They’re not household names — yet — but you need to watch them. MICHAEL SCHIAVELLO profiles a bunch of fighters that demand your attention on HDNET broadcasts.

Anthony Gutierrez -Promotion: Titan FC

Twenty-one year old Anthony “Sharkbait” Gutierrez from Lee’s Summit Missouri encapsulates everything a modern Mixed Martial Artist should be. A talented all-rounder with slick submissions, solid stand-up, eloquence in communication, a dedication to training and good family values, Gutierrez has been a revelation for Titan FC broadcasts on HDNET.

After a decorated 20 and 3 amateur career, Gutierrez made his professional MMA debut  at Titan FC 16, scoring a wicked first round TKO (via elbows) against Jacob Aiken. Gutierrez followed his debut with a first round triangle choke of John Hollis at TFC 17. Gutierrez’s third pro fight against Cody Land ended quickly, with a stunning win in just 2:36. However it was Gutierrez’s fourth victory, against Shane Hutchison (in Hutchison’s 15th fight) that was Sharkbait’s best performance yet. It took Gutierrez just 65 seconds to sink a magnificent anaconda choke on Hutchison to maintain an undefeated record, finishing all four opponents in under 13 minutes.

Gutierrez’s fights are a family affair. His dad Joe attends all his fights and his mother can be seen cageside clutching her rosary beads. For his fight against Land, Gutierrez’s grandmother Irene was in the audience.

Look out for big things from Gutierrez, who trains out of Grindhouse Gym alongside Bryan Davidson and James Krause, and in Sacramento with Urijah Faber out of Team Alpha Male.

Kajan Johnson -Promotion: Maximum Fighting Championship

He’s a fighter, a model, a rapper and a BJJ brown belt under Bibiano Fernandes.

“Ragin’” Kajan Johnson is a hot prospect quickly making a name for himself under the banner of leading Canadian promotion, MFC.

Johnson’s story is one of overcoming adversity. He’s quite literally the boy from the wrong side of the tracks who made good in life through his love for martial arts. Johnson grew up in the tiny village of Burns Lake, British Columbia where he lived until he was kicked out of the only high school in town. He moved to Prince George to live with his father and was introduced to MMA, which would change his life.

Now fighting out of Vancouver at Mamba MMA and Tristar Gym, Kajan has turned his career around in monumental fashion. After going 6 and 8 in his first 14 fights, Johnson suffered a broken orbitale and decided it was time to either focus on the fight game or quit. He moved to Vancouver, enlisted the help of boxing coach Tony Pep and has since gone an incredible 14 and 2!

In his last fight at MFC 31, Johnson delivered one of the finest performances of his career, finishing ultra-tough Richie Whitson in just 3:52 with a vicious rear naked choke. It was his 11th submission win in 19 career victories.

Marianna Kheyfets -Promotion: XFC

The next generation of female fighters could very well be lead by 26 year old Marianna Kheyfets. If you remember, she’s the woman who burst onto the MMA scene in July 2010 when she annihilated Kim Couture with a triangle choke in just over three minutes at XFC 11. Since that amazing debut, Kheyfets has taken her record to 4-0.

It takes true guts and solid resolve to leave your friends, family and a well-paid job in television production in Connecticut and purse the dream of being a full-time fighter in Florida. That’s exactly what Kheyfets did when she recently packed her bags and headed to West Palm Beach to focus solely on her fight ambitions.

Her commitment paid off with a win over tough veteran Molly Helsel by decision at XFC 14 in Orlando. Kheyfets was a little slow out of the gate, losing the first round, but in the second and third she put on an exquisite display of slick striking and executed clean takedowns to take the fight.

The XFC win was the fourth in a row for Kheyfets’ perfect career thus far. Her other wins include a unanimous decision over Marissa Caldwell and a third round triangle choke over Kaline Medeiros.

Kheyfets’ skills are constantly improving. She’s an eloquent communicator, retains her highly feminine attributes, knows how to work a crowd and is a good looker. They’re all assets that guarantee her more camera time in the future and could lead to major success in the sport.

Larry Crowe -Promotion: Legacy FC

Larry “Tae Kwon” Crowe is a marketing machine capable of big things in the sport of MMA. After all, athletic prowess is in his genes! His father, Larry Crowe Sr, played NFL for the Eagles and Rams in the 1970s as a kick returner and tail back, and now works as a local golf pro in Houston.

