hardknocks365 August 3, 2018

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Imagine revising for weeks ahead of a history exam, then being told just one week before exam day that you’ll actually be turning in a biology paper.

That’s not too far off what welterweight Danny Roberts (16-3 MMA, 5-2 UFC) had to deal with at UFC Fight Night 134 this past weekend in Hamburg, Germany.

Roberts (16-3 MMA, 5-2 UFC) had gone through a full training camp at Hard Knocks 365 in Florida, preparing studiously for a bout with fellow hard-hitting welterweight Alan Jouban. But when injury forced the American off the card, the UFC drafted in a late replacement.

The promotion settled on German debutant and KSW veteran David Zawada, who was almost everything Jouban wasn’t. Both had a host of knockouts on their respective records, but Zawada’s fighting style and orthodox stance were certainly different to Jouban’s southpaw kickboxing style. And with precious little footage of Zawada (16-4 MMA, 0-1 UFC) floating around on the Internet for Roberts’ team to study, the Brit described feeling like he was “fighting blind” as he was forced to adapt on the fly against a very different opponent.

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Florida is home to many of the best fighters and teams in the sport today. Arguably the best team in the business today is located in Coconut Creek. American Top Team is home to over 100 professional fighters and many world champions. Current UFC welterweight interim champion Colby Covington and UFC women’s bantamweight champion Amanda Nunez call ATT home. Hayder Hassan, UFC veteran and next up for the Phoenix FCwelterweight title, was born in Fort Lauderdale and calls ATT home as well. Hayder was the driving force for American Top Team on the TUF series pitting ATT vs. Blackzilians.

Another large gym in the state is the somewhat new Hard Knocks 365 gym. The gym is located in Fort Lauderdale and is partly run by former world kickboxing champion and coach Henri Hooft. The gym is home to such UFC fighters as Michael “The Menace” Johnson, Gilbert Burns, and Danny “Hot Chocolate” Roberts.

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Finding reliable treatments for injuries can be difficult in sports, especially mixed martial arts. Surgery can become an inevitability, but once touched by a surgeon’s knife, the human body is sometimes never the same. Yet there may be hope for combat-sports athletes trying to dodge surgeries, heal nagging injuries and avoid fight cancellations. That hope may come in the form of platelet-rich plasma treatment.

MMA can be brutal on an athlete’s body. From its violence inside the cage to the daily grind of a training camp, injuries eventually pile up. As a result, careers are sidetracked and fighters are often forced to drop out at the last minute, much to the dismay of promoters and fans. To avoid or mitigate injuries, fighters and their trainers try all manner of treatments: massage therapists, chiropractors, ice baths, cryotherapy, hydrotherapy, assigned diets, electrical muscle stimulation and even naps. In the last few years, PRP has joined a litany of treatments as fighters seek to repair debilitating injuries in an affordable and healthy way.

PRP entered the sports-fan lexicon in 2013, when NBA great Kobe Bryant used Regenokine treatment to improve his knee arthritis. Bryant’s decision seemed that of a desperate player realizing his sporting mortality after averaging just 13 points per game — the second-lowest mark of his career — during an injury-shortened 2013-14 season. However, when he returned the next year, the 36-year-old averaged 22 points per game and was awarded a spot on the Western Conference all-star team.

From that moment on, the sports world was put on notice regarding these new options to treat physical ailments. However, while similar, Regenokine is different from traditional PRP treatment. Why? Because substances are added to the healing mix being injected into patients. In contrast, traditional PRP does not add anything the body did not already include. As a result, PRP remains a legal treatment option for professional athletes in the United States. Some of the biggest names in professional sports have sought out this therapy. For example, NBA stars Isaiah Thomas (groin) and Stephen Curry (knee), and MLB pitchers Garrett Richards (elbow) and Stephen Strasburg (elbow) have undergone PRP treatment in recent years. The stars of MMA are no different.

Southern Florida’s NovaGenix clinic has specialized in PRP treatment for years, working with fighters and trainers from nearby powerhouse gyms like American Top Team and Hard Knocks 365. As co-founder Tim Bruce explained on a recent episode of the Fight Strength Podcast, PRP treatments consist of drawing 50 cubic centimeters of a patient’s blood and mixing it with an anti-coagulant. The mix is then put into a centrifuge where it is spun. The goal is to separate the platelets from the blood/anti-coagulant mix. Platelets secrete cytokines, or growth factors, and those cytokines help to draw in cells that are used to heal an injury. Once separated, what is left is about eight CCs of a platelet-rich yellowy substance.

