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  • Photo: Tony Rotundo

    Photo: Tony Rotundo

    The Wrestling Fan's Guide to the MMA Weekend (2/18/22)

    4x NCAA All-American Logan Storley(photo courtesy of Tony Rotundo; WrestlersAreWarriors.com)

    Several levels of college wrestling will be on display in MMA this weekend as shows from the PFL, Bellator and the UFC feature wrestlers with experience at the NAIA, NCAA Division III, NJCAA and Division I levels are in action. The following is a preview of the former top college wrestlers fighting this Friday and Saturday.

    PFL Challenger Series 1

    Josh Silveira vs. Mohamed Juma

    The former Arizona State wrestler made his professional MMA debut in 2019, but Silveira is on the verge of earning a contract with a major league promotion. He will take on Juma in the main event of the very first PFL Challengers Series. The event is designed to select competitors for upcoming PFL seasons. Silveira won the 197-pound Pac 12 title for the Sun Devils in 2016 to qualify for the NCAA tournament. He turned professional three years later and currently sports an undefeated 7-0 record. Juma, a native of South Sudan, holds an 8-2 record but enters the fight coming off a loss.

    Taylor Johnson vs. Alexander Poppeck

    Johnson started his collegiate wrestling career at Oregon State before transferring to Southern Oregon. After the move, he became a three-time NAIA All-American, with his best finish resulting in a national title in 2014. Johnson recently ended a four-fight run in Bellator that saw him upset former NCAA champion Ed Ruth and drop a decision against former Missouri wrestler Johnny Eblen. Johnson is now 7-3 as a professional. Poppeck, Johnson's opponent on Friday, came up short in his shot on Dana White's Contenders Series back in 2019, but he has won three straight since that loss and has a 12-3 record.

    The four-fight PFL Challengers Series 1 card will stream live on Fubo TV on Friday at 9pm ET.

    UFC Vegas 48

    Chas Skelly vs. Mark Striegl

    Skelly finished his high school wrestling career with a 164-3 record and won a Texas state championship. He then continued wrestling at Oklahoma City University, where he became an NAIA All-American. Skelly made his UFC debut back in 2014, and he has gone 7-3 with one "no contest." This will be his first fight since 2019. Striegl will bring an 18-3 record into the cage, but he is coming off a loss against Said Nurmagomedov in his UFC debut in 2020.

    The entire UFC Vegas 48 card will air live on ESPN+. Skelly's fight will be part of the preliminary card, which begins at 4pm ET.

    Bellator 274

    Logan Storley vs. Neiman Gracie

    Storley, a four-time All-American for Minnesota, returns to action in the main event of Bellator 274 against a member of the legendary Gracie family. The former Golden Gopher finished his college career in 2015 with a 119-27. Less than a year later, he made his professional MMA debut. Storley won five fights before signing with Bellator in 2017. With the promotion, he has gone 7-1, with his only loss coming against current welterweight champion Yaroslav Amosov. Gracie holds an 11-2 record and has picked up wins over former wrestlers Ruth and Jon Fitch.

    Chance Rencountre vs. Andrey Koreshkov

    Rencountre was an NJCAA All-American for Labette in 2007, who then finished his eligibility at Fort Hays State. He went 2-2 in the UFC between 2018 and 2019, but left the promotion after a loss against Lyman Good. Rencountre has bounced back with a pair of wins, and his record currently stands at 16-4. Koreshkov defeated Douglas Lima to claim the welterweight title in 2015 and has a 24-4 professional record.

    Brennan Ward vs. Brandon Bell

    Ward's wrestling career began at Colby Community College before he transferred to Johnson & Wales. He made the finals of the Division III NCAA tournament in 2010 to become an NCAA All-American. Ward returned to the tournament the following year but was eliminated from All-American contention by multiple-time Greco world team member Joe Rau. This will be Ward's first fight since 2017. Bell, his opponent, has a 10-10 record and is currently riding a three-fight losing streak.

    Jordan Newman vs. Cody Herbert

    Newman was a two-time NCAA Division III champion and three-time All-American for Wisconsin Whitewater. As a senior in 2018, he was named D3 National Wrestler of the Year by D3Wrestle.com. Newman made his professional MMA debut under the Bellator banner in 2019. He has gone 3-0 with the promotion, with his last victory coming via technical knockout last April. Herbert is 2-0 as a professional, but he also fought twice in Jorge Masvidal's bare-knuckle MMA promotion last year, splitting a pair of fights.

    Isaiah Hokit vs. Theodore Macuka

    Hokit began his college wrestling career at Drexel. However, when Fresno State revived their program he transferred back to his home state. He was a two-year starter for the Bulldogs and went 15-12 in his last year in the lineup. Hokit went 2-2 at the Big 12 tournament in 2019, but finished short of NCAA qualification after a loss to Oklahoma State's Joe Smith. He made his MMA debut at Bellator 261 last June and suffered an upset knockout. Hokit will look to turn things around against Macuka, who is 1-2 as a professional and previously lost to Division II champion Cody Law.

    Bellator 274 also takes place on Saturday night. Ward, Newman and Hokit will be on the YouTube undercard, which begins at 6pm ET. The main card starts at 9pm ET on Showtime.

    BKFC: Knuckle Mania 2

    Chad Mendes vs. Joshuah Alvarez

    It might not be MMA, but the former UFC title challenger will be back in action on Saturday. Mendes will face off against Alvarez in a bare-knuckle boxing match. He was a two-time All-American for Cal Poly and made the finals of the 2008 NCAA tournament at 141 pounds before coming up short against Ohio State's J Jaggers. Mendes returned to the UFC in 2018 after serving a suspension and split a pair of bouts. This will be his first fight since falling against current featherweight champion Alexander Volkanovski.

    If you are the type who is interested in watching bare-knuckle boxing, Knuckle Mania 2 will air via internet pay-per-view on Fite.TV.

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