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Massive fight card, 145 Grand Prix highlight Driller event at Canterbury Park Print E-mail
Written by Ben Pherson   
Friday, 15 January 2016 07:50

Driller Promotions is kicking off the new year with one of its biggest fight cards ever.

Saturday night Driller promotions returns to the Canterbury Park Expo Center for the first time since 2014 with "Mecca VII."

This massive event features both MMA and kickboxing, with 18 total MMA fights on the schedule, including a 145-pound amateur Grand Prix for the Driller title.

There are a total of three titles on the line Saturday — the Driller 145 pro title, 125 amateur title and 145 amateur.

The kickboxing portion of the card starts at 3 p.m., with the MMA fights scheduled to start at 5 p.m. Tickets will be available at the door or they're available today through cagetix.com or from participating fighters.

Minnesota Martial Arts Academy standout Dan "The Hitman" Moret is fighting in the night's main event against veteran Mike Plazola. The Driller 145 pro title is on the line.

Moret is 8-2 as a professional and he's the state's top-ranked 145-pounder. He's a big-show veteran having competed for RFA four times as a pro. Moret lost two of his last three RFA fights, with setbacks against Luke Sanders and Robert Moffett. But he sandwiched the losses with a quality win over Jordan Griffin. Moret got back on track late last summer with a quick win over Jay Ellis.

Plazola, who's an Iowa native, has been away from MMA since 2013, but when he hung up the gloves he was riding a six-fight winning streak. That streak included a quality win over

Dan Kiser in 2012. His last loss came against Minnesota's Brandon Girtz, who now is signed with Bellator.

 

"Moret continues to be one of the hardest working guys in MMA," Bjornberg said. "There aren't many guys who work harder than Dan in the gym. He's a coach down in Mankato and he trains regularly at the Minnesota Martial Arts Academy. I think we'll see the best Dan Moret we've ever seen on Saturday. He continues to improve in all areas. Plazola is a tough beat for anyone, though. He's a veteran and he's 12-4 as a pro. All of his losses are to top-end guys like Brandon Bergeron, Kiser, Marcus LaVesseur and he was in all of those fights. Plazola is a typical tough kid out of Iowa. He's got decent power and wrestling; if there's a weakness it's on the ground, but he's improving there, too. It should be a great main event. We'll be proud to call either guy our champion."

Two American Top Team of Savage fighters highlight the professional main card.

Brandon Jenkins steps into the Driller Promotions cage for the first time against Carson Frei.

Jenkins is 6-2 as a professional; he's competed mostly for Savage Entertainment and King of the Cage so far as a pro. After starting his career 5-0, Jenkins dropped back-to-back fights against Nick Compton and Austin Tweedy but bounced back in October with a win over Adrian Ortega. Jenkins has finished his opponents in all six of his victories.

After a perfect amateur career, Frei is 3-1 as a pro. The youngster (21 years old) trains in Washington and brings a three-fight winning streak into his 145 showdown with Jenkins.

"I love this fight; I think it could end up being one of the best on the card," Bjornberg said. "I'm excited to have Jenkins in there competing for us. He's got a great chin and he's an exciting fighter to watch. Frei is a rising prospect, so this is a perfect test for both guys. The winner is that much closer to signing with a major promotion."

ATT of Savage's Mitch White returns to the Driller cage for the first time since turning pro. White was an incredible amateur, going 7-0 before turning pro in 2015. He dropped his pro debut to elite prospect Raufeon Stots by unanimous decision during Legacy 43. It was a brutally tough matchup for a pro debut, but White more than held his own.

White is set to take on Mark Tupas at 135 pounds on Saturday. Tupas is 0-3 as a pro, but Bjornberg said he's much better than his record would indicate.

"He fights out of California and he was a very good amateur," Bjornberg said. "He fought two tough, veteran pros a few years ago and lost those and then was giving a shot in RFA and lost to another standout pro. He's better than his record for sure. But I still consider Mitch White one of the top prospects in Minnesota. He jumped right into a fight against a national-level guy off the bat to start his pro career, and he hung in there against a really elite guy. Mitch is crafty, dangerous on the ground and has solid striking. He's a kid to watch for sure."

RFA veteran Bobby Lee also returns to action Saturday. The Performance Compound standout takes on South Dakota's Eric Ramm at 155 pounds.

Lee, who was a standout high school wrestler, made a successful pro debut in November against Codie Kahler during RFA 32 at Mystic Lake. Lee was a perfect 5-0 as an amateur. He's ranked No. 8 in Minnesota at 155.

Ramm also is an RFA veteran, falling during RFA 29 in August against Clayton Wimer. Ramm had a strong amateur career but has started his pro career 0-2.

"Ramm is another guy who's better than his record," Bjornberg said. "He's been in the game for a long time, competing mostly in South Dakota. I think it's a good fight; Bobby saw some adversity against Codie Kahler, who's a tough guy to beat. Bobby fits into that standout prospect category, and he's already inked to the March RFA card at Mystic Lake. This is a good, tough tuneup for him."

Spartan Martial Arts product Kyle Todd also returns to action after a long layoff. Todd, who's 2-0 as a pro and ranked No. 9 at 155, is set to take on veteran Starr Roberts at a catch weight of 160.

"It's good to see Kyle back at it after a long layoff," Bjornberg said. "Starr Roberts has been around a long time. I'm sure Kyle is the favorite, but Starr hits very hard and goes for broke. He can finish anyone who's not careful. I'm sure Starr will be looking for a big KO, so Kyle will need to be ready."

