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MMA Cage Crusaders (W. Hem)

MMA Cage Crusaders (W. Hem)

Ben Henderson

After a successful collegiate wrestling career and a lifelong love for martial arts, the proud Korean-American set his sights on testing his skills inside the cages of mixed martial arts. Success came quickly for the Colorado native as he dominated opposition on smaller stages across the sport, and it wasn’t long before he received the call to compete under the WEC banner. He made his official WEC debut in January of 2009 and made an instant impact. Henderson found victory in his first three showings in the UFC in 2011 and that earned him a shot at the title held by Frankie Edgar. The two men would collide at UFC 144 in Saitama, Japan, and after a hard-fought battle, Henderson solidified his place as the best 155-pound fighter in the planet. The proud champion successfully defended on two more occasions, as he defeated Nate Diaz and Gilbert Melendez.

While the victory over Melendez was his third consecutive defense and put Henderson alongside MMA legend B.J. Penn as one of the greatest lightweight champions of all time, another challenge was lurking around the corner. The UFC tapped Henderson’s rival Anthony Pettis to face the champion on Aug. 31 in Milwaukee. Three years had passed since Henderson and Pettis collided in what came to be 2010’s “Fight of the Year,” and there was a hovering sense of redemption going into the fight. Henderson took on perennial top-ranked fighter Josh Thomson at UFC on Fox 11 back in January, and that fire amplified in his fourth round submission finish over gritty Dagestani Rustam Khabilov at Fight Night 42 back in June. With the lightweight title on hiatus for the time being, Henderson has decided to put the most talent-rich division under the UFC banner on his back as he’s continued to trudge forward, taking on all comers and continuing his pursuit of greatness.

 

Gray Maynard

Maynard wrestled alongside former UFC light heavyweight champion Rashad Evans at Michigan State University and were also roommates. In 2001, he placed eighth at the NCAA Division I Collegiate Wrestling Championship at 157 lb weight class and in 2002 and 2003, he placed seventh. The performance earned the MSU co-captain All-American honors for the third time in his collegiate career. Upon his graduation, Maynard ranked 11th all-time in MSU history with 106 career wins and seventh with 26 falls. After not making the 2004 US Olympic wrestling team, Maynard considered retirement from the sport. He was then recruited to be a sparring partner for mixed martial arts fighter and former Lightweight UFC champion B.J. Penn. With his exposure to the new sport, Maynard sought to compete in it. With his wrestling connections, he eventually became a student and training partner of UFC Hall of Famer Randy Couture. Maynard was a contestant on The Ultimate Fighter 5, which featured Lightweights exclusively. He was selected by B.J. Penn to be on his team and was Penn’s pick to make it to the finals. Maynard defeated Kenny Florian on August 28, 2010 at UFC 118 via unanimous decision (30-27, 30-27, 29-28), becoming the #1 contender for the UFC Lightweight Championship. In a Fight of the Night winning contest, Maynard and the champion Frankie Edgar fought to a split draw on January 1, 2011 at UFC 125, resulting in Edgar retaining his belt. The third bout between Edgar and Maynard took place on October 8, 2011 as the main event.

 

Amanda Cooper

Amanda Cooper began boxing the age of 12, and quickly grew to love combative sports. The Michigan native is a two-time Golden Glove champion and a blue belt in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu. Before turning pro in 2013, she was ranked 3rd in the country amongst amateur MMA women fighters with an impressive 8-3 record. After competing on the hit Spike TV show The Ultimate Fighter: Season 23, Amanda is fighting under the UFC banner and is considered one of the top up & comers in the UFC Women’s Strawweight division. At UFC Fight Night 99 in Belfast, Northern Ireland, Amanda Cooper bounced back in the second and third rounds to unanimously beat Anna Elmose. 

 

Raquel Pennington

Training against her parents wishes, Pennington started mixed martial arts at the age of 19. Raquel’s professional debut ended in a TKO victory against Kim Couture and sparked her dominating career. She fought notable fighters Sarah Moras, Cat Zingano and Leslie Smith in the Invica Fighting Championships at the start of her professional career. In 2013 Raquel participated on Spike’s hit TV show The Ultimate Fighter: Team Rousey vs. Team Tate  where she defeated veteran Tonya Evinger via guillotine choke in the first round. Pennington’s elimination fight against Jessamyn Duke earned both fighters Fight of the Season honors and Raquel a unanimous win. After a split decision loss in UFC 171 to Jessica Andrade, Raquel defeated Ashlee Evans-Smith in UFC 181 and became the fourth person in UFC history to win a fight via bulldog choke submission.  

 

 

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