Thursday, January 5, 2017

Cowan, Neal, Akers and Herrera headline SteelFist card

Welcome to the Utah MMA and boxing blog. It's a work in progress so readers will see design improvements as time goes on. My name is Doug Gibson and I'm a former journalist. The fight game is one of my passions and I'd like to do what I can to promote it, particularly in Northern Utah.

We'll have fight card advances, results, photos, long features and short features on fighters, trainers and others. A key goal I have is to let the fighters talk, so a lot of the posts will be interviews that feature them talking about the sport, rather than the reporter's voice dominating.

We'd like to thank Justin Hughes for providing boxing photos. Hopefully his work will be a fixture on the blog. If at any time the blog publishes a photo that is copyrighted, let us know and we'll take it down. This is a labor of love, not of money, and we want to respect original work.

To get going, this Saturday night SteelFist promotions will be in Farmington at the Legacy Events Center with "High Intensity," a card featuring some intriguing battles. (The card is here) The main event is a great matchup with two veterans, undefeated Jon Neal of One Hit MMA facing Tanner Cowan of Team Unbreakable It's for the SteelFist featherweight title.

Neal's career has included some long stretches of inactivity, but his wins have been solid, including a first round stoppage of Scottie Casey. Cowan followed a long, successful amateur career with success in the pros. He recently defeated Jordan Chandler via decision. We reached out to both fighters. We didn't get a response from Neal by press time but here's what Cowan had to say: (NOTE: I have not included my questions in the interviews.)

Cowan: What motivated me to compete in MMA was my coach. I had a friend that trained with team Unbreakable that told me about the coach and how to get a hold of him. Honestly I just wanted to teach my wrestling to the fighters and train for free. I wasn't interested in fighting but my coach was putting on his own show one month after I started, he told me I had a fight, and to get ready for it so I did. 

I train with team Unbreakable, we have some great fighters like Jeremiah Guzman, McKinley Smith, Ed Whitmore, Justin Van Horn, Justin Oswald, Trevor Carlson, and many other great fighters. My coach and manager is Aaron Garcia. I teach a majority of the wrestling and grappling at the gym.

This is a pro title fight so everything I do consist of five five minute rounds. I work a full time job so I only get to train once a day, six days a week. This is my first time fighting at featherweight so my diet and weight cut have been implemented far more for this fight. 

My opponent is Jon Neal. He is ranked 3rd in the state among the lightweights. He is undefeated at 9-0. I know he has wrestled before but doesn't mind to stand and strike. He is a southpaw and seems like he fights a lot like myself. 

Like everyone else I want to be in the UFC and I think I have what it takes to get there. My wife, child, and family inspire me to train hard and be the best I can be. I live in Nephi and train in Payson. My wife packs up my little girl and we make the drive to the gym about every night. 

I have been told I have the mannerism of Carlos Condit. I felt that was a great compliment because he is humble and kind to others with a fire that he possesses in the cage.

This will be a great bout and we wish both Neal and Cowan the best of luck.


The co-main matches One Hit MMA's Rowdy Akers against Victory's Kyle Herrera. Akers is a good prospect and Herrera a solid vet. They're well matched at featherweight and the winner likely moves to a promotional title fight. We talked to both fighters and here's a couple of photos as well. (Akers above second from left, and Herrera below, at left)

Let's hear from both of them:

AKERS: I started in MMA in Boise. I was running up and getting myself in a lot of trouble and I needed an outlet and it was provided through a friend, Brandon at Teen Hardcore, who asked me to come in and channel that.

I train now with One Hit MMA in Layton under Aldo Oreggia and Bruno Antunes. My training regimen for this fight is the same as always, extensive cardio Jiu Jitsu wrestling stand up, clench. It's all what I do through every fight I work.

If I win this fight where do I want to be in a year? I'd like to think that I'm already at the top. I'm 42 years old, win or lose I'm blessed to be where I'm at. Regardless I'd like to continue to fight and take smart fights. I'd like to up the game and take the opponents to test my limits.

