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  • Photo: Tony Rotundo

    Photo: Tony Rotundo

    The Wrestling Fan's Guide to the MMA Weekend (3/31/23)

    Archie Colgan at the 2015 UWW Junior Finals (photo courtesy of Tony Rotundo; WrestlersAreWarriors.com)

    The NCAA wrestling season has come to an end, and there is a bit of a dead period before the Freestyle/Greco season really kicks into high gear. Of course, there really are no dead periods in MMA these days. Even on a weekend without a UFC show, there are plenty of other viewing options, and those options are loaded with former wrestlers. On Friday, the Bellator show features several former college stars, and the CFFC show on UFC Fight Pass has a current coach in action. On Saturday, the Professional Fighters League kicks off its 2023 season with some familiar wrestling names.

    Friday: Bellator 293

    John Salter vs. Aaron Jeffery

    Salter won an NAIA title for Lindenwood at 174 pounds in 2007. He made his professional MMA debut in 2009 and has since fought for Strikeforce, UFC and Bellator. Salter has been fighting exclusively for Bellator since signing with the promotion in 2015. He won eight of his first nine fights but is coming off back-to-back losses against former middleweight champion Gegard Mousasi and current champion Johnny Eblen.

    Jeffery holds a 13-3 record as a professional and has won both of his fights with Bellator since signing with the promotion last year. In his last bout, he scored a first-round knockout over former title challenger Austin Vanderford.

    Sullivan Cauley vs. Luke Trainer

    Cauley was a three-time state placer in his native Nevada, and he continued his wrestling career at Arizona State. He bounced between heavyweight and 197 during his time in Tempe between 2014 and 2017. Cauley currently trains under Bellator heavyweight champion and fellow former Arizona State wrestler Ryan Bader. Last November, he improved to 5-0 as a professional with a first-round stoppage over Jay Radick.

    Trainer is currently 6-1 and coming off a first-round submission victory over Lucas Alsina. He has gone 3-1 in Bellator since 2020.

    Archie Colgan vs. Justin Montalvo

    Colgan was a two-time NCAA qualifier for Wyoming and finished his career with over 100 victories. He came as close as possible to becoming an All-American during his junior season in 2017 when he came up short in the round of 12. Colgan made his MMA debut in 2021. In his last fight, he improved to 6-0 as a professional with a 50-second victory over Jesse Hannam last November.

    Montalvo is also undefeated at 5-0. He has won both of his fights under the Bellator banner since 2021.

    Joey Davis vs. Jeff Creighton

    Davis was a four-time undefeated NCAA Division II champion for Notre Dame (Ohio). After college, he signed with Bellator and made his debut with the company in 2016. He quickly moved up the ranks and by 2020, he had built an 8-0 record. Davis will return here for the first time in over two years.

    Creighton has gone 2-0-1 since suffering his second professional loss against former NC State wrestler Max Rohskopf in 2021. This will be his Bellator debut. He was scheduled to fight for Urijah Faber's promotion this past January, but the bout was canceled.

    Bryce Meredith vs. Brandon Carrillo

    Meredith was a three-time All-American at Wyoming, and he made the finals of the 2018 NCAA tournament at 141 pounds. He turned his focus to MMA in 2021 and started his career with three-straight victories. After spending his entire early career with LFA, he signed with Bellator late last year. This will be his first fight with the new company.

    Carrillo fought for the first time last April when he scored a first-round victory over Eugene Murray under the Gladiator Challenge banner.

    The main card of Bellator 293, which features Salter and Cauley, will air live on Showtime at 10:00pm ET on Friday night. The rest of the wrestlers will be part of the YouTube portion of the show, which is scheduled to begin at 7:00pm ET.

    Friday: CFFC 117

    CJ LaFragola vs. Zayne Havener

    LaFragola was a three-time NCAA qualifier for Brown, and he is currently an assistant coach at Drexel. As a senior in 2019, he went 24-11 and qualified through the EIWA tournament. LaFragola made his amateur MMA debut in 2021 and has since built an undefeated 4-0 record. He last fought this past November where he scored a decision victory over Jahrael Cromartie.

    Havener is also an undefeated amateur fighter. This past October, he pushed his record to 5-0 with a second-round armbar submission victory over Austin Striggle. Three of his five victories have come via submission.

    The LaFragola vs. Havener fight is set to be part of the YouTube preliminary card, which airs live at 7:00pm ET on Friday.

    Saturday: PFL 1: 2023

    Bubba Jenkins vs. Chris Wade

    Jenkins returns for another PFL tournament after making the finals last year. He scored three victories for PFL in 2022 but ultimately lost against Brendan Loughnane in the tournament finale. During his collegiate days, Jenkins was an NCAA finalist for Penn State before transferring to Arizona State for his final year. With the new school, he returned to the finals and scored a legendary upset over David Taylor.

    Wade and Jenkins fought back in 2021 with Wade taking the decision victory. Like Jenkins, he also took part in the 2022 PFL lightweight tournament, and like Jenkins, he also was eliminated from contention by the eventual champion Loughnane.

    Marthin Hamlet vs. Mohammad Fakhreddine

    Hamlet was regular on the Greco-Roman circuit for Norway from 2011 to 2016. He won multiple Nordic Championships at 98 kg, but his best finish was a bronze medal at the 2014 European Championships. Hamlet finished fifth at the Olympic Qualification Tournament for the 2016 Olympics and then decided to focus on MMA. He has gone 4-3 with PFL since joining the promotion in 2021.

    Fakhreddine will bring a 15-4 record into his PFL debut. He last fought last March where he scored a second-round victory over Mohamed Said Maalem in Bahrain.

    Josh Silveira vs. Sam Kei

    During his time at Arizona State, Silveira won the 197-pound Pac 12 title and qualified for the NCAA tournament in 2016. He made his professional MMA debut in 2019 and has gone 9-1 to date. He signed with PFL last year and has gone 2-1 with the promotion. He will return to action for the first time after a loss as he dropped a decision against UFC veteran Omari Akhmedov last August.

    Kei signed with PFL last year and dropped his heavyweight debut against Juan Adams. He will look to improve on his 8-6 record in the light heavyweight division against Silveira.

    Saturday's PFL show will be split into a preliminary card and a main card, but both parts of the show will air live on ESPN+. Jenkins kicks off the main card at 9:00pm ET, while Hamlet and Silveira will be on the preliminary card scheduled for 6:00pm ET.

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