Roundtable Preview – Pinnacle FC 14

Dominic Mazzotta

Dominic Mazzotta

You may have heard us reference our infamous Facebook group chat on the BluegrassMMA Podcast in the past. It really is a thing of beauty. We decided to bring a little bit of that to you with our roundtable preview of this weekend’s Pinnacle FC 14 event.

Our principles Gary Thomas, Juan Valle, and David McKinney sat down (figuratively), and were joined by veteran fighter and IT Fight Series matchmaker Aaron Garrett to discuss the fight card. Here’s what we came up with.

David McKinney (@MMAMcKinney): Aaron, you have a lot of experience as a matchmaker. Which fight is the best matchup at Pinnacle FC 14 and why?

Aaron Garrett (@nuttinbutAG): Devonte Smith vs Xavier Nash. We have two great fighters early in their pro careers from two great camps who are looking to make it to the next level. Plus I have always said styles make match ups, and we have two hard hitting fighters looking for the KO.

Gary Thomas (@GaryThomasMMA): Dominic Mazzotta vs. Keith Richardson is about as solid a main event as you get. Keith was on a tear before his last loss. He has been training at Alpha Male and always has had the right skill set to be successful. Dom has been ruling PA since his loss to Garbrandt and may be presented with a win and you’re in opportunity to the UFC. These guys are seasoned and skilled so it makes for a great fight.

Juan Valle (@TheMagicDonJuan): Mark Cherico vs. D’Juan Owens. We get to see the return of “The Pride of Bloomfield”. I think Cherico has what it takes to get to the national spotlight and a fight with Owens is a tough match up. A win over Owens will not only reassure the Cherico naysayers but it will also give him the confidence to pursue his dreams.

McKinney: Mazzotta is a freak athlete but he has such a tough out in Richardson. He’s now posting videos of him jumping out of pools, and the creativity that we saw him unleash against Rob Hanna was something special. Richardson is yet another hard-nosed wrestler who matches Dom with black belt level jiu-jitsu skills. If Dom can run through Richardson – a big if – he can write his ticket to the UFC’s bantamweight division.

Thomas: What could be next for the winner of the lightweight title bout between Anthony Romero and Mike Walters?

McKinney: I think – hope – both of these guys have awhile to go before they turn pro. They’re both teenagers and can really benefit from taking 15 or so amateur fights. Evolve MMA head coach John Cook always says that a minimum of 10 amateur fights is necessary to be ready for the pro ranks, and I think both of these guys have plenty of time to get there. But that’s a great fight.

Garrett: I agree with David and both are young in the sport. Although both have, Romero has competed in martial arts most of his life… I would like too see both of these guys continue as ammys for the next year.

Valle: If Romero is to walk away victorious I would like to see him compete several more times as an amateur. A win would give Romero his second title but only his seventh amateur fight. At only 19 years of age I believe he could spend a couple more years in the amateur circuit working on his skills while gaining invaluable experience.

If Walters is able to walk away the winner he would pick up the biggest win of his career. His two losses came against similar competition and a win would show he can handle tough fights something he hasn’t been able to do so far as an amateur. Much like his opponent he is young in his career having made his debut earlier this year I would like to see him continue in the amateur ranks until he becomes impossible for him to get fights.

Thomas: I love when amateurs challenge themselves and both have a challenge ahead of them. Not sure where they see themselves after the fight but I’d like to see them either defend the title or call out someone in our rankings. No doubt these young guys have a bright future but burning through the amateur fights, and winning, should move up their professional debt sooner rather than later.

Valle: Who has the most to gain with a win at Pinnacle FC 14?

Thomas: The most to gain would be Mr. Honey Badger. He has been so impressive and has positioned himself to get a look for a contract outside of Pennsylvania. He’s the perfect storm of talent, fan base and skill to go far.

McKinney: I think this one is easy and I agree with Gary. If Mazzotta wins, he’s in the UFC. I don’t think you can say that about anyone else on the card.

Valle: I agree with you Gary. Mazzotta has looked impressive ever since his amateur career and with a win over the battle hardened Richardson, preferably in spectacular fashion, should make him a household name to the matchmakers across the country.

Garrett: Put simply, I agree. Let’s flip it the other way. Who has the most to lose at Pinnacle FC 14?

McKinney: I have to say Cherico. Like I told Gary on the BluegrassMMA Podcast, if he loses to Owens – a very real possibility against a tough opponent like D’Juan – it’s hard to imagine him making a push to the UFC in the near future.

Thomas: The fighter with the most to lose is Mark Cherico. This is a big fight and he’s been indecisive about his career following his win over Nathan Landwehr. That could hurt him both in the fight and after if he’s trying to keep a streak going. Mark is no doubt super talented but Owens is by no means an easy out. A loss kinda seals the deal that, while still a really good fighter, he’ll need to stick around the area and help build that resume up.

Garrett: I would say the same thing he has already “retired” twice from the sport and a loss to D’Juan would I think break him mentally and give him a huge step backwards away from the UFC.

Valle: If Cherico comes out on the losing side I think he calls it quits. After he suffered his first loss against Brian Kelleher he retired from the sport. It was a short-lived retirement but nonetheless he was willing to hang up the gloves. Since his return he has looked incredible winning his next two fights by stoppage. Much like McKinney said on the podcast I see Cherico having a hard time perusing a career in the UFC or even Bellator. While it can never be ruled out it would be a long, hard road to get back into the position he has himself in now.

(Editor’s note: Cherico actually retired after his fight against Landwehr and not after the fight against Kelleher).

McKinney: OK last question boys. Out of Mazzotta, Cherico, and Smith, who should be put on upset alert?

Garrett: I wouldn’t call it an upset but Nash is a guy to look at for. Coming from Canada he is no one to look over. But he is coming into his opponent’s backyard looking to bring home the win.

Thomas: If someone is coming to Pinnacle FC to play a spoiler it is D’Juan Owens. He has played that role well in the past and despite an up and down career he has what it takes to win on any given night. Cherico has a tough task and of the three I would say he will have to be on point to side step an upset.

Valle: In this sport it’s hard to say, you just never know. That lucky punch might come out of nowhere and send you on your way to the mat. With that being said, I think Keith Richardson is coming to the Steel City to steal the title from Mazzotta. Of his seven losses only once has Richardson not been able to bounce back with a victory. With the title on the line and a possible return to Bellator I think Richardson is willing to leave it all in the cage.

McKinney: Can I say all three? The way that Pinnacle matches fights is that they have to be of interest to the general Matt Leyshock. And he’s a fight fan first, business man second, and badass third. Or maybe that is out of order, but he’s all three for sure. I hate to say it, but Mazzotta has a tough test against Richardson. I’ve seen him fight live twice and he absolutely brings it to his opponents. Mazzotta had better come with his elbows and head kicks if he wants to cash that UFC ticket.

That wraps it up, fellas. Be sure to check out Pinnacle FC 14 live on FloCombat this Friday. We’ll also have tons of coverage right here on BluegrassMMA.

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