Jordan Keckler never stops moving.
He fakes a move to his right, then his left, then rebounds back to the right to grasp Brad McDonald’s leg and roll into a favorable position behind the Oakdale trained fighter.
Soon both are head over heels for another scramble for control, and Keckler hesitates only slightly to give McDonald free reign for his own form of offense as they spar across every corner of the Oakdale Mixed Martial Arts Club mat.
The steady mix of transitional wrestling is a routine exercise for the pair these days, as McDonald trains for a professional MMA fight for Gladiator Challenge on Sunday.
Keckler has been in Oakdale five days a week to join forces with the Last Stand Fight Team since Christmas of 2010, a huge addition to the squad considering he is a former high school wrestling state runner up, Junior College state medalist and NAIA All American.
“Jordan is a college level wrestler around the same size as our fighters, and he’s really that missing link we needed,” Oakdale instructor Tom Theofanopoulos said. “He’s a young vibrant guy and he is a real positive force with a personality that the fighters want be around and learn from.”
And it couldn’t come at a better time.
Oakdale fighters are training for the biggest fights of their lives, including three guaranteed 2011 fights in the Ultimate Fighting Championships’ bantamweight division for 20-year old Oakdale MMA veteran, Michael McDonald.
Michael McDonald started his six-week pre-fight keep this week in preparation for his UFC debut against Nick Pace in Seattle on March 26.
He’s about the same weight as Keckler, who sports the shaggy hair, tattoos and physique of a fighter, but is about as polite and well spoken as a seasoned politician. And his character radiates a contagious excitement that has everyone at Oakdale MMA looking to a bright future.
“I just really felt like there was an impact to be made here, and I love that I have an opportunity to better some careers and be a part of this team,” Keckler said. “There is a bond like a family in this place and I’m grateful that they have considered me to be helpful.”
It’s not a completely one-sided agreement. Keckler’s fantastic wrestling prestige will certainly improve the well-roundedness of Oakdale fighters, but he in turn gets some fantastic workouts and the building blocks to a potential fight career himself.
Keckler said he should soon begin striking training to translate his own skills to a professional fighting level.
It’s well beyond anything Keckler imagined for himself after his wrestling career was abruptly ended after a devastating injury left him temporarily paralyzed during action with Northwestern College in Iowa.
“I was originally told that I would never be able to wrestle again,” Keckler said. “But when I started to regain my strength I was told that I had recovered enough to the point of being able to go about my life as I did before.”
The injury did little to taint a tremendous career for a Modesto native who exploded onto the California Interscholastic Federation Wrestling Championships bracket with a second-place medal in 2002 for Grace Davis High. He was recruited to Fresno State, but left the mat, picking up the sport again with Modesto Junior College in 2006. He took third at JC State, and departed for eventual All American status with Northwestern.
It’s a level of wrestling that has done wonders for Oakdale fighters on the cusp of big fights.
“I have worked a lot on my wrestling with Jordan, and I think I’m probably in the best shape I have ever been,” Brad McDonald said on Monday. “He has brought so much positive stuff to this team, not just in wrestling, but being a good guy with a lot of knowledge to have in your gym.”
With a mark of 5-1, Brad McDonald will fight Davis Perez of Team Explode during a Gladiator Challenge event and Legends Collide II fight card on Sunday. The fight lineup includes MMA legends Dan Severn, Cal Worsham and former UFC fighter James “The Sandman” Ivine.
Oakdale High graduate Martin Sandoval and Last Stand Fight Team veteran Justin Smitely will also take on Rebel Fighter opponents at the Roseville/Placer County Fairgrounds on April 16.
Sandoval and the rest of Oakdale MMA was featured on American Cagefighter on Comcast Sportsnet (channel 34) on Sunday, an episode that will re-air on the same station on Friday at 9:30 p.m.
Keckler’s intense workouts with Oakdale fighters can be viewed via his website at www.youtube.com/jordankeckler.