Vancouver's Kultar Gill went into his K-1 Hero's 154-pound tournament quarterfinal rematch against Hideo Tokoro as the decided underdog, no matter that he knocked his Japanese opponent silly the last time they met in 2006.
And just like last time, Gill, or rather his "Black Mamba" persona that the Japanese adore so much, once again stepped out of the ring with the victory.
He weathered an early scare as Tokoro dangerously got a hold of his heel, but escaped and then almost immediately took Tokoro's back. Gill then locked in a tight body triangle, took side control and began dropping down punches and hammer fists until the referee stopped the fight at the 4:07 mark of the first.
The 28-year-old told Sherdog.com that although he is primarily known as a striker, his ground skills shouldn't surprise anyone.
"A lot of people don't think I can't wrestle," said Gill. "But I won the BC Provincial wrestling title in high school."
He may have been a wrestling champ in his earlier days, but it is the kick-boxing that has put him where he is on the MMA map. It is also what has taxed his body, at times, to the point of debilitation.
"The only thing is that after 14 years of kickboxing, which is so hard on your body, my body's broken down right now and it's hard for me to do submissions in wrestling," commented Gill. "I've been fighting since I was 14 years old, and I have the body of a 68-year-old. Sometimes I can't train and I can't go to sleep because it hurts too much."
What makes his accomplishments even more noteworthy is that Gill, like many fighters -- but unlike many at this skill level -- still maintains a full time job. His career as a correctional officer, combined with a 4-month-old daughter, only allows him to train three times-per-week.
"So for this fight I worked once a week on kickboxing, and twice a week on wrestling." He allowed. "My skills are not bad, but Bibiano [Fernandez] just tweaked them a little bit. We knew Tokoro would take me down somehow, or try to, which he did."
Gill confided that he's still not sure what Tokoro did to get him down, but said that he just listened to his corner and they talked him through it, what to do and what not to do.
Amongst a sea of brash and cocky young bucks, Gill still keeps the very respectful demeanor that he's had since a child, refusing to ever gloat over a downed opponent.
"Tokoro's a tough fighter. I beat him twice, but he could have beaten me. I have respect for anybody that fights at this level," said a magnanimous Gill. "You train hard, and two gladiators fight, but only one will win. Sure I won, but I could lose again. My head will still be held up in defeat and I'll still be humble in victory."
Not only is he humble, but modest as well, as he attributes all of his success to his coaches and teammates at Vancouver's Revolution Fight Team.
"Without the Revolution Fight Team, who I consider the best fight team in the world, without them I'm nothing," he said.
So the next big night for Kultar is Sept. 17 as he'll conclude the tournament with the three other remaining fighters -- Caol Uno, Vitor "Shaolin" Ribeiro, and JZ Calvancanti.
The winners will have to fight twice in one night, and Gill confessed how he'd like to see things go.
"JZ is my friend and I don't want to fight him, but if we fight, we fight. He's a good guy, and I'd rather fight him in the final."
Kalib Starnes to meet Alan Belcher at UFC 77
Kultar Gill's Revolution Fight Team stablemate Kalib Starnes exclusively told Sherdog.com that he will be fighting on the same card as the Anderson Silva-Rich Franklin rematch at UFC 77 in Cincinnati, Ohio. And although the contract is not yet signed, he's expecting to square off against Alan Belcher.
He plans on continuing the bi-coastal training routine that he has set up with the Revolution Fight Team in Vancouver, as well as American Top Team in Florida. It is this combination that helped him achieve success over Chris Leben at UFC 71 in May.
Kalib claimed that each location has its own benefits. Vancouver for instance, in addition to being the home of his young daughter, provides him with world class ground training from 5-time world BJJ champion Fernandez, as well as Colin Daynes, who represented Canada in Greco Roman wrestling at the '96 Olympic Games.
"These guys are comparable, if not better than anywhere else in the world," Starnes opined.
But when it comes to the weakest part of his skill set -- which Kalib freely admits is his boxing -- Florida is the place to be.
"The weakest part of my game has been my boxing," said the "Ultimate Fighter" vet, "so to come down here to focus with an Olympic gold medalist with almost 40 years experience in the game, Howard Davis Jr. -- that's invaluable.
"I can get great training in Vancouver, but when it comes to sparring, in Florida I have twenty guys in my weight class to spar with as opposed to two in Vancouver. I need to have guys in there all the time who are better than me or as good as me, and that's what I get down here."
"He's got heavy hands and he hits hard, and he has some jiu-jitsu experience," said Starnes of his potential opponent. "He'll be a big boy, so it should be a good fight."
Shawn Tompkins speaks
Shawn Tompkins may just be the busiest man in mixed martial arts, but that didn't stop the acclaimed trainer from London, Ontario, from taking time out of his schedule to let Sherdog.com in on the goings-on of his tight knit group of fighters.
Right now he's finishing up the L.A. Anacondas' training camp at Extreme Couture in Las Vegas, where his IFL team is preparing for the semi-finals in a week's time.
Tompkins said that he's found a replacement for Chris Horodecki, who is out due to a broken hand he suffered in his bout with Shad Lierley. It will be Adam DiSabato from Ohio. DiSabato attended Ohio State University where he is enshrined in the OSU wrestling hall of fame. He is also a very accomplished amateur boxer.
