Two of MMA’s top amateur competitors will face off for a second time at Momentum Fighting Championship: “Fight Night 2” on July 21st in Anaheim, California. Stephanie “The Shark” Gonzalez puts both her unbeaten record and her 115-pound Momentum FC title on the line against Kaiyana Rain.
The fighters first met in a closely-contested bout at a Grappling X event in October, where Gonzalez prevailed via Split Decision. Rain has won three fights since and became Tuff-N-Uff 115-pound women’s champion in May. Both fighters discussed the rematch with MMARising.com on Wednesday.
Gonzalez (5-0-0) has solidified her spot as one of the sport’s brightest amateur prospects with five straight wins dating back to her MMA debut in May 2011. The three-time amateur champion is known for her striking skills, but she has demonstrated a solid ground game in recent fights and is an active fighter when working off of her back. In January, Gonzalez captured the Momentum FC title with a three-round Split Decision victory over Jocelyn Lybarger. Gonzalez was aggressive in the striking exchanges and countered Lybarger’s takedowns with guillotine choke attempts to take the victory on the judges’ scorecards.
The 23-year-old has endured a rollercoaster ride since the win over Lybarger, however. In April, she was scheduled to face Jocelyn’s twin sister, Jillian, for the Tuff-N-Uff 115-pound title in Las Vegas. When her opponent failed to make weight, Gonzalez was initially awarded the title by default. Tuff-N-Uff officials later returned the title to Lybarger and rebooked the fight with Gonzalez for May 25th. Lybarger missed weight again, this time by ten pounds, leaving Gonzalez without an opponent. The 115-pound title was vacated and a new champion was crowned that night when Rain submitted Jordan Nicole Gaza.
Despite the bizarre title situation in Tuff-N-Uff, Gonzalez kept busy with a Unanimous Decision victory under the Spar Star Promotions banner in April and she now looks to close out her amateur career with a second victory over Rain.
“I am beyond excited for this rematch against Kaiyana,” Gonzalez told MMARising.com. “She is the top contender and all around a great fighter. She was my third fight and my hardest fight by far. I have been training to end my amateur career and I have always wanted to go out with a strong opponent who is going to test me. This is a fight people want to see again and we will definitely put on a show.
“Earlier this year, I fought Jocelyn Lybarger for this title and won via Split Decision. I then went over to Tuff-N-Uff and was offered to fight her sister, Jillian, whom we all assumed was the smaller of the two, and she was the 115-pound titleholder. I literally trained my ass off that fight…and it never happened. On two occasions, she didn’t make weight. I did have a fight in between the two Tuff-N-Uff events and won via decision.
“I guess you can say that I’ve been ready to fight since the first Tuff-N-Uff fight that I was offered back in April. It made me realize some things about myself and what I needed to work on. Thank goodness for my support team, as there were times when I just wanted to give in because I couldn’t get a fight. Then Kaiyana accepted the fight for Momentum. I am ready to get in there again. Win or lose, I will give it all I have because it will be my last one [as an amateur].”
Rain (4-1-1) has also risen to become one of the top contenders at 115 pounds in a short period of time. In just her second MMA fight, she challenged for the vacant Tuff-N-Uff 115-pound title and fought to a Majority Draw with Reno Academy of Combat prospect Kathryn Davis. Less than four months later, Rain faced off with Gonzalez for the first time (fight video above). Gonzalez appeared to get the better of the striking exchanges in the opening round, but Rain took the fight to the ground in rounds two and three. Gonzalez was able to counter well with a guillotine choke in the final stanza and walked away with the close decision win, but the loss has only seemed to motivate Rain since.
In a two-month span this year, Rain won three straight fights. Her biggest win to date came in her most recent bout with Gaza when she countered a Gaza takedown attempt with a guillotine choke and forced the 19-year-old to submit in just 64 seconds. The quick victory earned Rain the Tuff-N-Uff title that had eluded her 11 months earlier against Davis. Under the tutelage of Kings MMA and fighting out of the Werdum Combat Team, Rain has shown steady improvement with each passing fight and now has eyes on turning pro later this year. She will have a chance to avenge her lone career defeat in what will likely be her final fight in the amateur ranks, but sees it as simply another opportunity to develop her skills.
“The first fight between us was interesting for a myriad of reasons,” Rain says. “The main one being that I was pushed by my coaches to fight outside my comfort zone and I learned so much from it. Most important and most simply, I learned that…I can. It is amazing to me sometimes how much they believe in what I can do. I am fortunate to have them in my corner.
“Stephanie’s name comes up fairly regularly as an opponent for me here in California. I am not generally a big fan of rematches but enough time has passed that I feel ready to fight a different fight versus her this time. It is important to me that with each fight I accept that I have specific goals in mind that contribute to my growth as a fighter and a person.
“She is the current titleholder at Momentum FC. If she wins, I do not suppose much changes for her. If I win, I bring a third title home to my coaches and teammates, friends and family. All the pressure is on her as the champ and the winner of our last meeting in the cage. I have nothing to prove and nothing to lose. For me, this is just another opportunity to practice what I am being trained to do. There are some things we only get to practice in the actual fight.”
Momentum Fighting Championship: “Fight Night 2” takes place on July 21st at the Business Expo Center in Anaheim, California. The bout between Gonzalez and Rain will be contested for the Momentum FC 115-pound amateur women’s championship.
(Photo Credit: Israel Grajeda)