A former bouncer who fell in love with martial arts, Crowe trains with Tony Orozco out of Houston and boasts a 4 and 1 record. His last fight at Legacy 8 produced one of the knockouts of the year when he connected with a perfectly-timed head kick knockout against Isaac Villanueva in the second round. This followed his violent drubbing of Jermaine Anugwom, whom Crowe KO’d with hands in just 47 seconds at Legacy 7. Gifted with the body of an Adonis and an ability to vocalise his swagger, Crowe’s success thus far is outstanding for a young man who has only been training in MMA for 18 months.

Daniel Pineda -Promotion: Legacy FC

Twenty-six year old Houstonian, Pineda is a 145 pounder finally finding his stride and consistency under Legacy FC’s banner.

After his loss to Chas Skelly at Bellator 19, Pineda has gone on a four-fight tear, beating all four opponents with three submissions and one knockout, inside of 9 minutes collectively.

A tenacious fighter with all-round technique and a keen ability to finish, Pineda boasts 9 career subs and 5 KOs. His 58 second knockout of undefeated Ray Blodgett at Legacy 6 was a highlight, as was his stunning third round rear-naked choke of 10 and 3 Frank Gomez at Legacy 7.

Training out of 4oz Fight Club alongside stablemate Jesus Rivera, Pineda is a favorite with the Houston crowd.

Pineda’s 14 and 7 record may not look overly impressive, but his current win streak cannot be overlooked. In his fourth year as a professional and riding hot in Legacy FC’s cage, look for Pineda to continue his winning ways in highlight-reel fashion.

Sara McMann -Promotion: Titan FC, ProElite

A powerful athlete who maintains a highly feminine side outside of the cage, Sara

McMann is quickly developing all the tools needed to be a dominant force in MMA.

The 31 year old was the first American woman in history to win a silver medal in wrestling, at the 2004 Athens Games in the freestyle 63kg class. She is also a six-time US National Champion; two-time Pan American Games Champion; and a World silver medalist in 2003.

Sara made her MMA debut at Universal Cage Combat in Indiana on May 28, where she defeated Christina Marks by rear naked choke just 111 seconds into the first round. Her second fight against Julie Malenfant was even shorter, winning via TKO in 32 seconds. Her third fight on Titan FC 19, broadcast live on HDNET, showed just how much McMann has progressed as a mixed martial artist. In an impressive all round display, highlighted by her ferocious takedowns and ground control, McMann defeated 13-fight veteran Tonya Evinger by unanimous decision. She followed up with a third round keylock over Raquel Pa’aluhi on ProElite’s Hawaii card in August.

Away from the cage, Sara commits her time to several charities. She volunteers for Habitat for Humaity and Safe Homes and traveled to Sri Lanka to help rebuild homes destroyed by the tsunami.

Mukai Maromo -Promotion: Maximum Fighting Championship

Born in Harare, Zimbabwe, Mukai Maromo emigrated to Canada when he was 19 and attended Livingston University where he studied Computer Information Systems and competed in track and field. As a means of keeping fit between track meets, Maromo began training in Muay Thai and soon discovered that his skills were more suited to kicking butt than leaping hurdles.

A quick learner and natural Muay Thai talent, Maromo pitted his skills in the ring and amassed a record of 16 and 3 with 10 KOs, winning the Canadian WMF Middleweight title along the way. He even fought Thai superstar and King’s Cup winner Lamsongkram (299 fights record) for the WBC World Middleweight title. Though losing to the Thai, Maromo realised his true potential as a fighter and made the move to MMA, hoping to impose his Muay Thai will on opponents in the cage and ring.

In his first fight with MFC (his 7th MMA fight) Maromo scored Knockout of the Night with a 36 second slaughter of Scott Cleve. However it was Maromo’s performance at MFC 31 against Sabah Fadai that truly brought the audience to its feet. Over three dominant rounds, Maromo delivered one of the most impressive displays of Muay Thai I have ever seen in MMA. Sitting behind a slick jab, Maromo delivered a series of crippling leg kicks to Fadai’s inside and outside lead thighs and when in close locked him down with a water-tight and textbook Muay Thai


Watch Michael Schiavello along with Frank Trigg tonight at ProElite Big Guns on HDNet

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