Opponents no longer fooled by dangerous fighter's youthful looks

Lightweight standup specialist Chris Horodecki is one of the poster boys of the International Fight League, with emphasis on the "boy."

All due respect to the London, Ontario, resident, who turned 20 on Sept. 24, but his face looks like it won't get acquainted with a Gillette product for another couple of years.

The unbeaten hitter has enough of a rep by now. Foes won't look across at him and assume they have an advantage just because the 10-0 Horodecki (pronounced Horo-desk-ee) looks like he should be wrestling with Algebra II and contemplating who he should bring to the junior prom.

No foe will dismiss the fresh-faced mixed martial artist, who's still honing a ground/grappling game to go with his kickboxing skill set, because he still lives with his parents when he's not away at training camps getting ready for bouts, at XTreme Couture facility in Las Vegas (Horodecki came to the Couture gym five weeks ago, and is ecstatic with the talent pool there).

Have people underestimated him in the past because he looks so … un-grizzled?

"Absolutely, before they did," he said. "As an amateur, when we didn't know how we were fighting, it used to happen. Now it's different. People know who I am. I'm no longer a mystery. But it could still happen. I got the baby face, that's for sure."

Certainly, his next opponent, Bart Palaszewski, is well aware that Horodecki's skills wouldn't look out of place on a man 10 years older, with 20 more fights under his belt.

The two IFL lightweights, both of proud Polish origin, are due to square off in the IFL's Nov. 3 Grand Prix event at the Sears Center in Hoffman Estates, Ill. The bout will be a rematch of their Feb. 2 encounter. In that affair, Horodecki, representing the L.A. Anacondas, took a split decision win from Palaszewski, the 155-pound rep from the Iowa Silverbacks.

The match stirred up controversy, as Palaszewski (28-9) clamped on a guillotine choke at the tail end of the first round. He tried to get the baby-faced "Polish Hammer" to tap, or just go to sleep. But instead, he drove forward with his man into the ropes, and Horodecki slipped through the middle ropes.

Did he give his foe a little push, to propel himself out of the ring, and catch a break? You can see for yourself on various Internet video hubs, and study the crucial sequence with Zapruderesque diligence.

Iowa coach Pat Miletich screamed at the referee that the baby-faced martial artist was using a veteran technique of a far more seasoned sneak.

"He was in forward motion the whole time," Horodecki explains. "That was a good choke but all he had to do was sit back."

The bell rang to end that first round, and the judges then spoke after three completed frames. They deemed Horodecki the victor, but the message boards lit up with back-and-forth vitriol, between Horodecki defenders and those who saw him slither out of the choke in a less-than-honorable fashion.

The fighters, though, have steered clear of snarling soundbites.

Horodecki says they are friends, have trained together, and would've chosen not to tangle if the league didn't set it up.

"There's no animosity now. We're friends. We're going to give the fans what they want. I hope nothing bad comes out of the rematch," Horodecki told ESPN.com.

So he won't be looking to separate his opponent's head from his shoulders come Nov. 3?

"It's eat or be eaten," Horodecki replied after a pause to consider his choice of words. "It's better him than me."

Michael Woods, the news editor for TheSweetScience.com, has written for ESPN The Magazine, GQ and The New York Observer.