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TV preview of tonight’s IFL show on HDNet

l_77e643c1d1ed8d745e7572db1bf1eccf1.gifThe IFL will look to follow up on its strong April 4 show from the Izod Center in East Rutherford, N.J. during tonight’s event from the Mogehan Sun in Uncasville, CT.

The card, to be televised on HDNet at 8:30 p.m. ET will feature three title fights. It will also be the promotion’s final card before it goes on a hiatus that will last into August.

Here’s a look at the fights scheduled to be televised:

Ryan Schultz defends the IFL lightweight title vs. Deividas Taurosevicius

I really like this card overall but there is no bout that I am more excited about than Schultz vs. Taurosevicius.

Both of these fighters have improved a great deal during their IFL tenures, with Schultz especially coming into his own. He’s coming into this fight on the heels of a five fight win streak. His pre-IFL resume is very impressive, as he holds wins over the likes of Roger Huerta, Jason Dent, Mike Aina and a draw against Gesias Calvancante.

The Team Quest (Oregon) fighter will need to rely on his wrestling skills to get this fight on the ground, as Taurosevicius has a strong kickboxing background and has some of the nastiest cut kicks that you will see from anyone in the world at 155 pounds.

But Taurosevicius is not just a striker, as he has worked hard to improve his jiu-jitsu game as a member of Renzo Gracie’s Jiu-Jitsu Academy. I expect this fight to take place on the feet and on the ground, and on paper, it has the makings of a potential match of the year candidate.

I’m hard pressed to make a prediction here, but I will pick the incumbent by split decision.

Roy Nelson defends the IFL heavyweight title vs. Brad Imes

One of my criticisms of the IFL is that it lacks “attitude.” Well, that doesn’t apply to Nelson, who is not afraid to speak his mind. He has the physique of a middle-aged truck driver but it’s important to never judge a book by its cover, as Nelson can fight and his endurance is a lot better than you might think.

He holds an impressive 5-1 record during his six career IFL bouts and holds non-IFL wins over notables such as Bo Cantrell and Mario Rinaldi.

Imes is a late replacement for Branden Lee Hinkle, and stylistically, he’s an upgrade. Hinkle’s takedowns are very good, but he’s not the most active fighter in the world once he gets the fight where he wants it. Imes, the heavyweight runner-up during the second season of “The Ultimate Fighter,” will be more than willing to indulge Nelson on the standup game. However, the “Hillbilly Heartthrob” has made ample improvements on the ground and actually submitted two opponents (Cantrell and Zak Jensen) last year via gogoplata.

Imes might have a slight advantage if he gets the fight to the ground, but in his recent fights, Nelson has defeated good wrestlers in Shane Ott and Bryan Vetell and his two most recent wins are over Antoine Jaoude and Fabiano Scherner, two fighters with excellent submissions.

I’m expecting Nelson to finish Imes via TKO in the second round.

Ryan McGivern defends the IFL middleweight title vs. Dan Miller

The IFL middleweight title has been a bit of a hot potato. Benji Radach was the number one seed coming into the middleweight Grand Prix at the end of last year and was the heavy favorite to win the title. However, Matt Horwich knocked him out in Uncasville and looked to be set up for an extended run. That wasn’t the case, as his reign lasted all of one fight after losing a unanimous decision to McGivern during the IFL’s Las Vegas event in February.

McGivern, a product of Pat Miletich’s Miletich Fighting Systems, will look to bring some much-needed stability to the IFL’s middleweight division when he makes his first defense tonight against Dan Miller, the older brother of fellow IFL fighter Jim Miller.

The 27-year old Miller has been wrestling since he was five but is still relatively new to MMA. He got involved three years ago after catching the bug by watching it on television. His strong wrestling base allowed him to pick up jiu-jitsu rather quickly and the New Jersey native has built up an impressive 7-1 record.

Miller is definitely a prospect at 185 lbs. and with the exception of Mike Massenzio, has fought and beaten most of his region’s best in his weight class. However, on paper, McGivern is clearly his toughest test to date and he will be giving up a lot in the way of experience.

It wouldn’t surprise me to see Miller pull off the upset, but McGivern has to be considered the favorite heading into this fight, and I am picking him to win via unanimous decision.

Mike Massenzio vs. Danillo Villefort

Next to Schultz vs. Taurosevicius, this is the fight I am looking forward to the most as it will pit two of the best middleweight prospects in MMA against each other.

Villefort is a product of the IFL’s Draft tryout program that took place last Fall. I was able to watch him during the New York tryouts and many in attendance considered him to be the top prospect of an impressive group that included Matt Brown, Matt Lee, LeVon Maynard, Jim Bova, Tiawan Howard, and Torrance Taylor, just to name a few. Then-Toronto Dragons head coach Carlos Newton said that if he had the number one overall pick, Villefort would have been his choice.

Villefort is a jiu-jitsu black belt that trains out of American Top Team. While his ground game was as good as advertised, his standup skills were pretty solid.

As a prospect, Massenzio might have even more upside than Villefort. According to several sources, Massenzio was approached about being a part of the cast for the current seventh season of “The Ultimate Fighter.” However, a decision was made to decline the invite, as the feeling at the time was that Massenzio will be offered a UFC contract without having to have to live in seclusion for six weeks.

A standout amateur wrestler, he has accumulated an impressive 10-1 record with wins over fighters such as TUF 7’s Dante Rivera, Eric Charles (who lost a TUF 7 qualifying fight), Dan Miller, Bill Scott, Lance Everson, and Drew Puzon.

Massenzio is a fighter that just about any promotion would like to have, but he’s under contract to the IFL and a win over Villefort could catapult him into a title shot against the winner of the McGivern vs. Miller matchup.

This is yet another evenly matched contest that I’d love to plead the fifth from when it comes to making a prediction, but I will give the nod to Massenzio via unanimous decision.

Zac George vs. Josh Souder

Souder missed weight on his first try but made weight during his second attempt. He trains out of Ohio’s Team Prodigy under Hector Pena. This is a landmark fight for Team Prodigy, as it is considered the first time they’ve had a fighter appear for a national promotion.

I won’t fake it; I’ve never seen Souder fight, but I am told his striking is very good.

I am much more familiar with George, who is a leading member of Matt Lindland’s Team Quest in Portland, Ore.

George, 1-1 during his IFL career, has been considered one of the top regional 155’ers for quite some time but just hasn’t been able to break through. Coming off a unanimous decision defeat to Mike Joy during Sportfight’s “Season’s Beatings” card last December, George will look to improve upon his impressive 12-2 record.

While I’ve never seen Souder fight before, I would have to think George will have a signficiant advantage if he gets the fight to the ground. If it stays standing, who knows what might happen.

I think nerves could potentially be an issue for Souder in this fight, so I am picking George to win the fight via second round TKO.

Matt Horwich vs. Joey Guel

Horwich, the former IFL middleweight champion, is yet another fighter from Matt Lindland’s Team Quest slated for this card. He will look to rebound from his February loss to Ryan McGivern in Las Vegas.

It’s interesting in that Guel is also a former Team Quest fighter and knows Horwich’s game relatively well. Horwich’s fighting style is unique and he’s tough to prepare for, but Guel should be better equipped for this fight than your average fighter.

Guel should not be counted out as he hold some solid victories over the likes of Jess Liaudin and Chris Clements. However, when he’s fought a higher-tier of fighter in the likes of Falaniko Vitale, Ryan McGivern, and Kyacey Uscola, he hasn’t faired as well.

I expect Guel to make things interesting early, but for Horwich to put the fight away in the second round.

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