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: Norma Rueda Center, Ashley Cummins
Weight Class: 115 lbs.
2013 is falling right in line with female flyweight Joanne “Jojo” Calderwood’s 2012—she’s still undefeated and is becoming one of the premier fighters in her weight class. This year, Calderwood has had one fight on her home turf in Glasgow, Scotland, fighting for Cage Warriors, and two fights for Invicta.
“My first fight this year, I went three rounds in Invicta, and it was pretty much one-sided,” she says. “The second one, I won in the second round with a TKO, and that’s even better because I like ending the fight early and not letting it go to the judges.”
Calderwood’s third bout of the year was a folly of frustrations, having to go through several opponent changes before finally settling on Greg Jackson-trained talent Norma Rueda Center. Despite stepping in as a late replacement, Center was no pushover. She had a spotless 5-0 record as an amateur and was 2-0 as a pro. Calderwood’s approach to the fight, however, was steadfast. Last-minute changes in opponent frequently happen in mixed martial arts, and the Scottish standout didn’t let it get to her.
“I just like to fight—the opponent doesn’t really matter,” says Calderwood. “Switching opponents happens in this sport. It wasn’t the first time it happened to me, and it won’t be the last time, so it doesn’t really bother me. What matters is that I’m still fighting on the card and getting to use what I worked on during fight camp. I just make sure I’m the best person I can be when I step into the cage.”
That approach has certainly worked well for her, as Calderwood is undefeated in seven professional fights, putting her in sight of the Invicta 115-pound title currently wrapped around Carla Esparza’s waist.
“I look at all my opponents knowing that I have to beat them if I want to get the Invicta title,” she says. “That’s my goal, and I need to beat everyone, whether they’re from a great camp or not. I need to fight them as a fighter. As long as I keep winning and performing, the title will come to me.”
Key Victory: Angel Huerta
Weight Class: 135 lbs.
Country: United States
Nickname: The Crowbar
Following his first loss in September 2012, Legacy FC bantamweight Matt “Crowbar” Hobar has rebounded with three straight victories, the last of which earned him the Legacy FC Bantamweight Title. His professional record now stands at 8-1, and he’s already avenged his lone loss.
Hobar lost to Steven Peterson in August 2012 when he injured his arm in the fight, but he recovered quickly and avenged the loss in December.
“In my rematch with Peterson, I decided to keep it standing because I knew I had better stand-up, so it was a different gameplan than what I’m used to, but it worked out to my advantage,” says Hobar, who is better known for his strong ground game. “In my next fight against Nelson Salas, I was sure it was going to be a ground fight, because I felt like my ground game was superior, but he was a tough guy, hard to finish. Those fights were tough for me and a definite step up in competition, but I got the wins.”
Those fights, especially the bout with Salas, set him up for the greatest success thus far in a young career that began in 2011. Building off the experiences of his two previous victories, Hobar knew he had the recipe for success heading into the battle with Angel Huerta for the Legacy FC Bantamweight Title.
Hobar knew Huerta’s striking game was top notch, but he also knew Huerta’s ground game was suspect and open to attack. Hobar wasted no time exploiting this fact, taking the fight to Huerta by putting him on the mat and submitting him in the first round.
Hobar has had numerous successes in his first two years in the sport, to the tune of eight victories, but none were as noteworthy as winning the Legacy FC belt.
“Winning the title will definitely open up a lot opportunities to further my career in MMA,” says Hobar. “I’m excited to see what comes next.”
Key Victories: Hae Jun Yang, Dongxing Wu
Weight Class: 170 lbs.
Vaughn Anderson is a well-respected figure on the Asian MMA scene, but despite holding an outstanding 16-1-1 record, he remains relatively unknown to the Western MMA world, even in his native Canada. That could all change soon, as the 35-year-old is making his way to Bellator this fall.
Anderson’s career has seen him compete in Taiwan, China, Macau, Singapore, Australia, and Abu Dhabi, but never on mainland U.S. or Canada. While his list of previous opponents might be unfamiliar to an American audience, he’s fought many of the best fighters in Asia.
Anderson’s sole loss came in 2007 when he was submitted by Chinese legend Hailin Ao. The only other blemish on his record is a 2009 draw with Dong Hyun Kim, who, while not as famous as his UFC namesake, is still one of the top welterweights in Korea.
Anderson made headlines in 2011 when he stopped three much larger fighters in a single night to win the Pro FC Heavyweight Tournament in Taipei. His most recent fight was in Australia in 2012 when he beat Korean Hae Jun Yang by majority decision.
Canadian by nationality, Anderson was actually born in Manila and spent the early years of his life there. While his MMA record is impressive, he is better known in Asia for his work as a coach and a commentator.
“I came to Asia in 2001 thinking I would travel to the places I lived for a year when I was a kid, but I never left,” he says. “I’ve lived and trained in Taiwan, Beijing, Ubon Ratchatani, Hong Kong, Xian, and had shorter stints in Bangkok, Boracay, and Singapore.”
Anderson is currently employed as the MMA coach at the Xian Sports University, which is home to some of Asia’s top fighters, including 14-0 Tuerxun Jumabieke (who is rumored to have signed with the UFC) and RUFF Champions Wang Guan and Meixuan Zhang.
He’ll be fighting for Bellator in the U.S. in his promotional debut, which will be somewhat of a North American homecoming for Anderson. After more than a decade of training, coaching, and competing in Asia, he relishes the chance to make a name for himself in the West and hopes to finally win some fans from his own country.
“Like any fighter, I have had my share of ups and downs, but it does feel good to come home in the best shape of my life and be thirsty for victory,” says Anderson.