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Careers in mixed martial arts have peaks and valleys, just like any other professional sport. True talents with staying power learn to evolve. Bellator MMA mainstay Linton Vassell finds himself in a position where change has become necessary to remain relevant. As such, he plans to move from 205 pounds to heavyweight.

Vassell has been a stalwart of Bellator’s light heavyweight division since the promotion signed him in August 2013. He was with the company as it changed formats and leadership, and he has been a 205-pound title contender during both the Bjorn Rebney and Scott Coker eras. However, similar to what he saw the company do a few years ago, he too finds himself in a transition to something new. In an era where so many veteran fighters — Diego Sanchez, Rashad Evans and Wanderlei Silva, to name a few — often choose to go down a division late in their careers, Vassell is making the sensible decision to move up in weight.

“I’m 35 now,” he told Sherdog.com. “I wouldn’t say the weight cut was hard, but I feel like it’s time to start a new journey.”

For a man who stands 6-foot-4 and often walks around at 235 pounds, the decision to head to heavyweight made a lot of sense. Cutting weight at the backend of a career only gets more difficult.

“I feel like it’ll work better for me,” Vassell said.

As a light heavyweight, his camps usually spanned eight weeks, in part so he could slowly work off the 30 pounds to make the 205-pound limit. Competing at heavyweight would require a six-week camp, meaning far less wear and tear on his body. Vassell’s early light heavyweight bouts raised his profile in the United Kingdom and ultimately drew Bellator’s attention.

“I found that I had more success in the light heavyweight division,” he said, “so I carried on, won a few belts in the UK and got signed by Bellator.”

However, Vassell admits his efforts to capture 205-pound gold in Bellator have run their course. Recent losses to Ryan Bader and Phil Davis affirmed that reality.

“Unfortunately, the two big losses that I just had definitely helped me make the decision,” Vassell said. “I’ve always wanted to go back to heavyweight. I used to fight heavyweight when I was first starting off.”

Vassell claims that over the years he has let Bellator officials know of his interest in returning to the heavyweight division, yet he was never given ideas for potential opponents. He thinks he will settle in at his fighting weight of 240 pounds once he returns to twice-a-day training. While bulking up does not ensure he will be able to compete with some of the promotion’s biggest heavyweights, Vassell does not sound the least bit concerned.

“I feel like I’ve got the grappling, the striking [and] the power [to compete],” he said. “I feel like I’m going to be a great addition to the heavyweight division.”

Vassell draws his confidence from the work he puts in at Hard Knocks 365 in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. There, he trains alongside the 6-foot-3, 255-pound Matt Mitrione, the 6-foot-11, 266-pound Stefan Struve and the 6-foot-8, 238-pound Steve Mowry. Vassell believes his grappling skills will prove vital to any success he enjoys as a heavyweight.

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The Bellator heavyweight division just got a lot bigger.

MMAjunkie today verified with a Bellator official that the promotion has inked 6-foot-8 heavyweight Steven Mowry to an exclusive multi-fight contract.

Mowry (4-0 MMA, 0-0 BMMA) also posted a photo on social media of him signing the contract (via Instagram):

Mowry, 25, is less than two years into his professional MMA career. He’s off to a hot start, winning all four of his fights by stoppage, with each victory coming via a different method.

Training out of Hard Knocks 365 in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., Mowry has fought all of his bouts under the Titan FC banner. His most recent fight was a second-round TKO of Said Sowma at Titan FC 49 in April.

Mowry said he’s not yet sure when he will make his Bellator debut. However, he did share a comment to MMAjunkie thanking those around him for helping him take a prominent step forward in his career.

“I would like to thank God, my coaches and teammates past and present,” Mowry said. “And the countless people who make my dreams possible.”

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Forward pressure makes opponents nervous, puts them on the defense and has them reacting to you. Pace also creates mental pressure on your opponent to keep up or slow down. Physical pressure against the cage and on top can be used as a compliance measure or to inflict damage.

Either way, it chips away at their will to continue and makes them want to quit. Stay relentless with your pace and pressure, and you may not even need to make it to the next step.

At UFC 225, Colby Covington pushed a relentless pressure on Rafael dos Anjos that was not returned, ultimately . breaking the former champ.

Anyone fighting under Henri Hooft at Hard Knocks 365 will put a relentless forward pressure on you, and using simple striking, they will make it look easy finishing you.

Check out how Hard Knock’s fighter Gilbert Burns used forward pressure to earn a ferocious knockout at UFC Glendale. There’s nothing fancy about the strikes themselves, but coupled with Burns’ relentless pace and pressure, there was nowhere for his opponent to go but down.

Kamaru Usman followed the blueprint for beating Demian Maia, much like Tyron Woodley and Colby Covington before him.

