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IFL World Grand Prix Thoughts & Commentary

IFL WGP = Sleeper Event of the Weekend?

The sleeper event of the weekend was definitely the IFL World Grand Prix. An event that seemed doomed because of matchmaking issues ultimately ended up providing some of the best fights the IFL has put on all year. They crowned five new champions in the featherweight (Wagnney Fabiano), lightweight (Ryan Schultz), welterweight (Jay Hieron), middleweight (Matt Horwich) and heavyweight (Roy Nelson) divisions and put on a couple of solid undercard fights as well.

Props to the IFL for putting on a great show despite all of the matchmaking issues, the hype of UFC 79 and the Japanese New Year’s Eve events. Even more props for making all the fights available on YouTube. Viral video is a great marketing strategy and the IFL’s head is in the right place when it comes to positioning itself on the internet.

Ryan Schultz throttled Chris Horodecki.

Throttled might be putting it lightly. Ryan Schultz got his revenge against Horodecki, a fighter who had beaten him previously. “The Lion” dominated the fight, quickly taking Horodecki down in the first round and working ground and pound. Eventually Schultz was able to trap Horodecki’s left arm behind his back and rain down vicious unblocked punches to Horodecki’s face. Horodecki looked bewildered and the fight was stopped after about five straight punches to the young Canadian’s face. For Schultz, it was validation. He’s the first ever IFL lightweight champion and he beat the IFL’s golden boy, Chris Horodecki, in the process.

You have to think that the changing of Horodecki’s opponent four different times had some effect on his training for the fight. At Xtreme Couture every fighter has a gameplan. That’s what Xtreme Couture fighters do, they gameplan. Did Horodecki not have enough time to plan out a proper gameplan for Schultz? Was he not expecting Schultz to take him down so easily? He certainly wasn’t expecting Schultz to be able to finish the way he did. While it’s highly unlikely that this fact alone caused Horodecki to lose the fight, to think that it didn’t have any effect at all would be naive. Every MMA fighter loses from time to time. Sometimes it’s a good thing. The true test of Horodecki’s career will be how he responds.

Matt Horwich never stops moving forward.

Horwich, a Matt Lindland product, never stopped moving forward in his fight with Benji Radach. Radach would hit him with some powerful shots and Horwich would continue to move forward and try to clinch. Horwich is proving to be an extremely hard fighter to finish, especially on the feet. All the forward movement eventually paid off and Horwich surprised Radach in the second round with a head kick that dazed him a bit and then landed a left hook that put Radach down for the count.

Horwich’s tenacity is something to be admired. He may not be the best middleweight on the planet and his striking, while improved, is still not very technical, but his unwillingness to relent and his ability to push the pace can throw a lot of fighters for a loop. It’s now possible that Tim Kennedy may be in line for a shot against Horwich, the newly crowned IFL middleweight champion.

Jay Hieron is getting better each time out.

Far removed from the wrong end of a highlight reel knockout for Georges St. Pierre in the UFC, Jay Hieron is quietly moving himself into position in the welterweight division. Hieron, now training with Xtreme Couture, has become a more complete fighter since that fight and he gets better every time he fights. He was able to stuff all of Delson Heleno’s takedowns, something that no one in the IFL has been able to do. When he did stuff Heleno’s takedowns he let his hands go and showed some really crisp boxing skills, eventually ending Heleno’s night with a right hook and subsequent ground and pound.

His time at Xtreme Couture has paid serious dividends. The IFL should be glad they picked up a talent like Hieron. As has been discussed in the past, you can’t “grow up” in the UFC. Hieron’s fight against GSP was his fifth professional fight and he lost to a guy who is now arguably the number one pound for pound fighter in the world. Hieron’s improving rapidly and he has nowhere else to go but up.

Tim Kennedy is all business.

He beat Elias Rivera down with a quickness. Academic almost. The best part is that he had a three round war with Jason “Mayhem” Miller two weeks beforehand. Tim Kennedy loves to fight and that’s all there is to it. I sense that he had some frustration to work out because of the outcome of the fight with Miller. It just unfortunately had to be Elias Rivera that had to feel the negative effects of that frustration. Kennedy is an absolute beast at 185 lbs. and could give a lot of top guys a run for their money. If he and Horwich end up fighting for the title, look for Kennedy to be wearing the crown after that one’s over.

Where the hell did Brett Cooper come from?

This guy put it on Rory Markham and showed some serious heart when he was trapped in a deep triangle choke late in the first round. Even Bas Rutten was stunned that Cooper survived the choke attempt. When Markham and Cooper were on the feet, both threw serious leather and Markham ended up on the wrong end of the striking game. As Sam mentioned a couple of days ago, Cooper is one of those diamonds in the rough that the IFL has uncovered via the IFL tryouts. It will be interesting to see what other young guys from those tryouts emerge as budding stars.

Wagnney Fabiano looked good at 145.

As expected, Fabiano looked really good at his natural weight of 145 lbs., submitting L.C. Davis via armbar late in the first round. It’s exciting to see the IFL add a 145 lb. class because lighter weight fighters are always a lot of fun to watch because of the speed and quickness they bring to the ring. Fabiano was originally supposed to face Chris Horodecki for the 155 lb. title but when the IFL decided to make the 145 lb. class, they moved Fabiano down to fight at his natural weight. That’s where he belongs. It will be intereting to see what kind of featherweight competition they’ll be able to bring in to fill out the rest of the class.

Ben Rothwell would have beat Antoine Jaoude and Roy Nelson.

For the IFL to have gone all year with their prize heavyweight going undefeated and not fighting in this event for the heavyweight title is really a shame. There’s some conflicting stories as to what went on with Rothwell’s contract in regards to the Grand Prix, but you could see from this fight that the event desperately needed him. While Nelson and Jaoude put on a good show and a solid slugfest, Rothwell would have knocked either of these two cats out with a quickness. Will we ever see Rothwell in the IFL again? Only time will tell.

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