Featured Fighters for Black History Month

Derrick-LewisFebruary marks Black History Month, and to celebrate, I will be taking a moment to shine the spotlight on African-American athletes scheduled to compete this month in the world of professional mixed martial arts. We have… Neil Magny (UFC Fight Night 60) Magny is a United States Army veteran who successfully transitioned into Mixed Martial Arts. Fight fans first became aware of him when he appeared on the sixteenth season of The Ultimate Fighter, where he defeated Frank Camacho via unanimous decision to make it into the house on the show. He made it all the way to the semi-finals, where he was defeated via knockout by Mike Ricci. Following the reality series, he made his promotional debut in impressive fashion at UFC 157, scoring a unanimous decision victory over fellow TUF 16 cast-mate Jon Manley. Magny followed that up with a pair of losses to Sergio Moraes and Seth Baczynski, respectively, but has since bounced back strongly and gone on a tear. He fought five times in 2014 and got his hand raised all five times. Looking to continue his incredibly hot run and impressive winning streak, Magny will aim to make it six in a row when he squares off against Japanese veteran Kiichi Kunimoto at UFC Fight Night 60 on Valentine’s Day, and with the victory, earn a fight against a ranked opponent for his next outing. Should he defeat Kunimoto and get the fight that he wants, a win there would make it 8-0 for him and put him right into the title picture. Benson Henderson (UFC Fight Night 60) Being the lone half-Black fighter featured in the article, Henderson has a Korean-American mother and an African-American father and is known to be proud of both sides of his heritage. He has held the lightweight title for both WEC and UFC, and the former champion now gets set to take on arguably the biggest challenge of his professional mixed martial arts career on short notice when he enters the Octagon on Valentine’s Day to face off against welterweight prospect Brandon Thatch in Thatch’s own backyard of Broomfield, CO. Coming off a controversial split decision loss to Donald “Cowboy” Cerrone in their contest last month, “Bendo” is eager to bounce back into the win column, and he will do so while simultaneously testing the waters at 170-pounds. Michael Johnson (UFC Fight Night 61) Johnson is finally set to return to action at UFC Fight Night 61 in Brazil, where he will face arguably the stiffest test of his professional mixed martial arts career in Brazilian Muay Thai specialist and knockout artist Edson Barboza. He made his presence known to the MMA community by appearing on season twelve of The Ultimate Fighter, where he made it all the way to the semi-finals, ultimately losing to Jonathan Brookins via unanimous decision in the finale. Johnson has had his ups and downs inside the Octagon, and after starting out with a 4-4 record, he teamed up and found an incredible connection with Blackzilian head striking coach Henry Hooft, and has since gone on a three fight winning that includes a knockout of tough-to-finish Gleison Tibau and one-sided unanimous decision’s over Joe Lauzon and Melvin Guillard, respectively. The Blackzilian product has been looking better and better from fight to fight, and everybody looks forward to his next outing which comes on enemy territory against Barboza and will be the most likely candidate to take home the evening’s ‘Fight of the Night’ bonus. Larry Crowe (Legacy FC 39) Crowe is a middleweight out of Houston, TX who currently posts a 9-3 professional mixed martial arts record. He had his first opportunity to earn a UFC contract in July of 2013, where he took on Bubba Bush for the Legacy FC middleweight strap and came up short, losing the bout via TKO in the second round of action. At February 27th’s Legacy FC 39 in his hometown of Houston, “Tae Kwon” will be presented with a second opportunity of winning the promotion’s 185-pound title and potentially getting signed by the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC). Standing in his way is undefeated Brazilian Leonardo Leite, who will be looking to follow through with similar goals of competing inside the Octagon. Crowe vs Leite will be a main event match-up not to miss, as not only is it a fight that could prove to be very entertaining, but it is also one which will likely ship the winner to the big show. Emanuel Newton (Bellator 134) Currently the Bellator 205-pound champion and arguably the most underrated light heavyweight in all of mixed martial arts, Newton continues to impress from fight to fight. After seeing a six-fight winning streak that included victories over UFC veterans Ilir Latifi, James McSweeney and Roy Boughton, he dropped a controversial split decision to Attila Vegh, a loss a later avenged on his current seven-fight winning streak, which include a pair of highlight-reel spinning backfist knockouts against “King Mo” Lawal and Joey Beltran. With the knockout over Lawal, “The Hardcore Kid” scored one of the biggest upsets in mixed martial arts history. He went on to prove the knockout was no fluke by defeating “King Mo” on the judges’ scorecards by unanimous decision after five rounds of action. If not for the controversial call against Vegh, Newton would currently be riding high on a 14-fight winning streak. In the main event of Bellator 134 in Connecticut on February 27th, he will be defending his title against the undefeated Brit Liam McGeary, who is arguable his stiffest competition to date, which is saying a lot considering all the top level opposition he has faced. “The Hardcore Kid” however will undoubtedly be the biggest test of McGeary’s professional mixed martial arts career. Regardless of the outcome to Bellator 134’s five-round main event match-up, at only 31-years of age, the sky is the limit for Newton. and… Derrick Lewis (UFC 184) His nickname is “The Black Beast” but that might be a trap to beat you up for calling him that, so best to be safe and go with Mr. Lewis. After posting a 9-2-1 NC professional record on the regional circuit, including going 2-0 under the Legacy FC banner with a knockout of current UFC heavyweight Jared Rosholt, Lewis earned a UFC contract and made his Octagon debut at UFC on FOX 11 last April, where he defeated fellow promotional newcomer Jack May via TKO in the very first round of action. He followed that up with another first round knockout in his next outing, putting Brazil’s Guto Innocente to sleep and sending him packing down to the light heavyweight division. In his attempt to make it 3-0 inside the Octagon, Lewis wanted a step up in competition and challenged The Ultimate Fighter Season 10 veteran Matt Mitrione to a fight, and Mitrione accepted. Unfortunately, things did not go as Lewis had planned, and he went on to lose the fight by knockout at only 0:41 into the very first round. Now following the bitter defeat, he is eager to bounce back into the win column and will look to do so in impressive fashion at February 28th’s UFC 184 in Los Angeles, when he takes on South Africa’s number-one ranked heavyweight Ruan Potts.

Written by Gabe Killian

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