The Top 5 Reasons Why You Should Care About the Pinnacle FC 14 Amateur Card

So you all know and are familiar with most of the faces from the pro portion of Pinnacle FC 14, but what about the amateur card? Why should you care about these guys? Well, I'm here to tell you why. Check out my breakdown below.

5-FloCombat

If you follow Pinnacle FC on social media, you may have discovered that this event will be streamed live on FloCombat. They've kind of taken over the MMA streaming world, and the amateurs on this card will get the opportunity to be seen on a large stage.

4-New Academy blood

Ross Holub is just 18 years old, but he'll come in representing Mark Cherico's Academy in his first MMA bout. But this won't be the first time he's seen live combat sports action, as he already has a few Muay Thai smokers under his belt. Word is he's very well rounded and an exciting prospect. He'll be taking on Ryan Blankenship out of West Virginia, who already has three MMA bouts under his belt.

3-Heavyweights

It's not very often that you see exciting young heavyweights in the sport, but that's exactly what we have to kick off the night. Tylor Gregg and Dakota Lemaster will be throwing down. Gregg made his debut earlier this year, winning via knockout in just 34 seconds. That's what we like to see.

2 - Gregg Freaking Rudolph

It's been awhile since we've seen The Lumberjack inside the Pinnacle FC cage, but he's been keeping busy knocking guys out with the heavy gloves and eating donuts. Now, he's back and ready to pounce on yet another foe. But he's got a very durable and strong foe in front of him in Shadi Gharfeh, who has a 5-to-1 experience edge over him in number of MMA fights. Don't blink when this one starts. In case you missed Rudolph's last Pinnacle FC fight, watch it here.

1-Title Fight

We did a full breakdown of this fight earlier in the week, but Anthony Romero and Mike Walters are set to do battle for the Pinnacle FC lightweight title. Two other guys have held that title: Nick Browne, and Chris Humes-Mitchell. Browne is now 6-0 and wrecking fools from every angle, and Humes-Mitchell is 3-0 and pretty much doing the same.

You've got two guys here who are under the age of 20 that we'll be seeing fight for a long time. So get used to their names.

The Top 5 Reasons Why You Should Care About Mark Cherico vs. D'Juan Owens

The beard is back. That's right - Mark Cherico returns home to Pinnacle FC tomorrow night for the first time in a year and a half. He's set to take on veteran D'Juan Owens, a well-rounded upset-minded cage fighter who is coming in looking to steal Mark's fans.

The bout takes place in the lightweight division - as Mark steps up for the first time in his career. Owens has bounced from 145-170, so 155 falls right in line for him. I honestly don't think the weight really matters here, because these are two consumate pros looking to put on a show.

Let's get to the breakdown:

5-Owens is a spoiler

D'Juan Owens has spent a good portion of his career going into an opponent's backyard and picking up the win. And that's exactly what he plans to do here. He even recently told me, "After I beat him I'll definitely leave PA with some new fans." That doesn't sound like the words of a guy who is planning to lose.

4-Making MMA great again

Let's face it: none of us want to live in a world where Mark Cherico isn't fighting professionally. While that day will come at some point (insert lame line here about Father Time being undefeated), I think we all hope that day doesn't come for a long time.

Cherico is a rare breed in that he knows how to market himself and has since Day 1. He's not afraid to put himself out there and sometimes say crazy things and sometimes piss some people off. But I think it's safe to say that everyone in the Pinnacle FC brass is happy to have him back home.

3-Hip Hop Chess

I'll be honest, I had never heard of hip hop chess before. But Owens is the head of the East Coast wing of the Hip Hop Chess Federation, which blends martial arts, chess, and hip hop to help the youth of today navigate this crazy world. Not only is that an awesome organization and idea, but it also speaks to the mindset of Mr. Owens in that we can expect a cerebral fighter who is always thinking at least a few moves ahead.

