Thursday, March 8, 2007

Shamrock's Razorclaws reload for L.A.

By Ben Fowlkes

Frank Shamrock did everything he could to downplay the significance of his team's International Fight League loss to his brother's Nevada Lions. While Ken Shamrock freely admitted how much the contest meant to him, Frank, the younger of the two adopted siblings, tried to shrug it off.

"Who cares?" he said in the ring after the loss, flashing his Hollywood smile and effecting the nonchalant swagger he seems to have perfected in recent years.

But in the weeks that followed, Shamrock answered his own question. A wave of roster cuts thinned the herd, and a highly publicized open tryout drew the interest of some established fighters.

Now the San Jose Razorclaws -- who looked outmatched in almost every way back in January -- have a roster of dedicated, experienced fighters heading into their March 17 match against the Anacondas in Los Angeles.

The Claw-master: Frank Shamrock has restocked his IFL team. (IFL)
The Claw-master: Frank Shamrock has restocked his IFL team. (IFL)
Who cares? Frank Shamrock does, whether he'll admit it or not. Hopefully for his team, the change of attitude and personnel isn't too little, too late.

Of the fighters who were starters for the Razorclaws in January, only lightweight Josh Odom (4-2) and middleweight Brian Foster (8-10) remain, with lightweight Clint Coronel still in his alternate spot.

Shamrock opted to drop heavyweight Vince Lucero almost immediately after his dismal performance against the Lions' Roy Nelson.

"He sucks," said the always-blunt Shamrock on his decision to replace Lucero. "He's just too old and set in his ways. It wasn't a good fit."

In his place, the Razorclaws have secured former The Ultimate Fighter TV standout and 6-foot-8 juggernaut Dan Christison (8-4), from the famed Greg Jackson Submission Academy in New Mexico.

Christison is a vast improvement on Lucero, without question, but he hasn't fought since July when he was submitted by Frank Mir at UFC 61. He won't get much of a chance to ease his way back into competition; he's scheduled to take on ever-improving Anacondas heavyweight Krzysztof Soszynski.

Though Soszynski will provide a tough test for Christison, what really has fans excited is the prospect of seeing him in a rematch against the Silverbacks' Ben Rothwell, who Christison defeated via submission two years ago.

Rothwell is undefeated in the IFL, but Christison is no ordinary heavyweight. His sheer size and bulk aside, he has legitimate skills and surprising athleticism for a big man. If the Razorclaws are going to salvage their season, they'll need him to be a consistent performer throughout 2007.

Other additions to the lineup include light heavyweight Brian Ebersole (27-12). Ebersole was recently suspended indefinitely by the California State Athletic Commission after they accused him of "working" his bout with Shannon Ritch in 2006, a charge Ebersole vehemently denied.

He must have made some valid points to the CSAC, because Ebersole is once again licensed to fight in California, which is good news for the Razorclaws. With nearly 40 fights to his credit, Ebersole brings the kind of experience that the team has lacked. Shamrock likely hopes Ebersole can be a positive influence in the gym, as well as a tough competitor in the ring.

But roster improvements aside, the Razorclaws still have a difficult task ahead.

Bas Rutten's L.A. Anacondas were the talk of the league when they stunned the Silverbacks in Houston. They seem to have jelled as a team, something the Razorclaws can't say for their newly reformed lineup.

To say that the Los Angeles event is a must-win for the Razorclaws is something of an understatement. A loss against the Anacondas would make them the league's only 0-2 team, and who knows what Frank Shamrock might do then.

One thing is for sure: if the Razorclaws don't get the win in L.A., Shamrock will find it a lot harder to shrug this one off.


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