By Gary Underwood
Over two years ago, March 25th, 2016 the stage was set for Tanner “The Hammer” Saraceno to make his pro debut against an undefeated Jared “The Nite Train” Gooden.
Saraceno, fresh off a great run on the hit WWE reality series “Tough Enough” and a 4-1 career as an amateur had initially agreed to make his debut on March 5th. However, his opponent for this bout had different plans and left Saraceno stranded at the scale. Approximately two weeks later the phone rang and a fight against the, then 4-0 Jared Gooden was offered. Saraceno accepted the fight with little more than a week to cut down to the 170 pound class weight limit and prepare for his undefeated opponent.
Gooden, a veteran of four wins by finish entered the fight was looking to keep his unbeaten/stoppage streak intact. The Duluth, GA native was no doubt confident as he entered the cage against an untested, short-notice opponent in his home state.
As the fight began, a poised Gooden took the center of the cage pressuring Saraceno with a variety of punches and kicks. Saraceno defended well, showed great head movement in the pocket and landed some shots of his own including a nice, short-range leg kick.
For the first minute and a half of the round the two continued to engage and Gooden seemed to have a slight advantage in the standup; opening what looked to be a small cut on Saraceno’s eye. In the midst of the exchange the two clinched and a hard knee was landed by to the liver of Gooden who then pressed Saraceno against the cage and worked for a takedown. Successful in his attempt, Gooden sat Saraceno to the mat. A scramble ensued and Saraceno was able to secure a single-leg and reverse the position. Although the two momentarily arrived back on their feet Saraceno was able to control Gooden, land several short elbows and eventually take his back off of a failed Kimura attempt.
For the remaining 3:30 minutes of the 5 minute first round Tanner Saraceno proceeded to put on a ground and pound clinic feeding Gooden a buffet of punches and elbows. Transitioning from dominant position to dominant position, Saraceno kept Gooden guessing while continuing a barrage of punishment.
As the end of the round drew near both commentators remarked that it looked as if a stoppage were imminent, however, the toughness and experience of Gooden prevailed as he managed to weather the storm and make it to the bell.
With round two set to begin Saraceno could be seen in his corner taking massive breaths and shaking his arms out. It seemed apparent that his output in the first round combined with the lack of professional experience and other circumstances of the fight had taken their toll.
As the bell rang and the two fighters met in the center of the cage Saraceno can again be seen shaking his arms out as the two engage. Seconds later Gooden chambers a powerful head kick which Saraceno partially blocks. The power of the kick, however, got through and left an exhausted and now dazed Saraceno desperately trying to survive a swarming attack from Gooden.
Although he fought valiantly and made every attempt to find a position that would allow him to avoid the onslaught of the Gooden it was too little too late. Gooden found Saraceno’s back, flattened him and earned a stoppage via punches.
Fast forward 27 months. Here we are. The rematch is set. Both fighters have eight more fights under their belt. Gooden has won six of those matches (three by decision), losing two (by decision) one of which was a NFC Welterweight Title fight. Saraceno has won seven of his eight (all by finish, none seeing the third round) and losing one (via submission) in a fight for the CFFC Welterweight Title. The level of parity for this rematch is light-years higher than the first.
Both fighters feel they have come a long way since their 2016 throw down but the Saraceno camp is supremely confident that the fight will go their way, hinting that they are willing to shake on a “Winner Takes All” agreement for 100% of the upcoming runback’s several thousand dollar purse! Considering the short window for preparation, the hardships no-doubt encountered in attempting two weight cuts in such a short period of time and flat-out lack of professional experience, It is not difficult to understand The Hammer Team’s opinion; which seems to be ‘With a full camp we beat you then, we dominate you now’.
In a sport in which virtually every highly successful athlete cites experience as one of, if not THE key factor(s) in a fighter’s ability to maintain his or her pace throughout the fight it would be difficult to imagine that second round not going differently in 2018 than it did in 2016. That said, Gooden has not exactly been exploring other career paths and being idle – he’s made the walk nearly every 14 weeks since he and Saraceno first met against good competition in his own right.
Did Saraceno gas due to short notice and lack of experience or did the more seasoned Gooden draw him into a rope-a-dope scenario and put him away by design? Teams and fans alike have differing opinions here but one thing is for absolute certain: we’re about to find out.