Syracuse Area Boxing Club Creates Champions Inside and Outside the Ring

By Jose Cuevas Syracuse, N.Y. — The West Area Athletic and Education Center has helped give kids from the inner city a positive outlet through the sport of boxing. The owner, Mr. Ray Rinaldi has a philosophy in training his boxers. “No du-rags, no having your pants low or to your ankles, and no swear words,” said Rinaldi.

“We don’t use the old system where you just come in and box, we have a classroom, we have computers, we help the kids develop as a complete person” said Rinaldi. The gym also has a classroom where GED classes are taught in partnership with the Syracuse City School District. 

Rinaldi is so confident in his training philosophy, he’s willing to make this wager:

“If you go to the school across from here, Fowler High School I bet you I sent more kids to college than they did” said Rinaldi. “These are macho kids, or kids that are looking for something…they have no chance on the streets and we are able to reach them and help them” said Rinaldi.

Head Trainer Chris Burns says the mission of the gym is to give kids a way out. “We aim to keep kids off the street and give them a safe haven where they can learn the necessary character traits to excel in school and in life” said Burns.

Rinaldi believes the sport of boxing itself teaches the kids very valuable life lessons. “If you don’t keep your hands up you get hit, you put your hand down 200 times, you’re going to get hit 200 times” said Rinaldi.

“From the beginning you listen to the coach, you keep your hands up, and it carries on, now you hear your mom yell at you when you wouldn’t in the past, now if you don’t hear your name called out by the teacher in class you perk right up, you learn to listen” said Rinaldi.

The discipline the sport demands also helps. “They learn real quick that they can’t do bad things and be a good boxer at the same time because the sport won’t allow them to do it, you think you don’t need sleep, you do, think you can drink and do drugs, you can’t…the sport demands discipline” said Rinaldi.

The gym has produced many elite fighters. “In the past couple of years this gym alone produced 12 national champions, that’s unheard of” said Rinaldi.

Those champions include:

  • Ramier Walker, 2017 National Champion
  • Antwan Hunter, 2016 Junior Olympic National Champion
  • Jaheim Hayes-Harlow, 2015 Junior Olympic National Champion

Antwan Hunter, says the gym got him ready to achieve all his goals “both coach Rinaldi and Burns are very good at boxing, they push me to do good…and they care about me” said Hunter.

This Saturday October 28th, The West Area Athletic and Education Center will be hosting a series of fights including some of their best fighters from 2 P.M. to 4 P.M. at the center on 307 S Geddes St. If you have any additional questions about the event you may contact the gym at (315) 295-0329 or on their facebook page.

HBO Boxing After Dark brings Hard Hitting Action to Central New York

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Story and photos by Jose Cuevas

Verona, N.Y. — A new champion was crowned Saturday night as HBO Boxing after Dark returned to the Turning Stone Resort and Casino.

That was just one of nine fights on the card including a match that was televised to the live crowd from across the pond in Belfast, Ireland.

It was a night that started with a TKO, included a fighter who came to the ring in a wolf mask and ended with a new champion’s fans waving the flag of Puerto Rico in the arena.
Results

Here is the fight card with the result of each bout:

Preliminary Bouts:

 Lightweights in a six-round bout Michael Dutchover (5-0, 4 KOs) defeated Anthony De Jesus (2-3, 2 KOs) via TKO in the fourth round.

Superfeatherweights in a six-round bout. Ruben Villa (7-0, 4 KOs) defeated German Meraz(54-44-1 34 KOs) via unanimous decision

Super Lightweights in a six-round bout Luis Feliciano (3-0) defeated Istvan Dernanecz (10-6, 7 KOs) via TKO in the second round.

Middleweights in a four-round bout Alex Rincon (2-0, 2 KOs) defeated Steven Andrade (3-2, 2 KOs) via TKO in the second round.

