THE OPENING BELL: Greene County’s Forkner nears MMA pro debut
By BRANDON HURLEY
DES MOINES –The fight was over nearly as the two grapplers hit the mat.
Dylan Forkner swiftly wrapped his arms around Santana Acosta’s neck in a north-south choke, tightening it as the seconds ticked away.
Two minutes and 13 seconds into the second round and Forkner (7-1) had grabbed his sixth straight mixed martial arts victory.
Iowa’s 10th-ranked amateur lightweight fighter breezed through his featherweight fight at MCC 63: Winter War Jan. 27 at Hy-Vee Hall in Des Moines, choking his opponent into submission.
“It felt pretty amazing,” the 2014 Greene County graduate said. “I’ve been putting in two-a-days for the past two months. That and school is pretty much all I’ve been doing. I just came out and put on a performance.”
I can’t think straight right now,” he added.
Forkner’s fighting roots grew in the humble surroundings of Greene County.
The amateur lightweight attended school in Paton until the eighth grade when he open enrolled at the Greene County High School. The decision altered his athletic career for the better, as he immediately made waves in the Greene County wrestling program.
As a Ram, the Paton native compiled a 103-22 career record and qualified for state his senior year. Forkner entered the 2014 state tournament ranked No. 8 at 126 pounds with a 37-4 record in tow. Unfortunately, his trip inside Wells Fargo Arena was a short-lived one, as he dropped back-to-back matches. The then senior lost to West Delaware’s Sam Phillips in the quarterfinals and Benton Community’s Dylan Beaver in the first round of consolations, ending his state tourney before it really began.
It’s been a meteoric rise for Forkner since he left the friendly confines of Greene County. He’s currently enrolled at Grand View University studying criminal justice, but still finds time to endure the rigorous training regimes of MMA fighters.
The five-foot-six-inch, 140 pound former state-qualifier is on a six fight win streak that came together in a little more than a year and a half.
Forkner first dabbled in the Mixed Martial Arts world back in 2015, working out with a friend.
The natural-born wrestler was asked to help Allyn Case train for an upcoming fight in July of that year. The experience was so uplifting, that the then life-long MMA fan was ready to make the dive into actual sparring.
His progression through the sport came quickly as he was placed on a fight card that next month, in August.
“I have always been a fan of MMA, but after training with Allyn he contacted (MCC promoter) Rick Tasler and got me my first MMA fight,” Forkner said.
The young MMA specialist has honed his skills under the guidance of Charles Heller with Team Bad Intentions in Des Moines.
Forkner’s lone loss came just a few months after his debut when he fell by unanimous decision to Skyler Rice in Fight Night at the Laramar 9 in October 2015 in Fort Dodge.
Three of the 20-year old’s seven wins have come by the way of knockout, with the four others by submission – he rarely leaves the outcome to the decision of the judges.
Forkner began to truly hit his stride last summer, winning three championship belts over a busy stretch of fights. The momentous summer has been the highlight of his career up to this point, one that’s sure to sparkle even more.
Of course, Forkner isn’t the first local fighter to find success in the Midwest Cage Championship. UFC’s Johnny Case, a Jefferson native, compiled a 6-1 career record in MCC, winning five consecutive championships. Case was impressed with Forkner’s choke hold Jan. 27, glowing at how difficult it was to pull off, though he said Forkner did it with ease.
The county support was in full force at Hy-Vee Hall in downtown Des Moines, as one fan estimated there must’ve been at least 150 Greene County residents taking in the fight card.
Forkner was certain his MCC 63 opponent would be the aggressor in the first round. But that quickly changed as the former Ram wrestler lifted Acosta (5-3) off the ground and body slammed him back to earth just a minute in. Forkner parlayed the early dominance into a flurry of punches that landed squarely on his opponents face, sending the crowd into a frenzy. At that point, Forkner knew he had Acosta right where he wanted him. He even tried to submit the Minnesota native in the opening round.
“I thought he was going to come out throwing overhands like he normally does. He wasn’t throwing anything like that though,” Forkner said. “I almost had him in that first round at full mount before the stoppage.”
The second round was all Forkner, as he countered each of Acosta’s moves and took him to the ground with ease. The Paton resident whipped out his signature finish, calling back to a move he learned in the Greene County wrestling room, countering a last ditch attempt by Acosta.
“He threw that leg kick, I caught it and took him down,” Forkner said. “I’m known in the gym as the ‘wrestler’ and the ‘north-south choke’ person, and I finished it with that.”
The former Rams’ next fight is set for March 24 at Caged Aggression 19: Clash of Champions in Davenport at the River Center. The 140-pound fighter will square off against Dominic Martin (5-4) in the 155 pound title match. It’ll be Forkner’s fourth championship bout in less than a year.
Martin is ranked 30th in the state in the featherweight division.
The fight is just another check point on Forkner’s list of goals on his way to the pros. Growing as a fighter will come naturally as well.
“I want to get two more tough opponents in the amateur ranks and make the move to professional,” Forkner said. “I just want it to get tougher and tougher.”