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Ringside Analysis: “New Blood, New Battles”

(Easy come, easy go: Horwich and McGivern)

You’ve already read our blow-by-blow results of IFL’s rock ‘em sock ‘em season opener. Now, Ben Fowlkes gives his insider’s perspective on last night’s action. Read it and learn something.

I already knew Matt Horwich could take a punch, but I didn’t know until last night that he could take so many and remain so unfazed. Ryan McGivern hit Horwich with everything but a Zuffa lawsuit in their five-round fight. It made for a sharp contrast from the wrestling match that erupted the last time these two fought, and it proved that while both have come a long way, McGivern is improving at an almost frightening rate.

That’s not to say it was an easy night for McGivern, even if he did walk away with the title. I saw him backstage and his face had already turned several different colors, though he was so happy I don’t think he noticed. For those who were surprised to see McGivern win with his striking, perhaps this anecdote from Pat Miletich will clear it up.

Miletich said that during the training for this fight, they brought in a pro boxer to go a few rounds sparring with McGivern. After three rounds, the guy was done. McGivern had destroyed his ribs. So then a Muay Thai fighter got in there to help him finish up, but after a couple of rounds he was finished as well. Then, Miletich said, one of his guys “who holds a belt in another organization” got in against McGivern, and he also took a beating. No wonder McGivern is the new champ.

As for the heavyweights, I’m pleased to see the way Roy Nelson is embracing the persona afforded him by his, um, physique. I remember his first fight in the IFL, when guys in the crowd would shout not-so-clever remarks about offering him a cheeseburger if he won. Now Nelson beats them to the joke, rubbing his copious belly before and after knocking out a Brazilian journeyman like Scherner. When a guy hits like Nelson does, it has a way of encouraging people to keep the fat jokes to themselves.

Of all the surprises last night, though, I have to rate Jake Ellenberger as one of the biggest. It’s not that I necessarily expected him to lose against Pat Healy, but I sure didn’t expect him to look as sharp as he did. His stand-up was vicious and he had the double-leg takedown just about any time he wanted it. It was enough to make you feel bad for Healy, because no matter how hard he fought he just couldn’t turn the tide. Ellenberger is somebody you’re going to want to keep your eye on in the next few years.

The same goes for Alexandre Ferreira. Some fans may already be familiar with “Cacareco”, but I wasn’t. When I first arrived in Vegas, the IFL’s Operations staff kept telling me what an animal he was, and after his twenty-second demolition of Lew Polley, I believe it. Sitting ringside, you can really tell the difference between punches that hurt and those that don’t. When Ferreira hit Polley with a two-punch combo, it sounded like someone dropping two watermelons on the pavement.

On the whole, it was a good night of fights in Las Vegas. Now I get turn right around and focus on UFC 82. Remember to check out tonight’s live blog of the event here at CagePotato.

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