Light Heavyweights in a ten-round bout D’Mitrius Ballard (17-0, 12 KOs) defeated Jaime Solorio (9-3-2, 6 KOs) via unanimous decision

Lightweights in a ten-round bout Lamont Roach (14-0, 5 KOs) defeated Luis Hinojosa (20-12, 17 KOs) via TKO (doctor stoppage due to injury) in the first round

Middleweights in a twelve-round bout Demetrius Andrade (24-0, 16 KOs) defeated Alantez Fox (23-0-1, 11 KOs) via unanimous decision

Super Featherweights in a twelve-round bout Alberto Machado (18-0, 15 KOs) defeated Jezreel Corrales (22-1, 8 KOs) for the WBA Super Featherweight Title via KO in the eighth round

*Jezreel Corrales was stripped of the WBA belt after being four pounds over the 130 pound limit.

Notable Fights

Ruben Villa versus German Meraz

Villa slips an overhand right by Meraz (c) 2017 Jose Cuevas

With a record of (54-44-1) Meraz is what many consider a journeyman; he’s a tough guy who will probably never reach the highest echelon of boxing. However, Meraz celebrated an accomplishment on Saturday that not many fighters can claim. Saturday was his 100th professional bout. Villa won a comfortable unanimous decision against Meraz, but the accomplishment is still an impressive one.

Meraz’s trainer removes his gloves for the 100th time (c) 2017 Jose Cuevas

D’Mitrius Ballard versus Jaime Solorio

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Ballard and Solorio prepare to face off (c) 2017 Jose Cuevas

In Boxing it is customary for prospects to face journeymen in their first couple of pro fights. This is to see if they are the real deal and to prepare them for bigger fights that come down the road. D’Mitrius “Big Meech” Ballard was the prospect heading into this fight and Solorio was the rugged journeyman to test him. And did he test him.

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Solorio lands a hard right hand (c) 2017 Jose Cuevas

Ballard was on his back foot through many of the rounds as Solorio would not stop coming forward. Ballard countered Solorio’s aggression with effective counterpunches and potshots.

Solorio begins bleeding from his nose, yet remains determined (c) 2017 Jose Cuevas

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Solorio working on Ballard’s body (c) 2017 Jose Cuevas

The formula remained the same for Ballard, but Solorio made it very tough for him, consistently pushing Ballard to the ropes and landing some solid hard punches.

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Ballard is declared the winner (c) 2017 Jose Cuevas

What separates journeymen from elite fighters is their technique. That is what got Ballard through this fight. He waited patiently to counter and land effective punches. He read Solorio’s fight patterns and exploited them when he saw an opening. The fight was not easy as Solorio would not quit and gave Ballard all he had. Ultimately Ballard won via unanimous decision.

Lamont Roach Jr. versus Luis Hinojosa

Roach Jr. dedicating the fight to his trainer (c) 2017 Jose Cuevas

Roach Jr.’s trainer recently died and he dedicated the fight to him and went out looking for a decisive and memorable victory. It was memorable not for a titillating knockout, but a bizarre injury to Hinojosa’s foot.

Hinojosa suffers a foot injury that ends the fight (c) 2017 Jose Cuevas

A win is a win, but honestly I wanted this fight to end with him on the floor with a body punch or feeling his head swirl because I clipped him in the chin,” Roach, Jr. said after the fight. “This week, my team has gone from hell and back after losing my cousin, trainer, and mentor, Coach Roach. This win is a symbolism of the victories that await us because of the hard work put in by him.”

Roach Jr. declared the victor (c) 2017 Jose Cuevas

Demetrius Andrade versus Alantez Fox

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Yes, Andrade came to the ring in a wolf mask (c) 2017 Jose Cuevas

The undefeated Andrade, who came to the ring wearing a wolf mask, was making his Middleweight debut after campaigning at the Junior Middleweight division. His first test was Alantez Fox who at Middleweight has an unusually tall frame of 6’4″.
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Andrade lands a left hook on Fox (c) 2017 Jose Cuevas

The two exchanged heavy blows from round one. Andrade was consistently landing the harder and cleaner punches on Fox. You could see sweat fly from the ferocity of the punches.
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Andrade lands a vicious shot that sends sweat and Fox flying (c) 2017 Jose Cuevas

