NTT’s Mike Malott Wins UFC Debut!
What a debut! Huge congrats to Mike Malott on his 1st round KO!!
NextGen BJJ Competition Review
Photo by Brian Appel
By Brian Appel
NextGen Niagara, what a weekend!
Niagara Top Team showed up in a big way. We seen many of the kids compete, many for the first time. Their attention to the wrestling and never giving up was awesome to see. No matter win or lose they made the coaches super proud with how they carried themselves.
The teens and adults were also there in full force representing the team extremely well, once again refusing defeat until that final horn sounded. Special mention to one of the teens Mathew. He was down on the scoreboard and never once gave up, he kept pushing and with 22 seconds left pulled off a beautiful Anaconda to win via sub.
There isn’t enough room in a post to praise everyone, but every single person that step on those mats over the weekend showed who and what Niagara Top Team is. Thank you to all the parents and teammates that came out to support and cheer on the athletes.
BJJ Belt Promotions
Last night was a huge one for Niagara Top Team, as Professor Jorge Britto of Jiu Jitsu For Life Team awarded belt promotions to a handful of members, including NTT co-owners Matt DiMarcantonio, who received his coveted Black Belt, and Chris Prickett, who received his Brown Belt.
Also awarded belts were professional mixed martial artists Anthony Romero and Zack Powell, who earned their Black and Brown belts respectively.
Congratulations to all of our determined athletes who have put in countless hours on the mats and who are seeing the fruits of their labours…we’re proud of you all!
Clockwise from left- Cody Chovancek, Vinny Dias, Kevin Popowick-Bastien, Vladimir Kazbekov, Zack Powell
Niagara Top Team Undefeated
The first weekend of March 2022 was a good one for St Catharines based Niagara Top Team, with team members going 5-0 in 3 separate events and in 2 different countries.
On Friday night Vladimir Kazbekov KO’d the “KO King” Joey Gomez in 18 seconds at CES 66 in Lincoln, Rhode Island.
Also on Friday night, Zack Powell earned his third victory as a member of NTT since moving from Quebec to join the team. “Pow Pow” dominated his game opponent at Unified MMA 43 in Edson, Alberta, and earned a well deserved unanimous decision.
Saturday night had 3 NTT athletes compete at BTC 14 in London, Ontario.
Like both Ashley Nichols (who won last weekend) and Zack Powell, Kevin Popowick-Bastien moved to Niagara to join NTT, and he has become one of the most dedicated and hard working members of the gym. This dedication was obvious to everyone who watched his fight as he displayed superb striking and perhaps an even better ground game, as it was an arm-triangle choke in the second round that gave him his first win as a professional.
Cody Chovancek needed only 2 minutes to put away his opponent with a nasty Rear Naked Choke submission, which is a testament to his hard work in the gym. He is clearly an athlete to carry the NTT torch long into the future.
In the second round of BTC Fight’s $10,000 Bantamweight Tournament, Vinny Dias’ victory over Izzudeen Atmeh keeps him undefeated as a pro with a record of 3-0. In his combined 6 amateur and professional victories this unanimous decision was his first win that did not come via submission, but this was a terrific opportunity for him to learn that he can still push the pace late into a fight, a skill that will serve him well when he faces Albaraa Atmeh in the finals in June.
Scott Hudson and Xavier Nash battled to a razor thin split decision in the evening’s co-main event, and both fighters train part time at NTT. They accepted this fight when each of their original opponents fell through on fight week. What makes this match up even more special is that the pair train together often, so kudos to both of them for being the professionals that they are.
Zack Powell at practise on fight week, 26 Feb 2022. Photo by Andy Cotterill
Zack Powell – Whatever I Do Tonight Is Going To Have Meaning For The Rest Of My Life
By Andy Cotterill
The life of a fighter is never an easy one, uniquely moreso during Covid when there have been months-long periods that gyms were closed for training, and fight cards were not permitted to take place.
So for Zack “Pow Pow” Powell (4-1), this Friday’s fight against Cole Campbell (4-3) at Unified MMA 43 in Enoch, Alberta is just what he’s been eager for.
The 25-year-old Niagara Top Team prospect was just days away from fighting at the inaugural Tarps Off Fight Club in Niagara Falls last December when the Province of Ontario pulled permission for the event to occur.
“It’s very difficult.” Said Powell, when asked how he maintains focus and intensity when the future in the fight game is so uncertain.
But as the saying goes…if being a fighter was easy, everybody would do it.
