The country will get to see the likes of Scott Holtzman, Luis Santos and Pearl Gonzalez when XFC 26 “Night of Champions III” goes live on AXS TV October 18th but the people in the seats will be treated to some of the rising stars that Tennessee has to offer. John Prisco and company have assembled the preliminary bouts with exciting prospects that will get the crowd ready for the main card that culminates with Tennessee’s own Scott “Hot Sauce” Holtzman defending his XFC lightweight title.

Nashville MMA’s Cromwell Stewart (0-0) will make his professional debut in his own backyard. Stewart won a split decision over Zach Hicks last year in Nashville at XFC 21. Stewart put a stamp on his amateur career with a first round knockout back in February. His opponent brings a deep well of experience and will also be making his professional debut. Willie Taylor Jr. is a veteran of 12 amateur bouts and ended his run with back to back stoppage victories. Taylor forced his opponent to tap out in six of his seven victories. This fight should get the night started off right with someone looking to kick start their pro career in style.

Jason Gifford (1-1) and Mario Scott (2-1) are both looking to bounce back after losses. Gifford was impressive in his professional debut, scoring a first round TKO win. Scott  started his professional career with first round finishes. This is a fight that I don’t expect to get out of the first round with both men looking to get the taste of defeat out of their memory.

Kenny Degenhardt(3-0) notched his third straight professional win with a first round submission earlier this year. The local standout will face his toughest test to date when he meets Brian Hall (7-1). Hall has won three in a row, all first round stoppages. The Memphis fighter has only went to a decision once in his professional career. He is a guy that can finish you with a wide range of tricks. Degenhardt brings in some solid grappling but will have to put on a great performance. Hall’s experience already puts him at an advantage.

Anthony Lemon (4-2) is looking to settle the score with Ben Brewer (4-1) in a rematch of a 2011 amateur fight. Brewer defeated Lemon with a triangle choke. Brewer’s only loss came after an unfortunate accident in the cage where the cage itself inflicted a massive cut. Since then he has rattled off three wins with two coming by first round submission.  Lemon is looking to get back in the win column and even the score.

After over a year off, Nate Jolly (12-5) will swap roles inside the XFC cage. The past few XFC events in Tennessee saw Jolly as a referee.  This will be Nate’s third appearance as a fighter inside John Prisco’s cage. He meets journeyman Gerric Hayes (8-9). Hayes is 1-3 in his last four fights with his lone win coming at XFC 21 in Nashville. Hayes will have to avoid the constant pressure that the Jolly brings. Jolly has some of the best wrestling in MMA and look for him to take Hayes down and keep him there. Hayes has shown he has knockout power and can pull off a submission as well. Lots of cage experience shared between these two.

For the third straight fight Nate “The Train” Landwehr (2-1) will be facing someone with much more experience than him. His exciting style and finishing ability led John Prisco to signing him to the featherweight division. He will meet Keith Richardson (10-4) in the TV swingbout. Richardson has but together back to back wins since dropping his last outing in Nashville. Landwehr got burnt on a decision in Charlotte earlier this year that handed him his first professional loss.

Landwehr generally starts slow in the first round to get a feel for his opponent. Richardson can start fast so it will be a test of will  and game plans to see who gets their way. Landwehr’s cardio is second to none and he will look to drag it into the later rounds. Watch for Richardson to turn on the accelerator and try to get out of the Music City in a hurry.

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