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.
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.