CR alumni to compete in mixed martial arts battle Jan. 24

Clayton Ridge graduates Nick Pierce (pictured) and Dalton Grinstead are on the amateur fight card for a mixed martial arts bout in Dubuque on Friday, Jan. 24. (Photo courtesy of Dubuque Photography)

By Molly Moser

Mixed martial arts (MMA) has been rising in popularity in recent years, and the sport now has a pay-per-view business that rivals boxing and professional wrestling. Pinnacle Combat, the self-proclaimed premier MMA promotion in the tri-state area, will hold their tenth event this month – an event that features two Clayton Ridge graduates.

Nick Pierce and Dalton Grinstead, both 23, are preparing for their second fight with Pinnacle to be held Saturday, Jan. 24, at Dubuque’s Five Flags Center. For those unfamiliar with the sport, Five Flags Center describes mixed martial arts as “a full contact combat sport that allows the use of striking and grappling techniques, both standing and on the ground, from a variety of other combat sports.” 

Grinstead, who has trained in Karate, wrestling, and Jiu Jitsu, is proficient in either a stand-up or ground scenario. “I don't mind being on my feet, but with my wrestling and Jiu Jitsu background, I feel supremely comfortable bringing a guy to the ground,” he explained.

The roots of modern mixed martial arts can be traced back to the ancient Olympics. Vale Tudo, a combat sport developed in Brazil, was brought to the United States in 1993. Since that time, fighters have begun to study multiple disciplines like boxing, Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, wrestling, Muay Thai, Karate, and others. This multi-disciplinary approach to training, as well as the addition of rules and regulations to make the sport safer, has created what is today known as mixed martial arts. 

Grinstead and Pierce both train at The Gym Dubuque. “We train together on a daily basis and, as I consider all of my teammates, Dalton is one of my brothers,” Pierce told The Press. “My teammates and I go through all the physical and mental obstacles together, and that establishes a real camaraderie.” 

Pierce holds a blue belt in Gracie Jiu Jitsu, an orange belt in Karate, and is the 2012 Iowa Golden Gloves Champion. He has a decade of wrestling experience, which began when he was a student at Clayton Ridge. He is undefeated in his three MMA fights, and with the variety of tools at his disposal, considers himself a freestyle fighter.

Grinstead also began his wrestling career at Clayton Ridge, starting in middle school and wrestling until his graduation from the University of Dubuque (U.D.) last year. “When I was wrestling at U.D., Nick and I started doing Jiu Jitsu and Tang Soo Do Karate. With his college wrestling career behind him, Grinstead started training at The Gym Dubuque and decided to take a fight. 

“I try to get up early and get a work out in, and we have practice Monday through Thursday for 2-3 hours. I try to practice as much as I can with the guys. The rest of it's on my own, on weekends,” says Grinstead, who works for Dupaco Credit Union during the week. 

Both Grinstead and Pierce were victorious at Pinnacle’s September 2013 event in Dubuque. Grinstead debuted with a win by submission in the first round, while Pierce knocked out his competitor with a right hand. 

Pierce credits that success to his newfound sense of self-control. “I meditated just before the fight and found the composure that I have been looking for inside the cage,” he said.

On the 24th, Pierce fights for the Amateur Featherweight Championship. He will compete against Teo Duarte, an amateur mixed martial artist out of Kewanee, Ill. with an 8-0 record. Duarte has a background in wrestling. “He has won every fight by judges’ decision, which means he has never finished an opponent in the cage. I have finished all of my fights,” said Pierce.

Since his last fight, Pierce says, “I have been working on all aspects of the fighting game. You can never focus on just one thing. As a mixed martial arts fighter, there can be no holes in your game. You must constantly improve your standup as well as ground skills.”

Grinstead didn't know who his opponent would be until just a few weeks before the fight. “I really don't know much about him, but I know he doesn't have a winning record,” he said. Having time to prepare for a specific opponent can be an advantage, but  Grinstead isn't worried. “When it comes down to it, you're really only doing what you've been trained to do. That's what's going to come out in the ring. My style is going to be the same regardless. I want to outwrestle him and look for a submission.”

Tickets to the upcoming event are on sale now through the Dubuque Five Flags Center, or through your hometown fighters. Grinstead can be reached by phone at 563-920-6825, and Pierce is available at 563-581-5701.

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