“The way I see it,” Powell continued, “if I can’t stay zoned-in in those situations, when it’s going hard in the fight I won’t be zoned-in there either. I’ve got to treat every practise like it’s the most important practise of my life regardless of what I’m doing.”
But even though Covid has put an emphasis on that attitude for him, it’s one that he’s had since his first amateur fight a few days after his 18th birthday, and it’s included in his pre-fight ritual.
“I look myself in the mirror during one of the washroom trips I get because I get so many before a fight cause I’m nervous, and I tell myself, This is a night I won’t get back, there’s no do-overs. So whatever I do tonight is going to have meaning for the rest of my life.”
“At that moment I have to stay focused and I have to want it more than anyone else in the world.”
On Friday he’ll get a chance to prove his mettle once again, this time against Campbell, who Powell says is a game opponent.
“He likes to fight. He’s not the most confident striker in the world, and he likes to grapple and he likes to wrestle. He takes a lot of risks…he’ll lose positions to try and go get a sub or go get a finish. He doesn’t fight a smart fight but he’s good at what he does at making a dog fight.”
Powell isn’t overly concerned.
“I just think that I’m a better grappler, better wrestler, better striker. If it’s a dog fight or a technical fight it’s going to be my fight regardless.”
Even though Powell is confident going into this fight, he knows that it’s a great opportunity to work on strategy.
“I usually go out and start fast and eventually I’m very tired in round 3, but that’s not because I’m not in shape, It’s only because I put that pace on so early that I think it’s normal that I get tired.”
While this strategy may work well against the type of opponent once might face at the start of a career, as a fighter enters the phase of their career when their opponents are just as committed and just as fit, it’s crucial that they have the ability to go hard late into the fight.
“I think if I go out there and I take my time more and try to start winning the rounds later, like 3, 4, 5 minutes or at the end of the rAound, it’s probably a better idea. I usually try to win off the bat and start fading by the end of the round, and I feel that the judges remember more the end of the round than the beginning.”
“Hopefully I go out there and take my time and not be in a rush.”
On Friday night, we’ll see who wants it more.
Ashley Nichols (left) and Alex Moher after a final hard training session on fight week. Moher was scheduled to fight but his opponent withdrew. (Photo by Andy Cotterill)
Niagara Top Team’s Ashley Nichols – The Road Not Taken
By Andy Cotterill
“Two roads diverged in a wood, and I, I took the one less traveled by, and that has made all the difference.” Robert Frost
On a foundational level every human on earth shares the same experience. They exist. They breath. They love. They hurt.
But the way they experience these things are unique, to a degree. Everyone has a story, and although these stories can fall in to broad categories, it is a combination of a myriad of individual experiences that make us different from each other.
For mixed martial artist Ashley Nichols, her story will bring her to the Seneca Niagara Resort & Casino Event Center in Niagara Falls, NY on Friday night, where she will step into a cage in front of hundreds of spectators and go to war.
Her journey started when she was 14 and her mother made that normal parental act of getting her child involved in a sport. For Nichols that first sport was boxing, which she started and stopped off and on for several years.
Her path in fighting could very well have stopped for good there, had it not been for her being exposed to the combat sport of Muay Thai, the cultural component of which resonated with her indigenous roots. She is of the Chippewa (Ojibwe), Oneida Nation, and Potowatami Tribes.
“When I learned that Muay Thai was more than just fighting, I decided that it was what I wanted to compete in.”
And compete she did, for years training in Thailand, traveling the world and fighting, culminating in a handful of World Championships.
In 2016 she decided to return to Canada where she would focus on a new challenge — mixed martial arts.
For the next few years she moved between a few different cites and a few different gyms, learning and growing as she did.
Then something strange happened.
One day she was reading an article about up-and-coming fighters and saw the name Jasmine Jasudavicius, who had just won a fight on Dana White’s Contender Series, then very soon after she was contacted by Jasudavicius and her coach Chris Prickett and invited to join them at Niagara Top Team to train.
So Nichols and her training partner Kevin Popowick got in their car and made the 6-hour drive from Ottawa to St. Catharines, and after two great weeks, both Nichols and Popowick decided to make a permanent move.
“I trained at a lot of different gyms before finally getting to Niagara Top Team and now the rest is history…I’m training with the best team in Canada.”
Nichols says that the physical challenges of training with so many high calibre athletes is of course beneficial for her growth, but it was the mental component that she realized she had been lacking.
