A lot of people talk about fighters. And most of those fighters, unless they really make a name for themselves, are from bigger cities or well-known camps. So I wanted to dedicate a spotlight on some small town fighters, with big time talent. Today we focus on a list of the top ten fighters from Muskingum County, Ohio. This list is made up of local talent past and present, from Zanesville and surrounding areas of Muskingum County.
#10 Matt Matlock (1-2) – “The Massacre” has explosive power and wrestling. This up and coming fighter started his career facing two top level fighters in losing efforts to Steve Saldana and Eric Bledsoe. But a recent TKO win over Tyler Schleret has helped get him back on track and preparing for his next fight
#9 Beau Driggs (2-5) – Tough, scrappy, and a ton of heart. There’s not a lot of technical training In Driggs arsenal but If you’re looking for a scrap, this is a guy who will give It to you. Ask any of the guys he has faced, from Nate Witkin whom he had a 3 round war with, to his main event scrap with Chris Burdulis, Driggs isn’t afraid to fight anyone anytime. With a return to the cage, the fans are looking forward to his next battle.
#8 Clint Huffman (2-0) – Clint’s exit from MMA was a sudden as his explosive entry. With his debut ko win over Jon Worstal, and subsequent TKO win over Rocky Clark, MMA fans were looking forward to seeing more from him. But as is such with many MMA amateurs, life and family forced him to put MMA on the back burner for now. Though many still hopes for a return.
#7 Jevonne Reese (2-0) – At 6’4″ 240lbs, The “Silverback” is not as imposing a figure as you may imagine. A fun loving jokester, Reese pursued MMA briefly as a change of pace from his career in semi-pro football, where he helped lead the team to a league title in their first year. But make no mistake, outside of the cage he loves to have fun, inside… he is all business
#6 Aaron Caw (4-5) – Don’t let the sub .500 record fool you for one minute. This 6’2″ 245lbs Juggernaut has explosive power, speed and technique. With solid boxing and ground skills, he has fought a who’s who of heavyweights in his career including Josh Stansbury, John Hawk and John Dishong. Many hope to see a return from a man who was very talented, and many believe left MMA to soon.
#5 Joe Strickland (2-2) – At 6’1″ 185lbs the “Executioner” is one of the few names that has been in MMA circles for over a decade in Muskingum County. Though he is more known for his work outside the cage than in it. He started out working with the now defunct ACCF (American Championship Cage Fighting), a referee for the OAC, and his most recent work with the Ohio Fighting Championships. Strickland has dedicated most of his career to trying to help organize and train local fighters and give them shows to fight on. His recent return to the cage was only to let his children see him fight at least once. The near 37-year-old stated that he was simply making one last run in the cage before retiring to the business side for good.
#4 Jordan Blanton (2-1) – Perhaps one of the most talented guys from the area, Blanton is exceptional in nearly all facets of the game. Blanton possesses excellent stand up, ground and cardio he quickly rebounded from a 3 round debut loss by defeating now OFC 135lbs champ Donny Korbel in a 3 round war. In his next outing, he was able to stop Zach Young before leaving MMA for college and family. He is now regarded as the top trainer in the region and may step back into the cage sometime next year.
#3 Colt Gross (3-2) – At 135lbs, a highly talented fighter has been training since the age of 5 with his father. Colt burst onto the scene with a bang, finishing his first three opponents by submission. As of recent, he suffered back-to-back losses to Sean Highfill by decision and now pro fighter Darnell Pettis by TKO. The losses have seemed to slow Gross’ momentum. Still undeniably one of the top fighters in the area, many are waiting to see when, or if, he will return to action.
Now we get to the tricky part. The last two names on the list. Given the nature of the game, the last two rankings were done how they are because simply put, one guy beat the other. So without further ado:
#2 Isaac Hook (4-2) – Hook is without question probably the most well-rounded and toughest fighter from the area, and the self-proclaimed “Stockport Strangler.” He lives up to the billing as all four of his victories came by way of rear-naked choke; is two losses come by decision. Isaac has yet to be finished inside the cage. With iron resolve, an unparalleled skill set and granite chin, Isaac has fought in multiple weight classes, 170, 185 and even Heavyweight. He sometimes uses WWE-style antics in and out of the cage- it makes him a fighter you either want to see win or want to see get beat up. One thing is for sure Isaac Hook backs up his talk and is sure to be a great fight. One could easily argue that he should be #1 if it weren’t for the fact that the man in that position is one of only two guys to defeat him. A fact Isaac plans to rectify soon.
#1 Connor Hina (3-2) – Possessing excellent striking and cardio, this young man has all the ability to make it to the next level. At 6’1″ 220lbs “Kryptonite” debuted with a loss to Kyle Cremeans. He followed it up with consecutive submission wins over Chris Rambo and Jacob Mitchell. His most impressive fight though was against that man in the #2 spot- Isaac Hook. In what has been called the amateur version of Stephan Bonner vs. Forrest Griffon, Hina and Hook engaged in an epic three-round war. The match-up left both men beaten and bloody but saw Hina on the winning end of the decision. He followed that performance up with another 3 round battle in which he came up short against Tyler Bostik, for the OFC middleweight title.
The groundwork has been laid, and while Hina is semi-retired, his return to action is imminent. He has his sights set firmly on Mikey Furnier- a fight that was supposed to happen last year. Additionally, he has his eyes set on a rematch with his arch nemesis, Isaac Hook. That fight could very well be a fight of the year candidate. This time around there might be more than just pride on the line.
So there you have it. Muskingum Counties top fighters. They may not come from a big named gym, but these guys do know how to fight, and are not afraid to prove it.
*Content provided by Joe Strickland