New Blood, New Battles, and Possibly New Life for the IFL.

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Thanks to my good friend Ticketmaster, I will be in attendance for the IFL’s New Blood, New Battles show at Mohegan Sun in Uncasville, CT. Friday’s nine bout card has hardcore fans interested not only because of the three title fights but because the IFL’s changes have fans wondering if it is too little too late? With the IFL’s stock currently at $0.05 a share and their shows not drawing strong attendance figures, one has to wonder if the International Fight League is on its last leg? For now, though, let us look at the fights that will be on hand this Friday night. If you cannot attend this Friday, you can watch the event live on HDNet Fights at 8:30pm EST.

Friday’s event is headlined by the IFL heavyweight title fight as Roy “Big Country” Nelson defends against Brad Imes. Imes, a late replacement for the injured Brandon Lee Hinkle, is no stranger to the MMA spotlight as he was the runner up of The Ultimate Fighter season 2. The “Hillbilly Heartthrob” has won six of his last seven fights and will look to use his 6’7 and 265 lbs size advantage to dictate a slower-paced fight since he has not had that long to train for this bout. Nelson, with his marketed big belly, will look to keep the fight standing. If Nelson has a hard time in the stand-up, he will look to take the fight to the ground, which might play into his opponents game plan as Imes has won two fights via Gogaplata (which is the “unnamed moved” the Undertaker poorly applies) and two fights via triangle choke. This could be fight of the night or a replay of Rich Franklin vs. Travis Lutter, where Imes will gas out due to taking the fight on short notice. Unlike Lutter, Imes will have an excuse, but I’m sure you will not hear one. Roy Nelson is coming off a TKO victory in February over BJJ black belt Fabiano Scherner. Nelson is currently riding a four-fight win streak and will look to deliver fireworks in his second title defense.

Ryan McGivern will look to defend the IFL middleweight title against 7-1 Dan Miller. A Miletich product, McGivern, won the middleweight title from a very game, Matt Horwich, on 2/29/08 by unanimous decision. With a record of 12-4, McGivern is a well-rounded fighter who has won most of his bouts by submission. Since August of last year, Dan Miller is riding a five-fight win streak and will make his first appearance in the IFL when he defeated Dave Phillips by Guillotine choke early in the first round. The New Jersey native will look to make the most of his title shot as he will look to take the fight to the ground and finish the fight with a ground and pound decision or submission. It’s going to be hard to submit McGivern, a maverick on the ground and has what many fighters say is the best gas tank in all of mixed martial arts. Dan Miller will have to have an endless gas tank to compete on par with McGivern if this fight goes into the third round. I would expect more action on the ground than anything else as both men often look for the submission. There is a chance they might cancel each other out on the ground, and they will decide to stand up and trade. McGivern’s gas tank and aggressiveness will be his keys to victory as he looks to come away with the “W” in his first title defense.

The third title fight of the night will feature Oregonian Ryan Schultz making his second IFL lightweight title defense against Deividas Taurosevicius. Schultz has a record of 19-9-1 and has fought and beat a who’s who in the division with names such as Aaron Riley, Savant Young, Chris Horodecki, Gesias Calvancante Roger Huerta. Schultz will make his second title defense in the very arena he defeated and Horodecki to become the lightweight champion. Schultz was successful in his first title defense against John Gunderson on 2/29/08. Schultz will look to use his superior wrestling acumen to control the fight. The 9-2 Deividas Taurosevicius (no, I can’t pronounce his last name) is a Renzo Gracie student who will look to submit Schultz off his back. Many have compared him to Frank Mir in terms of how he catches people in submissions. His most high profile victory was a submission over Bart Palaszewski in September 2007. This fight has the making of a great chess match on the ground. Will Schultz’s wrestling ability and experience be too much for the relatively inexperienced Taurosevicius? Or will Taurosevicius catch an overly aggressive Schultz will a submission while laying in his guard? No matter how you slice it, both fighters’ skills will be on display for the fans at the Mohegan Sun.

Now we arrive at the team vs. team contest. But it will not be the glorified best of five team concept, such as the Quad City Silverbacks vs. Seattle Tiger Sharks. The team concept has been changed to a more subtle gym versus gym that highlights the fighter and their camp. Team Bomb squad will have four fighters from their camp. Team Quest has three fighters competing on the card, while Team Prodigy and The World Class Fight Center each have one representative on the card.

Lightweight: John Franchi (Team Bomb squad) vs. Frank Latina
Light Heavyweight.: Lamont Lister (Team Bomb squad) vs. Aaron Stark (Team Quest)
Welterweight.: Nick Calandrino (Team Bomb squad) vs. John Howard
Middleweight: Mike Massenzio (Team Bomb squad) vs. Danillo Villefort (World Class Fight Center)
Middleweight: Matt Horwich (Team Quest) vs. Joey Guel
Lightweight: Zac George (Team Quest) vs. Josh Souder (Team Prodigy)

Last Thursday, IFL commissioner Jay Larkin announced a new fighting surface called the “Hex” will be used in future IFL events starting on August 15th. A new fighting surface should be the least of their worries. There are a lot more things the IFL can change instead of adding the TNA ring. First and foremost, they need to start using the unified rules used by the UFC, Elite XC, and the vast majority of promotions instead of having every fight, including title fights, be contested in three four-minute rounds with no elbows. The IFL implemented these rules hoping for more exciting fights. As long as these rules apply, some fights in the IFL will always fall under the subjectivity of “Did we truly see the best fighter win this bout?” I know in business you have to be different and provide a product to make money. The team format was not making money, and it was changed. Now it’s time to change the rules and not have the bouts fall under subjectivity.

Their event on 2/29/08 in Las Vegas drew a paid attendance of 1,606 with a total attendance of 4,280. It’s time for a change, and I don’t think the “Hex” will do the job. It’s certainly didn’t work for the Yamma. I’m no one of the haters who want to see the IFL fail like WFA or Battleship and others. I want the IFL to stay around. Fans deserve more MMA options to chose from, and fighters also deserve another place to apply their craft as they train hard day in and day out. Jay Larkin is a great addition as IFL commissioner, but I’m wondering if it’s too little too late. Hopefully, I’m wrong. No matter how you may feel about the IFL, let’s focus on the fighters who have worked very hard in training to display their skills for our entertainment.

IFL, from the Mohegan Sun Casino Arena in Uncasville, CT, will air live on HDNet Fights Friday @ 8:30 PM EST with replays on Saturday, May 17th @ 1:30AM EST and Saturday, May 24th @ 4:00 PM ET.

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