“Once I got here it was like everyone is training for a fight. I hadn’t fought in 3 years, and I had gotten kind of complacent with having the competitiveness; pushing myself, going through the motions in training, wheras here I was encouraged to bring the competitiveness. We’re going to compete as we train and that’s what I realized was the difference.”
So now the training is over and it’s almost time to fight, and regardless of the outcome, Nichols is calm in the knowledge that by getting inside that cage the shield and sword of her own reality will not deceive the work she has done.
She is ready to connect with her warrior ancestors. She is ready to connect with her spirit, her mind, and her heart in an empowering way, and ready to be an inspiration for indigenous peoples and communities.
Niagara Top Team Co-Owners Matt DiMarcantonio (left) and Chris Prickett. Photo by Andy Cotterill
Niagara Top Team Expands Into New Location
By Andy Cotterill
Niagara Top Team continues it’s rise as one of Canada’s top mixed martial arts teams with its move into a huge new facility.
Co-owners Matt DiMarcantonio and Chris Prickett opened their first location in the spring of 2019 in the basement of a strip mall. Known affectionately by members as the “Red Dungeon,” the smallish, dark space attracted numerous top tier mixed martial artists seeking high-level coaching. Their student base grew as well, with thriving adult and children’s classes running every day of the week.
Then, less than a year into their existence, Covid came and threatened it all. But unlike many other gyms in Canada who were forced to permanently close their doors, Niagara Top Team not only survived…it prospered, and in the past few weeks moved from their beloved dungeon into a huge new facility.
Located at 325 Welland Avenue in St. Catharines, Ontario, the building formerly hosted Evolve MMA, and it features over 7000 square feet of floor space with two large mat areas totalling 4500 square feet, a large weight training area, a full sized boxing ring, heavy bags aplenty, and an upstairs with change rooms and showers.
“We outgrew the other location.” said wrestling and nogi coach Prickett. “Things were getting tight, and we had an opportunity to meet with the previous owners here and make a deal, and it all worked out.”
It certainly did.
A few moments after we concluded our chat, I moved to the edge of one of the mat areas and found myself an accidental witness to a humerous and wonderful interaction between DiMarcantonio and Prickett, who had been approaching from different directions. As if choreographed they stopped, turned in unison together to see students covering every inch of their new gym, before looking at each other while shaking their heads and smiling, then both say at the same time…”we need a bigger space.”
The Book of Jasmine Jasudavicius, Chapter 3
By Andy Cotterill
Every fighter on the UFC roster has their own first-UFC fight story.
For St Catharines, Ontario’s Jasmine Jasudavicius, her first UFC fight was technically held last September at Dana White’s Contender Series (DWCS), when she defeated Julia Polastri in a one-sided decision.
In that series, fighters compete to see who can impress the UFC boss and get awarded a coveted UFC contract.
So yes, that fight was inside of a famed UFC Octagon, inside of a UFC venue, and with UFC President Dana White overseeing the whole thing.
It was in essence a UFC fight…but not a “UFC fight.”
That all changes in Anaheim, California this Saturday at UFC 270, when Jasudavicius (6-1) faces California’s Kay Hansen (7-4) in a much anticipated Flyweight bout between two hot prospects.
Now just days away, Jasudavicius says that she’s nervous, but that’s both normal and okay.
“Of course I’m nervous,” she told me, “but every time I have nerves and every time I get over it and I understand that they’re just part of the process.”
That’s a practical attitude for anyone to have, but perhaps counter-intuitively, Jasmine adds that she’s also excited that the fight is taking place in Anaheim, which is in Hansen’s back yard, and where her opponent is sure to have overwhelming support from the fans.
“Going into enemy territory is nice. I’ve done that my entire career and I like being the one that they’re hating on, and they always become my fans afterward which is sweet.”
So it is that Jasmine has her focus on Hansen, and Hansen alone.
Her Niagara Top Team coach Chris Prickett doesn’t have that luxury, however.
“I’m planning years ahead.” He told me, “This is a marathon, not a sprint.”
I would have been remiss had I not asked him to expound on this statement, so I did.
“She’s (Jasmine’s) the best in the world. I honestly believe that. In her weight class, I think she can beat them all. I know she’s still relatively young in her career as far as fights in the UFC, and we’re going to get more work before we get a shot with Valentina (UFC Champion Shevchenko) or one of those top couple girls, but she’s trained with a lot of these girls inside of the top 15. I know exactly where she’s at. She’s going to be a world champion, it’s just a matter of time.”