Also on the pro card, Minnesota Martial Arts Academy product Jason Huntley is taking on Eric Kemper of South Dakota. Huntley is 3-2 as a pro, while Kemper is 1-1.

"Both exciting, both standup fighters, I think it's a good way to kick off the pro portion of the card," Bjornberg said.

Two amateur titles will be on the line Saturday.

At 125 pounds, Fikret Saric is set to defend his belt against standout Chris Collins.

This will be Saric's first title defense since claiming the belt last May in Detroit Lakes. He's 10-8 as an amateur and brings a three-fight winning streak into the championship bout.

Collins has rolled up wins quickly as an amateur since starting his career late in 2014. He won his first six fights of 2015 before falling to Gonzalo Ponce by submission in November. Collins, who trains at Inner Strength Martial Arts in Superior, Wis., is 7-2.

"This is another good candidate for fight of the night," Bjornberg said. "Fikret is always fun to watch. He's got some crazy strikes and he always tries something wild in his fights. Don't blink. Collins comes highly recommended and he's been on a tear. He's finishing most of his opponents and appears to have a well-rounded game."

The 145-pound amateur title also will be on the line via a six-man, one-night Grand Prix tournament.

The quarterfinals and semifinals with each be one-round fights. The three-minute round will not be judged. If there is no winner after three minutes, there will be a one-minute overtime round. That round will be judged. The winner moves on, and the loser is eliminated. The finals is a normal amateur fight consisting of three three-minutes rounds.

Bjornberg awarded Sam Hernandez and Sam Nelson the top two seeds in the tournament, giving them both a first-round bye. It originally was an eight-man Grand Prix, but three recent dropouts elevated one of the alternates and handed Hernandez and Nelson first-round byes.

In the opening round, Jesse Hernandez faces Jahan Galehdari and Charles Anozie squares off against Jack Shreffler. The winner of the Jesse Hernandez/Galehdari fights faces Sam Hernandez in the semifinals, while the winner of the Anozie/Shreffler fight meets Nelson. The tournament finals will take place right before the night's main event.

"Every time we do a Grand Prix, we run into challenges, because when guys pull out it throws off the whole tournament," Bjornberg said. "It's frustrating, but we're very committed to the guys who stepped up and it's still an incredible field of deserving amateurs. The first-round fights both look great. Shreffler is a Grand Prix veteran and he's super slick on the ground. Anozie has been on a roll, too, and he's also got a great ground game, so I love that fight. Jesse Hernandez and Jahan Galehdari is a good one, too. Whoever wins this thing will be a very deserving champion."

A pair of female fights also dot the amateur portion of the card. At 105 pounds, Berta Gray meets Kelsy Johnson and at 130, Kathryn Bassignana squares off against Margo Testa.

"Kathryn is a prospect to watch moving forward for sure," Bjornberg said. "The ladies always put on a show. Berta will get a good test from Kelsey Johnson. It's always tough to find competition at 105, but that's a good, even fight."

Other amateur matchups include Sean Stebbins vs. Shane Scott at 125, C.T. Bailey vs. Jamie Naasz at 155, Zack Morrison vs. Sam Khom at 145 and Ricardo Pacheco vs. Richard Welch at 125.

"Bailey vs. Naasz is a fight I'm pumped to see," Bjornberg said. "C.T. is very strong, and Naasz keeps getting better. Bailey is a guy who if he stays active can be right in there for a title fight soon.

"We had well over 20 fights just a week ago, but we still end up with like 18 fights including the Grand Prix. I'm excited; I love what we ended up with for this card. We wanted to go big for our return to Canterbury."

Minnesota legend Kaitlin Young highlights the kickboxing portion of the card, which kicks off the event at 3 p.m. Saturday. Young will take on fellow Minnesota standout Pam Sorenson, who stepped up on short notice, in the kickboxing main event. Other kickboxing bouts include Jason Strzelecki vs. Troy Jones, Dylan Murphy vs. Cam Gilliam, Chi Sheibley vs. Nora Schull, Lajly Yang vs. Nick Robinson, Jamie Arellano vs. Karter Holthusen and Dalton Albrent vs. Tremayne Williams.

MECCA VII

Saturday • Canterbury Park

PRO

145 — Dan Moret vs. Mike Plazola. * - title fight

145 — Brandon Jenkins vs. Carson Frei.

135 — Mitch White vs. Mark Tupas.

125 — Jason Huntley vs. Eric Kemper.

155 — Bobby Lee vs. Eric Ramm.

160 — Kyle Todd vs. Starr Roberts.

AMATEUR

125 — Chris Collins vs. Fikret Saric. * - title fight.

105 — Kelsy Johnson vs. Berta Gray.

155 — C.T. Bailey vs. Jamie Naasz.

130 — Kathryn Bassignana vs. Margo Testa.

125 — Sean Stebbins vs. Shane Scott.

145 — Zack Morrison vs. Sam Shom.

125 — Ricardo Pacheco vs. Richard Welch.

AMATEUR GRAND PRIX

GP145 — Grand Prix finals. * - title fight

GP145 — Semifinal: J.Hernandez/Galehdari winner vs. Sam Hernandez.

GP145 — Semifinal: Anozie/Shreffler winner vs. Sam Nelson.

GP145 — Quarters: Jahan Galehdari vs. Jesse Hernandez.

GP145 — Quarters: Charles Anozie vs. Jack Shreffler.