Steve Mocco vs. Tyler Perry at RFA 4: Battle of former NCAA Division I heavyweight wrestlers

LAS VEGAS, Nevada — The "injury bug" that has seen eight fighters drop off RFA’s fourth card over the past two weeks hasn’t phased RFA officials, as they keep rearranging their roster of fighters to solidify RFA 4, which will mark the organization’s first foray into Las Vegas, Nevada.

After Carl Postma was forced off the card due to an injury earlier this week, making him the eighth fighter scheduled to compete at RFA 4 in the past two weeks to get hurt, Postma’s training partner Tyler Perry immediately stepped up to take his spot. Perry was originally scheduled to fight on this card against Derek Bohi, but late in September their bout was rescheduled for RFA 5 on November 30th. 

Perry will now fight on November 2nd against a fellow NCAA Division I heavyweight wrestler in Steve Mocco. This will be Mocco’s MMA debut and it has gained interest worldwide due to the fact that he is widely considered one of the greatest heavyweight amateur wrestlers in U.S. history.

Mocco is a former U.S. Olympian (2008) and two-time NCAA Division I national champion wrestler for the University of Iowa (2003) and Oklahoma State University (2005). He was also a four-time All-American and reached the NCAA finals all four years he was in college. Mocco finished with an overall collegiate wrestling record of 137-6 (56 falls), which included an 85-match win streak. 

Mocco’s wrestling accomplishments have made him one of the highest-rated heavyweight prospects to enter MMA in a long time. After helping Antonio "Bigfoot" Silva prepare for his UFC debut this past spring, Mocco decided to compete in MMA himself. In June, he joined the famed American Top Team camp in Coconut Creek, Florida.

Mocco will now be facing Perry and while Perry may not have reached the same level of success in wrestling as Mocco, he certainly has a substantial head start in MMA. Perry was first introduced to the sport three summers ago, when he was recruited by Justin McCully’s camp to help McCully prepare for his UFC 102 heavyweight bout against Mike Russow. Perry was later enlisted by Frank Mir to prepare for bouts with Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira at UFC 140 and Junior Dos Santos at UFC 146.

The reason and demand for Perry as a training partner is simple. Perry was an NCAA Division I heavyweight wrestler with an amazing pedigree. In collegiate wrestling, he was teammates at the University of Missouri with two current Bellator champions: Ben Askren (welterweight champ) and Michael Chandler (lightweight champ). One of Perry’s graduate coaches on the team also happened to be current Strikeforce weltweight top-contender Tyron Woodley.

The eventual MMA success of Askren, Chandler, and Woodley combined with the initial interest that was peaked by helping McCully and Mir prepare for UFC bouts made Perry’s MMA debut only a natural progression. After winning his amateur MMA debut at RFA 1 in just 42 seconds via TKO over Anthony Simants, Perry defeated Wayman Carter in his pro MMA debut at RFA 2 in March. He won by submitting Carter via arm-triangle choke at 3:42 of Round 1.

Perry isn’t phased by the amount of success Mocco has achieved in collegiate wrestling either. In college, Perry competed against five men who have won six of the last seven NCAA Division I heavyweight national titles in wrestling. That list would include the only Bellator heavyweight champion Cole Konrad of Minnesota (2006 & 2007 champ), Dustin Fox of Northwestern (2008 champ), Mark Ellis of Missouri (2009 champ; Perry and Ellis were teammates but wrestled against each other at a tournament), Zack Rey of Lehigh (2011 champ), and Tony Nelson of Minnesota (2012 champ).

Perry currently trains in Las Vegas alongside UFC stars Stephan Bonnar and Anthony Njokuani, former WEC champion Steve Cantwell, and RFA fighters Maurice Smith, Chidi Njokuani, Mark Dickman, and Carl Postma under "One Kick" Nick Blomgren (kickboxing) and Sergio Penha (jiu-jitsu). 

RFA 4 is set to be headlined by two former UFC lightweight stars, as 5-time UFC "Fight of the Night" winner Tyson Griffin meets TUF 8 champion Efrain Escudero. The co-main event will feature two of the sport’s most highly-touted welterweight prospects, as Chidi Njokuani meets Phil Dace. These fights and more will be televised nationwide on AXS TV live from the Dallas Events Center inside Texas Station Gambling Hall & Hotel in Las Vegas, Nevada.

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