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Quad Cities Looks to Repeat as IFL Champs

The first full season of the International Fight League begins tonight in Oakland, Calif. with a twin bill featuring the debut of two teams — the Reno Lions and Southern California Condors — against a pair of established squads, Los Angeles and San Jose. Sherdog.com takes at look at the 12 teams vying for the 2007 IFL league title, and puts the season’s 11 dates in focus.

Los Angeles Anacondas
Head Coach: Bas Rutten (Pictures)
Fighters:
Chris Horodecki (Pictures)
Jay Hieron (Pictures)
Benji Radach (Pictures)
Alex Schoenauer (Pictures)
Krzysztof Soszynski (Pictures)

One doesn’t need to look beyond Anacondas head coach Bas Rutten (Pictures) to get a sense for why Los Angeles is one of the more dangerous squads in the IFL. Led by cocky young lightweight Chris Horodecki (Pictures), the team features five fighters who are content to stand and bang.

In 2006, Horodecki stood out as the Anacondas’ best and most explosive fighter, earning stoppage in two of his three IFL victories. Middleweight Benji Radach (Pictures) is a new edition, as he steps in for Mike Pyle (Pictures), who was a disappointing 1-2 in IFL competition last year.

Keep an eye on the undefeated Horodecki (5-0 in 2006). A February showdown with Bart Palaszewski (Pictures) will go a long way in determining whether the young Canadian can assert himself on the IFL’s lightweight division, and if Los Angeles is for real.

Southern California Condors
Head Coach: Marco Ruas (Pictures)
Fighters:
Adam Lynn (Pictures)
Rodrigo Ruas
Jeremy Williams
Justin Levens (Pictures)
Antoine Jaoude (Pictures)

In their debut IFL campaign, a solid mix of veterans come together under the Condors banner. Led by Brazilian legend Marco Ruas (Pictures), Southern California offers some names you may have heard of, including UFC veterans Rodrigo Ruas and Justin Levens (Pictures).

Grappler Antoine Jaoude (Pictures) is a quality edition to the IFL heavyweight division, and Jeremy Williams has shown himself to be an effective submission fighter, though he has not fought competitively since 2002.

Adam Lynn (Pictures) could be a difference maker for the Condors, who make their debut tonight in Oakland against the Seattle Tiger Sharks. Fighting at lightweight, the IFL’s deepest division, Lynn will need to win his fair share of fights if the Condors are going to make any noise in 2007.

Toronto Dragons
Head Coach: Carlos Newton (Pictures)
Fighters:
Wagnney Fabiano (Pictures)
Claude Patrick (Pictures)
Brent Beauparlant (Pictures)
Wojtek Kaszowski (Pictures)
Rafael Custodio

No coach has shuffled his starting five more than Toronto Dragons’ head honcho Carlos Newton (Pictures). As the 2006 semifinal squad gears up for the season, Newton will corner three new fighters when Toronto competes for the first time on Feb. 23.

Wagnney Fabiano (Pictures) replaces Ivan Menjivar (Pictures), who himself was a replacement at lightweight. Claude Patrick (Pictures) returns to the line-up after Keith Wisniewski (Pictures) came up short against Rory Markham (Pictures) in Nov. And Rafael Custodio joins the team at heavyweight.

With the departure of Joe Doerksen (Pictures), Brent Beauparlant (Pictures) is likely the Dragons’ top fighter. Wojtek Kaszowski (Pictures) has yet to win a bout in four fights. Toronto surprised many by making it to the IFL semis, and it appears they’d be hard-pressed to duplicate the effort in 2007.

Reno Lions
Head Coach: Ken Shamrock (Pictures)
Fighters:
John Gunderson (Pictures)
Patrick Healy
Dan Molina (Pictures)
Vernon White
Roy Nelson (Pictures)

Undoubtedly, coach Ken Shamrock (Pictures) is the face of the squad. Having pieced together his Reno Lions after over 155 fighters showed up for tryouts late last year, Shamrock says he settled on this group based on their toughness and intangibles. Vernon White is the unquestioned veteran leader, having fought nearly 60 times in his career.

The Lions will need strong performances from lightweight John Gunderson (Pictures) (10-4-0) and welterweight Pat Healy (Pictures) (16-11-0) if they expect to contend for a ring in 2007.

Shamrock is high on light heavyweight Dan Molina (Pictures), who’s been with the Lion’s Den since he was 16. At 6-0, Roy Nelson (Pictures) has shown signs of being a decent heavyweight, which is why Shamrock pegged him to face the likes of Ben Rothwell (Pictures). The Lions start early against the San Jose Razorclaws, an obvious rival considering Ken’s adopted brother Frank will work the opposite corner.

New York Pitbulls
Head Coach: Renzo Gracie (Pictures)
Fighters:
Erik Owings (Pictures)
Delson Heleno (Pictures)
Fabio Leopoldo (Pictures)
Jamal Patterson (Pictures)
Bryan Vetell (Pictures)

One of the IFL’s original teams, New York offers a heavy Brazilian jiu-jitsu flare. Head coach Renzo Gracie (Pictures) leads this team, including notables Delson Heleno (Pictures) and Fabio Leopoldo (Pictures), into combat.

