Gian Villante always knew he was going to be a professional athlete, but he didn't know what sport it was going to be. In high school, Gian received the best football player in Nassau county award and best linebacker honors his senior year. Villante went on to win the state championship in wrestling and placed 5th in a the nation, all in the same year. This easily got him a scholarship to Long Island's Hofstra University, where the Levittown native excelled in both sports but specifically in football. In 2007, Gian entered the NFL draft but was not picked up by any teams. A little bitter and not wanting to be a "floater" in the league, he decided to take up an offer from former teammates and friends Dom Stanco and Chris Schlesinger.

Dom and Chris are professional MMA fighters, wrestled at Hofstra and also wrestled at MacArthur high school where Villante attended school. They asked him to come down to their training facility, meet the coaches and see how he likes this whole MMA thing. Obviously, Gian was a natural at the sport, with his wrestling background really helping him out. Working with premiere kickboxing and MMA trainer Keith Trimble at nearby Bellmore Kickboxing, Villante started working his stand up game and adapted quickly.

Villante went professional right away, earning at :35 second TKO victory in his very first fight. Since that fight he has built up (7-2) record, holds two belts in two different weight classes and is considered one the best young MMA prospects in the sport. The champ then got the call to be an alternate in Strikeforce's Heavyweight Grand Prix Tournament vs. Chad Griggs. Gian fell short in this fight, coming off his game plan and getting caught up in a brawl. Villante now looks to bounce back from his first real loss (his other loss was from injury) as he faces undefeated and top young prospect Lorenz "The Monsoon" Larkin.

Larkin is a (10-0) professional fighter and has been very impressive in his career so far . Eight of his ten wins come via TKO with two decisions. "The Monsoon" made his Strikeforce Challengers debut in April vs. Scott Lighty, finishing him the first round via TKO (punches). With a very strong and electrifying stand up game, Lorenz will probably be looking to keep it standing and to stop the takedown attempts from the former NY state wrestling champion.

These two young studs will hook it up and will meet this Friday in Kent, Washington for Strikeforce Challengers 16. This fight promises to bring fireworks; both fighters are looking to climb the ladder in the light heavyweight division and make a name for themselves. A win this weekend would really propel the victor into to just outside "the mix,” and earn him a shot at a bigger name.

I've known Gian for a long time, we played little league football together, wrestled and trained MMA. He is the strongest person I have ever gone against;  his strength is disturbing. How can a person be so strong ? And, now he’s fighting at light heavyweight!  Lorenz Larkin is no joke and will be a very tough test.  If Gian can use his striking to get into the clinch game, get Lorenz against the fence for some dirty boxing then get it to the ground and work that awesome ground pound game, I can see Villante coming out the winner via TKO referees stoppage in the 3rd.

Tune into Showtime for Strikeforce Challengers 16 beginning at 11 pm this Friday to see if I'm right.  Support our fellow Long Islander!

Follow Gian on twitter @GPVillante and like his page on Facebook.

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