 I'd like to have five more fights this year in 2017. I'm inspired by my coach Aldo; he pushes me every day to be better, he works with me.

Being old I really look up to all the fighters that come from the past and have been judged by their actions and change their lives for the better I'm inspired to do better and to be better than yesterday because of my wife Toni Akers' hard work. She works hard in the gym and it motivates me to do better and be better.

HERRERA: (Note: Herrera took the fight on short notice.) Nobody likes to take short notice fights for obvious reasons, studying opponent, proper fight preparation, diet etc. The biggest pro I have going into this fight is that I have no training injuries from a fight camp. I've gone into the majority of my fights with some sort of injury that had limited my skill set and or cardio. 

I will be going into this fight 100 percent healthy, and I honestly can't remember the last fight where that has been the case. 

I love to stand and bang. However I believe at this point my skill set is very well rounded. And I honestly could not tell you where I am better at --  whether it's my stand up or ground game. I prefer to stand, but if the fight takes place on the ground I am just as comfortable. I am 100 percent certain I will finish this fight with a KO or a submission. Judges can take this fight off.

I don't know much about Rowdy or his skill set. That being said I'll go in to the fight expecting he is an MMA fighter and is well rounded everywhere. 

I've been training under Jake Paul and the late Paul Sizemore. Along with the many hungry fighters that Victory is putting out. There is no easy training session at this gym. We have more active fighters than any gym in Utah, and that helps the team stay strong as a whole. Iron sharpens iron. 

(NOTE: There will be a fundraiser for Sizemore at the SteelFist card and a moment of silence)


An amateur fight worthy of notice matches The Garage's Brandon Rease against Steve Chan at 125 pounds. The pair fought at 135 pounds a couple plus years back and Chan was victorious. Both fighters are looking to get above 500 in the bout. We talked with Rease (at right inphoto below) recently.

REASE: I always wanted to be just like one of the characters off of Dragon Ball Z and MMA was the closest thing to being one of those characters, so that's one big reason that motivated me to MMA.

Coaches are Anthony Lobato, David Castillo and Jason Tafoya and I'm training at The Garage MMA. I train three hours every night.

My opponent I know a lot about because I fought him in the past. He's a good fighter. I want to be pro in a year. I really look up to Lobato, Castillo and Tafoya.


Hayden Brown, a light heavyweight who trains at The Garage, makes his amateur debut. He's an accomplished BMX rider, with multiple titles in Utah and surrounding states. He rides with Team Extreme. In the cage Brown will fight Dallas Howard. We asked Brown a few questions that he answered:

BROWN: My weight class is light heavyweight. My style is boxing/wrestling. What got me interested in MMA was watching the UFC fights with my dad as a kid. Who's helping me get better? All of my coaches and teammates at The Garage. Daily training: weights in the A.M., technique and sparring in the afternoon. My long-term goals are to fight pro and win a belt. 

The doors open at 5 Saturday at the Legacy Events Center. Fights start at 6. Fourteen bouts and we wish all the fighters the best of luck. Now, on to boxing news, with a couple of Justin Hughes photos.


Jose Haro, who has been rehabbing his foot the past few months, indicated on social media that the foot is healed, he can spar and run on it. The 13-1-1 featherweight boxer, who holds a regional title belt, may fight in March. Here's a photo of Haro (at left) below.


Also, in December at The Complex, West Jordan's Larry Gomez moved to 6-0 with a stoppage win over previously undefeated Donald Griffin, 7-1, of Pine Bluff, Ark. The bout was for the state welterweight title. We'll finish off this blog post with a photo of Utah cruiserweight Jesse West, 8-1, of Fruit Heights, defeating Nick Rossborough last year in Layton. It was Rossborough's first boxing bout although he has a long, successful MMA career.

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