The Pitbulls’ strength lies in the middle three weight divisions with Heleno, Leopoldo and Jamal Patterson (Pictures). If they’re going to make an impact this year, these three guys will have to step up on a regular basis. And if Gracie can get something out of Erik Owings (Pictures) and Bryan Vetell (Pictures), he might have a team to reckon with.

This aggressive group can shake things up in the IFL, but they’ll need to be more consistent than they were in 2006.

San Jose Razorclaws
Head Coach: Frank Shamrock (Pictures)
Fighters:
Josh Odom (Pictures)
Ray Steinbeiss (Pictures)
Brian Foster (Pictures)
Raphael Davis (Pictures)
Vince Lucero (Pictures)

San Jose’s strength sits at 155 and 170. Both Josh Odom (Pictures) and Ray Steinbeiss (Pictures) are competent fighters, but they’ll need help from either Brian Foster (Pictures), Raphael Davis (Pictures) or Vince Lucero (Pictures) if the Razorclaws expect to do much against other IFL teams.

With head coach Frank Shamrock (Pictures) preparing for two fights in a close period of time, one has to wonder how much attention has been paid to this group as it heads into IFL action.

They fell short to Toronto in Nov., but with that experience behind them, San Jose could be tougher than most are expecting.

Chicago Red Bears
Head Coach: Igor Zinoviev
Fighters:
Gocha Markoziya
Mark Miller
Andrei Semenov (Pictures)
Alexander Zubachev
Dmitry Zabolotny

A first-time entry in the IFL, Chicago was supposed to feature an all-Russian squad with Igor Zinoviev at the helm. Four out of five spots ain’t bad, with only Midwest standout Mark Miller mixing up the group.

Andrei Semenov (Pictures) is the Red Bears’ most familiar name. Inexperienced fighters Gocha Markoziya, Alexander Zubachev and Dmitry Zabolotny round out the team.

Expected to draw heavily from the Russian community in and around Chicago, the Red Bears were an important addition for the IFL, which has teams in America’s three largest media markets. Their season begins in late Feb. against the New York Pitbulls.

Tokyo Sabres
Head Coach: Ken Yasuda
Fighters:
Savant Young (Pictures)
Antonio McKee (Pictures)
Kazuhiro Hamanaka (Pictures)
Vladimir Matyushenko (Pictures)
John Marsh (Pictures)

It’s hard to consider the Sabres representatives of Tokyo when just one of its five fighters resides across the Pacific. Widely considered the weakest IFL team in 2006, coach Ken Yasuda has overhauled the Sabres and now brings a quality and experienced group into battle.

Undersized lightweight Savant Young (Pictures) kicks things off for Tokyo, whose first match comes against fellow expansion team Tucson, Feb. 2 in Houston.

Wrestler Antonio McKee (Pictures) will make for a tough fight against any IFL welterweight. Kazuhiro Hamanaka (Pictures) was inconsistent in 2006, defeating a much larger Wesley Correira (Pictures) while failing to defeat Alex Schoenauer (Pictures). If motivated, Vladimir Matyushenko (Pictures) is Tokyo’s most dangerous fighter, and John Marsh (Pictures) could make a formidable opponent for any IFL heavyweight.

Tucson Scorpions Head Coach: Don Frye (Pictures)
Fighters:
Ed West (Pictures)
Gabe Rivas (Pictures)
Shane Johnson (Pictures)
Mike Whitehead (Pictures)
Chad Griggs (Pictures)

They don’t come much tougher than Don Frye (Pictures), and the Arizonan hopes to impart that spirit on his Tucson Scorpions.

Ed West (Pictures) is undersized at lightweight, and is 0-2 in IFL competition. Gabe Rivas (Pictures) is a scrapper, whose up-and-down career has taken place mainly in King of the Cage. Middleweight Shane Johnson (Pictures) scored a beautiful knockout over Bobby Johnson (Pictures) the night Frye was introduced as an IFL coach. That was also the card Mike Whitehead (Pictures) trashed Mark Kerr (Pictures). Whitehead drops down in weight to fight at 205. And undefeated Chad Griggs (Pictures) hopes to make an impact in the heavyweight division.

If the “Predator” can somehow will his guys to fight like he’s done so many times, Tucson won’t sit atop the list of IFL teams you can mark as an easy win.

Quad Cities Silverbacks
Head Coach: Pat Miletich (Pictures)
Fighters:
Bart Palaszweski
Rory Markham (Pictures)
Ryan McGivern (Pictures)
Mike Ciesnolevicz (Pictures)
Ben Rothwell (Pictures)

The reigning champs, there is little mystery with the IFL’s early dominant team. Quad Cities boasts talent out of Pat Miletich (Pictures)’s gym in Bettendorf, Iowa, and to this point the Silverbacks are unbeaten in IFL league competition.

