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  • Photo: Tony Rotundo

    Photo: Tony Rotundo

    The Wrestling Fan's Guide to the MMA Weekend (6/17/21)

    Two-time All-American Nick Piccininni (Photo/Tony Rotundo; WrestlersAreWarriors.com)

    You could easily make the case that wrestling is the best base for a career in MMA fighting. Many former collegiate and international wrestlers go on to win titles in the sport. The following is a new feature for InterMat, which allows wrestling fans to follow former mat stars in MMA. The following are some of the top former wrestlers competing in MMA and other combat sports. If we missed anyone, be sure to let us know in the comment section.

    Today, UFC veteran Tom Lawlor will return to action on the undercard of PFL 2021 #5 against Jordan Young in a light heavyweight fight. Lawlor has focused mostly on professional wrestling since leaving the UFC in 2016, but he has fought twice against Deron Winn and Antonio Carlos Junior. During his collegiate days at Central Florida, Lawlor was a three-time NCWA champion and four-time All-American. In some ways, Lawlor is the quintessential representative of the club-level association since his success came at the odd 235-pound weight class.

    The undercard of PFL 2021 #5 will air live at 5:30pm ET on ESPN+ (Subscription).

    Four-time Big 12 champion and two-time All-American Nick Piccininni will make his MMA debut at Xtreme Fight Night 371 on Friday. Per UFC.com, the former Oklahoma State Cowboy will take on seven-fight veteran Chancey Wilson. Piccininni hopes to become the latest Cowboy to have success in MMA and has been training with teammates Kyle Crutchmer and Jacobe Smith under the tutelage of Daniel Cormier at American Kickboxing Academy.

    XFN 371 will air live at 5:00pm ET on UFC Fight Pass (Subscription).

    Canadian Jesse Arnett is scheduled to face off against former UFC title challenger Ray Borg in the main event of UAE Warriors 20 on Saturday morning in Abu Dhabi. Arnett wrestled for Canada's only NCAA member school, Simon Fraser, in college. In 2004, he won a silver medal at the Junior Pan American Championships. Three years later, he won a bronze medal at the 2007 Commonwealth Championships.

    The most accomplished wrestler competing in MMA this weekend can be found on the undercard of Saturday night's UFC event. Kanako Murata was a three-time Asian Championships medalist and a World University bronze before ever having her first fight. She was also a three-time member of Japan's World Cup team. In 2011, Murata defeated Helen Maroulis in the finals of the Junior World Championships.

    Murata moved to MMA in 2016. She went 11-1 fighting mostly for Rizin and Invicta FC before signing with the UFC last year. She won her debut over Randa Markos and meets Virna Jandiroba on Saturday.

    Also on the UFC undercard, Matt Semelsberger takes on Khaos Williams. Semelsberger played college football at Marist but was also a high school wrestler at Urbana High School in Maryland.

    The undercard of UFC Fight Night: Korean Zombie vs. Ige will air live at 4:00pm ET on ESPN2.

    While the long-awaited MMA debut of Pat Downey is not currently scheduled, he appears to be taking another step in that direction. The former Iowa State All-American and 2019 World Team member is set to compete in the Third Coast Grappling Middleweight Grand Prix on Saturday. In the first round of the eight-man Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu tournament, Downey will face off against Pedro Marinho, who won the No-Gi Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu World Championships at the brown belt level in 2019.

    Downey previously submitted against grappling superstar Gordon Ryan back in 2020. He returned to the submission sport this past May and picked up a decision over Rasheed Perez at Subversiv 5.

    The Third Coast Grappling Middleweight Grand Prix will air live at 8:00pm ET on Fite.TV (Pay Per View).

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