Name: Joe Warren Professional Record: 2-0 Key Victories: Norifumi “Kid” Yamamoto and Chase Beebe
Joe Warren hasn’t cut any corners in his mixed martial arts career, making his mixed martial arts debut in the DREAM Featherweight Grand Prix. That’s a lot of pressure for a fighter to make his debut in front of 20,000 fans and on one of the biggest stages in mixed martial arts. Warren, though, is anything but a normal fi ghter. His extensive wrestling background, along with his multiple-awarded title as World Champion in Greco- Roman wrestling, prepared him to an extent for a career in mixed martial arts. Another thing on his side was his choice of training camp as he prepared with Team Quest, one of the best fight camps in all of mixed martial arts.
Warren made his mixed martial arts debut at DREAM 7 against former WEC Bantamweight Champion Chase Beebe. He used an orthodox style on the feet, keeping Beebe on his heels the entire time, which opened him up for takedowns that Warren executed with ease. One moment shifted the fight into Warren’s favor: As Beebe lunged in for a takedown, Warren threw a knee that landed squarely on Beebe’s face, which opened a huge cut over Beebe’s eye. As the first round ended, it was evident that Beebe couldn’t continue and the fight was stopped, which gave Warren his first victory in mixed martial arts.
Warren’s next fight was against heavy tournament favorite Norifumi “Kid” Yamamoto at DREAM 9, where Warren was a heavy underdog. He went on to shock the mixed martial arts world and upset Yamamoto. Throughout the fight, Warren used his aggressiveness and wrestling to frustrate Yamamoto, who offered nothing off his back while Warren worked from the top with strikes. On the feet, Warren came forward and got tagged a couple of times, but he kept putting pressure on Yamamoto. When all was said and done, Warren had won a split decision and knocked off the tournament favorite.
“I just wanted to make it a barn-burning fight — just throw off the gloves and get after it — and that’s what it ended up being,” Warren said regarding his fight with Yamamoto. He is now looking to hone his skills in preparation for the finals of the DREAM Featherweight Grand Prix in September. “The only way you learn is in competition,” he said. “You can train all day, you can be the best technician in the world, and then you go into a competition and you get worked. Because you’re not used to the pressure, you’re not used to the focus, you’re not used to being hurt and focusing through it. With each fight, I’m getting better.”
Name: Scott McAfee Professional Record: 7-1 Key Victories: Bill Theofanopoulos, Tim Hendricks and Josh Branham
Not many prominent fighters come from Alaska, but Scott McAfee hopes to change that in the near future as the Lightweight climbs the ranks through the division. McAfee started his mixed martial arts career in Alaska and has come a long way since then. With a background in wrestling, McAfee began boxing shortly after high school with the urging of a friend. His friend quit shortly afterward, but McAfee stuck with it, which paid off as mixed martial arts soon arrived in Alaska in the form of the Alaska Fighting Championships.
McAfee went on to success in the Alaska Fighting Championships, claiming both its Welterweight and Lightweight championships. He next got a shot in World Extreme Cagefi ghting, where he put his undefeated record on the line against fellow undefeated fighter Marcus Hicks. It didn’t go as planned, as McAfee was grounded from the onset and was then shortly submitted thereafter with a guillotine choke. In hindsight, it wasn’t the best scenario for McAfee. “I shouldn’t have been there,” he said. “I had no Jiu-Jitsu and I just went for it, and it didn’t work out for me.” At the event, though, McAfee met Urijah Faber, who asked him to join his training team at Ultimate Fitness.
“The quality of guys in the gym is so much better, and that helps me get better to rise to the level of great fighters,” McAfee said regarding his training at Ultimate Fitness. He then took a year off to get settled in his new home and get some solid training under his belt before he made his return in the Palace Fighting Championships, where he fi nished both of his opponents. “The PFC was great. I fought two tough guys, and I let my hands go because I finally felt my grappling was up to par with everyone else’s.”
McAfee is now ready to hit the next stage in his career. “I’m ready to fight anybody, bigger and better. No one can stand toe to toe with me, and they can’t match me. A lot of people claim it, but I prove it. I just want to fight the toughest guys and be known as one of the top guys.” McAfee has one goal in mind, and that is to be a champion in the near future. “I want to have a title, whether it is in Strikeforce, World Extreme Cagefighting, or the UFC.”
Name: Joe Soto Professional Record: 7-0 Key Victories: Wilson Reis, Ben Greer and Yahir Reyes
Awrestling standout from Central California, Joe Soto quietly became one of the top Featherweight prospects in mixed martial arts within a 2-month period. Soto started his humble career in the Gladiator Challenge and then moved on to the Palace Fighting Championships, where he first got noticed by mixed martial arts fans. Although he was known for his wrestling, Soto was able to fi nish his first four opponents either by submission or via strikes, which earned him a spot in the Bellator Fighting Championships.
A new upstart promotion, Bellator launched its promotion with four tournaments at different weight classes to crown its champions. Soto got a chance to become a champion, but included in the tournament was the heavily favored undefeated Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu fighter Wilson Reis. The lucrative part of winning the tournament is getting a total purse of $175,000. Soto first drew Canadian Featherweight Ben Greer in the tournament’s opening round.
Soto came out strong and never let Greer get off first gear as he overwhelmed him on the feet before getting a takedown. From that point on, Soto switched from position to position on the ground with ease, where he started to utilize a brutal ground-and-pound attack that was too much for Greer, who wilted under the pressure and gave Soto another victory. Soto’s next fight was the biggest of his career as he faced off with tournament favorite Wilson Reis.
Soto stunned many in the mixed martial arts world when he pitched a shutout against the undefeated Brazilian Reis to advance into the Featherweight tournament final. He used crisp combinations on the feet to frustrate Reis, who tried to take the fight to the ground but was unsuccessful in every attempt because of Soto’s solid wrestling skills. Soto was able to keep the fi ght on the feet and punish Reis for all three rounds with crisp striking to win a unanimous decision and earn a spot in the final.
He came into the final with tons of confidence, and it showed as he absolutely dominated Mexican fi ghter Yahir Reyes, who he took down right off the bat and pounded into the mat for 5 minutes with brutal ground and pound. He continued this in the second round and finally ended the fight with a rear naked choke. With the win, Soto became the Bellator Featherweight champion and kept his record perfect. The sky is the limit for the impressive young wrestler, who is looking to become a household name.