The Undefeated Part 3: Lightweights

(Gray Maynard sits at 10-0 in the lightweight division – photo Josh Hedges/Zuffa)

This week, will explore the undefeated fighters throughout the world of Mixed Martial Arts. In our seven part series, we will profile the top fighters in each division who have yet to taste defeat. Fighters will 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 Lightweight division – weight limit: 155lbs.

Fighter’s Name: Lyle Beerbohm
Nickname: Fancy Pants
Date of Birth: 1979
Camp: Fancy Pants Fight Team
Fighting Style: Wrestling
Record: 13-0-0
Organization: Strikeforce
Last Opponent: Josh Martin (Arena Rumble, 9/12/2009)

As the story goes, while he was incarcerated for multiple felony drug convictions, Lyle Beerbohm saw a UFC event. Upon seeing the fights, Beerbohm thought that getting paid to beat people up would be a good career move for him once he paid his debt to society.

He was right.

In the cage, Beerbohm’s relative inexperience is apparent, but to a certain degree it actually benefits him as through sheer determination he is able to work out of situations in which he never should have put himself in the first place. Still, a fighter does not remain undefeated long with determination alone. Beebohm wrestled in high school and uses that as his base, though both his jiu jitsu and striking are ever-improving. Beerbohm is one of the more accomplished up-and-coming Lightweights, holding victories over UFC fighters Rafaello Oliveira and Duane Ludwig.

A master of the obvious, Beerbohm chose the nickname “Fancy Pants” because of his uniquely designed shorts, which were fashioned for him by his mother. Beerbohm also named his fight camp after his mother’s design work, and while it’s very entrepreneurial for a relative newcomer to create his own fight camp, Beerbohm will need to improve his training if he wants to become a legitimate threat to Strikeforce Lightweight champion Gilbert Melendez.

Beerbohm re-signed with Strikeforce last October, but does not have a match scheduled for any of Strikeforce’s upcoming events at this time.

Fighter’s Name: Billy Evangelista
Nickname: N/A
Date of Birth: 1981
Camp: Team Buhawe
Fighting Style: Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, Kickboxing
Record: 10-0-0, 1 No Contest
Organization: Strikeforce
Last Opponent: Jorge Gurgel (ShoMMA: Evangelista vs. Gurgel, 11/6/2009)

While serving in the US Army, Billy Evangelista discovered Brazilian Jiu Jitsu. It wasn’t long afterwards that a new career opportunity emerged. As one of only a handful of home-grown talent in Strikeforce, Evangelista has worked his way onto the short list of contenders to Gilbert Melendez’s Lightweight title. In seven fights with Strikeforce, Evangelista has beaten the likes of Marlon Sims, Nam Phan and Harris Sarmiento as well as UFC veterans Luke Caudillo and Jorge Gurgel.

Evangelista had actually lost his fight against Mike Aina due to disqualification for a knee to the head of a downed opponent, but that ruling was overturned when it was correctly determined that Evangelista’s knee had connected with Aina’s shoulder. The result of the match was changed to a no contest.

Evangelista trains with his brother Jorge at Team Buhawe and has also spent time training with Ralph Gracie and the American Kickboxing Academy.

Fighter’s Name: Evan Dunham
Nickname: N/A
Date of Birth: 12/18/1981
Camp: Team Megaton
Fighting Style: Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, Kickboxing
Record: 10-0-0
Organization: Ultimate Fighting Championship
Last Opponent: Efrain Escudero (UFC Fight Night 20, 1/11/2010)

Evan Dunham’s greatest strength may be his ability to adapt to his opponent mid-fight. Against Efrain Escudero, Dunahm had a rough go of it in the first round, as Escudero was able to knock Dunham down and work a guillotine choke. In round two, Dunham worked past Escudero’s early striking advantage and takedown defense, nearly ending the fight with a rear naked choke. Escudero survived, albeit briefly. In the third, Dunham once again worked his way out of a guillotine and into a triangle of his own that Dunham would ultimately transition into the infamous fight-ending arm bar.

While the fight proved that Dunham still has some key weakness upon which he must improve, such as his takedowns, his head movement and footwork, he has already amassed an impressive UFC resume in just three fights. Dunham holds victories over the previously unbeaten Escudero, Per Eklund, and Marcus Aurelio.