Bart Palaszweski is the table setter and Ben Rothwell (Pictures) is the clean-up hitter. Rory Markham (Pictures) had success as well, but the welterweight is coming off his only IFL loss (4-1 in league fights) when Chris Wilson stopped him in December. If Ryan McGivern (Pictures) continues to improve and Mike Ciesnolevicz (Pictures) can show some consistency, the Silverbacks could easily repeat their performance from last year.

A true team in that these five train nearly full-time together, Miletich has basically stuck with his starting five, with the exception of Mike C replacing Travis Wiuff (Pictures) after the league’s inaugural card. They kickoff their 2007 season at home, April 7 against the Reno Lions.

Seattle Tiger Sharks
Head Coach: Maurice Smith (Pictures)
Fighters:
Shad Lierley
Brad Blackburn (Pictures)
Bristol Marunde (Pictures)
Reese Andy (Pictures)
Curtis Crawford (Pictures)

With the exception of Reese Andy (Pictures), the Seattle Tiger Sharks appear on paper to be one of the league’s weaker teams. But that’s not stopping gregarious Tiger Shark trainer Maurice Smith (Pictures) from trying to bring this group together so that it can compete with the IFL’s upper echelon.

Andy is a powerful wrestler, and has stuck with his style despite Mo Smith’s credentials as a striker. Blackburn is more in the mold of Smith, yet at 9-8-0 he’s yet to show he can do more than alternate wins and losses.

Lightweight Shad Lierley and heavyweight Curtis Crawford (Pictures) appear to be liabilities for the Tiger Sharks. Smith’s squad will be lucky to finish middle of the pack in 2007.

Portland Wolfpack
Head Coach: Matt Lindland (Pictures)
Ryan Schultz (Pictures)
Chris Wilson
Matt Horwich (Pictures)
Aaron Stark (Pictures)
Devin Cole (Pictures)

A finalist in 2006, the Portland Wolfpack was clearly a success story last year. Led by gutsy coach and fighter Matt Lindland (Pictures), the Wolfpack enjoyed strong support from its home crowd. Yet, they won’t have the benefit of fighting in front of Wolfpack faithful in 2007, as the closest they get Portland is a late-season date in Everett, Wash. against the Tiger Sharks.

Heavyweight Devin Cole (Pictures) will need to up his game if Portland is to compete with Quad Cities and Los Angeles. The IFL didn’t do Portland any favors by giving them road dates in Atlanta and Lakeland, Fla.

Led by scrappy welterweight Chris Wilson, Portland is strong from top to bottom. Veteran 155-pounder Ryan Schultz (Pictures) will need a good season if the Wolfpack are to contend. Matt Horwich (Pictures) and Aaron Stark (Pictures) need to provide the occasional upset, as well.

IFL 2007 Event Calendar

Jan. 19, Oakland, Calif.
ORACLE Arena
Southern California Condors vs. Seattle Tiger Sharks
Reno Lions vs. San Jose Razorclaws
Superfight: Jeremy Horn (Pictures) vs. Falaniko Vitale (Pictures)

Feb. 2, Houston, Texas
Reliant Arena
Los Angeles Anacondas vs. Quad Cities Silverbacks
Tokyo Sabres vs. Tucson Scorpions
Superfight: Carlos Newton (Pictures) vs. Matt Lindland (Pictures)

Feb. 23, Atlanta, Ga.
The Arena at Gwinnet Center
Toronto Dragons vs. Portland Wolfpack
Chicago Red Bears vs. New York Pitbulls
Superfight: Eduardo Pamplona (Pictures) vs. Robbie Lawler (Pictures)

March 17, Los Angeles, Calif.
The Forum
Tokyo Sabres vs. Toronto Dragons
Los Angeles Anacondas vs. San Jose Razorclaws
Superfight: TBA

April 7 in Moline, Ill.
The Mark of the Quad Cities
Reno Lions vs. Quad Cities Silverbacks
Chicago Red Bears vs. Seattle Tiger Sharks
Superfight: TBA

April 13, Lakeland, Fla.
Jenkins Arena/Lakeland Center
Toronto Dragons vs. Tucson Scorpions
New York Pitbulls vs. Portland Wolfpack
Superfight: TBA

May 19, Chicago, Ill.
Sears Centre
Southern California Condors vs. San Jose Razorclaws
Chicago Red Bears vs. Quad Cities Silverbacks
Superfight: TBA

June 1, Everett, Wash.
Everett Events Center
Tokyo Sabres vs. Portland Wolfpack
Los Angeles Anacondas vs. Seattle Tiger Sharks
Superfight: TBA

June 23, TBD
Toronto Dragons vs. New York Pitbulls
Reno Lions vs. Tucson Scorpions
Superfight: TBA

Aug. 2, East Rutherford, New Jersey
IFL Semifinals

September 15, Los Angeles, Calif.
IFL Finals

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