2-This Cherico is a fun Cherico

Mark admitted that about two years ago, the whispers that he was headed to the UFC at any moment got to him. And he started fighting in a different way. For the first time in his career, we saw him fighting safe and taking wins via decision. But that all changed with a loss. No longer did he have to worry about protecting that undefeated record or answering the "why aren't you in the UFC yet?" question at every turn. 

What he did do was take some time to reflect, and change back to the fighter that we all grew to love. He's an aggressive guy who is strong as an ox and will throw you on your head and the choke you out. 

1-The Breakdown

Owens is athletic, extremely well-rounded, and is not afraid to stand in the middle and trade for 15 minutes. Both fighters have a common opponent in Nathan Landwehr. They both won, but Cherico was able to get the finish while Owens took a decision.

Owens likes to bounce around on the outside, but he throws a lot of power shots. Owens has five wins via (T)KO and five via submisison, so that's about as well-rounded as you can get. He also likes to throw a bit of flash into his game, routinely busting out the old spinning roundhouse kick and occasional spinning backfist. Pretty much what you'd expect from a former breakdancer. Just three of his ten losses have been finishes, so he's also tough to put away.

Cherico is more than just a blast double, get to mount, beat you up, and choke you out kind of guy these days. He's put a lot of work into his striking, both with boxing coach Bob Meese and Muay Thai coach Dann Cucuta. In his fight against Landwehr, he was more willing to stand and trade than I had ever seen him before, and he was actually winning the fight on the feet against a pretty polished striker.

With that being said, he still has his incredible strength and power to fall back on, and I think that he'll need to whip out all of his tools in this fight. Owens is dangerous everywhere and it's a good test for both guys.

The Top 5 Reasons Why You Should Care About Dominic Mazzotta vs. Keith Richardson

Look up Badger, Honey in the dictionary and you'll see a picture of an animal that just don't care. I hope that you do care (about this breakdown), and also that you don't suffer from dry throat after inhaling the dust you brush off of your dictionary to look that up. It's fight week, so we can't have anyone on the sidelines. 

Our breakdown today features (one of) the big one(s) on Friday night. The Honey Badger vs. The Rockstar. Mazzotta vs. Richardson. Let's get to it:

5 - Richardson has tasted the big show

Richardson recently put together a five-fight win streak over names like Frank Caraballo, Titan FC No. 1 contender Andrew Whitney, and Bellator veteran Rodrigo Lima. That earned him a shot on a Bellator undercard. And while he came up short, you've got to think that that little taste of the big show makes him even hungrier to get back there. 

4 - Mazzotta jumps out of pools

I keep saying that one thing Mazzotta doesn't get credit for is his freakish athleticism. Then he goes and posts a video of him jumping out of a pool (shades of B.J. Penn), and proves me right. The pool never even had a chance. 

3 - Richardson does everything right

He's a Marine veteran, owns his own gym, and even spends his training camps with Team Alpha Male in Sacramento. He has plus punching power, and black belt level skills on the ground. He's also a bullish type fighter, with a low center of gravity. If Mazzotta wants the fight on the ground, he'll have a hard time getting it there. 

2 - Mazzotta is this close to the UFC

People are starting to notice. First he was on Restaurant Impossible slinging pizzas that make your mouth water, and next we'll probably see him on Fox Sports 1 or pay-per-view fighting in that eight-sided cage. He's put away every opponent set in front of him save for probably No. 1 contender Cody Garbrandt, and he's done so in devastating fashion. An eighth straight win here over yet another legit opponent and you've got to think that his UFC contract will be in the mail on Monday. People still use mail right?

1 - The breakdown

I like this fight so much it's not even fair. Mazzotta has every tool in his toolbox and has had to dig deep in a couple of fights to show some things that have really surprised even me. When he was being bullied by Rob Hanna in his last fight, he threw some vicious spinning elbows off of the cage that you could hear all the way in the back of the Syria Shrine Center. 

