On Thursday, Submission Underground (SUG) founder and MMA legend, Chael Sonnen, tweeted out an almost unbelievable idea for a grappling event: a tag-team, co-ed friendly, couple vs. couple grappling match.
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Sonnen is actively looking for a couple to challenge UFC flyweight star, Paige VanZant (8-4) and her husband, undefeated Bellator prospect, Austin Vanderford (7-0) in a tag-team grappling match.
SUG has been known to experiment with various, uncommon tactics in the grappling world, drawing on founder Chael Sonnen’s flair for the dramatic. This includes tag-team matches, which took place at SUG 7.
Both VanZant and Vanderford train out of Gracie Barra Portland, the same gym as Sonnen and a bevy of other martial artists. As such, the relationship between the couple and Sonnen is a good one.
Sonnen revealed that Submission Underground’s return is set for May 12, a Sunday, which is also Mother’s Day.
As Sonnen indicated, the promotion is searching for a couple to take on VanZant and Vanderford. Below are some MMA couples who could be in the mix.
Mark and Montana De La Rosa
Both Mark (11-1) and Montana (10-4) De La Rosa are UFC fighters. The married couple are also top prospects in their respective divisions, and both are riding multi-fight winning streaks under the UFC banner.
Mark, 24, suffered his lone loss to former title challenger Tim Elliott in his UFC debut. Before and since the loss, he is undefeated. Recently, Mark submitted Elias Garcia and outpointed Joby Sanchez over the course of his 2018 campaign.
Montana, also 24, competed on the twenty-sixth season of The Ultimate Fighter. On the show, she lost to eventual tournament winner and inaugural UFC flyweight champion, Nicco Montaño. Since the show, Montana has been flawless, scoring submission victories over Christina Marks, Rachael Ostovich, and Nadia Kasseem.
Miesha Tate and Johnny Nuñez
While Miesha Tate (18-7) has retired from MMA competition, that doesn’t rule her and her partner Johnny Nuñez’s (7-1) involvement in a tag-team grappling match.
Tate, 32, is a women’s MMA pioneer. The Washingtonian is one of the sport’s most recognizable female stars, in large part due to her rivalry with Ronda Rousey and 2016 victory over Holly Holm, in which she captured the UFC bantamweight title. Tate is a talented wrestler, and sports seven submission victories. It was recently announced that Tate has accepted an executive role with ONE Championship.
Nunez, 33, is a World Series of Fighting, Ultimate Fighter, and Bellator veteran. The Boise State wrestling alumnus competed on The Ultimate Fighter Season 22, where he lost to both Ryan Hall and David Teymur, two men who would go on to have impressive, promising careers in the UFC. He also fought on TUF: Redemption (Season 25), where he fell short to UFC vet James Krause. Most recently, Nunez defeated Josh Wick at Bellator 205 in September of 2018.
Gilbert and Keri Anne Melendez
Gilbert (22-7) and Keri Anne Melendez (3-0) are one of the most high-profile couples in MMA.
Gilbert, 36, is a veritable legend of the sport. The former WEC and two-time Strikeforce lightweight champion has fought some of the greatest lightweights of all time, including Anthony Pettis, Eddie Alvarez, Diego Sanchez, Benson Henderson, and others. He most recently faced Jeremy Stephens at UFC 215, but he was scheduled to fight Arnold Allen at the Ultimate Fighter Season 28 before withdrawing due to injury.
Keri, 34, has gone a promising 3-0 in her professional MMA career. The Bellator strawweight has also scored a win under the promotion’s kickboxing banner, to boot. Keri has finished two of her three MMA bouts and most recently defeated Dakota Zimmerman at Bellator 206 in September of 2018.
The news comes following The Body Lock’s report that Submission Underground would be returning in 2019.
Michael Fiedel is The Body Lock's deputy editor, a staff writer for FloCombat, and a Russell-Rice scholarship recipient at Vanderbilt University.