Our first video interview with Tom Shoaff.
The Escalades and hoopties were out front and an ambulance was in the back, must be fight night in Aurora. Invasion 4 was well-represented by rising amateurs from all over the Chicago region, and the night was a success. The Carlson Gracie gym seemed to have the biggest presence at the bout, but fighters and representatives from Counterstrike and Patriot were also all over the Aurora venue as well. The event was well-attended, the lights were bright, and the announcer was as cornball as ever. Although some of the fights were shorter then most spectators would have liked, the crowd was treated to a few really good submissions and one very nice knockout. Here’s a quick breakdown of the night’s bouts, along with our awards for the night:
Anthony Corder vs. Pedro Muniz 170 lbs
Muniz was able to set the tone early with a nice straight to the body, and he followed that shortly after with a huge roundhouse kick that folded Corder. Muniz was able to put both hooks into Corder on the ground and finished the bout with a rear naked choke.
John Keros vs. Nick Hernandez 145 lbs
John Keros was the much older fighter, or at least the one with the bigger doughnut hole… The fight was intense from the beginning with lots of strikes early. Hernandez was able to land a kick that dropped Keros. Hernandez was then able use side control and hammer fists to finish off Keros. TKO. Referee stoppage due to strikes.
Patrick Murphy vs. Trevor Adeszko 170 lbs.
Murphy’s his huge crowd support would lead us to believe that he bought shots for half the crowd or that he’s a huge Aurora celebrity. The fight started off tentatively, with both fighters feeling each other out. Adeszko was able to land a nice body shot early but Murphy was able to shove him into the cage before taking him down. Murphy used good side control before spinning to a back mount and finishing him off with a rear naked choke. After seeing this match I made an early prediction that this would be the submission of the night.
Kyle Kurt vs. Tim Frain HVY
Kurt started the bout by landing a few quick leg kicks, this would be a huge advantage for him for most of the match. Frain was able to land a nice right early and had a good one-two combination going as well, but he lost gas halfway through first round and wasn’t able to keep his early pace. Kurt landed a huge knee to end the first round, and both fighters were panting heavily after the horn. Kurt kept raining down kicks in the second round that seemed to visibly wear down Frain. Kurt was able to drop Frain and get into side control before ending the fight with a flurry of hammer fists. Kurt won due to a referee stoppage and probably had the post fight quote of the night, “I’m going to have a beer after this.”
Sinatra Poole vs. Mario Lozano 155 lbs
Spoiler alert *** Sinatra wins and then sings an old but vaguely familiar song over Lozano. Maybe that didn’t happen, but this was definitely the fight of the night. Lozano took down Poole early but Poole was able to land on top. Both fighters would trade offense and defense positions on the ground throughout the first round and both fighters were able to land shots. In the second round Poole was able to land a good knee but ended up getting pressed against the cage. Lozano showed good side control later on and landed some good blows to his head on a back mount. Poole left himself too open for much of the round and needed to keep his hands up more. In the beginning of the third round Poole was able to land a nice strike, but was found himself against the cage soon after. Lozano was able to slam him down but Poole was able to get an arm around his neck and finish the fight with a guillotine choke.
Brandon Conner vs. Luis Arrianga 185 lbs
“I’m just here to kill people.” said an amped Luis Arrianga at the end of the fight. I guess he meant it. Arrianga started the fight with a huge body kick, and was able to drop Conner with some powerful strikes. Before the fight a drunken dude summed up Arrianga with a concise but accurate sentiment, “Damn, that guy looks tough.”
Cody Smith vs. Tom Shoaff 170 lbs
Tom Shoaff had a huge weight advantage over his opponent Cody Smith and the fight turned out to be what everyone expected. Smith showed heart and tried for a few takedowns, but the size and strength of Shoaff were easily able to brush off Smith’s attempts. Shoaff kept the fight standing, even letting Smith get to his feet a few times, before ending the bout with a savage uppercut. KO.
Jeremy Hisel vs. Ryan Gherardi 135 lbs
This was another quick bout. Ryan Gherardi was able to defend and early takedown attempt with a nice sprawl and then beat Hisel down for the rest of the brief fight. Hisel tapped out due to strikes in 37 seconds.
Shawn Groll vs. Jeff Kohl 170 lbs
Jeff Kohl made his first ring appearance count Friday night. Representing Carlson Gracie, Kohl was able to win the fight quickly with a nice guillotine choke. Kohl was exuberant afterwards and started to almost do gymnastics on top of the cage following the win.
