Sherdog Prospect Watch: Brian Cobb

By Joseph Zigler Jan 20, 2009
Brian Cobb is a man on a mission.

In four years as a professional mixed martial artist, the reigning Palace Fighting Championship lightweight titleholder has racked up an impressive 14-4 record. He will carry an eight-fight winning streak into the ring for his second title defense against Lance Wipf at PFC 12 “High Stakes” this Thursday at the Tachi Palace Hotel and Casino in Lemoore, Calif.

Not bad for a guy who was never expected to win the PFC belt. Cobb entered his match with defending champion and UFC veteran Diego Saraiva at PFC 8 in May as a heavy underdog. After five dominant rounds against the crafty Brazilian jiu-jitsu black belt, all three judges score the bout in Cobb’s favor.

The Bakersfield, Calif., resident has grown accustomed to the underdog role. His most recent victory -- and perhaps his most impressive -- came by second-round submission against Marcus Levesseur at a War Gods show in November. Levesseur was undefeated as an amateur wrestler at Augsburg College, where he racked up a 155-0 record and won four NCAA Div. III championships.

Experts believed that Cobb’s downfall would result from facing a superior wrestler. They were wrong.

Cobb out-grappled Levesseur before he finished him in round two. After absorbing a nasty upkick, Cobb pounced on Levesseur, transitioned to full mount, took his back, flattened him out and forced the tapout with a rear-naked choke.

“I have good back control,” Cobb says. “It comes naturally from my wrestling. I’ve always been good from top position. I ride well.”

Originally from San Jose, Calif., Cobb entered MMA on a whim. He had just completed his collegiate wrestling career at Cal State Bakersfield and was working on campus as an assistant coach. His brothers had both wrestled at UC Davis with a guy named Urijah Faber.

Jeff Sherwood/Sherdog.com

Cobb's dedication to cross
training has paid off.
“Urijah told me I’d do good at MMA and I should try it,” Cobb says. “I was at the right time and place in my life and said, ‘Sure, I’ll take a fight.’ I took it. I won, and I loved it. And I haven’t looked back.”

Cobb defeated Keith Byer in his professional debut at a Gladiator Challenge show in October 2004. He entered the match as a pure wrestler with only two weeks of formal MMA training. His gameplan was simple.

“They told me just to take the guy down and punch him,” Cobb says. “I did that, [and] then I got like a wrestling headlock on the guy, squeezed as hard as I could and he tapped out. I didn’t even know what I was doing.”

Cobb’s next fight was for the title, and he succumbed to an armbar in 39 seconds against Cesar Gracie protégé Nick Ertl. In his third bout, he lost by guillotine choke in 44 seconds. It was time to sharpen his jiu-jitsu skills.

“After that, I took a little time to just really focus at getting better at jiu-jitsu,” he says. “I realized I liked it a lot. I’m an awkward wrestler, so jiu-jitsu really came more natural to me. I have good hip position.”

Once he reached a point where he was comfortable with his jiu-jitsu, Cobb set out to find a boxing coach and add the final piece to his MMA arsenal. Juan Alex Villanueva was a perfect fit.

“All the combinations I set up for him, and dipping and dodging, avoiding a punch … it’s mostly getting ready for shooting,” Villanueva says.

Instead of trying to transform Cobb into a boxer, Villanueva wanted to teach him to box as a wrestler. They worked on boxing from a traditional wrestling stance.

“He’s a wrestler, so I’m not gonna mess up his stand-up,” Villanueva says. “Stand-up for a wrestler is different than a boxer. A boxer is more sideways, and a wrestler is more facing front, so I teach him combinations that give him a chance for a takedown.”

Cobb also works at other gyms in the area in an effort to further expand his striking repertoire. One of his sparring partners, PFC welterweight champion Bryan Travers, claims they often focus on throwing meaningful strikes, not just those that setup takedowns.

Cobb’s dedication to cross training has paid off, as he has finished six of his eight opponents during his current winning streak. His MMA coach, Joshua Allen -- Cobb refers to him as “Yoda” -- believes Cobb stands out because of his drive and discipline.

“It’s definitely his work ethic,” Allen says. “He’s willing to work harder and push harder than 100 percent of guys out there. He really wants to do what you tell him to do, and he never asks why. It’s a Godsend to have a student who puts his heart and soul into it, and he does.”

Cobb’s commitment to hard work extends beyond the gym. He is currently working toward his Master’s degree and teaching credential in mathematics. His post-fight career plans include teaching calculus and trigonometry.

“I can’t fight forever,” he says.

For now, Cobb seems content to see where MMA takes him, and he knows exactly how he wants to approach his fighting career.

“I want to fight anyone who is supposed to beat me,” he says. “I want to fight in Japan again. I want to fight anywhere in the world where I can get on someone else’s dime, but right now, the only fight that matters is Lance Wipf on Jan 22.”

Expect more of the same from Cobb.

“He’s supposed to be a great wrestler,” he says. “How do you beat a great wrestler? You out-wrestle him.”
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