The International Fight League has done something that Hands Across America couldn't by extending their reach from sea to shining sea.
Last week things were fairly civil on the East Coast as both coaches and fighters met in New York to participate in Fleet Week activities with our servicemen and women. Things won't be so peaceful tonight on the Pacific side as the Seattle Tiger Sharks host a dogfight in their backyard that would make any NFL QB proud as punch.
Maurice Smith (Pictures) and his Tiger Sharks will need the hometown support, a decisive win and a little luck if they want to get into the playoffs. Matt Lindland (Pictures)'s Wolfpack from nearby Portland are in the same situation sitting on a 1-1 record alongside Seattle. The Los Angeles Anacondas and Tokyo Sabres aren't under the gun right now -- in fact they are holding the gun with their 2-0 records. Both teams will secure a spot in the playoffs with a win tonight.
Seattle's group might run into some trouble right off the bat with Shad Lierley (Pictures) (Tiger Sharks) meeting Chris Horodecki (Pictures) (Anacondas) at 155 pounds. Bottom line, Horodecki is undefeated in the IFL and after nine consecutive wins to start his career, he's the man. Lierley is a tough new cat but in order to be the man, you have to beat the man. He will definitely be a force if he's able to stop the 19-year-old Canadian.
Jay Hieron (Pictures) (Anaconda) and Brad Blackburn (Pictures) (Tiger Sharks) have a little bad blood between them that could make for a dandy of a fight at welterweight. Both men have the tools to win against anyone, so when those skills have some emotion behind them, it could make for an explosive match.
Bristol Marunde (Pictures) (Tiger Sharks) got back on the winning track after his last IFL fight but might have some trouble keeping the streak alive against Benji Radach (Pictures) (Anacondas). Radach has been a beast at 185 and will give Marunde all he can handle. The Seattle middleweight needs to bring his "A" game against Radach, and if he does the Tiger Sharks will be in much better shape if he can squeak out a win.
Alex Schoenauer (Pictures) (Anacondas) versus Allan Goes (Pictures) (Tiger Sharks) should be a very interesting match-up. Goes has always been deadly on the ground, and if he's able to get the Argentinean into his world it could be a quick night for Schoenauer. However, the L.A. light heavyweight has been brilliant on occasion and if he's able to stifle the Brazilian and turn this into a brawl it could be a war.
Krzysztof Soszynski (Pictures) (Anacondas) and Reese Andy (Pictures) (Tiger Sharks) are the hosses that will square off at heavyweight. It will be a battle between a former pro-wrestler and an All-American wrestler. It could be said that this will be a battle for positions, but in all honesty it will probably just end up a slugfest. Soszynski wanted to fight Goes but got Andy instead. Perhaps the Wyoming Cowboy will be overlooked in this fight and use it to his and Seattle's advantage.
The Portland Wolfpack know how much each win will matter tonight if they're to extend their season. It won't be easy though -- the Tokyo Sabres have had a great year and their team is certainly stacked.
Savant Young (Pictures) (Sabres) might be pint-sized but the man packs a wallop and he will be looking to do just that as he faces Ryan "The Lion" Schultz (Wolfpack) at lightweight. Schultz has been looking to get his groove back after serving an injury suspension that caused him to see limited action this season. Meanwhile, the Los Angeles-based Young has started to make it a habit of knocking people out. Look for Schultz to try and put Young on the mat to limit his options and get the situation under wrestler's control.
Scratch out their names and you could substitute welterweights Mike Dolce (Pictures) (Wolfpack) and Antonio McKee (Pictures) (Sabres) for the same script. McKee is a stellar wrestler that would prefer to smother Dolce and use his positioning to keep the fight where he's comfortable. The Wolfpack fighter, like Savant Young (Pictures), can put you down in a flash, so as always it will be a battle of keeping distance for Dolce and closing the distance for McKee.
On paper the Wolfpack should be able to get a win at 185 with Matt Horwich (Pictures) taking on Kazuhiro Hamanaka (Pictures) (Sabres). Horwich is an experienced fighter from Lindland's Team Quest and has the skills and pedigree to steamroll Hamanaka. On the other hand, the only Japanese fighter on the Tokyo squad has some intangibles that could give Horwich trouble.
Devin Cole (Pictures) (Wolfpack) had a nice win against grappling guru Bryan Vetell (Pictures) in his last IFL match that should serve as a boost of confidence as he steps in the ring against Orvil Palmer, another standout wrestler that is getting called up from the minors on account of an injury to Wayne Cole (Pictures). Palmer would be a major headache to the Wolfpack if he were to come in and steal one in this pivotal heavyweight clash.
The fighter that could make the biggest splash tonight might be the Wolfpack's Aaron Stark (Pictures). He'll have the least enviable seat in the house when he sits across from Vladimir Matyushenko (Pictures), who has terrorized the IFL light heavyweight field. Since Stark's been out of action this season due to injury, if he were to defeat the former UFC title challenger at 205, it could possibly push his team into the league's August semifinals in New Jersey, not to mention give the entire league hope that the Sabres have at least some chink in their armor.
Lastly IFL coaches Renzo Gracie (Pictures), Igor Zinoviev (Pictures) and Pat Miletich (Pictures) were joined by some of their fighters and IFL commissioner Kurt Otto at the New York Harbor for a couple of days aboard five of the ships that participated in the Navy's Fleet Week.
The stately named Winston Churchill, Stephen Groves, the Hue City and the Wasp were all boarded by the IFL stars as they engaged in a meet and greet with servicemen and women. Besides bringing smiles to the faces of those that were involved, they also got in time on the mats with some friendly submission matches and instruction, keeping our Navy armed with armbars in case things get too close for comfort out there.