events and fights coming up this week (in chronological order).

Invicta FC 13 – July 9th – Las Vegas, Nevada

Photo Credit: Will Fox / The Fox Identity / Southwest Fight News

Photo Credit: Will Fox / The Fox Identity / Southwest Fight News

FIT NHB will kick the weekend off and they will impact the weekend all the way into Saturday (more on that later in this post) and it will all start with Amber Brown (4-1) fighting in her second Invicta FC bout. “The Bully” draws a tough opponent in Catherine “The Alpha Female” Costigan (5-0) who is part of the overwhelming Irish movement currently happening in MMA.

The two Atomweight fighters will have their chance to climb the 105-pound division ladder and a win over the other will go a long ways to deciding the next batch of title contenders. Brown is a well-rounded offensive minded striker who is just as tough as she is talented. Coming off a win in her Invicta FC debut against Liz McCarthy, Brown can send a statement to the promotion’s other 105-ers with a win over a second quality opponent in a row.

For Costigan, the bout is a step-up in competition for a fighter who has typically only competed against regional talents. Costigan is part of a wave of talented Irish fighters invading the sport all over the world and Brown is standing in the way of Costigan becoming the next Irish fighter to put their stamp on their respective weight class.

Brown quietly has made a name for herself, thanks in large part to her exciting fight style and ability to grind through tough rounds. With the Atomweight Division wide open due to the presence of a new Champion and the departure of the former Champion to the ranks of the UFC, Brown can string together a series of wins and be immediately inserted into the title picture.

Plus, Brown will earn extra exposure as she is on an Invicta fight card that is headlined by Cristiane “Cyborg” Justino who is arguably one of the top three most notable women fighting in MMA today. Hey, did I mention that the Champion of Brown’s weight class, Herica Tiburcio is defending the title for the first time that night as well? I suggest you have your UFC Fight Pass ready for Thursday night.

Duel For Domination XII – July 11th – Mesa, Arizona

Photo Credit: Will Fox / The Fox Identity / Southwest Fight News

Photo Credit: Will Fox / The Fox Identity / Southwest Fight News

This regional event is scheduled to feature four locally trained fighters and when the promoter decided upon these competitors he definitely selected the best our State has to offer in terms of their ability to entertain the crowd in attendance.

Judgement MMA is sending down two of their most exciting fighters and one of them, a fighter I have dubbed in the past as “Mr. Fight of the Night”, Jesse Sandoval should tear down the house once again but this time for the Mesa, Arizona crowd. Sandoval (4-5 amateur) is one of the most active fighters you will ever see and in addition to his iron will, Sandoval has his foot on the gas pedal from the opening bell to the closing seconds of fights.

Sandoval’s scheduled opponent, Jawaun Lee is from the renowned MMA Lab gym which means Sandoval will be fighting a hometown fighter that will bring to the cage the professionalism and hard work that the MMA Lab is known for.

Joining Sandoval on the trip to Mesa is “Rock’em Sock’em” John Rozema (2-2, 1 NC) who will be eager to right the ship on his current two-fight losing skid and get back to his winning ways. Rozema had an outstanding amateur campaign before turning professional and started his pro career with two TKO finishes. The talented knock-out artist is one of the region’s standout fighters especially due to his exciting fight style.

Rozema has had his submission skills put to the test as of late as recent opponents have looked to take away his fight ending power by grounding the fight and focused their efforts on attempting to end the fight before Rozema had a chance to return to his feet. His opponent Josh Rodda is making his professional debut after a perfect amateur campaign (4-0). With finishes via TKO and submission, Rodda should serve as a well-rounded test for Rozema and as much as the Judgement MMA fighter needs the win, I would expect this to be an epic fight with emotion, desperation and excitement rolled into one for the fight fans in Mesa to really get their entertainment value out of the price of admission.

The Rio Rancho gym will also have an amateur competing for one of the promotion’s titles as Nick Gibson (1-0 amateur) will face-off with Kyler Phillips (2-0) in a 135-pound clash. Coach Scott Marlowe and his coaches will have their hands full on Saturday night.

Photo Credit: Will Fox / The Fox Identity / Southwest Fight News

Photo Credit: Will Fox / The Fox Identity / Southwest Fight News

Judgement MMA will not be the only New Mexico gym in attendance as Luttrell/Yee MMA will be represented in the main event of the evening. Headlining the show, Stephen Cervantes (4-0) will look to establish himself as not only a prospect but a blue-chip prospect ready to take the next step up the perennial ladder. It will be a grizzled, durable veteran clashing with a dynamic, explosive athlete.

Cervantes will meet his stiffest test to date when he steps into the cage with Randy Steinke (15-8) who is regarded by many as one of, if not the best unsigned 135-pound fighter in Arizona. Steinke is the former King of the Cage Champion (never lost the title) and recently won the vacant World Fighting Federation Bantamweight Title. The experienced fighter trains out of the renowned MMA Lab and with over eight years of professional combat in his back pocket, the veteran looms as the first true test to the extraordinary talents of Cervantes.

The undefeated Cervantes has torn through competition through this point and his powerhouse wrestling abilities and explosive striking talents will definitely present the opportunity for Cervantes to remain undefeated and make a name for himself with a win over an established regional veteran. A win for Cervantes may thrust him into the conversation of which fighter will be the next to make the jump from New Mexico regional prospect to regional star poised to be called to MMA’s big leagues.

