Playoffs on the Line for Silverbacks and Condors
Though you'd be hard-pressed to find proof on the streets of the
city, Chicago is indeed the home of the Red Bears. The May 19 event
will serve as both the home debut of Igor Zinoviev's Red Bears and the
debut of the International Fight League in the Chicagoland
It is unfortunate that the Red Bears are already out of the playoff
race but regional favorites, the Quad Cities Silverbacks, and the
Southern California Condors are still alive.
Both teams stand at 1-1 on the season with the Silverbacks having
the edge due to their 4-1 domination of the Reno Lions 4-1 in
April. But if the Condors sweep the San Jose Razorclaws (which is
entirely possible), the Silverbacks may be out of the playoffs even
if they win.
It's not just "what have you done for me lately?" at this point in
the season. No, it comes down to "how convincingly did you beat my
team?" Ah yes, that's a conundrum facing Pat Miletich (Pictures) and his Silverback crew face
heading into tonight's showdown at the Sears Centre.
We also see a pair of MMA legends return after six-plus years away
from the ring. Marco Ruas
(Pictures) and Maurice Smith (Pictures) met in a cage in 1999 but
pre-existing injuries forced Ruas to withdraw in between rounds. It
has been a long time coming but round two is about to start.
Though the Razorclaws are mathematically eliminated from the IFL
postseason, the Condors need this win to stay alive. The Condors
will also be battling the tragic loss of teammate Jeremy Williams (Pictures) (Jeremy Williams
class='LinkSilver'>Pictures), who took his own life less
than two weeks ago.
The night will open with the welterweights, who both come off
losses in their IFL debuts. Ruas, the only IFL fighter on his own
family's team, comes off a decision loss to Antonio McKee (Pictures), while Liles comes in off a
submission loss to the Anacondas' Jay Hieron (Pictures). With his uncle in action for the
first time this decade, the young Brazilian should be fully charged
to bring his team a victory and get on the board first.
Jaoude has been very impressive in his short stint in the IFL and
returns to the ring off a KO victory in a losing team effort
against the Tokyo Sabres. He was the only South American wrestler
in the Athens Olympics and was a silver medalist in the Pan Am
games. Christison recently lost a decision to Krzysztof Soszynski
(Pictures) but holds a submission win
over Ben Rothwell
(Pictures). Though all of his losses
have been by decision, the former TUF cast member has no takedown
defense. Jaoude never fought anyone this big with skills so it will
be interesting to see how he handles the big man.
Newton makes his IFL debut but has looked solid in other
promotions, stopping Kyacey
Uscola (Pictures) with strikes. His wrestling and
Muay Thai background should force the inexperienced Quinlan to dig
deep. Jeff has just one fight under his belt: a majority decision
loss against Dennis
Lynn is a former Marine who hasn't tasted victory in the IFL yet,
but may feed of the energy of his coach in action. Odom comes off a
decision loss to one of the IFL's hottest fighters: the Anacondas'
(Pictures). He will be equally pumped
and a win here could save his team from being shutout.
Foster, a former Marine sniper, has his sights set on bringing down
(Pictures). With a strong performance,
Foster could still qualify for the year-end individual IFL Grand
Prix. "The Punisher" Levens moves down from light heavyweight to
middleweight and takes the place of his friend and teammate
Jeremy Williams (Pictures) (Jeremy Williams
class='LinkSilver'>Pictures). Levens comes off a TKO loss
to Tokyo Sabres' fighter Vladimir Matyushenko
(Pictures), who is undefeated in the
IFL. Having been slotted last in the five-bout team line-up, he
knows he may have to close the deal and pull out the win that might
keep Southern California alive in the 2007 campaign.
The Red Bears have zero team wins in '07 but they are at home for
the first time. Can "Chicago love" spoil a Silverback post-season
birth or will the defending champs send the Bears into early
Palaszewski comes off a decision win over the Reno Lions' John Gunderson (Pictures) and is unquestionably one of the
biggest hitters in the league. With two KOs and a TKO in his six
wins, he could conceivably start his team off with a bang. Strawn
makes his IFL debut but he's been murder on the small circuit.
