By Mick Hammond // mmaweekly.com
Mixed martial arts is the fastest growing sport in the world. It garners more attention and new fans daily. The emergence of so many new athletes sometimes makes it hard for fans to notice some of the fighters on the verge of making it to the next level. MMAWeekly.com takes you deep inside the sport and presents you with some of the upcoming New Blood.
Key Victories: Shane Nelson, Mukai Maromo
Weight Class: 155 lbs.
While last year didn’t exactly go how MFC featherweight Graham Spencer planned, 2012 was a successful year in which he won both of his fights and raised his record to 9-1.
“I only had two fights and would have liked to have been more active, but I had some family issues and stuff I needed to take care of,” says Spencer. “It would have been nice to get a finish against Shane Nelson, but he’s a tough guy who has only been finished once his entire career.”
Having taken steps to make fighting his sole focus, Spencer wants to be more active in 2013.
“Last year I quit my day job, so fighting is full-time for me now, and in order for me to keep that happening, I have to stay active,” he says. “I just can’t have two fights. I’d like to have four.”
No matter how many fights Spencer gets in 2013, he kicked off the year by submitting Mukai Maromo to capture the MFC Lightweight Title. Now, Spencer plans to fight for MFC at featherweight.
“I’m not going to be staying at lightweight,” says Spencer. “MFC didn’t really have any other featherweights for me at the moment, so I fought at lightweight. I know MFC president Mark Pavelich has some big plans for building the featherweight division, and I think I’ll be right up there and be—if not the top guy—one of the top guys in the division.”
Key Victories: Jason Hicks
Weight Class: 155 lbs.
Country: United States
Nickname: Hot Sauce
Scott “Hot Sauce” Holtzman is a classic example of a fighter who was virtually unknown to start a year, only to become one of his promotion’s top young stars by the end of it.
“I got a shot to be on the XFC undercard when it came through Knoxville, Tennessee, and all I needed was the opportunity to go out there and prove myself,” says Holtzman. “They liked what they saw, and I got another shot and then another.”
That added up to a breakout 2012 for Holtzman, kicking off his professional career in style, following a 5-0 amateur record. Holtzman’s success in the XFC in 2012 put him in a lightweight title eliminator match against fellow up-and-comer Jason Hicks to start off 2013.
Although he’s only been fighting professionally for 14 months, Holtzman has been able to keep things in perspective and not get overwhelmed. That served him well in the fight against Hicks. Holtzman had been able to finish his first three pro fights, but he had to dig deep with Hicks and go the distance en route to winning a unanimous decision.
“I don’t get too high or too low on these fights,” Holtzman says. “I don’t make them out to be anything more than they really are. At the end of the day, it’s still a fight. The cage is the same size, he puts on his gear the same way I do, and whether the fight was on the undercard, the main event, or a title fight, it’s still just a fight.”
After a stellar 2012 and the follow-up victory against Hicks, Holtzman is now prepared to live up to expectations in 2013 and become one of the XFC’s premier fighters.
“It’s always good to have goals,” says Holtzman. “I’d like to have a title belt in the XFC. I’d like to keep it rolling, get a couple more wins in the XFC cage, and continue to build my name and brand.”
Key Victory: Jennifer Scott
Weight Class: 135 lbs.
Country: United States
Legacy FC 135-pound prospect Lauren Taylor knows that the fight game is a work in progress, and that’s fine with her, as her work ethic is one of her defining features.
“The biggest thing about me that maybe other women don’t have is that I’m going to outwork every single one of them,” she says. “I’m going to outwork them in the gym, and if they beat me, it’s not going to be for lack of hard work or preparation.”
Taylor’s work ethic to continually get better not only comes through in the gym but also in her fights, as evidenced by her most recent win over Jennifer Scott.
“I’m not entirely thrilled that she was getting the better of me on the feet,” says Taylor. “I’ve watched the video of it a couple times, and once I started to relax, I started to do a little bit better. I’m a huge fan of throwing elbows on the ground. I don’t even punch when I’m on the ground. Throwing elbows just comes natural. Once I had her on the ground, I knew it was over.”
The TKO-victory over Scott pumped Taylor’s record up to 5-0, making her one of Legacy’s top female fighters. While she’s enjoying her position in the promotion, she ultimately wants to test herself against the best females in the division, which now means the UFC or Invicta FC.
“The 135-pound division is full of really talented females,” says Taylor. “I’d like to make a name for myself, and I think even with the toughest women out there, I can put on a good show and hang with them. I’m going to work on improving as fast as I can. While I might not always pull out a win, I guarantee it’s definitely going to be a fight everyone’s going to want to see.”
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