Welcome to Rated Next, a new segment we're trying out here to bring attention to fighters who may be flying under the radar of anyone outside of the hardcore set.
The fighters profiled here will be people that will soon be making a splash with the mainstream set and since I like having the upper hand and knowing about a guy before the Affliction-adorned masses start bastardizing their names, I thought I'd share them with you from time to time.
First up is Joe Warren.
It's not often that I throw my unwavering support behind a fighter who is just 2-0 and will turn 33 in 28 days, one more than it will take for me to turn 31. Send presents.
But Joe Warren is an exception to the rule; he's a former World Champion Greco-Roman wrestler who was favored for gold at the Beijing Olympics before testing positive for THC and being handed a two-year suspension.
As an aside, can someone please tell me how weed is a performance enhancer? Unless you're entering a Cheetos eating competition or a sleep challenge, you're not getting any edge from weed...at least that's what I've heard.
After missing out on the Olympics, Warren began his transition to MMA by joining forces with fellow Greco-Roman wrestling standout and Team Quest founder Dan Henderson. On March 8, 2009, Warren made his MMA debut as part of the DREAM Featherweight Grand Prix against former WEC Featherweight champ Chase Beebe at DREAM 7.
When the fighters separated at the end of the first round, Warren was awarded the win after Beebe was unable to continue due to a cut above his right eye.
A little more than two months later, Warren returned to Japan and the second round of the Featherweight Grand Prix, where he would meet the returning Norifumi "Kid" Yamamoto. Once a consensus top 10 pound-for-pound fighter, Yamamoto was coming off a layoff of over 500 days, but was still the heavy favorite, having only lost once in 19 previous fights.
As the judge's decision was read, Joe Warren's hands were raised; the American scored a Split Decision victory over his more experienced opponent and is now set for final two rounds this Tuesday where he'll once again be the underdog in his semifinal fight against Brazilian Bibiano Fernandes (5-2).
To put Warren's accomplishments into perspective a little, the first two victories of his career came over figthers with a combined record of 29-4 with one No Contest prior to having faced the former Michigan Wolverine.
Even if he doesn't emerge victorious in the early morning hours of Tuesday, Warren's star is certainly on the rise and he will be a fighter you hear a lot about in the coming months.
Just as Gegard Mousasi came out of nowhere to become a critic's darling and now full-fledged superstar after winning the 2008 Middleweight Grand Prix, a continued Cinderella performance and tournament victory would do the same for Warren.
Win or lose, Joe Warren is Rated Next.
(picture courtesy of Sherdog.com)
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