Another injury to his team will force Jay Hieron to sit out with either a rib separation or a fracture, and Tompkins is especially proud that Chris Clements from his own Team Tompkins in London will be stepping in to fill the void.
"Chris was the last fighter to be cut from the upcoming welterweight season of 'The Ultimate Fighter' television show, and he was a little disappointed about that," said Tompkins.
As was reported last week, David Loiseau and Steve Claveau are starting up their own Quebec-based MMA show called the XR Challenge.
"I'm so excited that they're starting up an organization," said Tompkins, "because I know the two of them very well and I respect the two of them very much, and Team Tompkins will definitely be a part of their shows.
"I've known those two guys for years and I trust them immensely because I know they're in it for the sport and the fighters themselves."
Shawn said that he has a handful of guys who he has in mind for that show, including Aaron Tregear, James Haourt, Andy Ross and Aaron Basso. He also has a list of maybe four or five others that are ready to make their first appearances.
Speaking of Ross and Basso, first the pair will be making the trek south with Team Joslin members Matt Ferraro and Simon Marini to Island Lake, Illinois to participate in XFO 19 on Aug. 11. This event will be part of the third annual "Outdoor War" at Sideouts Bar and Grill and promises to be a raucous time.
As for the two Tompkins mainstays Sam Stout and Mark Hominick, Stout is busy in training to get ready for his TKO lightweight title defense against Martin Grandmont at TKO 30 on Sept. 28.
Mark Hominick will be traveling to Tokyo, where he will be competing in Shoot Boxing on July 28, and is just waiting for the call on who he's going to fight in the WEC.
Perhaps Tompkins' most high-profile charge, multiple-PRIDE FC title holder Dan Henderson is going strong in his preparation to meet Quinton Jackson at UFC 75 in London, England, and as far as Tompkins is aware, at stake will be Jackson's UFC belt only, not Henderson's.
Another wrestler turned MMA-er, Kevin Randleman is also spending some time with Tompkins lately, presumably getting ready for whatever he has next. Tompkins said that he is currently doing two-a-days and is a pleasure to train.
The last time MM-Eh! caught up with Shawn was just prior to Kimbo Slice's MMA debut against Ray Mercer. So how did Tompkins feel Kimbo did in his victory?
"Oh man, unbelievable!" he said.
"If you watch that fight, everything he did was exactly what we trained for him to do. That to me is a testament to how good of a student he is, and how good he'll be in the future."
Tompkins added that Kimbo has signed with him and Bas Rutten and they are now his main trainers, and he is a few weeks away from preparing for his bout with Tank Abbott.
As with any busy person, sometimes they need to prioritize, and that's exactly what Tompkins has done. Although still the head striking coach of Team Quest Temecula, right now he's at Extreme Couture's in Vegas where he is finishing up camp for the L.A. Anacondas and that's where he's going to make his base for the rest of the year.
To finish our conversation, Shawn told the incredible story of George Abdallah. George is a 16-year-old kid from London, Ontario who Shawn has been training for three years, and this lucky kid is spending his summer vacation in with Tompkins in Vegas.
"This kid is probably one of the best Thai boxers I've ever trained, and his MMA is going to be amazing -- he's definitely going to be the next Chris Horodecki," preached the proud coach.
Strong words of endorsement from the man who helped Horodecki become the undefeated sensation he is today.
"He was in Hollywood with me last week at Freddie Roach's gym with pro boxers like Manny Pacquiao and Oscar De La Hoya, and for the rest of the month he'll be in Las Vegas where he's already been on the floor with Tyson Griffin, Mike Pyle, and Forrest Griffin -- guys like that.
"Wouldn't that have been great when you were sixteen?" Tompkins taunted?
Yes, indeed it would have been.
Jonathan Goulet to meet Mike Swick at UFN 11
As was revealed last week, "The Road Warrior," Jonathan Goulet, sent a challenge over the internet to prospective opponent Mike Swick, and the ploy was successful as the pair are expected to meet at UFC's Ultimate Fight Night 11 in September.
Goulet told Sherdog.com that when his new manager Ken Pavia called him to say that Swick accepted the fight; he was so excited that he didn't go to sleep that night.
"That is going to be an awesome fight," said the French Canadian. "David Loiseau is ready to prepare me for that fight, and I'm going to be ready -- it's going to be a war."
Goulet also said that he feels that he's reached the highest level of training that he can in Montreal, and plans on going to former TUF coach Mark DellaGrotte's facility near Boston.
"I think I'm going to go to Boston and I'm very excited to go there," commented Goulet. "Going into that training camp I think I'm going to reach another level, so I'm going to be a better fighter."
Maximum Fighting Championship to expand
MFC President Mark Pavelich is in the initial planning stages to bring his popular Edmonton based promotion to several new locations.
By the end of this year he expects to hold a show in Vancouver, and in a move that will capitalize on the good relationship he's established with American Top Team, he said that the MFC will likely debut in Florida in 2008.
Andy Cotterill covers mixed martial arts in Canada for Sherdog.com.