And oh yeah, he's also a jiu-jitsu black belt. And they say that it's hard to find guys who can take him down in the gym, including former elite college wrestler and UFC veteran Chris Dempsey. Another thing I like is that he's been training a lot with Mark Cherico for this fight. Cherico and Richardson are very similar in terms of fighting style and body type, and Cherico is a bigger guy who can push Dom.

Richardson is also a jiu-jitsu black belt and has some slick transitions on the ground. He's got an ace in his hole in that training at Alpha Male gives him access to the only man to defeat Mazzotta in Garbrandt. 

Richardson is a straight-forward, hard-nosed type fighter, but don't let that fool you. He's got skills everywhere and is a dangerous threat on the feet as well. 

Mazzotta has the toughest test of his career not named Garbrandt, and if he passes it expect him to receive the call from Uncle Dana. Richardson also wants his shot on the big stage as well, so don't expect him to go down easy. 

The Top 5 Reasons Why You Should Care About Devonte Smith vs. Xavier Nash

The first pro fight of the night on Friday at Pinnacle FC 14 will feature two rising lightweights, as Devonte Smith (3-0) is set to square off against Xavier Nash (2-1). 

This is another fight where both guys have their eyes set on making it to the big show, and this will be a big test for each early in their careers.

Let's break down the top 5 reasons why you should care about this fight.

5 - The coaches

There's a reason why both of these fighters are recognized as two of the best up and coming MMA fighters in the area, and it starts with the men in their respective corners.

Smith has been a different fighter since switching his training camp to Evolve MMA under the tutelage of John Cook and Co.

Nash has spent his entire career training at Modern Vision MMA in Ontario and is a member of Chris Bonfoco's Team Ascension.

4 - These guys have been around

Smith made his amateur debut in 2011 and posted a 7-2-1 record before jumping to the pro ranks just under a year ago. All three of his wins have been highlight reel knockouts, including winning the 2015 BluegrassMMA Pro Knockout of the Year in his pro debut. He's also still just 23 years old.

Nash was 7-2 as an amateur and now has three pro bouts. He made his debut in 2010, and is still just 25 years old. 

3 - Nash has a legit martial arts background

Nash has been a lifelong martial artist. He started training around age 15, and has excelled in both striking and grappling. He posted a 9-3 record as an amateur K-1 fighter, and he's also a BJJ purple belt.

2 - Smith hurts people

The gif has been making the rounds, but Smith's last win over Fred Stonehouse in June was vicious. And that's pretty much par for the course for "Johnny Kage." He reminds me of a young Brian Rogers on a local level - a guy with massive power, who knows how and when to use it. 

1 - The breakdown

One of my favorite things about Smith's style is that his power comes from his speed and technique. Sure, most fans see the massive power, but he sets it up by throwing heavy, fast punches from his chin, and putting his opponents to sleep. 

The thing that most people don't give him enough credit for his his ground game. He's continued to show impressive hips, as well as great submission defense against multiple opponents. His last fight he was able to get out of a deep triangle before finishing the fight with some nasty ground and pound.

Like just about every fighter from Team Ascension, Nash is extremely well-rounded. He's a Southpaw and isn't afraid to throw on his feet before looking for a takedown to use his jiu-jitsu.

In his fight against John Gunther, he showed a good top game and won the first round, but then got smothered in rounds two and three before losing a decision. That also happened in his pro debut, although he was able to pick up a split decision in that fight. He'll need to stay off of his back against Smith, who throws heavy shots from the top.

The Top 5 Reasons Why You Should Care About Mike Walters vs. Anthony Romero

Pinnacle FC 14 is just around the corner. And by just around the corner, I mean, as soon as you turn the corner, you better be watching out for a patented Dom Mazzotta spinning elbow because that's how fast it's coming. We don't want any of you to get hurt.

Anyway, Matt Leyshock told me that each article has to be at least 50 words of B.S., so that's what you're reading here.

