2016 World Team member Chris Gonzalez (Photo courtesy of Tony Rotundo; WrestlersAreWarriors.com)
Even with the Olympics in full swing, the MMA world continues to roll on with multiple events. That means that InterMat is back once again with a look at the former wrestlers who will be competing.
UFC Vegas 33
Ryan Benoit was a three-time Texas state champion for McKinney North and wrestled one year of college wrestling before starting his MMA career. He will likely need a win over Zarrukh Adashev this Saturday to keep his spot in the UFC after dropping his last two bouts against Heili Alateng and Time Elliott.
Kai Kamaka III was a Hawaii state champion in high school before continuing his wrestling career for NAIA Midland University. He will be looking to get back on track against Danny Chavez in a featherweight bout.
Orion Cosce wrestled for Hoopa High School in the Humboldt region of California. He has not strayed too far from his roots as he entered the 2015 U.S. Open in Greco. Cosce holds an undefeated 7-0 record and will be making his UFC debut against Philip Rowe after winning a contract with Dana White's Contender Series.
UFC Vegas 33 takes place Saturday night in Las Vegas. The main card starts at 9:00pm ET, and the preliminary card begins at 6:00pm ET. The entire event airs live on ESPN and ESPN+.
AJ McKee takes on Patricio Pitbull in what has been described as the biggest fight in Bellator history. While McKee is certainly a well-rounded fighter, he did come up as a wrestler. He was a standout wrestler at CIF Southern Sectional champion for Long Beach Poly before going on to wrestle for Notre Dame College and Cerritos College. While at Cerritos, he picked up a CCCA state championship. McKee might be wise to go to his wrestling against Pitbull as he did have trouble in that department against Joe Warren and Daniel Straus.
Chris Gonzalez represented the U.S. at the 2016 non-Olympic World Championships in Greco. He then followed that up with a silver medal at the 2017 U.S. Open. He originally planned to continue wrestling while fighting in MMA , but he has been focusing on MMA recently. Gonzalez holds an undefeated 6-0 record, but that will undoubtedly be put to the test against Goiti Yamauchi. Yamauchi is by far the best fighter Gonzalez has faced, and his submission skills on the floor will make wrestling dangerous.
Bellator 263 airs live from Los Angeles on Saturday. The preliminary card goes down at 7:00pm ET on YouTube, while the main card starts at 9:00pm ET on Showtime.
Kenny Robertson was the last NCAA qualifier for the Eastern Illinois program before it was dropped. During his time on campus, he was a two-time NCAA West Regional champion. Robertson went 4-5 across multiple stints in the UFC and was released in 2016. He looks to turn things around this weekend against PFL veteran Chris Curtis.
Cody Gibson wrestled collegiately for both Bakersfield College and Menlo College. The MMA veteran last fought in the UFC in 2015, but he has gone 4-1 in his last five fights. He takes on 8-2 fighter Louie Sanoudaki.
XMMA 2 takes place Friday night at 7:00pm ET in Greenville, S.C.
Legacy Fighting Alliance 113
Thomas Peterson was the 2017 NJCAA heavyweight champion for Iowa Central, and he also spent time at North Dakota State. He signed with LFA in 2020 after only one professional fight and now holds a 4-0 record. He takes a big step up in competition here against Bellator veteran Vernon Lewis in a heavyweight title fight.
The main card of the LFA 113 airs live on UFC Fight Pass at 9:00pm ET on Friday.
Fighting Alliance Championship 9
Nyle Bartling spent one year at Ohio State before transferring to Nebraska. He never really cracked the starting lineup, but the Nebraska native went 13-3 at heavyweight as a senior. Bartling made his professional MMA debut in 2019 and currently holds a 3-0 record. He takes on Max McNeely on the card.
Isaac Dulgarian spent time in college at both Notre Dame College and Nebraska-Kearney. He made his professional debut this past march for this promotion and now holds a 2-0 record at featherweight. He will face Jessy Ebrecht, who is 2-3.
FCA 9 takes place Friday night in Independence, Mo., with the main card airing live on UFC Fight Pass at 10:00pm ET.