On September 6, 2013, two of Xtreme Fighting Championship’s newest signees will face off LIVE on AXS TV, when undefeated Ian Stephens and MMA veteran Ryan “The Tank Engine” Thomas meet at XFC 25: Boiling Point. The Welterweight match up will take place at the Albuquerque Convention Center, in Albuquerque, New Mexico and it will serve as an elimination bout, as the company draws closer to crowning its first 170 pound Champion.
Ian Stephens (4-0, XFC 2-0) is back, and he’s ready to show the MMA world, that even at 4-0, he hasn’t started to tap into his potential. Stephens went 2-0 under the XFC umbrella back in 2010, while enrolled as a full time student. Now a college graduate, Ian Stephens has centered his attention solely on mixed martial arts and is looking to make an immediate impact in the XFC Welterweight division.
Ian’s superb wrestling background has been well documented. The Georgia native was a 4x State Finalist and 1x State Champion at Lafayette High School. While attending Tennessee Temple University in Chattanooga Tennessee, he captured a 184lb National Championship. Ian finished out his college wrestling career at Lindsey Wilson, where he was a National Runner Up and 2x All American. It was with the tools he sharpened in college, that Stephens was able to grind out decision wins over Ryan Quinn and Joe Heink during his first XFC stint. Stephen’s ever evolving jiu-jitsu then earned him submission victories over Jay Diamond and Ronnie Rogers outside of the promotion. Now, after a year away from the cage and more time to dedicate to his new career, all eyes will be on the new Ian Stephens on Sept 6th. Will Stephens’ world class grappling be enough to derail “The Tank Engine”, or will Ryan Thomas take him back to school?
Ryan “The Tank Engine” Thomas (16-7, XFC 2-0) is a veteran in every sense of the word. Thomas has been locked in a cage with some of the biggest names in the sport, on some of its biggest stages. With a pro career that spans more than six years, the 28 year old “Tank Engine” has tested his skills against the likes of Ben Saunders, Matt Brown, and on two occasions, Bellator Welterweight Champion Ben Askren. It was in his last meeting with Asken, that he pushed the champ to a judges decision. The American Top Team fighter was last seen by XFC fans at Night of Champions last December, when he submitted Corey Hill by arm bar at 2:34 of the first round.
As decorated a wrestler as Ian Stephens is, he won’t be the only college level grappler in the cage in Albuquerque. Thomas competed at Division 1 Eastern Illinois University, but, as fate would have it, the program at EIU was cut and Ryan switched gears and started training MMA. It was then, that Thomas added slick submissions to his already aggressive ground game. In total, 10 of his 16 wins have come by way of tap out. Like many before him, Ryan Thomas heads out west seeking gold. Will New Mexico be just a pit stop on his way to Night of Champions III, or will Ian Stephens make sure “The Tank Engine” never leaves the station?
An excited John Prisco had this to say about the Welterweight showdown: “This is a huge fight, not just for both these fighters, but for our promotion as well. It’s no secret that our Welterweight Division is heating up, and both Stephens and Thomas were signed knowing that each would play an important role in building the division and clearing up the title picture. The winner of this bout unquestionably finds themselves right in the thick of title discussions, along side of Santos and the Rainey/Lima winner. Ryan Thomas is a crafty vet, he has been up against some of the top guys in our industry. His ground game is solid, and he has mixed his wrestling and Jiu Jitsu beautifully.
Stephens may not have the experience Thomas does, but his aggressiveness and high level of wrestling makes up for a lot. He is truly a beast on the ground, and one of the strongest Welterweights I’ve ever seen. This fight could either be a classic chess match on the mat, or turn into a stand up battle because both men nullify the other’s ground game. Either way, it’s going to be exciting.”