Five Intriguing Storylines Heading Into Madtown Throwdown 28
By Paul Fladten of US Combat Sports
It's not every day that a local mixed martial arts promotion can put together a lineup that presents competitive matchups from start to finish chalked full of intriguing storylines. But then again the Madtown Throwdown promotion has always done things their own way.
Stressing individuality, quality, and straight forwardness Madtown promoter and creator Pat O'Malley has grown the Madison-based organization into one of the more respected brands within the local fight circuit.
Established back in 2004 – headlined by an inaugural main event between nationally notable competitors Dave Strasser and Pat Healy – the organization has always prided itself as a promotion that puts on the fights fans want to see. And Saturday's 28th installment of Madtown Throwdown "Hells Bells" is no different.
Enjoy this article as US Combat Sports Reporter Paul Fladten breaks down the five most intriguing storylines heading into tomorrow's anticipated event.
1. Is Andrew Trace for real?
Outside of a decision defeat to Christopher Curtis last October, Andre Trace has been nothing short of remarkable during the beginning of his mixed martial arts career. While largely flying under the radar early on, Trace went 11-0 as an amateur and has since gone 7-1 as a professional racking up titles within Combat USA and Kick Down MMA as well as being named Wisconsin's Fighter of the Year in 2011.
But his toughest opponent to date will stand toe-to-toe with him tomorrow night in the form of Bellator veteran Steve Carl. The Iowan-based Hard Drive MMA competitor is 17-3 and has already defeated notable opponents such as James Warfield, Tyler Stinson, and Brett Cooper.
Saturday's welterweight main event between the two Midwestern prospects should give fight fans a glimpse into just how good Trace really is. While victories over the likes of Neil Magny, Travis Peak, and JJ Davis are nothing to scoff at, Carl is on a completely different level than anyone Trace has ever fought before. It will be interesting to see if the 24-year-old Ruff Dawg MMA prospect has what it takes to continue his rapid ascent or if the Bellator veteran will identify holes in Trace's game that haven't yet been discovered.
2. How will ring rust affect Joe Blake and Josh Kasee?
As USCS Reporter Kyle Carroll argued yesterday, making your way back to the cage after a long layoff is never easy. And Saturday's Madtown Throwdown card pits two fighters looking to reestablish their once-proud careers and prove they still have what it takes in Joe Blake and Josh Kasee.
Having both spent time ranked atop Wisconsin's featherweight rankings Kasee and Blake have both tasted a great deal of success in the past. After starting his career a perfect 4-0, Blake was upset by James Peterson in the opening round of the inaugural Combat USA tournament. Following the loss he took a two-year hiatus from fighting to focus on his career and education.
On the other hand, Kasee made a name for himself by running through the first Combat USA competition. However, a disqualification loss to Josh Sterry in the Combat USA State Finals the next year – accompanied with a regime change at his Combat Training Facility – seemed to momentarily derail his fighting future. Now, it's time to see how the two competitors can fare after taking some time away.
3. Will the Morgan Sickinger of old return?
Stepping up to the plate against the aforementioned Kasee is another fighter formerly ranked as the top featherweight in the state. Morgan Sickinger, better known as the "Captain", began his career in dominating fashion as he shot out of the blocks with an unstoppable wrestling attack that at one time had his record at 8-1.
Utilizing a wrestling-heavy ground game Sickinger bested tough opponents Brian Learn, Ken Sitsler, and more before hitting a wall in Javier Vega in the Combat USA tournament finale. Suffering a split decision to "El Gallo", Sickinger has been reeling ever since dropping five of his last seven fights.
Looking to reclaim the dominance of old Sickinger has affiliated himself with Mike Biddle and the Unified Martial Arts crew. Despite repeatedly stating that he feels better than ever the wins have been seemingly unattainable for the past two years. But a win over Kasee would go a long way in restoring his career.
4. Which young gun will shine the brightest?
While Madtown Throwdown is known for acquiring current stars for almost every event, the real treat in their matchmaking is the prospects that line the card. Countless future stars have participated on O'Malley's cards including Strasser, Nick Thompson, Bart Palaszweski, Jameel Massouh, Sam Alvey, Chico Camus, Kenny Robertson, Sergio Pettis, and hundreds more.
With an eye for talent one has to wonder if the Madtown crew has found a few more future superstars. Outside of Trace and Carl, the card features promising young talent in the form of Tyler Hellenbrand, Rob Couillard, Zach Browder, and Mike Rhodes.
And although every one of the up-and-comers may not have their hand raised come Saturday night, it is safe to say that one or two will make their case as the next big thing to come out of Wisconsin. The key things to watch on Saturday night for the youngsters include: whether or not Browder can break the will of longtime veteran Eddie Larrea, if Couillard can get the fight to the ground against Dennis Anderson, and if Hellenbrand can find a way to outwrestle Kim.
5. Is Mike Rhodes another Roufusport star in the making?
The final storyline to watch for is the continuous evolvement of Roufusport's Mike "Biggie" Rhodes. Dedicated to the sport of mixed martial arts – evident in USCS Reporter Jake Larsen's feature on Rhodes' drop from heavyweight to welterweight – Rhodes was impressive in his pro debut with a win over Zak Ottow.
Taking the fight against Torrey Berendes on short notice, it will be interesting to see how the Iowa-native fares in terms of strength and cardio as his weight classes and pant size continue to drop. There is no doubt that daily practice alongside some of the beasts under Duke Roufus like Erik Koch, Anthony Pettis, and Chico Camus have helped turn "Biggie" into a dangerous fighting machine.
With an engaging personality and a knack for utilizing resources like social media to garner a solid following, the possibility of evolving into the next Roufusport star now squarely on Rhodes' ability inside the cage. He has a chance to keep that momentum rolling tomorrow night in Madison.
Madtown Throwdown 28
170 – Andrew Trace vs. Steve Carl
155 – Tyler Hellenbrand vs. Jimmy Kim
155 – Dennis Anderson vs. Robert Couillard
145 – Morgan Sickinger vs. Josh Kasee
185 – Eddie Larrea vs. Zach Browder
155 – Zach Browder vs. Eddie Larrea
180 – Mike Rhodes vs. Mike Sanchez
155 – Gino DiGullio vs Matt WIkoff
155 – Kevin Schulz vs. Bryan Marty