In the seventh round Fox landed a straight right hand that sent Andrade down. Andrade used his footwork to regain his composure and finish the round strong.
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Andrade reeling after being knocked down by Fox (c) 2017 Jose Cuevas

Andrade had a fire lit under him and attacked Fox with more ferocity as the fight went into the final stretch.
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Andrade lands a vicious left hook flush on Fox’s chin (c) 2017 Jose Cuevas

Fox continued to come forward and try and pressure Andrade, but Andrade’s footwork and counters were too much for Fox.
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Andrade lands a right hand (c) 2017 Jose Cuevas

Andrade was declared the victor by unanimous decision.
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Andrade declared the victor by unanimous decision (c) 2017 Jose Cuevas

 

Jezreel Corrales versus Alberto Machado

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Machado and Corrales about to face off (c) 2017 Jose Cuevas

Corrales was stripped of his WBA crown earlier due to him failing to make weight. Some wondered whether the weight advantage would help him against the tough and gritty Machado. The Turning Stone Resort and Casino was loud for the main event as many Puerto Ricans came to support Machado in his quest for his first world title.
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Machado’s corner waving the Puerto Rican Flag (c) 2017 Jose Cuevas

Corrales came out swinging as is is style. Machado took his punches well, but from round one it was destined to be a slugfest as both men kept coming forward.
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Both men landing punches at the same time (c) 2017 Jose Cuevas

Corrales drew first blood as he landed a flush left hook on Machado’s chin. The punch short-circuited his nervous system and took him down to the mat.
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Corrales lands a vicious left hook on Machado’s chin (c) 2017 Jose Cuevas

Machado came back and used his footwork to buy some time until he fully regained his composure. The fight then quickly turned into a wrestling match as Corrales took down Machado with a tackle.
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Corrales tackles Machado (c) 2017 Jose Cuevas

Machado came back and used his footwork to buy some time until he fully regained his composure. The fight then quickly turned into a wrestling match as Corrales took down Machado with a tackle.
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Machado lands the right hook that sends Corrales down (c) 2017 Jose Cuevas

The two began exchanging insults with one another in the ring. They plainly did not like each other one bit and were more determined to knock the other fighter out. Machado began timing Corrales’ aggression and started his comeback.  In the eighth round lightning struck as Machado landed a thunderous right hook on Coralles’ temple.
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Corrales is down as Machado goes to the neutral corner (c) 2017 Jose Cuevas

Your winner by KO in the 8th round and new WBA Super Featherweight Champion, Alberto Machado.
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Machado is crowned the new WBA champion (c) 2017 Jose Cuevas

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Supporters of Machado waving the Puerto Rican Flag (c) 2017 Jose Cuevas

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Machado celebrating with his fellow countrymen (c) 2017 Jose Cuevas

“I won the world title for my family and Puerto Rico,” Machado said in the post-fight interview.

 

Bellator 185: A Night of Surprises

Bellator 185: A Night of Surprises

Mousasi’s swollen right eye (c) 2017 Jose Cuevas

Bellator 185: A Night of Surprises

Story and photos by Jose Cuevas

Uncasville, Conn. — Bellator 185 was brimming with anticipation for the long-awaited debut of Gegard Mousasi Friday night at Mohegan Sun. Mousasi was a former UFC Middleweight title contender and had fought some of the best in the world. The crowd was excited to see boxing sensation Heather Hardy continue her foray into the world of MMA. The night was full of surprises, which tells you that anything is possible in the MMA Cage.

Results

Here is the fight card with the result of each bout.

Preliminary Bouts:
Dean Hancock 
defeated John Beneduce via TKO (Punches) in Round 1, time: 3:38

Pete Rogers Jr. defeated Timothy Wheeler via Submission (Guillotine Choke) in round 1, time 0:37

Joaquin Buckley defeated Venicius De Jesus via Split Decision

Costello Van Steenis defeated Steve Skrzat via TKO (Severe Elbows) Round 1, time: 2:52

Jordan Young defeated Alec Hooben via Submission (Triangle Choke) Round 1, time: 2:44

Don Shainis defeated Matt Denning via TKO (Severe punches) Round 1, time: 4:50

Vovka Clay defeated Frank Sforsza via Submission (Guillotine Choke) Round 2, time: 1:17

