POSTED ON FEBRUARY 8, 2012:
Dukes of all sizes are raised and ready
Two of the biggest stars in the history of mixed martial arts will be in Tulsa. No big deal.
Xtreme Fight Night returns to the Joint at the Hard Rock Hotel and Casino on Friday, Feb. 17 at 7pm. Dale "Apollo" Cook is bringing in Hall of Fame fighter Chuck "Iceman" Liddell as the special guest. Liddell is also the current Vice President of Business Development with the Ultimate Fighting Championship.
Joining him in a more active role will be current Strikeforce lightweight champion Gilbert Melendez. He trains out of California with T-Town product Jonny Carson. He corners Carson in a welterweight super fight against former XFL champion Codale Ford.
It seemed appropriate to get the celebrities out of the way and get to the meat of the fight card. These events are electric. Having a special guest is like the appetizer. The local fighters on the card always overshadow the big names in attendance.
It is easy to stereotype fighters. "They come from broken homes" or "this was their ticket off the street." Both sound nice in a narrative. Another cliché goes something along the lines of "these two guys really don't like each other."
In the main event, the latter might be true. The XFL welterweight belt is up for grabs and these two really do not get along.
Champion Dylan Smith hopes to shut Levi Avera's mouth once and for all. Smith defeated Avera's training partner in November to earn the title. Avera immediately got in the ring and challenged Smith. This was not the first time he called Smith out.
"I've never looked forward to a fight like this one," Smith said. "It has been in the making for at least two years. It will be a good challenge for me...a good stepping stone for my career."
They are two of the top 170-pound fighters in the state. They are well-rounded. Smith seemingly holds an advantage in the standup. Avera's strength is on the ground.
"I want to prove to Dylan and his fans and everybody else who thought Dylan was the best 170-pound fighter in the area. I want to drag Dylan Smith down, beat him up, and make him not want to fight me anymore. Make him realize it was a bad decision to even accept this fight."
Smith understands the awkwardness between the two competitors. Knowing they would eventually face each other it made sense to avoid contact. But Smith thinks Avera crossed the line, repeatedly.
"He can say whatever he wants to me, that is fine, but he started calling my fans out and actually said something to my dad and stepmom outside of the fight," Smith said. "That is not professional. I don't take that kindly. I've definitely taken it to heart every time he has come and run his mouth."
Even without the war of words this promises to be an excellent matchup between two skilled fighters.
But as America is learning, fighters do not have to hate each other to put on a good show. Respect is still present in dojos and gyms across the country and especially in our state.
The two top bantamweight fighters in Oklahoma square off in a much anticipated bout. Tulsa's Chavous Smith hopes to avenge an amateur decision loss to Byron Harlin.
"He relies a lot on his wrestling," said Smith. "His striking is not nearly as good as mine. We are probably about even with grappling. He is my only loss. The motivation is there."
The two are friends. They talk often and know they are the top two 135-pound fighters in Green Country. Smith fights out of Josh Bryant's new gym The Factory. Harlin trains in Muskogee with Team Hooligan.
"They offered the fight to BJ (Byron)," Smith said. "BJ and I talked about it actually. We're going to have to fight down the road either way."
So why not touch gloves on the biggest card, in front of the biggest crowd? Chances are they will meet again down the line.
"First of all this is not a rematch," said Harlin, ignoring the amateur battle. "It's my second pro fight and his pro debut. It's also a stepping stone for both of us to bigger, higher profile fights like a shot at the XFN bantamweight champion, Aaron Wise."
Do not let the pleasantries fool you. When the ref calls for the bell, it will be a war. But there is no reason to carry a made up grudge into real life.
"Chavous will tell you himself that we are two of the top bantamweights in the state," Harlin said. "I wouldn't be surprised if we both tried out for the next bantamweight Ultimate Fighter edition. We're both trying to take this fight thing as high as we can. He knows to be the best, you must beat the best."
The 13-bout card also features some heavy hitters from out of area. Owasso's Randy Blake takes on K-1 kickboxing veteran Dewey Cooper. This is by far Blake's biggest challenge to date.
A woman's kickboxing championship fight between Jeri Sitzes and Anita Rodriguez promises to be a showstopper. It is amazing how the female fights tend to outshine their male counterparts.
Andrew Todhunter returns to the Joint and takes on seasoned competitor Brandon Newsom. Newsom is stepping up in weight and brings a ton of experience to the ring against Todhunter.
Jon Watashe, Logan Cunningham, Clayton Robinson and Bogey Blunt are just a few of the other names highlighting the stacked card.
For tickets visit hardrockcasinotulsa.com.
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