New Blood

Joseph Benavidez

Fighting out of Ultimate Fitness with World Extreme Cagefi ghting featherweight champion Urijah Faber, Joseph Benavidez is one the best bantamweights you may have never heard of. That all changes as he gets a shot at popular fi ghter Kid Yamamoto. It’s no small task for the New Mexico native, who started his mixed marital arts career a little over two years ago, but he is ready to make a name for himself.

Benavidez has been fi ghting in smaller local California shows, gaining experience and going undefeated. The key element in this young fi ghter’s development has been training under the tutelage of the best featherweight fi ghter in the world, Urijah Faber.

Benavidez goes straight for the kill and doesn’t let his opponents catch a break. This year, Benavidez found a home in Palace Fighting Championships, and fi nished both of his opponents in the fi rst round by submission. The young fi ghter has also signed a two fi ght deal with upstart Japanese promotion DREAM. His fi rst fi ght will be with Yamamoto at DREAM 5, at a catch weight of 138 pounds. Bigger opportunities could still lie ahead for Benavidez, with talk of the Japanese promotion putting together a featherweight tournament in 2009. That would place the young fi ghter with some of the best in the world, and give him a chance to shine in front of a worldwide audience.

Whether or not he beats Yamamoto, one thing is certain: the world will know who Joseph Benavidez is when he steps in the ring.

Dan Hardy

Hardy is the best welterweight in Europe, and soon North American fans will know his name. He has been running through the competition in England, fi nishing his opponents either by submission or a straight-up beat down. He has also become well-known in Japan, after participating in last year’s Cage Force welterweight tournament. However, he lost to new welterweight prospect Yoshiyuki Yoshida in the fi nals of the tournament last December.

Before participating in the Cage Force tournament, Hardy wasn’t a big name. In September, he took on slick submission fi ghter Hidetaka Monma. Hardy surprised the crowd, taking the fi ght to Monma on the feet and staying out of submissions on the ground. Once he escaped Monma’s submissions, Hardy brought vicious ground and pound. After two rounds of war, Hardy turned up the heat, dropping Monma and pounding on him until his corner threw in the towel.

At Cage Force, he drew one of the tournament favorites for his fi rst fi ght, former welterweight King of Pancrase Daizo Ishige. Ishige was supposed to beat Hardy handily and win the tournament, but things don’t always go to plan. Hardy imposed his will on Ishige, tagging him with solid shots on the feet and pounding him on the ground. After three rounds of back and forth action, Hardy walked away with the decision.

The fi nal against Yoshida was evenly matched, as both men neutralized each other, clinching along the fence and stalemating on the ground. Neither was able to mount any signifi cant offense. But the second round started with disaster – Hardy landed an errant kick to the groin and Yoshida immediately fell in pain. After some time, it was determined that Yoshida couldn’t continue and Hardy would be disqualifi ed, ending the tournament on a sour note.

Since losing to Yoshida in December, Hardy has gone 3-0 in England, stopping all of his opponents with strikes, including Ultimate Fighting Championship veteran Chad Reiner. For his efforts so far this year, Hardy has been awarded a contract with the UFC for four fi ghts. He is anticipated to make his debut for the American promotion sometime later this summer and is eager to show why he is considered to be the best welterweight in Europe.

Nate Loughran

Loughran is one of the brightest and unknown middleweight prospects on the West Coast, but soon he will get a chance to shine in the national spotlight. Loughran fi ghts out of the Nor Cal Fighting Alliance, with David Terrell as his trainer. So far he has gone 8-0 in his mixed martial arts career, fi nishing all of his opponents. Seven of his wins have come by submission, with only one coming by the way of strikes.

After tearing through the competition in Gladiator Challenge and winning the middleweight belt, Loughran moved south and started fi ghting in Palace Fighting Championships, which has replaced World Extreme Cagefi ghting in central California as the premier fi ght promotion. With that came a step up in competition, but Loughran disposed of them in the same impressive fashion, submitting all of his opponents and earning a chance to fi ght for the promotion’s middleweight belt.

He took on fellow prospect Kenny Ento at Palace Fighting Championships 8 for the middleweight title. Throughout the fi ght, Loughran pressed the action, landing solid body shots that bothered Ento and set him up for the fi nish, a rear naked choke that gave Loughran the victory and the Palace Fighting Championships middleweight title.

It’s only a matter of time before this young prospect gets the exposure he deserves, and a chance to compete at a much higher level. He could even possibly become a champion in yet another promotion in the near future.

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