While he's been in the ring with the likes of Din Thomas (Pictures), Spencer Fisher (Pictures), Clay Guida (Pictures) and Joe Jordan (Pictures), he was stopped by all of
Ciesnolevicz has won three in a row with back-to-back submissions
and a decision win over the Anacondas' Alex Schoenauer (Pictures). Maciejewski, in his lone IFL
appearance, comes in off a submission loss to the Tiger Sharks'
Reese Andy (Pictures). A win for Maciejewski could at
least slow down what looks to be an avalanche of pain for his Red
McGivern is a former Iowa Hawkeye wrestler and beat the Lions'
Daniel Molina last month. All of his IFL wins have come via
decision, so he doesn't have the reputation of a finisher. Kennedy
is a tough customer, having stopped four of his last five opponents
with strikes. He also took the Extreme Challenge 50 eight-man
tournament, which included a decision win over Jason "Mayhem"
Miller. Both have good ground games but Kennedy, the new kid in
town, has only gone the distance once. If he stops McGivern he may
stop the Silverbacks all by himself.
What can you say about "The North Star" Rothwell. He is on a
10-fight win streak with four of his six IFL bouts ending violently
in the first round. Despite his efforts his team is still walking
the fine line of elimination and needs not just a win, but also a
dominating effort. Travis
Fulton (Pictures) makes his IFL debut and has only
fought three times this year. That seems normal for an average
fighter but that could be one night or just another weekend for
Fulton. His record looks like a typo and he hasn't lost a fight in
two years (that's 17-0 with no decisions and 12 finishes by KO or
TKO). If you saw the weigh-in pictures, Rothwell towers over
Fulton, who may have been given an insurmountable task.
This could be the highlight of the evening. It is Neer's IFL debut
but at 21-5-1 he's far from a rookie. Given the fact the
Silverbacks need to win convincingly to advance to the playoffs and
separate themselves from the rest of the 2-1 pack, Neer will have a
lot of pressure on him.
Miller, yet another former Marine, likes to trade and has not been
stopped as a pro in MMA. He's considered the heart of the Red Bears
team. Since the Chicago is already mathematically eliminated from
the playoffs, he likely loves the idea of playing spoiler and
stopping the defending champs from their post-season dreams. Plus
with a strong performance Miller could still be selected for the
year-end individual Grand Prix.
Open up the time capsule because it's taken eight years for round
two to begin. These two met at UFC 21 in 1999, and even then they
were already legends nearing the end of their careers. Ruas last
fought Jason Lambert
(Pictures) in 2001. It was Lambert's
first year in the sport and the newcomer was submitted early in the
opening round. Smith last fought in 2000 against Renato "Babalu"
Sobral. Ironically Lambert knocked out Sobral at UFC 68 in both
fighters most recent effort.
Smith's style has been criticized as being "outdated" and "over
simplified for the modern MMA fighter." Who has seen Mo fight MMA
for the last six years? No one. Striking will always be his
strength. Just as Marco's strength will always be his ground game.
The fact remains fighters and coaches evolve. They are under
no obligation to continue fighting in the style they were known for
years ago. There is something to be said about teaching old dogs
new tricks (and no, I'm not calling them dogs), but to compete at
this level fighters and coaches cannot close their eyes to adding
new skills to their game.
Smith and Ruas are intelligent men. I'm confident they've added new
wrinkles to their games.
Injury and fatigue can make the best fighter revert back to their
basics and that is to be expected Saturday night. Marco ate two leg
kicks and brought Smith to the ground in their first fight, but
that was aided by an injury he carried into the cage.
He looks as fit now as he did then, and states he's injury free.
Smith has shed some pounds since joining the IFL and maintains his
trademark wit when dealing with the cameras.
However this one winds up, it is nice to see an evenly matched bout
of legends and not some ridiculous one-sided affair to springboard
the new young lion into the spotlight. Kudos to the IFL on that
Also in action Saturday night will be preliminary match-ups
featuring Danny Suarez
(Pictures) (Condors alternate
lightweight, 1-1 in the IFL, 5-3 in MMA) against Clint Coronel (Pictures) (Razorclaws alternate
lightweight, 1-1 in IFL, 2-1 in MMA), and Jay Estrada (Pictures) (0-0 in the IFL, 17-7 in MMA)
versus LC Davis (Pictures) (0-0 in the IFL, 6-0 in MMA).
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