In the opening months of promotion, Donald Cerrone‘s Cowboy Fight Series promised “the best prospects in MMA.”
Amidst the fight announcements of top regional amateur and professional MMA talent were stud wrestlers set to make their debuts. Both D1 All-American Pat Downey and U23 world champion Richie Lewis were removed from the card. They were seen competing and winning gold in their respective brackets at the Dave Schultz Memorial International Tournament in freestyle wrestling this past weekend. Hopefully, they will be seen in the cage sometime soon.
Two exciting middleweight wrestling prospects remained on the card in college national champion Garrett Lineberger and Pennsylvania high school phenom Miles Lee.
Cowboy Fight Series 1: Wrestlers Prevail
PA’s Miles Lee (185) looked smooth in victory
One of the most prodigious athletes in the state of Pennsylvania continues to impress.
Philly native Miles Lee didn’t start wrestling until his sophomore year of high school and didn’t even wrestle a match until his junior year. He was developed through the Beat the Streets Philly program.
While intended to keep at-risk youth off the streets in major cities, Beat the Streets found a top competitor in Lee.
In the toughest wrestling state in the country, Lee qualified twice for the state tournament, placing fifth as a senior. On the national scene, Miles Lee is a two-time All-American at the prestigious Fargo tournament in both freestyle and Greco-Roman, making the finals in freestyle his senior year. By all accounts, he was a natural, picking up the sport at the pace of an undeniable genius.
For a 21-year-old with only a few years of combat sports experience in any realm, Lee looks more fluid than anyone could reasonably expect.
He was calm on his feet, sticking a jab and exploding in on short entries. Lee seems to have a great feel for his reach, and can stay safe without panicking or using any unnecessary movement. The Royal Striking Muay Thai gym in South Philly has done an excellent job with Lee.
In wrestling, Lee is known for his double leg. He looked efficient with his energy, timing his opponent’s strike for the level change and blasting through without any further struggle. Many wrestlers in MMA find themselves wasting energy fighting through positions due to inopportune entries, Lee already knows where to pick his spots.
Opponent Tre Cook was completely lost on the ground. Miles Lee effortlessly knee slid into mount and controlled the wrist, attacking an americana.
Transitioning to side control, Lee looked to further torque the arm, but the angle wasn’t quite there.
In a stunning display of strength and comfortability, Miles Lee kept the wrist trapped with one hand while he worked to adjust his position.
With some small technical adjustments, Miles Lee finishes that americana without much of an issue.
But Lee wasn’t at a loss for opportunities. As Cook sat up to improve his position, Lee circled and trapped the arm, still holding on to the wrist. This time the grip was on the same side, Miles Lee had a kimura.
Lee quickly stepped over the head and cranked Cook’s hand up toward his head, wrenching his shoulder. The tap came quickly.
In his second amateur fight, Miles Lee looked like the complete package. My Philadelphia bias is showing, but I think he’s championship material.
Maryland’s Garrett Lineberger (185) powers through adversity
Earlier this week, we introduced two-time Division 2 national wrestling champion Garrett Lineberger to the world of MMA.
What we didn’t share was that Lineberger had suffered serious knee injuries back in September he was still recovering from.
At the last minute, Lineberger’s opponent was switched, he faced a more experienced Jose Soto. After a winless start to his amateur career, Soto switched gyms and sat out over one year to refine his game. His progress was clear.
In his amateur debut, Lineberger found himself in hot water right away. Countering a Soto kick, he pushed through on a shot entry, putting him in a dangerous position on the ground. Soto’s hips were directly underneath the arms of Lineberger, and he attacked with a deep armbar. This is especially precarious in the opening moments of a fight, when both men are relatively dry and it’s difficult to escape.
At first, Lineberger looked to lift and slam his way out of the hold, but regained his composure and worked his way through the position just when he appeared to be in trouble.
That was largely the extent of Soto’s success in the fight, but he continued to scrap and make things difficult for the highly touted Lineberger.
Soto did an excellent job of scrambling every time Lineberger postured to strike on the ground, limiting offensive output early on.
But control was not an issue, Garrett Lineberger showed his creativity, blending transitions from wrestling and jiu jitsu.
While Lineberger had previously remarked his striking needs “a lot of work”, the output he did show held promise.
As a southpaw, he was sharp in firing off a lead straight. His motion on the strike entry is similar enough to his wrestling entries that it will serve as a great setup in the future. Lineberger demonstrated his ability to transition from striking to grappling fairly well throughout the fight. It’s one of the most important qualities to look for in a prospect from the grappling arts.
Watching a stud wrestler in his first few fights, everyone expects the same thing.
They want to see a dude get ragdolled.
While Garrett Lineberger is more so known for his riding and control abilities, he’s not one to disappoint a crowd. The national champion elicited roars of approval with a huge slam to open the second round.
With short time left, Garrett Lineberger looked to end things.
Soto had been decent at shutting down offense from his back by slowing down the fight, but the weight and relentless attack of Lineberger had worn him down.
Sliding into full mount, Lineberger used the last thirty seconds to unleash hell.
Punches, elbows, and even the rare double hammerfist rained down on Soto.
Lineberger was unable to put him away, but it was a dominant performance.
The middleweight prospect was appropriately tested, and pressed to fight hard when competing under adverse conditions.
This will be a great fight for Garrett Lineberger’s development moving forward. He is an athlete that is willing to watch tape on any of his performances, and will surely gain valuable insights into how he can improve.
Wrestlers are my focus, but Cowboy Fight Series 1 showcased plenty of interesting prospects from a variety of backgrounds.
Donald Cerrone promised to hold shows once every month or so, and that they would be looking all over the country for talent. Tune in next time on FloCombat to see what the future holds.