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: Forrest Petz, Evan- gelista Santos, Marius Zaromskis
WEIGHT CLASS: 170 lbs.
NICKNAME: Young Gun
Many pundits often talk about the next generation of fighters sprouting from kids who grew up in the sport—Jordan Mein is of that generation. He may be just 23 years old, but Mein has already fought 34 professional bouts, defeating some size- able names in the world of MMA, including UFC veterans Forrest Petz, Joe Riggs, and Josh Burkman, Pride alum Evangelista “Cyborg” Santos, and former Dream Welterweight Champion Marius Zaromskis.
That’s a formidable list for a 23-year-old, but Mein is a formidable fighter. He had his first kickboxing bout at 11 years old, his first amateur MMA bout at 14 years old, and his first pro bout at 16 years old. How’s that for growing up in the sport?
Mein has never backed down from a fight, consistently taking on every fighter thrown his way. In fact, his pro debut was against current UFC welterweight con- tender Rory MacDonald. That may have led to a 4-4 start as a pro, but since late 2007, he has added 22 wins to that total. The lone blemish in his last nine fights was a split decision loss to recent Strike- force title contender Tyron Woodley, but Mein followed that fight up with wins over Tyler Stinson and Forrest Petz.
As for Mein growing up in the sport, he has a true love of fighting, training, and competing. For him, just taking that step forward with each fight is all part of the process that adds up to a career. “I think by beating guys with names, it gives you more recognition,” says Mein. “I’ve had some hard fights, but I’ve been fortunate enough to fight guys who have been around. Fighting in The Score Fighting Series this last year gave me a lot of recognition in Canada. Fighting for Strikeforce in the States helped me get my name out there worldwide. I just want to get my name out there. That’s my goal.”
With Mein still under contract with Strikeforce, and Strikeforce folding into the UFC in early 2013, it’s likely that Mein’s name will soon get even more attention.
KEY VICTORIES: Ryan Healy, Alex Ricci
WEIGHT CLASS: 155 lbs.
NICKNAME: The Body Snatcher
Canadian lightweight Jesse “The Body Snatcher” Ronson continues to make strides forward in his career the old fashioned way—by beating increasingly difficult opposition. Such was the case in August, when he defeated fellow up- and-comer Alex Ricci by unanimous decision in The Score Fighting Series.
“The key to that fight was staying smart and keeping my balance,” says Ronson. “I had to stay straight up, stay alert, and stay ahead of him. I did, and I proved I was the better striker. I thought I could finish him, but he’s tough and was in great shape.”
The win was Ronson’s sixth in a row—a streak that began after he made an overhaul following a loss to Mike Ricci in April 2011.
“That fight with Mike, I was doing all the wrong things in camp,” says Ronson. “I was training to defend his strengths. After that fight, I changed my coaches and the way I train, and I put on some size. Everything has been coming together. Everything has changed. It was a huge revamp, and I can honestly say that I’m a 100 percent different fighter than who I was when I fought Mike.”
Ronson’s most recent victor y was over Ryan Healy, brother of Strikeforce title contender Pat Healy. Ronson had to go the distance, but he did so against an increasingly difficult veteran, proving once again that he’s ready for the bright lights that The Score Fight Series has afforded him on A XS T V.
“2012 has probably been my most successful year as a fighter,” he says. “I fought some really tough guys and got a lot of exposure.
KEY VICTORIES: Joseph Henle, Jacen Flynne, Cezar Ferreira
WEIGHT Class: 185 lbs. AGE: 26
NICKNAME: The King
Growing up during the Bosnian War in Bosnia-Herzegovina, Elvis Mutapcic didn’t discover his combat sports chops until he left basketball and soccer behind when his family moved to Iowa. Mutapcic spent the majority of his formative professional years fighting for the Midwest Cage Championship, amassing a record of 8-2 before finally getting a shot in a bigger regional promotion in Las Vegas.
The transplanted Iowan served notice that his was a career to watch when he crushed Cezar “Mutante” Ferreira at Superior Cage Combat 2. The 25-second knockout of Vitor Belfort’s pupil—who is currently in the UFC—coupled with a follow-up submission victory in MCC, launched Mutapcic into the Maximum Fighting Championship in Canada.
Mutapcic wasted no time once he hit the bright lights of the MFC, quickly establishing himself as a force there, finishing off longtime veteran Jacen Flynn. He TKO’d the TUF alum in less than two minutes in his MFC debut.
“I went out there and fought at my pace, and I thought I performed pretty well,” Mutapcic says. “I was prepared for the best Jacen ever and assumed he was a well-rounded fighter, which he was, but I landed a good knee to his chin and ended the fight.”
That performance ratcheted his re- cord to 11-2 and threw him into a battle for the vacant MFC Middleweight Title. In that fight, Mutapcic took out formerly undefeated Joseph Henle, TKO’ing him with a leg kick and taking home the gold. Mutapcic’s career is on a skyward trajectory, and he doesn’t see it slowing down any time soon, although his goals are modest.
“I want to take it one fight at a time, but I think 2013 will be a bigger year than 2012,” he says. “I’m currently a full-time fighter, but I also have a full-time job, and I just want to be able to support my family and do what I love. That’s the main goal right now.”