Kevin Carrier defeated Jose Antonio Perez via Unanimous Decision
Main Card Bouts:


Lisa Blaine
 defeated Ana Julaton via Split Decision

Ryan Quinn defeated Marcus Surin via Unanimous Decision

Kristina Williams defeated Heather Hardy via TKO (Doctor Stoppage after Severe Injuries) Round 2, time 2:00

Neiman Gracie defeated Zak Bucia via Submission (Neck Crank) Round 2, time 2:27

Gegard Mousasi defeated Alexander Shlemenko via Unanimous Decision

 

Notable Fights

 

Lisa Blaine versus Ana Julaton

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Julaton throwing a leg kick  (c) 2017 Jose Cuevas

Lisa Blaine versus Ana Julaton was a test of grit for both women. Julaton dominated the first half of the fight with her control of range and striking. She was also comfortable exchanging holds on the mat.
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Blain attempting some ground and pound (c) 2017 Jose Cuevas

Blaine managed to wrestle Julaton to the mat in the later part of the fight and land some strikes. The rounds were hotly contested but she swayed the judges in her favor heading into the third and final round.
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Both Julaton and Blaine touch gloves prior to settling their differences in the cage (c) 2017 Jose Cuevas

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Blaine landing an elbow strike (c) 2017 Jose Cuevas

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Julaton lands an upkick (c) 2017 Jose Cuevas

The third round was hotly contested. Blaine went into second gear to try to out-will her opponent.The fight ended in the center of the ring with both trying to get the upper hand and squeeze a decision or land a knockout. Blaine ultimately swayed the judges for a close but hard-fought split decision victory.
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Blaine wins via Split Decision (c) 2017 Jose Cuevas

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Both fighters embrace after a tough fight (c) 2017 Jose Cuevas


Kristina Williams versus Heather Hardy

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Hardy trying to throw a left hook (c) 2017 Jose Cuevas

Heather Hardy entered the cage for her second ever MMA Bout and many expected her to continue her winning ways. Hardy was the favorite in this fight as she has been positioned to be a star in Bellator. However, Kristina Williams in her pro debut had other plans.
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Williams lands a vicious headkick on Hardy (c) 2017 Jose Cuevas

From round one Williams asserted her dominance by exchanging with Hardy. Hardy had no answers to Williams’ arsenal of strikes and kicks.
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Hardy being examined after the 1st round (c) 2017 Jose Cuevas

As the second round commenced Williams rushed Hardy and continued to beat and batter her. The fight ended in the second round with a vicious headkick that forced the cageside doctor to examine Hardy’s wounds.
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The fight was stopped after Hardy was severely lacerated by vicious headkicks (c) 2017 Jose Cuevas

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The kick that ended the fight (c) 2017 Jose Cuevas

Gegard Mousasi versus Alexander Shlemenko

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The tale of the tape (c) 2017 Jose Cuevas

The main event was Gegard Mousasi’s highly anticipated Bellator debut against Alexander Shlemenko. The story driving this bout was how would Mousasi be able to stand toe to toe with the very tough, rugged, and hard-hitting Shlemenko. It was not an easy debut fight, despite Mousasi being a highly regarded fighter.
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Mousasi and Shlemenko touch gloves (c) 2017 Jose Cuevas

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Mousasi attempting the rear naked choke (c) 2017 Jose Cuevas

The fight began with Mousasi out-wrestling Shlemenko and continuously trying to lock in a rear naked choke.
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Mousasi’s swollen right eye (c) 2017 Jose Cuevas

However, Shlemenko showed his power and sneaked in a strike that formed a mouse on Mousasi’s right eye. The eye immediately began to swell grotesquely.
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Shlemenko lands an overhand left (c) 2017 Jose Cuevas

As the fight progressed Shlemenko began focusing on Mousasi’s eye. Mousasi was on his back foot trying to protect himself from Shlemenko’s scary strength. Mousasi had success on the mat, but Shlemenko successfully defended his rear naked choke attempts.
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Mousasi trying to get a read naked choke (c) 2017 Jose Cuevas