“The Ultimate Fighter 21” winner shut off Maia’s takedowns, forced the Brazilian jiu-jitsu black belt to engage him on the feet and picked him apart with punches, as he moved one step closer to title contention in the Ultimate Fighting Championship welterweight division with a unanimous decision in the UFC Fight Night 129 headliner on Saturday at the Movistar Arena in Santiago, Chile. All three cageside judges struck scorecards in Usman’s favor: 50-45, 49-46 and 49-46.

Maia misfired on all 15 of his takedown attempts, according to preliminary FightMetric data. It continues a troubling trend for the decorated grappler. During his current three-fight losing streak, Maia has gone 0-for-49 on takedowns against Woodley, Covington and Usman, depleting his gas tank and leaving him as little more than a sitting duck. Usman capitalized, as he outperformed the Brazilian in terms of significant strikes landed (66-27) and total strikes landed (97-33).

In the aftermath of UFC Fight Night “Maia vs. Usman,” here are five matches that ought to be made:

Kamaru Usman vs. Stephen Thompson-Darren Till winner: No one can rationally deny Usman as a legitimate threat to the welterweight throne. The Hard Knocks 365 representative has rattled off 12 straight wins, pairing six finishes with six unanimous decisions in an extended run of dominance. Defeating a two-time title contender like Maia, even at 40, affords Usman much-needed leverage at 170 pounds and pushes his stellar UFC record to 8-0. Thompson and Till will tangle in the UFC Fight Night 130 main event on May 27 in Liverpool, England.

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The UFC is eyeing a bout between exciting welterweights Alan Jouban and Danny Roberts for UFC Hamburg this summer, at least according to Jouban.

Late last week Jouban took to Instagram, posting an InstaStory of the bout contract for the July 22 event. The picture was deleted shortly after, but Jouban reaffirmed the news on his podcast with Karyn Bryant, The MMA Heat, this past Monday.

“Just got a contract in [for] Germany [on] July 22nd,” Jouban said. “They’ve got me eyeballing Danny Roberts. I’m just waiting to see if it’s official. I don’t know yet, but I have received a contract. So that leads me to believe this fight will be happening. They’ve just got to sign it on their end.

“I wanted LA and I wanted Vegas,” Jouban continued. “But I’ve moved past that honestly. I’ve kind of flipped that switch and accepted it [and] visualized it, now that I have an opponent.”

Predominantly strikers, Jouban and Roberts both bring it each and every time they step into the cage.

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There are few gyms more renowned in the United States than Henri Hooft‘s Hard Knocks 365. The former head coach of the expired mega-team the Blackzilians and follow-up gym Combat Club always has a whole mob of MMA fighters follow him wherever he ends up A head coach is certainly the backbone of any MMA team, but it also takes some unsung heroes for a team to thrive.

Rhode Island’s Sean Soriano (10-5) is one of those instrumental parts.

The 28-year-old who now resides in South Florida has been a essential piece of the Hard Knocks 365 puzzle. Not only is he a main training partner to the likes of Andre Soukhamthath, Danny Roberts, Nik Lentz, Kamaru Usman, and Michael Chandler, Soriano also travels the globe cornering them.

“I’ve come to learn Henri Hooft’s system down pat,” says Soriano. “These guys kind of trust me with my stand up in the corners. It’s been a blessing as an experience to be that close to fighters.”

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Everyone will likely remember two things about the Edson Barboza vs. Kevin Lee fight at UFC Fight Night 128 in Atlantic City, NJ, on Saturday night: Lee missing weight and the vicious spinning kick from Barboza that went viral.

One minute into the third round, Barboza hit Lee with a head kick that sent Lee into a stumble. I’ve seen MC Hammer, the “Chicken Dance,” and the “Stanky Legg” played behind the clip.

Kevin Lee constantly gave forward pressure on his feet until he would take Barboza down.

Once Lee got on top, he continued that pressure and was out there to break Barboza’s will, not just to finish the fight. He never stopped for five rounds, even saying he “could’ve gone five more.”

Lee took the same approach as new lightweight champion Khabib Nurmagomedov did against Barboza at UFC 219 in December: with the relentless pressure, takedowns, and vicious ground-and-pound. It paid off.

Henri Hooft’s guys out of Hard Knocks 365 in South Florida are notorious for being pressure fighters. The Hooft Kickboxing system is built around two basic principles: pressure fighting and keeping it simple (stupid).

This can be seen recently with Gilbert Burns (UFC) and Demarques Jackson (LFA) earning “Knockouts of the Night” within a week of each other with almost identical simple combinations.

How did they pull this off? Why is their UFC/Bellator/pro team 10-0 in the last month? Simple striking and relentless pressure.

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