Chris Honeycutt

ChrisHoneycutt

One of the most intriguing bouts on the wider Bellator 182 card features two-time NCAA Division I All American wrestler Chris Honeycutt against Rickson Gracie-trained Brazilian Jiu Jitsu black belt and UFC veteran Kevin ‘King’ Casey. While 36 year old Casey makes only his second outing under the Bellator banner, Honeycutt has been with the company since late 2014, and will be seeking to improve on an already impressive 5-1 (1 NC) mark.

The MMA Vanguard sat down for an exclusive interview with the Edinboro University alumni, who currently rides a three-fight win streak that has accounted for Matt Secor, Mikkel Parlo and Ben Reiter, to gather his thoughts on facing a ten-year veteran of the sport.

“My preparation for Kevin Casey is going well, my weight [has been] coming down nicely and my energy workout has increased immensely,” Chris told us in, adding: “Just a matter of waiting to fight now.”

One of Bellator’s most prized collegiate wrestling stand outs, Honeycutt has fought regular as clockwork for the promotion in recent years, with 2016 seeing ‘The Cutt’ make no fewer than four appearances. The last eight months, however, have been less kind. A fight slated against Kendall Grove in March of this year failed to materialize after Honeycutt suffered an unfortunate injury, and a resulting five month lay off will finally come to a close tomorrow night.

“Yes, [missing the Grove fight] was very difficult to deal with,” Chris admitted. “I trained very hard for that fight, and I was very excited to fight such a veteran of the sport. But now it’s Kevin and that’s all that matters now.”

While injuries are part and parcel of the fight game, coming so close to a bout with a man with as much history in the sport as Kendall Grove can never be an enjoyable experience. But now, Bellator matchmakers will pit Honeycutt against an opponent who himself lays claim to a decade of experience fighting in K-1, Strikeforce, and UFC (including a particularly active stint on The Ultimate Fighter). So what are Honeycutt’s thoughts on facing the Black House stand out, who also happens to be the son-in-law of arguably the greatest boxer in history, the late Muhammad Ali?

“I believe his Jiu Jitsu is very good, and he is very athletic,” Chris told us. “However I feel that he lacks cardio, and with that alone I feel like I would win the fight. When you add in my ability to box, kickbox and my ground and pound, he is in for a serious test.”

Chris doesn’t leave it there. When pressed on how he sees the fight going, his vision moves beyond the ‘test’ stage, and into more concrete territory: “There is no question in my mind that this fight will not go the distance. He will be knocked out, or he will be covering up leading to a TKO.”

After three straight unanimous decision wins, a sixth career finish will no doubt feel like one of the sweetest, should Honeycutt pull it off. For Casey’s part, a four-fight winless run is not nearly as damning as it might seem. A pair of draws against Bosnian Elvis Mutapcic back at UFC 199, and a majority decision stalemate against Keith Berry in his Bellator debut have ensured the Hawthorne, California native has avoided back-to-back pro defeats at any point in his career. That will be small consolation, however, if he feels to overcome Honeycutt and record a first win since July 2015.

Honeycutt, meanwhile, has lost just once in his career; a 40 second TKO at the hands of another hugely experienced opponent in Paul Bradley back in January 2016 set him back, and that’s a result that still rankles with the ultra-competitive Chris. We asked him if he would be interested in a rematch (which would mark the third time the two would have met, given the no contest ruling the previous year):

“Yes, of course, I would like to avenge any loss I have ever taken in my life, may that be in wrestling or a chess game as a kid,” he said. “I am driven to success, and failure only pisses me off and makes me want it even more. Before losing to Paul we already fought a few months before with an outcome of a no-contest due to clash of heads. I was winning that fight because I was following the game plan. Going into it the second fight I did not [follow the plan].”

As for Honeycutt’s ambitions should he be victorious tomorrow night, Chris keeps it straight forward: “I want the belt, so I would like to fight whomever has it when the time comes for me to take it. Otherwise I would like to stay as busy as possible,” adding that: “This is my first fight of the year, and if possible I would like to be busy for the rest of it.”

So what has been the secret to Chris’ success in MMA? Has ihis wrestling background helped stand him in good stead? He believes so:

“Being a wrestler all my life, I have found that the sport itself may seem complex but competing against the highest level, the sport becomes very simple… just very extraordinarily hard to execute!” He explains. “MMA makes things more different, it’s like being able to bring multiple weapons to the table rather than just having one!”

So what’s the final word from Chris heading in to the fight with Casey? What’s the next step?

“Getting this win,” he states casually. “And hopefully getting right back on the books for another. I’d like to fight with Phil Davis and my teammate Ed Ruth back in Pennsylvania. I went to school at Edinboro, and I think that would be great.”

Should that happen, few cards in history would be able to boast the same level of collegiate-drawn star power! The MMA Vanguard, for one, would very much approve!

