Though the Main Attraction fights have huge names and Tim Kennedy and Paul Buentello are going to be in the crowd, it takes more than 2 good fights and cool special guests to make a good fight card, and whoever put together Rogue Warrior Championships seems to have already known that, packing the rest of the card with top talent, from the next big thing out of Jackson's MMA Willie Parks to 'Ultimate Fighter' contestant and brother to Rashad Evans, Lance Evans, as well as the professional debut of local amateur bad ass, Oscar De La Parra.
'915 MMA' Amateur Lightweight Champ Oscar De La Parra makes his professional debut against 1-0 Thomas Soto. Soto is also new to the professional fight scene but a quick :38 second finish by submission in his first fight let him know he can hang with the pros. De La Parra used his technical kickboxing, more importantly his wide array of kicks, to become one of the more popular local MMA fighters and looks to see if all those crescent and push kicks will do as well at the professional level. With a professional win already under his belt, Soto is a solid first test for our very own Oscar De La Parra.
Willie Parks, the next big thing at Middleweight, takes on El Paso's own Justin Gonzales. A successful collegiate wrestler who did so well he got the Olympic Team's attention, Parks now looks to bring that success streak to the cage, and, at 4-0, seems to be doing just that. Greg Jackson says he's the man to look out for at 185, and when the guy who has trained GSP, Rashad Evans, Diego Sanchez, Jon Jones, and many others makes these sorts of allegations, you know they're for reals. Justin Gonzales is a US Army Specialist fighting out of El Paso and though the Army has prepared him for a lot of things, I'm pretty sure Olympic-level wrestling wasn't one of them. It's pretty early in both of their professional fighting careers, but with the kind of hype Willie Parks brings with him, it seems the chips are stacked against Gonzales. Still, if Matt Serra taught us anything, it's that anything can happen.
'Ultimate Fighter 8 cast member' Lance Evans (yes, Rashad Evan's older brother) takes on Sacramento wrestling champ Jeremy Rosales. At 4-3 with only 1 of those fights not finishing by KO/TKO, Evans seems to be of the 'knock out or be knocked out' mentality. Evans was unable to compete on 'TUF' due to a rib injury, so aside from being related to Rashad Evans, remains relatively unknown. At 2-1, Rosales doesn't have too much experience but comes in with a solid wrestling background. Rosales might be able to take Evans down, but Evans goes all out every time, and based on his record, win or lose, Evans won't let the fight go all 3 rounds.
US Army Staff Sergeant Shawn Pretat, who fights out of El Paso, takes on Jackson's MMA fighter Matt Leyva. Leyva, at 7-2, has lost to only one of his eight opponents and though it's his wrestling that got him started, he prides himself in being well rounded. Pretat is an Army hand to hand combat certified Level 4 instructor as well as an experienced grappler with a background in freestyle wrestling. Both seem to have a solid wrestling base, but with both of Leyva's losses coming via submission and Pretat's jiu jitsu skills, expect Leyva to emulate his personal MMA hero, Dan Henderson, using his wrestling to keep it standing and throw bombs.
El Paso fighters also include US Army Sergeant First Class Enrique Rios meeting US Marine Sergeant Paul Moreno.
Even without the special guests and the UFC veterans, this fight card is still stacked and quite relevant in the regional MMA world. Luckily, the UFC veterans and special guests are part of the package, making Friday night the biggest MMA event in El Paso to date. Add to that the fact that the event benefits the Stars and Stripes Foundation, which aids wounded troops and their families, and you've got a show you can't miss. Rogue Warrior Championships takes place April 8 at the El Paso County Coliseum. The first fight starts at 8pm. Tickets start at $20 and are on sale at all Ticketmaster locations. For more information, go to www.texascagefighting.net.