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Former Gulf wrestler Jackson coming into his own in MMA arena

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Tue. August 21, 2012 | Derek J. LaRiviere

TAMPA — The action at the Battle of Tampa mixed martial arts event Friday night at Channelside IMAX did not disappoint.

On a card featuring fighters from the southern United States, former Gulf wrestler and two-time state champion Ladarious Jackson stood out.

Jackson (3-0) trains with Team Assassin/Gator MMA in Port Richey and squared off against former River Ridge football player Mike Conran, who was making his in-cage debut. Conran, who trains with Gracie Fighting in Tampa, fell by unanimous decision in a welterweight (170 pounds) fight.

“After scouting (Conran), we did a lot of practice on our back with jujitsu-type moves,” Jackson said. “I know he was very comfortable on the ground because he tried to get me in a kimura (armlock submission). I was happy to escape and take him down a few more times.”

The victory netted Jackson enough praise from Highlander MMA owner and Battle of Tampa promoter Michael Highlander to put him in line for a title match at the next event in November, at Green Iguana in Ybor City. The likely opponent is Michael Bentley.

Bentley moved to 4-1 after a unanimous decision in his welterweight battle with David Crawford (0-1). Bentley, a former Robinson football player, has risen quickly through the ranks to show dominance on the local scene. Crawford was competing in a weight class higher for his debut, but Bentley’s ability was obvious.

The main event featured a women’s fight between Clearwater resident and Highlander MMA representative Delaney Owen (4-0) and Chop Shop MMA representative from Texas, Nicole Varone (2-1).

Owen won by unanimous decision in the featherweight (115) bout. Varone, a former U.S. Marine, was vulnerable to Owen’s takedowns.
Owen is scheduled for her next fight Sept. 22 at the Fighters Source World Championships in Boras, Sweden.

In other action on the undercard, Christopher Banks (2-0) from Harp MMA defeated Johnny Aguilar (0-2) from Gracie Fighting by unanimous decision in the heavyweight division. In a bantamweight (135) bout, Paul Walters (1-1) of Frontline MMA won a unanimous decision over Jordan Pruitt (0-1) of Stronghold MMA. Maurice Graham (2-1) from Frontline MMA won by unanimous decision in a welterweight bout with Tim Alves (0-1) from Team Assassin/Gator MMA, who was making his in-cage debut.

James Garza of Hurley MMA moved to 1-1 after winning by a triangle choke submission 40 seconds into Round 1. It was the lone submission victory of the event, with Kody Berkman (0-1) of Stronghold MMA falling victim to the ground attack in his debut in the featherweight (145) division.

Ben Corso (4-1), a 2011 Durant graduate of Frontline MMA, registered the only knockout when he floored Jose Quinonez (3-4) from Chop Shop MMA in the second round of their featherweight match.

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