LAS VEGAS, Nevada — It’s not often that five fighters on a nationally televised MMA event go down with injury in a span of 2 weeks. However, that is the reality Resurrection Fighting Alliance (RFA) is facing, as the "injury bug" that completely reshaped UFC 153 in Brazil earlier this month, hasn’t shown any signs of slowing down as the RFA 4 event in Las Vegas quickly approaches.
However, officials at RFA were quick to respond to these setbacks. When RFA mainstay Gilbert Yvel was pulled from the card earlier this week, the lightweight clash between former UFC stars Tyson Griffin and Efrain Escudero was quickly elevated to RFA 4’s main event.
Yvel’s opponent Marcio "Pe de Pano" Cruz, who is a fellow UFC veteran, didn’t have to wait long for a replacement. The Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu world champion will now be squaring off with undefeated Arizona-based prospect Joe "Yagerbombz" Yager in the evening’s featured light-heavyweight bout.
Pe de Pano’s pedrigree and game plan isn’t a secret to anyone. He is widely considered one of the greatest competitors in the history of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu after becoming a 6-time World Champion, 4-time Brazilian National Champion, 6-time Pan-American Champion, and the 2003 ADCC World Champion.
In October 2005, he became one of the first fighters during the Zuffa era to make his professional MMA debut in the UFC. He quickly won his first two fights for the promotion with dominating stoppages over the likes of Keigo Kunihara and former UFC heavyweight champion Frank Mir. Since leaving the UFC at the end of 2006, Pe de Pano has won 5 of 6 bouts, including a win over eventual Strikeforce light-heavyweight champion Rafael "Feijão" Cavalcante.
Pe de Pano will now face a much different task than he was originally assigned. While Yvel is a grizzled veteran of 56 fights, one of the most feared strikers in MMA, and has competed for the UFC, PRIDE, and RINGS over the last 15-plus years, Yager is one of the sports’ fastest rising light-heavyweight prospects with only 5 fights to his credit. However, he has won all 5 of those fights since making his pro MMA debut 3 1/2 years ago.
Yager’s strength also lies in his wrestling background, as opposed to Yvel’s Muay Thai prowess. Yager was a standout wrestler in high school and college, where he was an NCAA Division I wrestler at Central Michigan. During Yager’s freshman season, UFC veteran Phil Baroni was a senior on the team. Yager also defeated UFC light-heavyweight star and NCAA Division I All-American Ryan Bader in collegiate wrestling.
Yager, who has competed in MMA at heavyweight and light-heavyweight, recently tried out for the UFC’s upcoming season of The Ultimate Fighter 17 at middleweight. He made the cut, but an untimely ankle injury forced him off the show. Now instead of living in a house for 6 weeks and being coached by either Jon Jones or Chael Sonnen, Yager will step up to the challenge Pe de Pano will present at RFA 4. The two will meet in a featured light-heavyweight attraction that will be televised nationally on AXS TV.
RFA 4 – Griffin vs. Escudero will be supported by an equally exciting co-main event. The bout will feature two of the sport’s most highly-touted welterweight prospects, as Chidi Njokuani meets Phil Dace. The card will also feature the return of RFA veterans James Krause, Dakota Cochrane, and Tyler Shinn, local favorites Fredson Paixão, Jimmy Jones, and Jerry Shapiro, as well as top MMA prospects Steve Mocco, Lance Palmer, Chris Holdsworth, and Sergio Pettis.These fights and more will take place at the Dallas Events Center inside Texas Station Gambling Hall & Hotel in Las Vegas, Nevada.