by Mick Hammond – MMAWeekly.com
(Photo courtesy IFL)

This year MMA has been overwhelmed with the amount of upsets, both big and small, on all levels of competition in nearly every promotion. And the IFL is no different.

Aside from the surprising season the Tokyo Sabres as a whole are having, there hasn’t been any major upsets in the promotion’s individual ranks, but that could change if Seattle Tiger Sharks’ lightweight Shad Lierley has any say.

If there is one fighter that many people could say has shined the brightest in the IFL since its inception, it would be Chris Horodecki of the Los Angeles Anacondas. And it’s that bright star that Shad looks to diminish should he pull off arguably the biggest upset in IFL history this Friday in Everett, Washington.

For fans unfamiliar with Lierley, he’s a stand-out wrestler who prior to the 2007 IFL season had no experience in MMA.

Since debuting at the Tiger Sharks’ first team battle in Oakland, California this past January, Shad has won both his IFL fights and has shown that while he’s still green in the sport of MMA, he’s a hard worker that continues to improve each time out.

Lierley’s opponent on Friday, Chris Horodecki, has conversely much more experience against much tougher competition, but should Shad pull of the upset, he’ll cap off an impressive regular season campaign that’s seen him help the Tiger Sharks rebound after a rough start to the year.

“As far as the team’s looking, we’re sitting okay to get into the playoffs,” said Shad of the Tiger Sharks’ position heading into Friday’s action. “We’d be looking better if we had Brad Blackburn and Allan Goes for that first fight [against the SoCal Condors], and we’d be undefeated also, but we’re working with what we’ve got.”

“So, hopefully we’ll pull off some huge wins here in Everett, and make the playoffs also,” added Lierley.

Individually Shad has virtually come out of nowhere and impressed many for a promotion that he’s very proud to be a part of.

“I love the IFL,” exclaimed Lierley. “I think it’s one of the best organizations to fight for, and I wouldn’t want to fight for any other league right now.”

Shad continued, “They are taking care of the fighters and allow us to make a living, and I really appreciate it. They give me the opportunity to train full time, and when you do that, you fight better.”

It’s that allowance to be able to train full time that has helped Lierley grow as quickly as he has over the course of the year.

“Everybody makes mistakes in their fights,” said Shad. “And when I go back and look at the tape I’m like, ‘Oh man, why did I do that?’ So, when I watch myself, I’m most critical of how I fight, but all in all I’ve pulled off victories and am happy about that.”

“I just need to clean up everything up, my striking, and like in my last fight, my shots were real sloppy, so everything needs to be worked on and I need to refine my style,” further commented Lierley.

Lierley will have to be on his game this Friday if he hopes to help lead the Tiger Sharks past the undefeated Anacondas and into the World Team Tournament.

As Shad explains, it’s a great set of fights that should provide a lot of entertainment for the fans.

“Every fight is a good match-up,” exclaimed Lierley. You’ve got Brad Blackburn and Jay Hieron [at welterweight], and that’s a classic striker versus grappler match-up, so I’m excited about that. Bristol Marunde and Benji Radach [at middleweight], Bristol’s a really good fighter and Benji’s a tank, so all those fights are going to be exciting. Then you have Reese and Allan, and neither of those guys are boring fighters either, so from top to bottom it’s going to be a great card.”

Then, of course, there’s Shad’s match-up with Chris Horodecki, who is the IFL’s premier fighter at lightweight.

“Chris has had a great season,” commented Lierley. “He’s good at staying on his feet, and you’ve got to give him credit for that, [but] his weakness is that we haven’t really seen what he’s good at on the ground.”

Shad continued, “I want the fight to go at my pace. I don’t want him to dictate the pace of the fight. I want to choose how, when, where and what happens in the fight. I can’t let him do whatever he wants. So, I’ve got to make sure that I’m controlling the pace, staying inside and take the fight to him.”

Lierley knows that he has to have a good performance against Horodecki, as he feels that regardless of how favored some of his other teammates may be in their fights, he can’t rely on that to help the team get past the Anacondas.

“You don’t try to coast through and depend on your teammates,” explained Shad. “Personally I put a lot of time into the [training] room, so I want to win, and I think everybody on our team feels that way. You never just depend on somebody else to win; I think that’s where people make mistakes.”

Just a few short weeks ago, the Quad Cities Silverbacks stumbled a little against the Chicago Red Bears in their attempt to secure a playoff spot, winning by a slim 3-2 margin. This slight error opens the doors for the Tiger Sharks to make the World Team Tournament. But as Shad reiterated, nothing’s for sure until the last fight is over.

“It’s a toss-up,” said Lierley. “We have as good of a chance as any of the other teams do. It depends on how we do and how other teams do. It’s MMA, and anything can happen, but we have just as good a chance as anyone else.”

Should Shad win, he will not only produce possibly the upset of the year in the IFL, but he could also help place his team in prime position to make the World Team Tournament, thus making this Friday’s IFL event in Everett, Washington a must-see event for fans in area.

“It’s going to be a battle,” concluded Lierley. “The whole night, not just the Tiger Sharks versus the Anacondas, but also the Tokyo Sabres versus the Portland Wolfpack, is going be an action-packed night. I’d just like to see everybody come out, have a good time and see a good MMA show in the Northwest, and I’d also like to thank my sponsors, V2 Vodka.”