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Shlemenko has Mousasi down (c) 2017 Jose Cuevas

Heading into the third Shlemenko took control as Mousasi was backpedaling away from him. Shlemenko even had success on the mat as Mousasi seemed exhausted and hurt. Many in the audience believed Shlemenko won the fight as he was thoroughly in control in the third and final round.
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Shlemenko lands a left hook on Mousasi (c) 2017 Jose Cuevas

But the winner was Mousasi by unanimous decision. The crowd was irate as many believed Shlemenko had won. Both men had to be taken to the hospital after the fight for further evaluation.

 

Kristi Lopez: Academic, Nurse, and Fighter

Story, Photos, and Videos by Jose Cuevas

Verona, N.Y. – Bellator 182 at Turning Stone Resort this weekend has a stacked card consisting of 18 Mixed Martial Arts bouts. The first fight of the entire card will be undefeated Kristi “Loba” Lopez versus Jessica Sotack.

Kristi Lopez on the scale

Despite being a top Mixed Martial Arts prospect Lopez also has a very interesting backstory. Lopez holds two bachelors degrees, one in Teledramatic Arts and another in Nursing. Her studies allowed her to be a caregiver during the week while being a cagefighter over the weekend.

 Jessica Sotack (left) will take on Kristi Lopez (right) in a flyweight bout

In preparation for her upcoming fight she said she is ready and willing to engage in a slugfest with the dangerous striker Jessica Sotack.

Lopez says that Mixed Martial Arts have left a positive impact on her life and she is happy to be spending more time fighting while still working as a nurse part-time. She also talks about how Bellator is successful at promoting female fighters and how other sports can work to promote female athletes.

Bellator 182 will also feature four additional Women’s Mixed Martial Arts bouts:

                                                          Preliminary Women’s Bouts

 Sinead Kavanaugh (left) will take on Arlene Blencowe (right) in a bantamweight bout
Talita Nogueira (left) will take on Amanda Bell (right) in a featherweight bout.
 Kate Jackson (left) will take on Colleen Schneider (right) in a bantamweight bout.


Main Card Women’s Bouts    


                                                      

Bruna Ellen (left) versus Veta Arteaga (left) in a flyweight bout

You can see Kristi Lopez in action this Saturday August 25 at 6:30PM EST on Bellator.com as she kicks off the Bellator 182 prelims.

Check out Jose Cuevas’ full interview with Kristi Lopez here:

The Best Fights are Sometimes Not Televised

Story and photos by Jose Cuevas

Verona, N.Y. – Bellator 182 was an incredible event with action packed bouts. However, due to time constraints some fights were left off the Preliminary Bouts and moved after the televised portion of the card. These fight were not televised and only the people in the arena could watch them.

The final fight of the entire card was between two Central New Yorkers: Joshua Ricci from Whitesboro and Brandon Warne from Ovid.  Ricci trains at the Baldwinsville Impact Team Andrello MMA gym. Both fighters brought large entourages to the fight and the entire arena resonated with raucous cheering.

Ricci’s fans cheering him on
Warne’s fans cheering him on
Warne and Ricci both feint kick in the center of the cage

The fight was hotly contested as Warne exchanged solid strikes with Ricci. However late in the first round Ricci took Warne down and attempted a rear naked choke. Despite not being able to hold on to the maneuver he maintained ground control utilizing excellent wrestling skills.

Ricci locks in a Rear-Naked Choke

Heading into the second round a chant of “Ruthless! Ruthless! Ruthless!” rose from Ricci’s side of the crowd. Ruthless is the name of Ricci’s fight team and it was all in full support of him. Ricci maintained control but Warne would not give up refusing to allow Ricci to subdue him.

Ricci goes for a takedown and Warne stuffs (defends) it

Heading into the third round Ricci was aggressive trying to finish off Warne, but Warne remained defiant and his rooting section chanted his name.  As Warne was building momentum after stuffing Ricci’s takedown attempt, Ricci caught him in a rear naked choke again.