Followers of the fight game recognize this as a very bold statement, one which they’ve heard before from other fighters and their circles. Sometimes they’re accurate, but most often they’re not.
What does Jasmine think about what her coach said?
“That’s the plan. I believe in my skills and abilities. You learn from each fight, and eventually when I get that opportunity I’ll be able to take advantage of it. But as of right now I only have Kay Hansen on my mind.”
So now we all wait together for Saturday night.
To watch Jasmine turn the page.
To see where her story leads her.
NTT READY TO PUNCH 2022 RIGHT IN THE FACE
Photo by Elyane Rogier
As Niagara Top Team approaches our third anniversary, 2022 is shaping up to be our most successful and productive year to date.
Despite the challenges faced by Covid restrictions we are so fortunate and thankful to have had such a loyal and dedicated student base, and appreciate each and every one of you.
From our Marvelous Mini Martial Artists, to our Killer Kids, to our Awesome Adults, the coaching staff has been blown away by all of the dedication and progress that we’ve seen, and the fact that all of our students are so positive, friendly, and respectful is a huge bonus.
Whether you’re training for fun, fitness, or getting ready for competition, we’re thrilled that you’ve chosen us to be on your journey with you.
Let’s show 2022 who’s boss!
Head Coaches Matt DiMarcantonio and Chris Prickett
FIGHT TEAM UPDATES!
The Niagara Top Team competitive athletes are all chomping at the bit to show the world what they’ve been doing behind the scenes.
22 Jan – Without a doubt the most high profile and eagerly anticipated fight in the history of our Team, Jasmine Jasudavicius will be leaving for Las Vegas this week to get ready for her UFC debut, when she faces American Kay Hansen at UFC 270: Ngannou vs Gane, in Anaheim, California on January 22nd.
Jasmine earned her spot in the world’s largest MMA organization by defeating Julia Polastri at Dana White’s Contender Series 39 in September.
29 Jan – Aaron Jeffery will be making his first title defence of his Cage Fury Fight Club (CFFC) Middleweight crown when he takes on Pennsylvania’s Rex Harris at CFFC 105 in Philadelphia on January 29th.
It is said that a champion isn’t a Champion until they defend their belt, and as he always does, Aaron has been putting in the work on the mats day in and day out to make sure that he’s ready, and we’re confident that that his success will continue in 2022.
11 Feb – Sporting a 10-1 professional record, Anthony Romero has already proven that he is one of Canada’s top lightweight fighters, and will continue to make his case when he faces Nashville’s Charlie Alexander in the main event of Fury FC 57 in Humble, Texas on February 11th, for the Fury FC Lightweight Title.
25 Feb – Ashley Nichols might be an unfamilar name to followers of Niagara Top Team…for now. This 5-time World Professional MuayThai Federation Champion and K-1 Kickboxing Champion is an accomplished striker who has also had MMA fights in both the TKO and Invicta organizations.
Ashley visited NTT last fall, and must have liked it because she moved to Niagara permanently shortly after and has quickly become one of our most dedicated athletes. We’ll see if this dedication pays off when she steps into the Legacy Fighting Alliance cage against Hilarie Rose on February 25th.
05 Mar – BTC Fight Promotions continues it’s push to be the pre-eminent MMA organization in Eastern, and perhaps all of Canada, when it holds it’s 14th event, on March 5th in London, Ontario. This event, titled CLASH, will feature a handful of NTT fighters. Look to see our standout athletes Xavier Nash, Cody Chovancek, Luke Roberts, and Vinny Dias on the card.
09 April – A dual citizen from both Canada and the United States, Mike Malott spends many of his days as a coach at the lauded Team Alpha Male in Sacramento. His family, however, lives in the Burlington area, and when he’s in town he often avails himself of the high-level coaches and training partners at Niagara Top Team.
Like Jasmine Jasudavicius, he also won entry into the UFC by way of a victory at DWCS, and his UFC debut “Proper” will take place at UFC 273 in Brooklyn, NY versus Mickey Gall.
Teshay Gouthro – There is a possibility that Teshay may be joining Ashley Nichols on the LFA card, and we’ll update you when we know more.
Zackery Powell – After the disappointing last-second Covid-cancellation of the TOFC event scheduled for Niagara Falls in December in which he was set to fight, “Pow Pow” is desperately searching for a last minute fight…anywhere. If you’re a promoter who’s looking for a tough and skilled lightweight, please reach out to us.