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Logan Storley

LoganStorley

It’s hard to overstate the influence wrestling has had on the development of Mixed Martial Arts. The annals are filled with records set by collegiate wrestlers and Olympians alike, with almost every major promotion sporting champions with legitimate wrestling backgrounds. Even now, the grappling art remains one of the most effective bases for any MMA skill set, and the evidence to back up that statement is not hard to find; there is a prolificacy of title holders the world over that have dominated some aspect of wrestling. The UFC, for example, boasts Miocic, Cormier, Woodley, Garbrandt and Demetrious Johnson amongst their title holders. Bellator has Phil Davis and Michael Chandler. ONE Championship, likewise, plays host to one of the best in the world in Ben Askren. It’s difficult, in fact, to conceive of a credible, top-level company who don’t promote an eminent former wrestler amongst their elite.

When a prospect emerges from the wrestling talent pool, then, it’s only natural that heads will be turned. That is exactly what we are seeing with former four-time NCAA Division I All American Logan ‘Storm’ Storley. Courting more and more attention from elite MMA circles, Storley has the kind of enviable record that has propelled many a fighter to stardom in the past, and will continue to do so for the foreseeable future. Top-level wrestlers are not only extremely tough and durable athletes by nature, they also tend to be marketable stars – particularly in North America.

Storley, for his part, started wrestling at 5 years old, and told MMA Vanguard that he always enjoyed the one on one competition inherent in one of the most physically and mentally gruelling martial art forms. Becoming a four-time All American, naturally, isn’t easy. There are no short cuts. For Storley, success came by way of time spent in the practice room – and lots of it – as well as a mastery of the oft-maligned science behind weight cutting. Fortunately for Storley, such strenuous personal investments continue to repay themselves in spades.

At 5-0 in MMA, Storley might ordinarily be considered a rookie; but as previously touched upon, elite wrestlers remain highly sought after. It would be no surprise, then, to see Storley’s name linked with a major promotion at any time; though in truth, Storley already represents a great company in Legacy Fighting Alliance, having remained in the fold after his previous employers, Resurrection Fighting Alliance, merged with Legacy FC.

Still, Storley’s goal remains to become a world champion and go down as one of MMA’s all-time greats. A lofty ambition no doubt, but one made more likely thanks to his time at Michigan State University competing amongst the collegiate ranks for the Gophers. That opportunity allowed him to showcase his skills at the highest level in the NCAA, and has given him a huge headstart in MMA as well. This is, now, the sport that allows him to take care of the people that took care of him growing up, and for that Storley is grateful.

The results don’t hurt, mind. South Dakota native Bill Mees, a five-fight veteran, welcomed Storley to the sport in August of 2015. He lasted 2 minutes 32 seconds before succumbing to a TKO finish. Debutant Marc Hummel lasted slightly longer, despite being put on his back within seconds of their bout at RFA 43 three months later. Storley never looked like losing position as he pressured and terrorized Hummel with an airtight top game in a performance that culminated in a ground and pound finish from mount at 3:17. So far, so good for the South Dakota native who had switched to Gilbert, Arizona to train at Power MMA under the tutelage of Ryan Bader, Aaron Simpson and CB Dollaway.

In March 2016, Lemetra Griffin stepped up with an uninspiring record of 1-4. He duly lasted 33 seconds before meeting the same fate, though the damage this time was inflicted on the feet. By this point, Storley needed a step up in competition, and he got it in the form of undefeated Cody Lincoln (3-0), a veteran re-emerging after a seven-year sabbatical. Storley’s takedowns and top control again took precedence, but Lincoln’s active guard and ground game posed more questions than had been previously asked. Lincoln, to his credit, survived the first stanza. He would not last long in the second, however.

Approaching Storley in a bid to cut off the cage, Lincoln walked straight into an enormous power right that floored him on impact. Storley swarmed on the ground, and the fight was done with just 13 seconds having elapsed. It almost felt like an apology to fans who had anticipated another first round finish!

Following the aforementioned merger that created Legacy Fighting Alliance, Storley would compete again, this time against 36 year old Andres Murray this past weekend. There was a familiarity to the result, yet another TKO, this time with just 73 seconds on the clock. If ever there was evidence that Storley was ready for a big opportunity, it was the manner and nature of yet another comprehensive stoppage victory.

Storley, like many wrestling greats, has the luxury of being able to focus attention on his stand up, in particular his hands, secure in the knowledge that his background lends him an ability to dictate the style and content of most fights. If he wants to take it to the ground, few can stop him; if he decides to contest a fight on the feet, again, few can impose a different strategy. How Storley performs against more highly-rated competition remains to be seen – but from what the MMA Vanguard has already witnessed, we would not be surprised to see Storley fighting at the highest level in the not-so-distant future. It’s not a question of ‘if’; it’s all about ‘when’.