If history is any indication, this has fight of the night written all over it.
Graham Park (6-2) will look to claim the vacant Unified MMA light heavyweight title previously held by teammate Teddy Ash when he meets Lethbridge’s Sheldon Doll (7-3) in a battle of heavy-hitters in the co-main event of Unified 38 on Friday night in Edmonton, Alta.
Park, 30, said not only is he looking to keep the belt with the “Shaved Bears”, but he’s also hoping to fill the light heavyweight champion shoes in the same admirable fashion as Ash.
“I believe Teddy set the standard quite high for the 205-pound and 185-pound titles for Unified, and I fully intend on keeping that standard, maintaining it and pushing it further,” said Park in an interview.
“It would mean a lot for me to honour the effort and legacy he built for that title, while also building a legacy of my own.”
This will also be Doll’s first crack at a title in his young career. He was scheduled to fight Kris Lee for the Rumble in the Cage light heavyweight title back in April at Rumble in the Cage 61, but Lee was forced out due to sickness.
Doll, 29, said winning his first title would be a significant achievement for him, both on a personal level and for his career.
“A culmination of all the work and a long career would make it amazing to take the belt home to my family and just be able to have a strap,” said Doll in an interview.
“In terms of my career launching to an international stage, I think it’s a big thing because Unified has set itself aside as one of the top promotions and clearly guys have been recognized and being looked at to take into the big shows. It’s such an important thing to be able to do to take another Canadian fighter international.”
Patience is Key
With all six of his professional wins coming in the first round, it may not seem like Park likes to take his time and stay patient.
In his last outing, a first round knockout of Tyler Weran at Unified 36, Park said he focused more on slowing things down and picking his shots, and will look to continue that process Friday night.
“In previous fights, I’ve really rushed things. Last fight, I took my time to enjoy the moment,” said Park.
“I levelled up in my awareness and my comfortability in the cage, which is something I’ll be looking to carry forward.”
Park isn’t the only one from his team, Shaved Bears MMA, looking to leave Unified 38 with a championship as KB Bhullar and Christian Larsen will also be competing in their respective title bouts.
With so much to prepare for and so much on the line, the sparring rounds at Little Sweatshop have been nothing short of intense, which Park said is the ultimate preparation.
“Everyone’s constantly levelling up, so we’re all pushing each other to stay with the pack. We’re a team; we’re a pack of shaved bears,” said Park.
“If you’re not keeping up with the team, you’re going to get left behind. So, everyone’s constantly pushing the pace and we’re all just making each other better, and it’s good to be in that pack.”
It’s been a similar vibe around Canadian Martial Arts Centre (CMC) where Doll and several of his teammates are also preparing for upcoming title fights. Doll’s teammate, Jared Kilkenny, is competing for the heavyweight title the same night as him, while Neil Berry and Tim Tamaki are gearing up for their respective title matches at Rumble in the Cage 62.
Doll said the energy around the gym has been as high as it’s ever been, which hasn’t made it very difficult to stay on track.
“It’s just a great energy. It’s nice to have everyone in there all at one time being consistent,” said Doll.
“Our team is just at such an elite level right now where everyone’s just peaking skill-wise. It’s just such a great dynamic at CMC right now.”
Throughout his career so far, Doll has been nothing short of a pure finisher, ending all seven of his professionals wins inside the first round. Park holds an identical finishing prowess with all six of his professional wins also coming within in the first five minutes.
And with this being both Doll’s and Park’s first career title fight, neither man has experienced a five round fight.
If the contest reaches the championship rounds, unchartered territory for both fighters, Doll said it’s going to come down to efficiency in the later stages.
“I think it’s going to come down to efficiency of technique and overall skills,” said Doll.
“From what I’ve seen, Graham looks like he’s a strong-willed and strong-minded opponent, and so am I. I don’t think you can be in better shape for a three than a five-round fight, but it’s just a matter of using your energy more efficiently. Whoever does that and whoever has the higher skill-set is going to be the one to take it.”
“I would like to thank my sponsors (YEG Meals, Livesore Alberta, Flex Chiropractic) and my gym Little Sweatshop.” Follow Park on social media: FACEBOOK, TWITTER, INSTAGRAM
“I always like to thank Canadian Martial Arts Centre (Lee Mein and Jordan Mein), all my teammates there, Peppermint Hippo Tattoo for the continued support, and Honeyman Morris Inc.” Follow Doll on social media: FACEBOOK, INSTAGRAM