Warne trying to use the cage to escape Ricci’s Rear Naked Choke

As much as Warne tried to fend off the tenacious Ricci he could not.  The fight concluded and we went to the judge’s scorecards. All three gave the fight to Ricci giving him a unanimous decision to remain undefeated at 4-and-0.

Ricci was announced the winner and he celebrated with his team and fans

Some people had cleared out of the arena before the final bout and that made for a more intimate setting where the remaining crowd was split between Ricci and Warne. The local boys put on a show that rivaled the fights on the main card.

The intensity of the fans that stayed for this bout elevated the ambiance and encouraged the fighters to give it their all. Just goes to show you that the biggest fights may be the ones you never hear about.

Well, until now.

Bellator 182 Recap

Story, Photos, and Videos by Jose Cuevas

The lovely Mercedes Terrell introducing the first round of the main event


Verona, N.Y. –  Bellator 182 brought a packed house at the Turning Stone Resort and Casino Friday night and had the crowd roaring from beginning to end.

This was the first Bellator MMA event ever hosted there. Fans who attended previous events such as HBO Boxing’s Lucas Matthysse versus Ruslan Provodnikov were happy to take in the sights and enjoy some exciting fights.

The card consisted of four main televised bouts and 14 preliminary bouts.

The fights began with the preliminary (also called “pre-lims”) bouts which were cut short due to time constraints as the main card had to begin at 9 P.M. EDT because of the TV schedule. Therefore the remaining preliminary bouts became “post-lim”  fight after the main event.

Results

Here is  the fight card with the results of each bout. All bouts are in chronological order to reflect their position on the actual card the fans witnessed live.

Preliminary Bouts:

Joey Davis defeated Justin Roswell via TKO (Due to Severe Elbow Strikes) in Round 1, time: 1:35
Arlene Blencowe defeated Sinead Kavanaugh via Split Decision
Chris Honeycutt defeated Kevin Casey via TKO (due to severe punches) in Round 2, time: 2:06
Kate Jackson defeated Colleen Schneider via TKO (Due to injury) could not continue to Round 2
Georgi Karakhanyan defeated Daniel Pineda via TKO (Doctor Stoppage due to severe cut) Round 2, time: 4:05
Henry Corrales defeated Noad Lahat via Unanimous Decision
Vadim Nemkov defeated Philipe Lins via KO (punch) Round 1, time: 3:03
Talita Nogueira defeated Amanda Bell via Submission (Rear-Naked Choke) Round 1, time: 3:44
Rickey Rainey defeated Marc Stevens via Unanimous Decision

Main Card Bouts:

A.J. McKee defeated Blair Tugman via Unanimous Decision
Bruna Ellen defeated Veta Arteaga via Split Decision
Fernando Gonzalez defeated Brennan Ward via Submission (Guillotine choke) Round 3, time 1:02
Andrey Koreshkov defeated Chidi Njokuani via TKO (Due to Severe Strikes) Round 1, time: 4:08

Post-lim Fights

Kristi Lopez versus Jessica Sotack declared a Split Draw
Matt Secor defeated T.J. Summer via Submission (Americana Submission Hold) Round 1, time: 4:00
Tom Regal defeated Kastroit Xhema via KO (Severe Punches) Round 1, time: 3:21
Alex Potts defeated Brandon Polcare via Submission (Kimura Submission Hold) Round 1, time: 3:10
Joshua Ricci defeated Brandon Warne via Unanimous Decision

                                                                      Notable Fights

                                                        Joey Davis versus Justin Roswell


Joey Davis was the heavy favorite for this fight and rightfully so. Davis is coming off a stellar college career where he went 133-0. Roswell was well aware of his wrestling skills and tried to avoid a fight on the mat as he would be outclassed. However, Davis showed that he had proficient striking ability which allowed him to take the fight to the ground after landing vicious strikes and scoring a takedown.

When the fight went to the mat it was over. Davis landed vicious strikes that severely cut Roswell and made him bleed profusely. The fight was called off shortly thereafter as Davis showcased his vicious ground and pound ability.