Andrew West vs. Sam Ferguson 185 lbs
The last fight of the night followed the same “short but sweet” narrative that seemed to permeate much of the night. West started off with a nice knee, but for most of the fight West was hanging by Ferguson’s neck (literally). Ferguson showed good ground game techniques and was able to execute a full mount and some ground and pound before finishing West with an arm bar.
Fight of the Night: Easy, Sinatra Poole vs. Mario Lozano.
Knockout of the Night: Tom Shoaff.
Submission of the Night: This was a little more difficult but we’ll still go with Patrick Murphy’s rear naked choke.
And as always, much respect to all the fighters.
At first glance, Tom Shoaff doesn’t look like he punches people for a living. The grey pea coat and button-up might deceive the casual onlooker, but a closer look paints a different picture. The small bruises around the eye, the tattoos on the neck and wrist, the purple stuff (we assume is a recovery drink) that he carries around in an empty water gallon, all give the impression that he can knock motherfuckers out.
Ok, so none of that stuff really gives us any indication that Tom Shoaff can knockout people, but sitting down and hearing Shoaff talk about what he loves leaves us with little doubt where this kid’s heart lies.
We sat down with the undefeated 23-year-old to talk about his training, his fighting style, and his upcoming fight at Invasion 4 this Friday. Here’s what he said:
How long have you been an MMA instructor?
I started instructing when I was 20. I was living in Oklahoma and they had a gym that had just opened up. It was actually opened up by a guy called Grady Brewer. He won The Contender in 2006, so it was mainly a boxing gym. But he had mat space, and we opened up an MMA program. I started instructing real low-level stuff. I wanted everyone to know that, ‘Hey, I’m not a black belt, I’m not the best fighter in the world, I just enjoy teaching people what I know.’
What are your strengths as a fighter?
My stand-up. My stand-up is my bread and butter. I was with a camp that is mainly a boxing and kickboxing gym. I was with them for a little over a year, and all we did was box. So I was on my feet for 14-15 months. That’s where my heart and soul lies.
I’m training with a lot of great guys at Carlson Gracie, and we’re really working on my ground game, putting everything together, blending everything, and molding me into a well-rounded mixed martial artist.
So that’s what you want to be, you don’t want to be a specialist?
Absolutely. I wouldn’t mind my stand-up being a step above the rest of my game, but that’s only if my ground game is up to par with everybody else. I definitely want to be well-rounded, but I love using my hands. So if I can keep it upright, I’m going to.
You said you were working on your ground game, have you been focusing on anything else for this upcoming fight?
At this level of competition we tend to work on things for any opponent. So it’s all about working on general basics.
For this particular fight I just want to keep the fight on the feet. I’ve always said that I’ve got really good hands, I’ve got really fast hands, and I’m accurate with my punches. But in my last three fights I haven’t really gotten a chance to show that. I haven’t really gotten a chance to show the fans that I’ve got machine guns in my hands and I know how to use them. So that’s what I want to do in this fight, I want to keep him on his feet and pick him apart.
What’s your dominant hand?
I’m right handed, but I’ve got a real mean left hook. I drop a lot of people with overshots in the gym. It’s probably one of my favorite punches.
You’re undefeated. I read on your gym’s site that you feel like you ‘have a target on your back.’ Is that true?
I do and I don’t. Everyone always wants to give someone their first loss. That’s guaranteed. But a lot of people, I don’t want to sound arrogant or egotistical, but when you have a record like mine, you tend to get a lot of people running away from you rather than to you.
I have 14 MMA fights and I’ve won all of them, I’ve won a muay thai fight, and two boxing bouts. That’s 17 fights in the last five years. I’ve only had one fight go to a decision, and I’ve had only two fights go past the second round. So when you have a display of dominance like that, people see that and say, ‘Yeah I want to setup to the challenge and see what this guy has.’ But nine times out of ten people aren’t going to want that. They’re going to run away from that.
Where do you see yourself five years from now?
I honestly don’t know. I’m willing to take this as far as I can. I love this sport. I love training. I love teaching. So if I can take it to the next level, which I want to do, which I intend to do, then I’m going to. I’m going to put everything I have into this. I feel that I was given a gift, I was given an opportunity, and I’m going to use this gift and opportunity to see where I can take it. So maybe we can talk in five years and see where things have gone.
Tom Shoaff trains and instructs at Carlson Gracie Team MMA, and will be fighting at Invasion 4 in Aurora.