Imitation is the most sincere form of flattery, right?
In a year in which the Strikeforce Heavyweight Grand Prix has had it's up and downs, the resurgent ProElite has invested it's time in copying the tournament which made Strikeforce even bigger.
The tournament surely doesn't have the likes of Fedor, Alistair Overeem, Josh Barnett or Andrei Arlovski but it does have some fairly good young prospects most notably NCAA Division-1 champion Mark Ellis (1-0). Ellis competed at Pro Elite 1 where he won his mixed martial arts debut by submitting (rear naked choke) Jake Heun in the second stanza.
The remaining field consists of Ryan Martinez, Jason Bosler, Richard Odoms, Chris Birchler, Jake Heun, Walter Harris, Esteves Jones, Tood Monaghan and a fighter to determined later.
So Maniac's are you in favor of the prospect driven field? or would you like to see some bigger names thrown in there?
Let's examine a few of the names shall we?
Mark Ellis (1-0-0)
American Kickboxing Academy (AKA)
A dominant wrestler joined the likes of UFC heavyweight champion Cain Velasquez and Strikeforce heavyweight grand prix finalist Daniel Cormier at the premiere AKA gym. Ellis, a former NCAA division 1 champion in 2009 was the second only Missouri champion in the sport and the other being Bellator welterweight champion Ben Askren. He also had Strikeforce welterweight prospect Tyrone Woodley to call a teammate.
Ellis is a 'true' project in the fact that when joining the ranks of AKA's he had not a lick of jui jitsu or striking in his reportoire. He quickly put his wrestling work ethic to use and began his mixed martial arts career. He would make his professional debut at Pro Elie 1: Arlovski vs. Lopez" against Jake Heun.
In the fight it appeared that Ellis had no desire to stand and bang so he utilized his wrestling to turn this mixed martial arts fight into a grappling display. Ellis attempted everything from americanas to arm triangles before ending Heun with a rear naked choke in the second round.
Ellis has a long way to go but if he can stay with it like Cormier and Velasquez did then AKA may soon house the best fleet of heavyweights in the sport. His cardio and wrestling are not issues as of yet andafter one bout he showed an adept skill in submission. He reminds me of Brock Lesnar when it comes to striking in that his reaction is panic and as he gets more hours in sparring that fear of being struck will either fade or linger as a detriment.
Mark Ellis vs. Jake Heun ProElite Iron forges iron (via ZPMMAVideos)
Ryan Martinez (5-1-0)
The path to mixed martial arts for Martinez started following a prison sentence when the impressionable Martinez saw a Strikeforce show. He said that after bumping into some old wrestling buddies they guided him to take up the sport. With no gym in Greeley Estates, Colorado open at the time, Martinez had to travel around. When Team Infinite, a Royce Gracie JuiJitsu school opened and led by Adam Martinez-Martinez joined.
Martinez, is the current 'Fight to Win' champion which a regional promotion out of the rocky mountain state. He is currently riding a three-fight win streak. He also hasn't gone past the 2nd round which will make his fight with Mark Ellis more interesting as Ellis was able to grapple Jake Heun to near exhaustion.
Martinez is a heavy handed adversary as four of his five wins were ended by his fists. He also has a submission win by way of guillotine choke. He works his boxing extensively by traveling from gym to gym and finds it hard to work his grappling due to lack of sparring partners that are heavyweights.
Worlds Collide MMA Preview - Featuring Ryan Martinez (via CLVRTV)
At first glance this first glance it's hard to overlook the wrestling and AKA training background of Ellis. He looks pretty good for a debut but his striking leaves alot of questions for myself. It took former UFC welterweight champion Matt Hughes awhile to adapt to striking as you saw in his earlier fights. Ellis' reaction to Heuns opening flurry also raised an eyebrow because on his first shoot he did eat a couple of punches.
Martinez doesn't have the training partners the likes of Cain Velasquez and Daniel Cormier but his willingness to go from gym to gym is solid. He has no problem grappling as his main school, Infinite MMA is a Royce Gracie Jui Jitsu school. Most men his size are worried more about highlight knockouts but Martinez seems poised andfocused. He may not have a great list of names under his resume but he sure can swing. His striking is far beyond Ellis' but Ellis' grappling and wrestling looked good.
I predict that Mark Ellis will indeed get caught and Martinez will move on.