Our breakdown today features the premiere amateur bout on this Friday's card. Wait, you didn't think we were just going to roll with five fights, did you? We'd never do that.

Anyway (again), Friday's amateur card is anchored by a lightweight title bout featuring two up and comers. And by up and comers, I mean these guys can't even drink legally in the United States.

You're just dying to know the two names of the competitors, but we'll get there eventually. I get paid by the word, so might as well grab another 50 cents while I can.

Mike Walters (6-2) vs. Anthony Romero (5-1)

Let's check out the five reasons why you should care about this fight.

5 - That whole drinking thing

As we mentioned, neither one of these guys can legally buy a beer here in America, although Romero can have one when he gets back home to Canada. If you're looking for the next crop of stars, then one - or both - of these guys could be it. In a few years, we'll probably look back in amazement that two guys who are nationally recognized squared off so early in their respective careers. Romero is 19 and Walters is just 18.

4 - Romero is a black belt in, like, everything

His coach Chris Bonfoco always gets mad at me for mentioning his taekwando black belt, so I guess I have to do that here. He's also a black belt in jiu-jitsu and probably in tying his shoes too.

"The Genius" is also 2-0 under the Pinnacle FC banner. He earned a decision over Matthew Schaffer at Pinnacle FC 12, and then topped Fadi Shuman at Pinnacle FC 13 in March. His only loss so far is against former Ohio State wrestler T.J. Rigel.

3 - Walters is used to competing

For those around the Western Pennsylvania who pay attention to more than MMA, Walters' name should be familiar. He's been competing in grappling tournaments for years, dominating and taking home all kinds of medals and shiny belts. He made his MMA debut earlier this year just after his 18th birthday (before he graduated high school), and he already has 8 fights. His last fight, which was a second round submission where he moved up to the welterweight division, doesn't show up on his record for some odd reason. But I saw the fight with my own two eyes, so I know it happened.

Another thing to like about him is that he really doesn't seem to care who or where he fights. He's traveled to Ohio and Eastern Pennsylvania and faced the toughest fighters there, and he's more often than not come out on top.

2 - They both come to scrap

Both of these guys have fun styles to watch and both are willing to take on just about anybody, including each other (obviously). They both have a mindset that the pro ranks are where they'll be eventually, so a shiny amateur record just doesn't really matter. What does matter is facing the absolute toughest competition possible to prepare them for the next level. There are a lot of amateurs who could take their cues from these two.

1 - The breakdown

Both of these guys are extremely well-rounded for being so young, and you can see that they've both been groomed to make it to the highest levels of MMA at some point in their careers.

Walters obviously has a stout ground game, and he's shown that he's not afraid to win fights off of his back if he needs to. His first fight was finished with a triangle, and he's won five via submission (including one submission via strikes). 

Where he needs improvement is his striking. He can be a little wild at times, and his punches tend to be a bit wide. With that being said, he's already shown a vast improvement in just a few fights. He dropped an opponent in his third fight with a big overhand right (video here), and he's definitely not afraid to trade.

Romero is nicknamed "The Genius" because he fights smart. He's also incredibly technical for his age and improves in leaps and bounds each time out. He stymied Fadi Shuman at Pinnacle FC 13 for almost the entire three round fight, using heavy top game and nice ground and pound to pick up the win. Check out the full video here.

If I had to pick something to critique in his game, I'd say that he fades a bit at the end of fights. He wasn't able to put Shuman away, and Fadi nearly came back and finished him late in the third round. He also has just one finish in five wins so there's some room to grow there.

This is a fight that will almost certainly hit the ground. The fighters both have advanced ground games, so the fight will likely be decided there. 

Know your Pinnacle FC 14 fighter: D'Juan Owens

If you hadn't heard already, it's fight week.

That's right: Pinnacle FC 14 will be coming at you this Friday night. Live from the Syria Shrine Center in beautiful Cheswick, Pennsylvania.