Davis is declared the winner via TKO
Davis’ family member celebrates the victory

 

                                            Arlene Blencowe versus Sinead Kavanaugh

Blencowe and Kavanaugh exchange punches

This fight showcased exactly why Women’s MMA is booming. Neither fighter took a step back or ran away from the action. Blencowe and Kavanaugh traded punches all fight in a boxing showcase. Mayweather and McGregor will be boxing Saturday night in a fight that may not deliver, but these women put on a boxing showcase that delivered and produced excitement from the first bell to the last.

Blencowe lands a right hook on Kavanaugh

This fight had zero takedowns it was fight solely as a striking match. As the fight progressed into the second round both women’s faces were showing the results of consistent blows landing flush. By the third both were bleeding and weary but they did not take a step back. Rather they ratcheted up the intensity and finished strong. Blencowe was awarded a close split decision after the hellacious bout

Blencowe and Kavanaugh embrace eachother as a sign of respect and sportsmanship after a tough fight

                                                     Ricky Rainey versus Marc Stevens

Rainey landing his signature head kick

Not just as a play on words, but Rickey Rainey made it rain head kick last night as he continually landed them flush on Stevens’ head. The fight was competitive at moments with Stevens and Rainey trading strikes in the middle of the cage. Stevens was even able to take down Rainey in the first round but could not maintain control on the mat.

Stevens times Rainey’s kick and catches his leg

In the second, Stevens  began timing Rainey’s kicks, stuffing them and taking him down to the mat. However, a consistent theme developed of Stevens not being able to maintain control on the mat and Rainey repeatedly escaped compromising situations.

Rainey stuffs Stevens’ takedown attempt and throws vicious punches to the head

Ironically, Rainey then began timing Stevens’ takedown attempts and utilizing them to his advantage. Rainey began to stuff (defend) the takedown attempts and hit Stevens with vicious strikes to the head and obliques. At the end of the round Stevens managed to sink in a rear naked choke but was unable to finish Stevens off as he escaped the submission.

Rainey unleashes a vicious ground and pound assault

Heading into the third Rainey took control and executed group and pound while also trying to sink in a rear naked choke. Stevens spent most of the third round on the mat trying to defend himself. With his continued assault Rainey secured the victory via unanimous decision.

                                                      A.J McKee versus Blair Tugman
A.J. McKee lands a spinning back kick on Tugman

The story heading into this fight was whether McKee was going to be able to defeat the tough and talented grappler Tugman. McKee heading into this fight was 8 and 0 despite only being 22 years old. In the first round he showed us why he is considered by many to be a top prospect by doing something that many did not expect. He out-wrestled Tugman.

A.J. McKee successfully takes down Tugman
Heading into the second round McKee began causing real damage as he landed a front kick that cut Tugman. He later multiplied the damage with a hard head kick and multiple strikes to the head. Beyond just cutting and damaging Tugman, McKee took full advantage of his wingspan and long legs by controlling the distance and not allowing the wrestler Tugman to get on the inside effectively nullifying his greatest weapon. This is crucial in MMA as it allowed McKee to dictate the pace and land strikes from a safe distance while frustrating Tugman
McKee lands a headkick on Tugman
In the third round McKee landed strikes on the ground that severely cut Tugman and caused him to bleed profusely. Blood was literally squirting from his forehead. The tough Tugman showed a glimmer of hope as he positioned himself into a guillotine choke but lost his grip and McKee yet again took control. McKee was declared the victor by unanimous decision.
A.J McKee is declared the winner
                                                      Bruna Ellen versus Veta Arteaga
 
Bruna Ellen faces off with Veta Arteaga in the center of the cage

Women’s MMA is booming and this fight showed why technically female athletes can deliver just as much if not even more than their male counterparts. Arteaga was cheered on by her young daughter seated cage-side, while Ellen’s team and Brazilian fans cheered vigorously for her. The first round consisted laregelyof Ellen slipping Arteaga’s strong strikes, although she did receive a couple of blows to the head. At the culmination of the first round Ellen successfully took down Arteaga which would be her key to victory as the fight progressed.