Though Dunham considers himself one of the regulars at Xtreme Couture, he still counts Team Megaton in Eugene, OR as his home gym. After the Escudero fight, Dunham had planned to move to Las Vegas to train at Xtreme Coutre on a full-time basis, but his scheduled fight with fellow Xtreme Couture fighter Tyson Griffin at UFC 115 on June 12 has put the move on hold.

Fighter’s Name: Gray Maynard
Nickname: The Bully
Date of Birth: 09/05/1979
Camp: Xtreme Couture
Fighting Style: Wrestling, Boxing
Record: 10-0-0, 1 no contest
Organization: Ultimate Fighting Championship
Last Opponent: Nate Diaz (UFC Fight Night 20, 1/11/2010)

At the post-fight press conference following Fight Night 20, Randy Couture sat next to Gray Maynard and told the gathered press that he felt Maynard possessed the skills necessary to defeat UFC Lightweight champion BJ Penn. Well, of course Couture said that; Maynard is an Xtreme Couture fighter, after all.

There’s no doubt that Maynard is a talent wrestler, the best in the UFC’s Lightweight division, but one look at Maynard’s face after his fight with Nate Diaz is all anyone would need to diagnose Maynard’s standup as a liability. Couture explained that, against Diaz, Maynard was goaded into a standup battle rather than sticking to his game plan. While that may be true, it won’t take a lapse in judgment for Penn to capitalize on Maynard’s proclivity to block punches with his face. At this point, Maynard is a near-carbon copy of Sean Sherk before Sherk decided to depend almost entirely on his boxing. Sherk, of course, was picked apart by Penn.

On merit, Maynard is the top contender in the UFC’s Lightweight division, but his style just does not captivate the audience. When asked if he would be upset if Frank Edgar received a title shot before him, Maynard shrugged it off. While his wrestling can get him out of almost any trouble in which he finds himself standing up with his opponents, his aloofness is a quality Maynard will need to eschew if he is to pose a serious threat to Penn.

Fighter’s Name: Kamal Shalorus
Nickname: Prince of Persia
Date of Birth: Unknown
Camp: American Combat Association
Fighting Style: Freestyle Wrestling, Boxing
Record: 6-0-1
Organization: World Extreme Cagefighting
Last Opponent: Dave Jansen (WEC 46, 1/10/2010)

The story behind Kamal Shalorus’ unknown date of birth may be the most fascinating in Mixed Martial Arts. Shalorus believes that he was born anywhere between 1975 and 1979, but his official birth certificate says that he was born on August 27, 1972. That date is the result of Shalorus being born outside of a hospital, the bills for which his family could not afford. With no birth certificate for the newborn, Shalorus’ parents chose to repurpose the birth certificate of Kamal’s deceased brother, a practice which Shalorus says is “very common where I come from.”

Life was difficult for Shalorus, growing up in war-torn Iran under the auspices of Ayatollah Khomeini, but Shalorus learned to wrestle at a young age from his father and brothers. At 18 years old, Shalorus began competing internationally. By 2004, Shalorus had learned English, immigrated to Great Britain, and was representing the British national team in freestyle wrestling at the 2004 Olympics in Athens, Greece.

Not only is Shalorus on the short list of the best Lightweight wrestlers in MMA, he also packs a lot of power in his punches. His boxing technique may not be the sweetest of sciences, but along with his wrestling, it’s a style that’s been extremely effective. Only twice has Shalorus gone to a decision, most recently against the previously undefeated Dave Jansen. Shalorus may wind up as the next Gray Maynard, for better or worse.

Shalorus is scheduled to face former WEC Lightweight champion Jamie Varner on the first WEC pay-per-view, WEC 48, on April 24.

Fighter’s Name: Ikuo Usuda
Nickname: N/A
Date of Birth: 04/25/1980
Camp: Kiguchi Dojo
Fighting Style: Wrestling
Record: 6-0-0
Organization: Sengoku Raiden Championships
Last Opponent: Woo Hyon Baek (Sengoku – Tenth Battle, 9/23/2009)

Calling Ikuo Usuda a Japanese version of Clay Guida would be overstating things, but Usuda is similar to, and in some ways better than, Guida. Usuda uses a powerful wrestling base but he’ll need to improve upon it in order to be effective against the top-tier of the Lightweight division. On the feet, Usuda is both similarly aggressive and similarly undisciplined. Usuda is not as consistently entertaining a fighter as Guida, but the framework is there.

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