Written by: Mike Hammersmith
It's been awhile since Warrior Nation has assembled their cage at the Hu Ke Lau, but their red-hot brand of production and fights are exactly what we need to give winter the booth heading into March. Our main event features two of the brightest young stars in the region contesting for the brand new Amateur Bantamweight strap, with plenty more action holding down the card. Check out some of the select bouts and fighters that will grace the Warrior Nation cage.
Ali Zebian vs Will Smith
135lb Amateur Title
While the bitter taste of defeat still lingers from Zebian’s first title shot, the rock solid competitor will dust himself off and return to the cage once again; eyes focused on another belt of gleaming metal. Zebian is the prototypical anti-wrestling grinder, working a hard-style of upper body wrestling and pressure tactics; his best offense coming off the break where he can level foes with a winging hook. Built for the long haul, Zebian pits his gas tank against his opponent’s jawline, with results that bring a smile to dentists throughout New England.
A fighter climbing the ranks with surety, Will Smith will contest for a title in only his third amateur bout. A sponge for movement and an incredibly hard working, both in the gym and the cage, Smith adds levels and dimensions to his fight game every time he steps into the cage. The wheels in his battle-mind spinning madly and having a pair of rockets for legs, Smith is terrifying quick in every sense of the word, with Zebian representing either a momentum-shattering roadblock or a stepping stone to the next level.
This is a monster of an amateur fight with two power-first fighters, fit for main event status. Zebian brings experience and a great combination of raw power and finesse, having been in tough spots and bouncing out of shatter opponents only a moment later. While Smith is new to the game, his willingness to jump into the deep end of the division and learn to swim in turbulent waters has left him with a battle-hardened look in his eye and a spine of corded steel. Like a hammer on an anvil, we have fifteen bone-jarring minutes to see if someone breaks; the other made stronger for having endured the punishment.
Fighter Profile: Dan Randall
A man with finesse seldom seen at heavyweight, Dan Randall will test his adversary at every turn. A wrestler by trade, Randall brings an arsenal of foot sweeps, hip throws and good old-fashioned grind to the fight, knowing how to move larger men and drop them with authority. With a deft eye in exchanges and all the power he needs to send heads rolling, Randall is set to clear out the region's heavyweight division one by one.
Ed Nook vs Joe Lexus:
A mountain of a man, Ed Nook will seek another blistering KO at Warrior Nation X. Nook brings the best characteristics of a heavyweight, with power in every strike he throws, yet a deceptive amount of grace in his movement as well. Nook uses his excellent footwork to keep his punches on the mark from slower retreating opponents; having the presence of mind to cut off the cage while never laying off the pressure. Accuracy and hand speed enter the mix as well, making for a dynamic heavyweight that must be approached with caution in the cage.
A battler not afraid of a taking a shot to give one back, Joe Lexus will seek a highlight reel win at his opponent’s expense. A fighter that strikes in a style reminiscent of bare-knuckle boxers, Lexus makes maximum use of his size and reach, popping off long punches with his full weight behind them to batter opponents and halt them in their tracks. A strong clinch wrestler that can handle his own on the mat as well, there are few avenues to approach a fight with Lexus that don’t lead to the hospital.
This is a quintessential heavyweight battle where the first flush shot will send someone to the canvas for good, with the tense spaces in between strikes making for an edge-of-your-seat encounter. Both fighters have been in these kinds of shoot outs before so expect a bout where fear is left outside the cage doors and primal fury reigns supreme.
Fighter Profile: Steve Karr
A fighter that lives to contest his personal space, Steve Karr will take to the Warrior Nation cage for the fourth time. Karr lives for the short range engagement, having a knack for popping off short hooks on target and getting the better of clinch exchanges; swimming hard and damaging the body. Opportunistic takedowns and the cage savvy of many hard rounds on the amateur circuit make him a fighter growing by the day and hungry for the win.
Curtis Watkins vs Jose Rivera
A fighter looking to make a lasting impression on fans, Watkins will bring his hard-nosed combat style to the Warrior Nation cage yet again. Watkins fights like a statue brought to life; unapologetically rough, unyielding against opponent's offense and hewn to crush foes. Watkins’ in-your-face style is built around ripping hooks, a chin that is more likely to break a fist than buckle, and takedowns that are both simple and applied with unrelenting pressure. Couple this with constrictor-style chokes with a similar level of force and you're left with a fighter that needs to be engaged to win, yet gives no room for errors.
No stranger to a hard fight, Jose Rivera will bring his ever-growing bag of tricks to the cage and see if he can take Watkins out. An aggressive striker that works an unorthodox style of switch stance boxing and sharp kicks, Rivera looks to break the will of his opponents by turning the body to bloody pulp. Crisp on the offense no matter where the fight heads, Rivera always gives a show for the crowd and leaves his mark on opponents.
This is a quality scrap of young bucks that will contest over the Warrior Nation canvas, and should play out as a blood-and-guts affair. Watkins is a hulk and will want to close distance here, while Rivera’s love of a nose-to-nose fistfight will play well into each other’s game plans. Keeping the upper hand in the clinch exchanges, and forcing the most out of an adversary when trying to get their wheels turning in the cage will all play into what should be a hard-fought contest between uprising talents.
Justin Valentin vs Richard Santiago
An exciting prospect coming from Underdog BJJ, Justin Valentin will make his Warrior Nation debut and look to set his star rising. A fighter that brings professional-level skills to the amateur circuit, Valentin is dynamic and polished in his execution, even fighting at the breakneck speeds of the flyweight division. With a knack for scrambles and keeping the heat on opponents, Valentin promises an all-action fight that could well steal the show.
A silky smooth technician looking to make his own mark in Chicopee, Rich Santiago will make Valentin pay for every inch of canvas. A sharp counter puncher and highly-functional BJJ player, Santiago flows from ripping hooks to deft transitions and submissions, both having dire implications for his opponent’s consciousness. With strength outside the norm of the 125lb division and having logged hundreds of grueling rounds at Rivera Athletics, Santiago is never out of the fight, no matter how fiercely his foe comes at him.
Flyweights are generally the show stoppers and this one should be no exception, with both fighters being skilled across all aspects of the sport, and tough enough to survive dangerous spots. For Valentin, his aggression plays as a double edged sword with a cool operator like Santiago; heavy offense either buckling the Rivera Athletics student or providing the opening to get his own game plan working. Mistakes cost rounds and rounds cost fights, making every split second decision one of grave importance in each man’s amateur careers.
Fighter Profile: Justin Kristie
A fighter who will outgrow the amateur scene in short order, Kristie comes to the Warrior Nation cage with earth-shaking power and whisper-like movement in one violent package. A skilled fundamental boxer, Kristie is equally comfortable lobbing punches from the outside or bobbing inside and crushing foes in the pocket, with anyone in arms reach in imminent peril in a fight. Powerful wrestling skills have seen some of the best amateurs in the area flung to the canvas like a stack of wet newspapers, resolve and composure fleeing as rapidly as the air slammed out of their lungs. With an answer for every scenario in the fight game, approaching Kristie is like walking through a minefield: Any step can be your last.
Warrior Nation X takes place Friday, March 6th at the Hu Ke Lau in Chicopee, Massachusetts. Visit www.hukelau.com for tickets and view further event details at www.warriornationxfa.com