The main event will offer huge reward to the gym run by Chris Luttrell and Ray Yee as their stable of fighters have found success in the New Mexico area as of late but can take that success to the next level by knocking off one of Arizona’s most talented prospects.

A big fight card for local New Mexico MMA. If you want to watch the fight card visit Go Fight Live (http://www.gfl.tv/event/Fight/MMA/Duel-for-Domination-XII/2920) to purchase the show.

UFC 189 – July 11th – Las Vegas, Nevada

Yes. Conor McGregor is fighting on Saturday night. The biggest star in MMA at the moment will fight atop the fight card for the Interim Featherweight Title. However, it is another headliner that matters more to this area and can be a defining moment for one of the hardest working athletes in our State and if you peel back the curtains, one of the most stand-up people in the fight game period.

Photo Credit: Will Fox / The Fox Identity / Southwest Fight News

Photo Credit: Will Fox / The Fox Identity / Southwest Fight News

“The Dirty Bird” Tim Means (24-6-1) isn’t UFC 189’s PPV headliner but he is the preliminary portion of the event’s headliner as Means will take on “The Immortal” Matt Brown (19-13) in a Welterweight clash that many have pegged the early pick for “Fight of the Night”. The fight will headline the prelims that will air live on Fox Sports 1.

Do not let Brown’s record fool you for as many losses as Brown has on his record he has equal amounts of fights that have been awarded “Fight of the Night” and in several cases have been recognized as top fights in MMA period. Matt Brown is an action fighter and arguably MMA’s most successful scrapper who brings into the cage a calculated while reckless style of fighting that mixes aggression and more aggression with violent intent.

There should be no doubt at all in the argument that this will be the biggest fight of Means career as Brown currently sits as the #5 ranked Welterweight in the UFC and will present a career-altering opportunity to crack into the rankings in his very first fight versus a ranked opponent. Means matches up well with Brown as both fighters have a Muay Thai base to their striking and have the cardio to volume strike for five rounds.

A win for Means cements the slow build Means has been on which has silently seen him go from a blip on the radar to debatably one of New Mexico’s most successful fighters. Means and teammates Ray Borg and Amber Brown have put ensured that their gym, FIT NHB, remains one of the most recognizable and reputable training destinations in this part of the Country and the presence of these elite level talents and their coaching staff has made FIT NHB a viable option for any fighter looking to relocate in search of high-level training atmospheres.

This fight has “Fight of the Night” written all over it and fight fans are salivating at the thought of these two violent finishers getting the chance to beat each other up for their entertainment. Means and Brown will use all eight points of combat inside the cage so prepare yourself for punches, elbows, kicks, and knees in abundance on Saturday night. Make sure to tune in to Fox Sports 1 before the pay-per-view telecast.

The Ultimate Fighter Finale 21 – July 12 – Las Vegas, Nevada

By the time the Ultimate Fighter Finale starts on Sunday, fight fans may be in a fight coma. Nevertheless, we will have to push forward for one more fight card. On the final event of the weekend, two fighters with deep roots in New Mexico will actually square off versus one another in a fight that should be getting more attention but instead, seems to be flying beneath the radar.

Michelle Waterson Invicta FC

Photo Credit: Will Fox / The Fox Identity / Southwest Fight News

Angela Magana (11-7) has a made a name for herself specifically through the use of social media stemming back from her inclusion on the first season of TUF to feature all-women. Magana is an out-spoken, trash talking UFC Strawweight who has made her fair share of enemies along the way. In addition to her fight-selling ability, Magana is a seasoned fighter with exceptional talents; in fact, “Your Majesty” has defeated the likes of top-ranked fighters Jessica Aguilar and Barb Honchak and despite taking the losses, Magana has shown her ability to compete at the highest levels of WMMA in her bouts with Jessica Eye, Jessica Penne, and Stephanie Eggink.

Magana has roots that tie to Farmington and Team Four Corners and while she has spent time training in Thailand and California recently, Magana has left her mark on New Mexico MMA as she can definitely be included in discussion for the first pioneers of WMMA in this area.

Another fighter who can be tossed into that category of WMMA pioneer is Michelle Waterson (12-4). “The Karate Hottie” was one of the most notable WMMA talents for years before she decided to put MMA on the back-burner in favor of becoming a mother. Upon her return, she picked up where left off as one of the most visible and recognizable female athletes competing in the sport. Waterson quickly captured the Invicta FC Atomweight Championship and immediately put her name on the map as one of the best in the World.

Upon losing her title in Invicta FC, Waterson elected to jump up a weight class and join in on the ranks of high-level Strawweights competing in the UFC. Waterson should be considered a dark-horse title contender in this weight class as she brings her Championship pedigree from Atomweight and will now put her well-rounded talents to the test on the sport’s biggest stage. The Jackson’s MMA product will her hands full with a fighter in Magana who may be backed into a corner fighting in her sophomore effort for the UFC and trying to avoid going 0-2 in the UFC after also losing during the taping of the Ultimate Fighter reality show.

Tune in to Fox Sports 1 on Sunday to catch the whole show which features a Welterweight main event featuring Jake Ellenberger and Stephen Thompson.

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 seven 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.