Two exciting light heavyweights will duke it out this Saturday night (Nov. 3, 2012) as reputed kickboxer Tyrone Spong makes his MMA debut against fellow striker Travis Bartlett in the opening bout of the World Series of Fighting 1 main card in Las Vegas, Nevada.
Spong has spent his entire career kicking ass and taking names in the world of competitive kickboxing while fighting overseas against some of the best strikers in the world. After coming over to Imperial Athletics to help Rashad Evans train his striking, he took a liking to MMA and will be testing out his skills this Saturday night.
Travis Bartlett is a powerful striker in his own right, with nine fights under his belt and having finished five of his seven victories by knockout in his MMA career. He'll be returning from a lengthy layoff to take on Spong this weekend.
Record: 0-0 overall (68-6-1 in kickboxing)
How he got here: Tyrone Spong got his start in the world of kickboxing in 2003, defeating everyone in his path and packing on muscle to his frame. He steadily moved up weight classes because no one could hang with him until finally reaching heavyweight.
He competed in the 2010 K-1 World Grand Prix, defeating Ray Sefo to advance to the single night tournament where he drew Alistair Overeem in the opening round. After a hard-fought three rounds, he would lose a unanimous decision and was eliminated.
Since then, Spong has won four straight kickboxing bouts including a decision over Melvin Manhoef and a knockout of legend Peter Aerts in the final fight of Aerts' career. Spong started training with the Blackzilians at Imperial Athletics and after showcasing incredible improvements on his ground game, he decided to take a stab at mixed martial arts. He'll be making his debut this weekend.
How he gets it done: There was never a strategy more obvious than this one. Spong needs to keep the fight standing and utilize his incredible striking advantage. He's one of the single most dangerous strikers in the world in any facet so that means he'll have a tremendous edge in this department against just about any MMA fighter.
If he can utilize a sprawl, avoid clinches and takedowns, he's going to have plenty of opportunities to punish his opponent. Bartlett has not fought in over two years so he is likely going to be rusty. If he starts slow, Spong needs to capitalize before he gets back in a groove and could potentially utilize all of his tools.
Record: 7-2 overall
How he got here: Travis Bartlett started his professional mixed martial arts career in 2007, winning his amateur fights and then his first two fights as a pro before running into current UFC fighter Tom Lawlor, where he was choked unconscious.
After the loss, Bartlett reeled off five straight stoppage victories, defeating all but one opponent inside the first round and nearly all of them by knockout (with one coming via injury stoppage).
His momentum was halted via decision by Robert Scott at an MMA Explosion event back in 2010 and he hasn't fought since. He was coaxed to return for a big name fight against Tyrone Spong and he accepted.
How he gets it done: Bartlett loves to stand and bang, but that couldn't be a worse idea here. If he chooses to brawl with Spong, he's going to get his lights put out in a bad way.
The best plan of action is to make this ugly and dirty, perhaps pushing Spong into the fence while hunting for takedowns. If he can get the fight to the canvas, he's going to have to stay heavy and keep Spong from using his athleticism and strength to get back to his feet.
If he can't get the fight to the ground or take away Spong's weapons, it's going to be a bad night for Bartlett.
Fight X-Factor: The biggest X-Factor for this fight has to be Bartlett's layoff against Spong's MMA debut. By the time he steps into the cage on Saturday night, it'll be over two years and three months since Bartlett last competed. Spong has stayed fresh with his kickboxing while improving his overall game for MMA so he'll be less rusty with his fighting skills, but he's never been tested in an MMA fight where submissions, clinches and takedowns are perfectly legal.
It'll all come down to whether or not Bartlett has what it takes to get Spong on the ground, and considering he's a stand-up fighter, that's easier said than done.
Bottom Line: There is major potential to see something amazing in this fight as Spong is a ferocious striker who's got something to prove. If Bartlett can't take the fight to the ground or close the distance with a clinch, you're going to see a spectacular finish with strikes as Spong is capable of finishing grown men that outweigh him by 40 pounds and are equally trained in kickboxing. Against a rusty mixed martial artist, this could be pretty.
Who will come out on top at World Series of Fighting 1? Tells us your predictions in the comments below!