Before International Fight Week comes into full focus and the trio of events set to take place in Las Vegas to kick off the month of July begins to dominate any and all MMA discussions, Victory Fighting Championship lands on UFC FIGHT PASS Friday night with a compact seven-fight event featuring a handful of familiar names.
Here’s a look at the key matchups taking place at the Buccaneer Arena in Urbandale, Iowa.
Robert Emerson vs. Shawn West
The 34-year-old Emerson was a member of the deep cast on Season 5 of The Ultimate Fighter and logged seven Octagon appearances, compiling a 3-3 record with one no contest. He’s gone 7-2 since and returns for the first time in more than 18 months as the veteran half of this main event tandem.
After starting his career with a 5-6 mark, the 26-year-old West is unbeaten over his last eight fights. He’s earned four consecutive first-round stoppage wins heading into this one and has yet to go the distance in his career, so there is a very good chance that the Davenport, Iowa native and “The Saint” won’t see the scorecards in this one.
This is the type of fight West needs to win in order to establish himself as a true prospect and not just a guy that has been running through weaker competition on the regional circuit. Emerson is as seasoned as they come and dangerous in every facet, so this will be a proper litmus test for the 12-6 (1 NC) welterweight upstart.
Mike Rhodes vs. Rakim Cleveland
“Biggie” looks to make it four-in-a-row since being released from the UFC when he steps in with the 27-year-old Cleveland, a one-time heavyweight prospect who has picked up four consecutive victories of his own heading into this one.
Honestly, this is a terrific regional scrap between a pair of fighters hungry to prove they’re deserving of a look at the next level. Rhodes had a three-fight cup of coffee in the UFC, losing to George Sullivan, Robert Whittaker and Erick Silva, but has been great since, while Cleveland is 11-3-1 over his last 15 after beginning his career with two wins and four losses, including a pair of setbacks against “The Black Beast,” Derrick Lewis.
Cleveland carries more power and a slight size advantage into this one, while Rhodes has the more complete arsenal. Whoever is able to dictate the terms of this one should come away with the win and could find themselves on the short list of potential call-ups heading into an action-packed summer with several middleweight contests on the calendar.
Ramiro Hernandez vs. Rick Glenn
A fun battle between representatives of two of the best camps in the Midwest, as Hernandez fights for the legendary Miletich Fighting Systems team and Glenn, like Rhodes, is a Roufusport product.
Hernandez is the prototypical tough out on the regional circuit – a guy that had a little taste at the UFC level and didn’t stick, but is tough as nails and tremendously difficult to put away. Of his eight career losses, six have gone the distance and while he dropped his final two fights of 2015, “Junior” recently rebounded with a five-round decision win to put him back on track.
One of the most underrated featherweights in the game, Glenn has gone 14-1-1 since coming out of the gate at 3-2, with his only loss coming to Team Alpha Male standout Lance Palmer. Standing 6’0” tall, he’s huge for the division and has serious finishing instincts, collecting 15 stoppages in 17 career victories.
This is another outstanding matchup that shows how much talent is passing through the Victory FC ranks right now, and it should be an exciting scrap from start to finish as the durable, no nonsense veteran and the talented finisher go head-to-head for however long it takes.