[Opinion] American Kickboxing Academy Is New Team To Watch

Originally published at The Well Versed

Mixed martial arts has seen its share of dynasties since the sport was (sort of) introduced to the masses courtesy of Gracie Jiu-Jitsu at UFC 1 in ’93. Chute Box and the Miletich camp quickly come to mind of dominant camps of yesteryear. Today, Jackson’s MMA can (rightly) boast of dominance with Georges St-Pierre and Jon “Bones” Jones among its ranks.

After last week’s Strikeforce event, there’s a new camp in town—in case you missed the memo.

Nestled in San Jose, California, American Kickboxing Academy is rapidly becoming one of the sport’s go-to camps. In its early years, Jon Fitch, Mike Swick and Josh Koscheck made up the big three. The trio made waves as young fighters to watch, but all fell short of title glory.

Cain Velasquez turned the big three into the Fantastic Four, becoming the first man from AKA to snare a world title. His systematic dismantling of Brock Lesnar at UFC 121 was both confirmation and vindication for AKA coach Javier Mendez—who dubbed the able Cain MMA’s version of Muhammad Ali.

AKA went a flawless 4/4 at Strikeforce: Barnett vs. Kharitonov. On the main card, Luke Rockhold battled back from a 19-month dry spell to capture the organization’s middle weight strap from Jacare Souza. Muhammad Lawal, a newcomer to the fold, KO’d Roger Gracie in the opening round of their light heavyweight tilt.

But the crowning achievement for the team lies with the performance of former Olympic wrestler Daniel Cormier. Stepping into shoes previously fit for Alistair Overeem, the Louisiana native needed just 3:56 to throttle Antonio “Big Foot” Silva and secure a spot in the Grand Prix tournament finals.

Make no mistake, plenty of people believed Cormier would emerge victorious, few predicted the ballet of violence that culminated in the opening round knockout.

Whether Cormier defeats Josh Barnett in early 2012 to win the tournament finals is inconsequential.

American Kickboxing Academy has arrived.

The team engineered by DeWayne Zinkin and Bob Cook have a nice mix of upper-tier athletes and promising young prospects. If Cormier’s performance is any indication of what’s to come, all eyes will be on AKA’s next moves in the future.

Iron sharpens iron as the adage goes. If you doubt it, just remember who Cormier’s heavyweight training partner is: Cain Velasquez.

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