By Matt Parrino firstname.lastname@example.org
The Tonawanda News
Tonawanda News — Just over three months removed from its last big show, the TNT Fight Series is back.
This time around the venue has changed to the North Tonawanda SportPlex, but there are still a number of local fighters on the 11-fight “Dynamite” card.
Fresh off winning the North East Featherweight Championship at an Art of Combat event in February, Victory fighter Pete Mazzeo (5-0) steps back in the cage in search of his second title belt when he faces Corey Lauth (3-3) in the main event for the TNT Fight Series Featherweight title. Also on the main card, TNT Fight Series veteran Scott McGregor (3-1) fights again after his dominant submission win over Niagara Falls’ Jermaine Sneed in March at Rainbow Rink.
Both Mazzeo and McGregor have wrestling backgrounds but have been working to develop other parts of their game.
Victory head boxing trainer Tommy Neff said both guys are progressing every day in their stand up. He said McGregor has the chance to be the most versatile guy at the gym.
“I think when everyone sees Scott standing up they’re going to see the stand up is better. He’s not just a wrestler, he can stand up and it will shock some people,” Neff said. “He’s always got that wrestling background to fall back on, but you want to find a balance there. … You want to keep improving the boxing but remember that you’re still a wrestler. (He’s going to try and) Shake (his opponent) a bit, scoop him, put him on his butt and pound him.”
McGregor’s opponent had to pull out of the fight on Thursday due to a personal matter, so Victory MMA promoter Don Lilly quickly scrambled to find McGregor a new opponent: Midland, Ontario’s Austyn Lizotte.
Though the opponent has changed, McGregor said the game plan remains the same heading into the fight.
“It doesn’t change. It doesn’t matter who I’m going against it’s the same game plan: Beat them up,” he said. “It doesn’t really phase me, it’s just another guy.”
Lilly said he is more impressed with McGregor every time he watches him in the cage.
“His background is a grappler and came in with a strong wrestling base,” Lilly said. “He came here and learned how to submit and now he’s put it all together. The potential is unlimited for that kid. If he puts the time in he’ll make it to TV; he’ll make a name for himself. I’m confident in that.”
For Mazzeo, he said every time he gets into a fight he’s always tempted to keep things standing, but he knows he’ll eventually go to where he’s comfortable: the ground. Victory’s head trainer Erik Herbert said Mazzeo has been working extra hard on his submissions and will look for the 32-year-old to catch Lauth with something.
“I know (Lauth’s) dedicated and has some skills: he’s strong on his feet, long, straight and accurate,” Mazzeo said. “I think overall I’m a little more well-rounded than him and I think I’ll be able to implement my game plan on him – any fight is really mine to lose.
“I have good top control and I believe I have more horse power, but I can’t take him likely. He’ll be squeamish and tough to take down — very flexible and hard to submit, so I’m going to have to put it all together. I’ve seen four or five of his fights and I feel it’s a good matchup for me — but I expect to have the best, most evolved Corey Lauth that anybody has seen.”
Two additional Victory fighters — Kenmore’s Sam Cappy (1-0) and Eric Valez (2-0) — are also scheduled to fight on the card.
Cappy came to the gym with almost no experience in wrestling, boxing or kickboxing, but Herbert called the 20-year-old “a prodigy.”
“Sam had his first fight, he won it, and he is honestly two or three times better than he was even six months ago,” Herbert said. “I think Sam Cappy going to be something special. I can’t wait to watch him fight.”
Valez takes on a David Whitman, who has a size and reach advantage. But Valez, who is fresh off a Golden Gloves boxing championship, isn’t too worried about his size. He said he’s fought better boxers at the gym and thinks his speed advantage will be the difference.
“I think (Valez) is the hardest worker in the gym. He drives here from Medina and he’s here as soon as we open and he’s here until we close,” Neff said. “Just seeing where he was four months ago: a wrestler with no standup skills, now he’s boxing every day. He enjoys getting hit and hitting other people. I think he’ll show a lot of standup skills in there.”
All the local fighters have friends and family coming out to watch the fights, and Mazzeo said the added excitement of being in the main event and fighting for another title has made his training camp even more enjoyable.
“The one thing I love about being where I’m at and being successful, is that I love my teammates and coaches getting to see the fruits of their labors,” Mazzeo said. “I’m a part of a big team here, it’s not an individual sport, and when I win it’s for the team. It’s to build this program that believed in me when I was almost ready to throw in the towel. Here I am two years later at Victory and I haven’t lost and I got a belt, now looking to get another belt.”
Herbert said the community has a special opportunity to continue watching great local fighters that are on the verge of becoming professional athletes.
“I don’t think everybody knows how cool it is that these home grown guys are about to be professional athletes, in my opinion in the toughest sport in the world,” Herbert said. “They’re right here now and you can see them for 20 bucks. They might be in the UFC in a couple months. I think it’s pretty cool, especially (Scott) being from Tonawanda.”
The fights start at 7 p.m. and tickets will be available at the door.Contact Sports Editor Matt Parrino at 693-1000 ext. 4117 and find Tonawanda News sports on Twitter @tonanewssports.