Chris Lozano (Pictured) has been a professional mixed martial arts fighter for a little more than a year, but what a difference a year makes.
Sixteen months after making his professional debut with a 37-second knockout of Marcus Kuck at a North American Allied Fight Series even in Cleveland, Ohio, Lozano remains undefeated, with six stoppages -- all knockouts -- in as many fights. Those six wins include victories over “The Ultimate Fighter” Season 9 semi-finalist Jason Dent and UFC veteran Yoshiyuki Yoshida.
“I think he’s made unbelievable progress, but it’s really just the tip of the iceberg,” said Marcus Marinelli, Lozano’s coach at Strong Style MMA in Independence, Ohio. “Chris is really well-rounded. People have seen a lot of his stand-up game, but his wrestling is good. He’s a hard worker and has good fighting sense. He’s able to just flow with things as the fight goes along.”
A wrestler since the fifth grade, Lozano’s background also includes boxing -- he owns a 0-1 mark as a professional boxer -- and tae kwon do, a discipline in which he earned his red belt by the age of 17. He also holds a blue belt in Brazilian jiu-jitsu under Pablo Castro and hopes to test for his purple belt soon in front of Rodrigo “Comprido” Medeiros, Castro’s mentor and UFC heavyweight champion Brock Lesnar’s current BJJ coach.
“I love [Brazilian jiu-jitsu],” said Lozano. “I’ve got to go to Chicago to test. All of the wrestling, boxing and tae kwon do gave me a good base for MMA.”
Marinelli thinks Lozano’s all-around game has improved since he turned pro and expects Lozano to only get better with time.
“The strong point for Chris is his striking, but the other aspects of his game have improved by leaps and bounds,” said Marinelli. “He’s not just a striker. We want to continue making him better in everything and take the next step each day he’s in the gym. He’s already made a lot of progress, so there’s no need to change what we’re doing. We just have to keep making everything better.”
Lozano is coming off the most significant win of his career -- a stoppage of Yoshida at Bellator 31 in September. Yoshida took down Lozano in the first round, but he returned to his feet and soon took control of the bout with his striking, including a pair of spinning elbows. In the second round, Lozano used his jiu-jitsu to control where the fight took place and utilized ground-and-pound to close Yoshida’s right eye. After the second round, Yoshida’s corner stopped the fight.
“I had a long camp [going into the Yoshida fight],” said the 28-year-old Lozano. “I was in camp for 12 weeks because I had a fight scheduled with [UFC veteran] Chad Reiner for the end of August that fell out, and I got a call from Bellator right after that, so I just kept my camp going for four more weeks. It was a blessing to get that call from Bellator, and I know I’m doing the right things because I’m starting to fight guys with bigger names. I’ve always been motivated by doing the right things, and one of those is wanting to fight better and better guys.”
With the win over Yoshida, Lozano punched his ticket for Bellator’s Season 4 welterweight tournament. Along with Lozano, the draw already includes Dan Hornbuckle, Steve Carl and Brent Weedman. Undefeated Olympic judoka Rick Hawn appears to be another likely participant.
Lozano does not have a preference as to whom he faces in the tournament, but he wants to steer clear of Hornbuckle, if possible, for personal reasons.
“I’ll face anybody in the tournament,” said Lozano. “There’s not any one fighter that I don’t want to see, but one I definitely would rather not see until later in the tournament is [Hornbuckle]. We’ve traveled and trained together some and become friends during that time.”
Before the tournament starts, Lozano wants to stay busy, both in the gym and possibly by getting in another MMA fight or boxing match.
“I’m already back in the gym doing BJJ,” said Lozano. “I’m focused, and people don’t know and won’t know how focused I am until they see the results in my fights. People got a glimpse of what I can do in my last fight, but that’s just the beginning of what I can do.”
Photo courtesy of Bellator Fighting Championships.