USCS Local Fight of the Week: Trace vs Carl

 By Paul Fladten of US Combat Sports

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Andrew Trace, the reigning Fighter of the Year in Wisconsin, is set to enter the cage at Madtown Throwdown 28 in Madison on Saturday night against the biggest challenge of his career in the form of four-time Bellator veteran Steve Carl.


And while it may not have been the fight that most people were expecting to see headline Madtown Throwdown's "Hells Bells" – an anticipated rematch against fellow Wisconsinite Lenny Nelson was the original main event – Trace is excited to test his skills against a nationally notable opponent.


"This is a much bigger fight outside of Wisconsin and isn't just us fighting each other over and over again," Trace told US Combat Sports. "Now I have an even better opportunity against a guy who's fought in Bellator and it worked out for the best. It's a fight to help move to the next level of my career."


Since turning pro with a 27-second submission over Jamie Bower at Madtown Throwdown 25 nearly two years ago, Trace has become a force to be reckoned with on the local circuit. Winning seven of his first eight fights – all via first round submission – the Ruff Dawg MMA welterweight has staked his claim as one of the Midwest's most consistent prospects.


And while the names lining Trace's resume may not read off like a who's who of the MMA world just yet, he said that victories over the likes of Neil Magny and Travis Peak should not go overlooked. But in reality, the welterweight has never faced an opponent as proven as Carl.


Having participated within the welterweight tournament in Bellator's second season, Carl introduced himself to a national audience with a split decision victory over Brett Cooper back at Bellator 15. Amassing a record of 17-3 (according to MMA.tv) the Hard Drive MMA fighter holds impressive wins over the likes of James Warfield, Tyler Stinson, and more.


"It tells me he's willing to fight and doesn't take 'gimme' fights," Trace said of his upcoming opponent. "It looks like he's fought a couple of tough guys out there so that gives me some respect...This will be a definite test for me."


Like his Wisconsin-based opponent, Carl has also found a magnitude of success with his ground game as 12 of his victories have come via submission. His most recent win came less than two weeks ago as the Iowan submitted Vic Hall at Extreme Challenge 216 in just 85-seconds.


With seemingly similar styles: strong ground games, wrestling backgrounds, and the ability to score points on the feet, tomorrow's "Hells Bells" main event may come down to execution. And Trace said that he might just have found a chink in Carl's armor when it comes to the standup game.


"It seems like I always seem to catch people and he keeps his hands low so maybe I can exploit him with constant pressure and by keep hitting him, getting him to think, and maybe slipping something in to hurt him here or there. I'm just going to keep pressing and see where the fight goes. It's hard to make a prediction since the way we both fight."


As Trace continues his preparation – incidentally this is the first camp in which he has been able to focus on a full training regimen rather than work – the 24-year-old looks ready for the biggest opportunity of his young career. And while he is excited to test his skills against someone like Carl, he did admit his disappointment over the withdrawal of "Smash" Nelson.


"Obviously I was disappointed as we've been preparing for Lenny even before my last fight," said Trace. "We fought a long time ago and after all the talking that's been done it'd be nice to have a definite champion between us two – especially with the whole welterweight tournament Pat O'Malley was running. But things come up and now I have an even better opportunity."


With his attention now fully focused on his new opponent Trace continues to pine for bigger and better fights each time out. When asked where a win over Carl would put him, the Orfordville-native said he hoped it would earn him an invitation into Bellator or another national organization that would in return offer larger sponsorship opportunities.


Nevertheless, Wisconsin's 2011 Fighter of the Year has another golden opportunity to continue his rapid ascent up the welterweight ranks. And as always, he's fully prepared to do take his no-nonsense fighting style into the cage and hopefully emerge victorious.


"I'm going to fight like I always do and leave it all out there. If I'm meant to win it will happen and I'll just do the best I'm able to do at this point. I'll come in with a no-quit attitude and do the best I can to hopefully get a victory."