Also currently looking for fights are professionals Jarred Dummond and Kevin Bastien Popowick, and amateurs Alex Moher, Ligrit Sadiku, and Khaya MacKillop.
Niagara Top Team athletes are skilled, professional, in-shape, and always come ready to represent one of the top MMA gyms in Canada!
Aaron Jeffery On Dana White’s Contender Series Redemption
By Andy Cotterill
If you ask most people to describe the Ultimate Fighting Championship, they’ll likely tell you that it’s an organization that promotes the sport of mixed martial arts.
They’d be correct, of course, but it’s much more than that.
Amongst a growing number of competing global promotions, the UFC is still the place where fighters from across the globe aspire to ply their trade. They could conceivably make more money elsewhere, but that doesn’t matter…the UFC has the cachet, and it’s where most fighters want to be.
The UFC is where dreams can be made and dreams can be crushed, and both are seen live in vivid colour every single fight night. In the days following, many compelling stories emerge from both winning and losing sides.
But perhaps the most compelling of all are the stories of redemption.
Just over two years ago Canadian Middleweight Aaron Jeffery (10-2) lost his fight against Brendan Allen in UFC President Dana White’s Contender Series (DWCS) Season 3, and this Tuesday night in Season 5, he’s getting a second chance to make it into the world’s premiere MMA organization when he faces 8-1 Brazillian Caio Borralho.
Not every fighter gets called back to try again, in fact, it’s a rarity.
But since that loss in the year that the Covid-19 virus emerged Jeffery has won all 4 of his fights, 3 via TKO, and it’s just a bonus that the man who beat him is currently on a tear in the UFC proper.
Jeffery knows that this is a make-or-break opportunity for him, but remains pragmatic in his perspective about the possibility of another loss.
“I bounce back and forth between these two trains of thought.” Jeffery told MM-eh from his Air BNB in Las Vegas, where he and his girlfriend have been staying for 3 months while he trains at Syndicate MMA.
“My one thought is like maybe I have to consider another career, I’m pushing 30 and two losses in the Contender Series is bad and I’m probably not going to get signed, my life’s over. My other thought is like, does it really matter that much if I lose this fight? I’m in the same situation I’m in now, I’m still not in the UFC, I have one more fight on my record, and I just made a few thousand dollars to fight. I had some eyes on me and probably will get some attention even if I lose, so you can look at it either way.”
Some may read those words and think that it’s not what an athlete should be thinking, or especially saying out loud. But those are the people who repeat phrases like “Losing is not an option” as if that will better their chance at victory. Losing is always an option. It happens to all of us, in some small way, all of the time. Ignoring it doesn’t make th
e possibility go away.
Once you embrace the fact that losing is there, you can start to take the steps necessary to prevent it.
That’s just what Jeffery did all of those months ago when he made the trek with his Niagara Top Team (NTT) teammates down to Vegas, where they embedded themselves into the tightknit training group at Syndicate MMA.
This effort paid off in a big way for Jeffery’s teammate Jasmine Jasudavicius, who dominated her DWCS opponent two weeks ago, and had UFC President Dana White positively gushing over her gameness.
While Jeffery has always been known as a hard worker, his time at Syndicate has been a boon to his confidence in several ways.
“I’m the most experienced guy back home and I’m the bigger guy in the gym, right, so I don’t have a ton of hard rounds, so coming here and getting rounds with Sean, like I know on sparring day it’s going to be a war and I get that fight feel and I get some anxiety before sparring and it kind of like brings the fight out of you, so I think I needed to have that again in my training.”
The Sean he refers to is Sean Strickland, the 7th ranked UFC Middleweight who recently defeated Uriah Hall and is slated to face Luke Rockhold at UFC 268, where a win would most certainly place his name in conversation as a future championship contender.
Jeffery’s time in the cage with Strickland and TUF veteran John Poppie must have made a good impression, as Syndicate MMA Owner and Head Coach John Wood will be cornering him on Tuesday along with Jeffery’s NTT coach Chris Prickett.
For such a night you’d think that Jeffery would be amped up, or perhaps worried, but surprisingly he says that’s not the case.
“Honestly, I’m a pretty even-keeled guy. I feel the same going in to all of my fights. Every fight of your career is the biggest fight of your career, so it kinda all feels the same. It’s comforting to know that I’ve done all the work I’ve done and I’ve controlled everything I can.”