By: King Eddie
By: King Eddie "The Ultimate Fighter" tryouts are upon us once again, and as per usual Hawaii has sent out a team of superstars to make their run at joining the cast. This season is particularly historic, in that not only will there be female coaches, (Ronda Rousey and Cat Zingano), as well as female competitors. Even more interesting are the chances that Hawaii has of possibly having multiple representatives on the show. If ever there has been a time in which Hawaii was represented strong, this is it.
Russell Doane, Rilley Dutro, Louis Smolka, and Ian Dela Cuesta are on the hunt for a UFC contract. All of these fighters are unique in their own ways, yet all posess immense potential and star power. As I previously stated, there is a large chance that this year we could see more than one representative from Hawaii.
Let's start the breakdown, with Ian Dela Cuesta. This fast rising TUF hopeful has shown his grit in multiple weight classes, all over the world. From Hawaii, to the Guam, to the Mainland U.S. Ian has shown his skills and ability to evolve as a fighter. Finding himself more dedicated over the past few years, Hawaii MMA fans have been in awe of his perpetual improvement. Dela Cuesta has always been known as a scrappy fighter, but now he is highly regarded as one of the top prospects from the islands. His explosiveness accompanied by his striking ability daze and confuse his opponents while standing. And once on the mat, Dela Cuesta seems to be right at home. His seamless transitioning and constant pressure to finish truly set Ian in a class all his own. If given a shot to compete in TUF, Ian will definitely find a way to learn his competition and rise to the top as a strong competitor, and a respected personality in the house.
Next up, Louis Smolka. What else can I say about this kid aside from the fact that he may , in fact, be the most functionally insane human being on the planet. From fighting, to the gym, to just casual conversations, Smolka sets himself apart, unintentionally, by being just the right amount of strange. His strongest tool to get into the TUF house is that he is who he is. There is no effort needed. From his ability to make people laugh, to his ability to put them to sleep, Louis Smolka is unique in his ways. In the cage his strikes are clean and fast, and his grappling is amazing. But his intangibles make him prime choice in the MMA world. The kid has a heart the size of a bulldozer, and a will to win that is nearly unmatched. He is a fan favorite here on the islands, and a potential title challenger in the PXC organization, a fast growing MMA promotion that showcases the best talent in the Asia-Pacific region. If Louis Smolka is put into the TUF competition, his one of a kind style and personality would make him a fan favorite almost immediately.
Next up, Maui's own, Rilley Dutro. As a country boy with fists of stone, Dutro has risen to the top of the Hawaii rankings in a speedy fashion. Even in his fighting debut it was clear that he had something special. As a fighter who is not afraid to welcome any and all challenges, Dutro lacks the worry that other fighters have. In the toughest situations, Dutro shines the brightest. Himself, a unique individual, Rilley is a fighter that many people may feel that they relate to. His journey here in Hawaii has shown that in any situation Dutro is dangerous in the cage, and likeable outside of it. A long time favorite in the eyes of former TUF winner, Kendall Grove, Dutro has something special about him that is hard to put your finger on. Maybe it's his obvious potential, or maybe it's his ability to excel in any situation. In any case, Dutro find himself a delightful darkhorse should he enter the competition.
Finally, we have Russell Doane. As a champion of nearly every organization possible, Doane understands what it means to truly compete. He doens't do anything halfway, and he's not short on heart by far. But Doane's most admirable attribute is that you can visibly see him outwork his opponents. In almost every fight he's been in, Russell has kicked into a higher gear right in front of the fans eyes. That dynamic to his fight game plants a seed of doubt in his opponents minds, as well as energizes anyone who is watching. Doane gets stronger as the fight goes on. With that said, on many occasions he was unable to perform that ability due to the fact he finished his opponents quickly. As a strong wrestler, Doane has a toughness about him that many find challenging. His continual strength and conditioning program at Warhorse Academy make him deceptively strong. His knockout ability is growing continually, and many fighters in his weight class are starting to notice that potential. On the mat, Doane is nearly unmatched. Once again, his ability to outwork his opponents plays a huge role, but his technical knowledge and vision for the finish place him in a rank above the pack. Should he enter the TUF house, Russell can quickly be counted as a front runner, no matter which team he falls into.
With a heart full of pride and a bit of impatience, the MMA Hawaii nation must await the outcome. Once again we find ourselves waiving our flag of island loyalty in hopes that one or more of our superstars will be chosen to represent us in the most challenging tournament in the sport of MMA. The rate in which Hawaii fighters are being scooped by the UFC is growing at a noticeable rate, and we certainly have another opportunity here to get a few more Hawaii names into the mix of the UFC roster.
Good luck Russell, Ian, Rilley, and Louis. Hawaii is looking on with pride and belief in all of you. No matter what, we are proud of you.