It's finally signed.
That probably has to be the thought process of Mark Cherico and Antonio Castillo Jr. heading into their fight at Pinnacle FC 15 on Friday night, but they can't forget that they still have a fight that actually needs to happen.
It's a fight that fans and both fighters have wanted for years and it's a little early Christmas present from your friends at Pinnacle FC just before the holidays.
Check out why you should care about this fight below.
5 - Cherico switched things up
With a 10-1 record and being fully recommitted to the sport, Cherico had to switch some things up heading into this camp to help get that bump to the next level. So he traveled across the country to train with Cody Garbrandt and Urijah Faber at Team Alpha Male in Sacramento for just over a week in the prime of his training camp.
"I've been training hard," Cherico said. "Got out of my comfort zone a lot to push myself. I'm excited to step back in the Pinnacle FC cage and get this win. I don't really have anything negative to say at this point; we're both signed to fight December 17th so we'll do just that."
4 - Castillo needs a win
Last year before his Pinnacle FC debut, Castillo was one of the hottest fighters in the area, with five straight wins and three straight stoppages. Then he dominated Khama Worthy for two full rounds, before he got involved in a firefight in the third round and eventually got knocked out.
He followed that loss up with a loss against Julian Lane in April, and here we are. A man backed up against a wall is a dangerous man, and you'd better believe that Castillo is ready to get the sour taste of defeat out of his mouth, and he'd like nothing better than to do it against Cherico.
3 - Who's stronger?
One of the most underrated aspects of Cherico's game is his raw power, which he honed in his previous power lifting career before entering MMA. Just look at his legs and tell me that dude couldn't squat an elephant if he wanted to.
With that being said, Castillo has a knack for putting opponents on their back and keeping them there. Just try and hold any grown man down for any period of time, let alone a trained fighting machine who wants to knock you out. Castillo has made a career on being a dominant tank in a state that breeds hard-nosed wrestlers in a way similar to how California breeds Kardashians.
2 - They just plain don't like each other
Finally, we get some trash talk! With all of the history between these two we knew it was bound to happen, but it's finally happened. While Cherico has been attempting to avoid the trash talk, Castillo went ahead and threw out some of his own:
Still, Cherico refuses to bite. His only response was this:
My popcorn is popped.
1 - The breakdown
Much like many matchups of top-level grapplers, this one will probably come down to which fighter has the edge on the feet. Both have shown serious punching power throughout their careers, and let's not forget that Castillo cracked Worthy a few times in their fight to open up the shot for the takedown. He's also been training with Scott Sheeley for this fight, who is one of the more noted striking coaches in the sport.
Cherico's best striking performance was probably when he fought Donny Walker. He really opened up in that fight, and showed a different fighter to earn the TKO. He was also impressive against Nate Landwehr in much the same way.
Both guys have top level wrestling for the sport, but I'm betting that they'll be tempted to just stand in the middle of the mat and just punch each other's faces in. And I wouldn't be opposed.