The fight card features a host of names you're probably familiar with (Dominic Mazzotta, Devonte Smith, Mark Cherico), but also some that you probably wouldn't be able to pick out of a lineup.

That's what we are here for. One fighter stepping up to face one of the biggest names on the card is D'Juan Owens. Also known by his geographically awesome nickname, "Dirty South" will be taking on Cherico in a lightweight battle.

Owens is the most experienced fighter on the card. He holds a 14-10-1 record as a pro MMA fighter, and also had 14 official amateur fights. He also told me that one of his losses wasn't an offiical MMA bout in Russia, so he's really 14-9-1 if you want to get technical.

Maybe one of the most dangerous things about Owens is that he likes to play spoiler. Multiple times before he's been brought in as an underdog, only to pull out the upset. See his fights against Nathan Landwehr and UFC veteran Dustin Pague as examples.

"Anyone who's fought Cherico is well aware of the love for him in PA but if they're true MMA fans, they'll appreciate my skill, showmanship, and heart," Owens told me. "After I beat him I'll definitely leave PA with some new fans."

He's also incredibly well-rounded. Of his 14 wins, 5 are via (T)KO, 5 are via submission, and 4 are via decision. Basically, he can win a fight anywhere.

He trains at The MMA Institue in Richmond, Virginia, and has spent time training all over the south. He's also competed in some of the top regional promotions around the country, as well as four times in Peru.

Owens is also a United States Marine veteran and competitive break dancert as a youth. One other interesting thing is that he's a VERY serious chess player. MMA can be like human chess sometimes, they say.

But in all actuality, D'Juan is a regular standup guy and seems to be someone worth rooting for (assuming you're not a member of the Cherico family). He's got a wife and two daughters at home, and he's fighting for the very thing that many in local MMA strive to achieve: a shot in the UFC.

He also runs the East Coast department of a non-profit called The Hip-Hop Chess Federation. The founder describes exactly what that is:

“Despite the school systems best efforts and intentions, and the
efforts of overworked parents, the past generations have suffered
from lack of suitable education and essential resources required
for a successful life,”, states co-founder Adisa Banjoko, “We
recognized that chess, martial arts and hip-hop unify people
from multiple cultural, religious and social backgrounds. These
black and white squares do not care what color you are or if you
are rich or poor. The only thing they ask is show me your
strategy, your patience, your skills.”

We need more of that. A lot more.

Mark Cherico Goes Up In Weight To Meet D'Jaun Owens At Pinnacle FC 14:

Biggie smalls taught us that when one finds himself in a shootout to stay low and keep firing.

This is the type of advice I would yell to my long time friend Mark Cherico as he makes his walk out to throw hands with his next opponent, D’Juan Owens (14-10).   Don’t let Owens’ record fool you, he has played host to many an upset and Cherico is meeting him at his preferred weight of 155 pounds.    

This is one of those fights that Mark needs to win to continue on in his career but it is going to be fucking wild up until if and when that moment happens.   

This is one of those super risky, dangerous, last minute type matchups that put Cherico staring down the barrel of a tough decision that Mark would probably rather not make at this stage of his career but he also needs the fight to keep moving forward.

Consider this, Owens has already played upset to UFC vet Dustin Pague, holds a win over Nate Landwehr, dropped a razor thin decision to Steve Smith and took out one time Ohio prospect John Washington. Trust me, no one at Mark’s career level wants to take on a risk like Owens, especially at a higher weight and on a few weeks notice.     

Risk is the name of the game at this level and also happens to be why yinz like what we do so much.

I’ll be releasing an updated card here soon but I’m going to Vegas/LA this weekend so I can’t really make any promises on a time frame, not that you care all that much anyway.  Just know that on paper and in real life this is the best cage fight you will ever go to in your life.  It’s kind of sad in a way because once it’s over everything else will be bland and innocuous but all the more reason to get involved.