Ellen executing some ground and pound

The second round seemed to be going Ellen’s way as she continued to control distance and successfully take down Arteaga. However, later in the round Arteaga rolled through a rear naked choke attempt and began viciously beating Ellen. She didn’t keep her down but she finished strong and maintained control on her feet. It seemed as if the fight was even heading into the third with the fighters winning one round apiece.

Ellen executing a takedown
Ellen utilized what most likely won her the fight, her takedowns. Arteaga had no answer to Ellen’s takedowns and ground game in the third round. Ellen seemed to gain confidence after a tough second round and even attempted a beautiful flying knee strike which barely missed. Ellen won the bout via split decision.
Ellen was very happy with her performance and said that she trained extensively in camp to prepare for this fight. She also said that she loves what she does and is looking forward to fight again in the near future.

Here is video of the post fight interview with Bruna Ellen.

Bellator Women’s Featherweight champion was cage-side for the action
                                             Fernando Gonzalez versus Brennan Ward
 
Ward and Gonzalez face off in the center of the cage
This fight promised to be a barn burner given the styles clash between the two fighters. Ward is known to be an aggressive and fan-friendly fighter, while Gonzalez was the wily veteran who patiently looks for an opening to capitalize on. Surprisingly Ward flipped the script and seemed very composed early on. Ward methodically landed strikes and even takedowns while not conceding many openings. It looked as if the memory of his previous loss via a flying knee forced him to keep his movement intentional and fundamentally sound.
Gonzalez lands a strong head kick on Ward
As the second round commenced Ward continued to fight well and remained composed. Gonzalez however began sneaking in kicks and punches which didn’t seem to faze Ward too much, but you could tell he was wary of Gonzalez’s power. The round continued to go Ward’s way as he took down Fernandez and secured the round.
Gonzalez locks in a Guillotine Choke
Ward was comfortably leading the fight heading into the third by being composed and intentional in his game plan. However little did he know that Gonzalez was collecting data on him to later capitalize on his mistakes. Shades of Ward’s last bout reared their head when he took a sloppy takedown attempt and was instantly caught by Gonzalez in a tight guillotine choke. Gonzalez used all of leverage and in a few seconds the fight was over as Ward tapped out. Ward’s mental lapse cost him a fight that he would’ve most likely won, but Gonzalez showed us why patience is a virtue.
Gonzalez declared the victor

Gonzalez was happy with his performance and told us that it was all part of the plan to collect data on Ward throughout the early rounds. He is looking forward to his next fight and hoping to get in title contention. Lastly, he also discusses the issue of not being able to make weight.

Here is the full post fight interview with Fernando Gonzalez.

                                             Andrey Koreshkov versus Chidi Njokuani

Main event time! This fight was a fight of the year candidate given Koreshkov’s resume and Njokuani’s seven-fight win streak. From early on you could tell this fight was not going to last long as Koreshkov landed a spinning backfist that resonated like a gun shot. That was the beginning of the end for Njokuani and his winning streak.

Koreshkov unleashes a deadly flying knee to Njokuani’s gut

Koreshkov had no mercy on Njokuani as he violently pounced on him. He severely hurt Njokuani with a vicious flying knee to the midsection that hurt him. From press row it sounded like a series of gunshots whenever Koreshkov hit Njokuani. After an accumulation of strikes on his feet Koreshkov took Njokuani to the mat.

Andrey Koreshkov annihilating Chidi Njokuani with vicious ground and pound

It was over once Koreshkov took Njokuani to the ground. Koreshkov threw all his weight behind his punches and commenced a relentless attack on Njokuani. Legendary MMA referee “Big John” McCarthy stopped the bout as Njokuani did not respond and Koreshkov would not stop delivering lethal blows. Koreshkov won the bout via TKO.

Koreshkov was very happy with his performance and sent a warning to Bellator Welterweight Champion Douglas Lima and contender Rory Mcdonald saying “I’m coming for my belt so be ready!”

Koreshkov also revealed that he was very upset with Njokuani as he refused to make their contracted weight even when Koreshkov gave him the opportunity to. Koreshkov said that he felt the need to discipline him in the ring as he felt disrespected.

Here is the full post fight interview with Andrey Koreshkov.