The Undefeated Part 2: Featherweights

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(Chad Mendes of Team Alpha Male – photo Tracy Lee/CombatLifestyle.com)

Over the next week, Heavy.com will explore the undefeated fighters throughout the world of Mixed Martial Arts. In our seven part series, we will profile many of the top fighters in each division who have yet to taste defeat. Fighters must have at least five fights and will only be considered from the major organizations: UFC, WEC, Strikeforce, DREAM, Sengoku, and Shooto. Bellator will be not be included in this series, as a special profile is in the works for the organization’s second season of action.

Each day will bring a new set of profiles for one of the seven major divisions in MMA:

Tuesday, 2/23 – Bantamweights
Wednesday, 2/24 – Featherweights
Thursday, 2/25 – Lightweights
Friday, 2/26 – Welterweights
Monday, 3/1 – Middleweights
Tuesday, 3/2 – Light Heavyweights
Wednesday, 3/3 – Heavyweights

The series continues today in the Featherweight division – weight limit: 145lbs.

Fighter’s Name: Brandon Visher
Nickname: The Viper
Date of Birth: 5/6/1984
Camp: Peak Performance MMA – Maui
Fighting Style: Kickboxing
Record: 13-0-0
Organization: World Extreme Cagefighting
Last Opponent: Courtney Buck (WEC 45, 12/19/2009)

Brandon Visher is proof that, when it comes to Hawaiian Mixed Martial Artists, BJ Penn’s isn’t the only camp going. Representing Peak Performance MMA in Maui, Visher made his WEC debut last December. Visher was to face Tyler Toner, but Toner was replaced by Courtney Buck just four days before the fight. Despite the added pressure of a last-minute change to his opponent, Visher put on an impressive performance. Visher is a striker first and foremost, relying primarily on powerful hooks and overhand punches and not necessarily the cleanest technique. That style may cost Visher when he finds himself in the cage against the upper tier of the WEC’s Featherweight division. On the ground, Visher takes what his opponent gives him. Instead of actively working to transition into a better position, Visher is perfectly happy to keep his opponent down and capitalize only if an obvious hole opens up. That’s not to say that Visher doesn’t have a submission game should the need for one arise. Despite wanting nothing more than to put his opponent’s lights out, Visher has just one fewer submission victory than he does victory via knockout. Of course, one of those submission victories was due to strikes.

Fighter’s Name: Erik Koch
Nickname: New Breed
Date of Birth: 10/4/1988
Camp: Team Hard Drive
Fighting Style: Wrestling, Brazilian Jiu Jitsu
Record: 9-0-0
Organization: World Extreme Cagefighting
Last Opponent: Jameel Massouh (WEC 45, 12/19/2009)

The sky is the limit for Erik Koch, who at just 21 years old, already has a WEC victory under his belt. Originally set to debut against Wagnney Fabiano last September, Koch found himself injured and forced to the sidelines. Koch’s injury paved the way for Mackens Semerzier to earn the biggest upset of 2009. Koch was finally able to make his debut in December against Jameel Massouh. It was a fairly uneventful decision victory for Koch and that, on some level, may have been for the best. It’s one thing for a fighter to win in his debut with a major organization and it’s another to do so without him ever finding himself in trouble, especially against a veteran with more than three times as many fights on his résumé. Koch also holds a victory over Pride and WEC veteran Joe Pearson via triangle choke. Koch lives in Iowa and counts his brother, Keoni, as his head trainer with the Cedar Rapids-based Team Hard Drive. Among Koch’s training partners are UFC veteran Joe Vedepo and Bellator season two participant Steve Carl. Koch’s next fight is scheduled for March 6 at WEC 47 against Chad Mendes.

Fighter’s Name: Chad Mendes
Nickname: Money Shot
Date of Birth: 5/1/1985
Camp: Team Alpha Male
Fighting Style: Freestyle Wrestling, Boxing
Record: 5-0-0
Organization: World Extreme Cagefighting
Last Opponent: Mike Joy (Tachi Palace Fights 1, 10/8/2009)

Having signed a six-fight deal with WEC, newcomer Chad Mendes will figuratively have some big shoes to fill. As the latest member of Team Alpha Male to make his way to WEC, Mendes would be lucky, as would any fighter, to enjoy the success of teammates Urijah Faber and Joseph Benavidez. Fortunately for Mendes, his credentials indicate that he’s got a great chance of success. Despite being recruited to go to UC Davis , Faber’s alma mater, by Faber himself, Mendes chose instead to wrestle for Cal Poly, the same college for which UFC Hall of Famer Chuck Liddell wrestled. While at Cal Poly, Mendes earned All-American honors at both 125lbs. and 141lbs. in 2005 and 2008, respectively. The 2008 season culminated with Mendes losing out in the NCAA championship finals, Mendes’ only loss of the season. A busy man in 2009 with four fights, Mendes most recently earned a decision victory over WEC veteran Mike Joy. The nickname “Money Shot” was given to him by his training partners because of his “takedowns and…right hand.” Mendes is scheduled to fight Erik Koch at WEC 47 on March, 6. The event, which takes place in Columbus, OH, will be Mendes’ first fight outside of Lemoore, CA.

Fighter’s Name: Issei Tamura
Nickname: N/A
Date of Birth: 1985
Camp: Krazy Bee
Fighting Style: Wrestling
Record: 5-0-0
Organization: Shooto
Last Opponent: Gustavo Falciroli (Shooto – Revolutionary Exchanges 3, 11/23/2009)

Issei Tamura announced himself as one of the up and coming Featherweights by winning Shooto’s 2008 rookie championship at 143lbs. Tamura is a powerful wrestler with an impressive physique. He has good takedowns, but when Tamura finds himself in his opponent’s guard, he doesn’t seem to be able to pass into a better position without his opponent making a significant mistake. On the feet, Tamura likes to tease and paw with his jab hand while putting all of his power behind each punch thrown with his right. As a member of the Krazy Bee team, Tamura has plenty of talented fighters to help him improve his abilities, most notably Norifumi “Kid” Yamamoto. His game has a lot of maturing to do, but at just 24 years old, Tamura has plenty of time to improve on an already solid skill set.

Fighter’s Name: Yusuke Yachi
Nickname: N/A
Date of Birth: 5/13/1990
Camp: Krazy Bee
Fighting Style: Jiu Jitsu, Kickboxing
Record: 3-0-0
Organization: Shooto
Last Opponent: Tsuneo Kimura (Shooto – The Rookie Tournament 2009 Final, 12/13/2009)

Yusuke Yachi followed in the footsteps of Krazy Bee teammate Issei Tamura by winning the 2009 Shooto rookie championship at 143lbs. Not even 20 years old, Yachi is one of the most promising talents in any division. Yachi is a jiu jitsu player who likes to utilize the rubber guard and grappling pants similar to (but not as colorful as) those worn by DREAM Lightweight champion Shinya Aoki. Appropriately, Yachi defeated his last opponent, Tsueno Kimura, with a kimura.


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