PunchDrunk w/ Shamrock FC's Dakota Zimmerman

If a person were to tell you to paint a picture in your mind of a laid back yet social type, an attractive, multi-sport athlete from the Midwest- with one of those sports being cheerleading- you’d probably think that you have a decent rough sketch of Dakota Zimmerman.Then she’d drop the hammer(fist) on what you think you know.

The Bethalto, Illinois resident and graduate of Civic Memorial High School is a burgeoning mixed martial artist under Shamrock Fighting Championships. The St. Louis-area promotion has sent many a fighter on to Bellator MMA, one of the top promotions in the world along with the UFC.

At 19-years-old, Zimmerman just graduated in 2014, looks to return to Lindenwood University (where she once wrestled for the Linx of Belleville, Illinois), and is currently working in the warehouse of a technology company. She would otherwise be too young to enter the venues, often casinos, that she finds herself in as a competitor. Oh, and she’s fresh off of her first win in the cage-- a referee stoppage-necessitating TKO.

After charging at her opponent right out of the gate, Zimmerman paid the price early.

“I literally run to the middle of the ring and she [Michelle Ray] just walked out there. I wanted her to know that I was there, that I was present, and that I was ready to go. She actually knocked me around [in] the first round a couple times, so me going out and doing that didn’t necessarily do what I wanted it to at first... her beating me in the first round kind of made me get my head together, honestly…”

Zimmerman was rocked by a series of left hooks from Ray, but was later able gather her bearings thanks to her cornermen, John Menke and Jose Salinas. She came out for the second a smarter fighter, but still looking for blood. A hurricane of right hands connected on Ray as the action started again.

With the left arm of Ray wrapped around the neck of Zimmerman as they clinched against the cage, the former CM Eagle found her opening and unloaded a barrage of lefts as Ray was unable to defend. Momentum then slowly started to shift in Zimmerman’s favor as Ray suffered a one point deduction due to an illegal 12-6 (direct downward) elbow to the spine as Zimmerman looked for a double-leg takedown.

The pair then entered the final frame of the fight; Ray emerged with a cut on the bridge of her nose from the second. Then, as if Ray had lost all peripheral vision, it appeared that every right straight and left hook in Zimmerman’s next assaulting combo found a place to crash land. The official had seen enough.


Zimmerman knows she has a long way to go on what will hopefully be a path to success, but the Strawweight (115 lbs.) knows that it is possible not just because of Ronda Rousey, but because the proof is roughly just an hour down the road in Hillsboro, Illinois’ favorite son and UFC Hall of Fame member: Matt Hughes.

Already one bout in, Zimmerman is aware of a possible side effect of success.

“I had different reactions from different people. Most people are really excited for me and completely one hundred percent support me, and some people that never really talked to me before were trying to be my best friend, but that’s with anything that happens that makes your name a little bit bigger than it was before.”

With everything going her way and training picking up, life (and two cars) came to a screeching halt. The next time Zimmerman walked into her home gym- The War Room in Wood River, Illinois- would be a month after being the victim of a hit-and-run incident that resulted in three flips and left her crawling out of a window.

The list of injuries included: rash, an infection in her arm, glass in both her hands and knees, and a concussion.

“This past Monday was my first day back and my cardio is questionable right now but...I don’t stop until I literally can’t feel my body and if I’m collapsing then I collapse”, she said.

Zimmerman hopes to fight for Shamrock FC again in December as she continues to move closer to the next level.

“It’s surreal really. I never thought that I would make it even as far as I have, and I’ve only had one fight…I don’t give myself limits...I will always have time to make myself better as a fighter and I will be striving for the next best thing.”