Fight Night Challenge returned last Saturday, November 22nd, to the Main Street Arena, in Charlottesville, for their final show of 2014. As of the day before the event, Central VA fight fans were going to be treated to a stacked card, featuring three title fights. As is the case in amateur MMA, however, you sometimes have to embrace quick and sudden change and that was the case for this event. Aside from the usual undercard fighters pulling out or not showing up, two of the scheduled title fights ran into issues. The Co-Main Event, which was to pit Roque Zapata vs. Shaun Spath for the FNC Bantamweight title, was scrapped entirely due to a weight miss by Spath and the Zapata camp turning down the fight in light of it. The main event, featuring a rematch between Pablo Garcia and Chris Rollins, for Rollins’ Featherweight title, was turned into a non-title match, due to Garcia missing weight, as was the case in their inaugural match in July. However, with all the change, matchmaker Mike Stanley did a commendable job of plugging the holes and putting together another entertaining fight card, just as Fight Night Challenge fans are accustomed to seeing.
The night could be summarized by four F’s: Favorites, Finishes, Fouls, and Futures. Favorites alluding to the fan favorite fighters on the card, such as David Riner, Jacob Ashley, Mike Butler, Carlos Martinez, Robbie Lillard and the namesake of “Rocket Nation”, Chris Rollins. Half of these favorites came away with W’s, including Riner, Butler and Lillard.
This card had 6 finishes all together, and none were more impressive than what was delivered by Kai Thai’s Daryl Jones. Jones competed against Matthew Ferguson in the one title fight that remained on the card. This one was for the FNC Middleweight belt. Jones, who holds the FNC Lightweight title, jumped up two weight classes to go for his second strap in the promotion. His opponent, Ferguson, who trains at Disciple MMA and had a distinct height and reach advantage over the shorter, stockier, Jones, didn't get a chance to use those advantages as Jones employed the same powerful and smothering tactics he employed to defeat Corey Brown for the Lightweight title in January. He locked up Ferguson early, got him to the mat and kept him there until he was able to lock in a rare and extremely painful finishing move, called a calf slicer. A compression lock, the calf slicer sees the fighter use his or her shin as a fulcrum. The fighter presses the calf into the bone of the leg causing immense pain as the muscle compresses. This usually causes an instant tap from an opponent, as it did from Ferguson.
A foul was the very thing that gave The Hive’s Brian Dawson his third consecutive win, albeit by disqualification. While they were both on the ground, his opponent, Jack Ruppert, was caught in a tight arm bar. In an attempt to break the hold, Ruppert delivered two kicks to the cranial area of Dawson, forcing an immediate break in the action by referee Mike Taft. Taft deducted a point from Ruppert for the foul, and the doctor attended to Dawson during the break. It was determined that due to the injury suffered from the kicks, Dawson could not continue. Therefore, Taft disqualified Ruppert and gave Dawson the aforementioned third win in a row and second win in two weeks for the pride of Boones Mill, VA.
The fourth and final F stands for futures. Saturday’s fight card saw several new faces to the promotion, along with some familiar ones. Disciple MMA’s Evan Green is one of those new faces. Green fought FNC fan favorite and Fight Night Challenge veteran, Carlos Martinez, who fights out of MMA Institute-Charlottesville. Green fought for another promotion in September and showed a vast improvement between that fight and this one as he battled, the always tough, Martinez to a unanimous decision victory in their Muay Thai rules fight. At 18 years of age, if he can continue to improve at the rate he is improving, his future could be a bright one.
Another new face on the scene was James Dunn, a Featherweight out of Team RAM, in Lynchburg. Dunn, who kept a foot to the floor pace, decimated his opponent, Jonathan Vernon by securing a head and arm choke in the second round for the victory. With the power, speed and endurance that Dunn exhibited, he will not be a fun match up for other Featherweights.
The future also looks bright for FNC favorites Robbie Lillard and Chris Rollins, as well as Rollins' opponent, Pablo Garcia. Lillard, who at just 18 years of age, now has a record of 7-2, according to The Underground, and holds a title in another organization, may be looking at a shot at the Fight Night Challenge Lightweight belt, very soon.
Hopefully the future will hold a rematch of our pick for Fight of the Night, between Charlottesville Jiu Jitsu & Muay Thai’s Jacob Ashley and MMA Institute-Charlottesville’s Mike Butler. This fight between two high level grapplers turned into a striking war, at least in the first round. Ashley dropped Butler with a powerful knee right on the chin and went on to open a deep gash between the eyes of Butler. In a seesaw round, Butler came back and was able to deliver some strikes of his own and get Ashley to the ground. The first round could have gone either way, and ultimately was what determined the fight’s outcome. Round two was all Ashley, as he forced Butler to defend finishing move after finishing move on the ground. Butler did not appear in serious trouble of being submitted, but was tied up and controlled the entire round. Round three was all Butler. After he gained an advantage on the feet, Ashley pulled guard and Butler remained on top for the entire third round. The judges scored it a split decision, for Butler, which was met with dismay from the majority of the audience, but holds re-match potential for the future.
Rollins, who came up short due to a technical submission loss to Garcia made that fight his last in the amateur ranks and will be turning pro for his next fight. The fight that everyone was looking forward to, the rematch versus Garcia, did not disappoint. Again, due to Garcia missing weight, Rollin’s title was not on the line and both camps agreed to 3 five-minute rounds, instead of the 3 three-minute rounds they fought in their first encounter. Both fighters came out swinging, as if to say they weren't going to need the first five minutes of the fight. Rollins landed with the kitchen sink, including punches, kicks and some heavy knees and hurt Garcia, taking the wind right out of him, after the difficult weight cut from the day before. However, the one thing that is so unique to Pablo Garcia is that when he is hurt and at his most vulnerable, that is when he is most dangerous. Rollins looked to have Garcia on the brink of defeat on numerous occasions, but Garcia, fighting solely on heart, would fire back and catch Rollins with shot after shot. As was the case in their first fight, Garcia went back to his wrestling roots and went for takedowns when faced with adversity. Rollins did a better job of defending them this go around, but Garcia was relentless and got Rollins to the mat on several occasions, nonetheless. Garcia, completely gassed between rounds, came back in the second and went right to the takedown, his comfort zone. He got Rollins back down and went for a head and arm choke. Rollins, who is almost impossible to choke, was able to withstand the choke, which was in place for a decent amount of time and on more than one occasion as Garcia would switch back and forth between the head and arm choke and full mount. However, as round two neared it’s end, Garcia, having transitioned to Rollin’s back, sunk in a rear-naked choke. Rollins laid motionless for several seconds, but did not tap. The unresponsiveness, from Rollins, forced referee Mike Taft to step in and call a technical submission, stating that Rollins had gone unconscious. Rollins got to his feet immediately and protested that he was not out, however, the referee’s decision stood and Garcia was victorious once again, but for the second time in a row, was unable to leave with the FNC featherweight belt. Garcia who has another fight coming up in December and perhaps a pro career in the near future, remained undefeated in his amateur career and will no doubt set the stage for a trilogy between these two, in the pro ranks.
Fight Night Challenge’s next event will take place on February 21st, 2015 and will be sure to be another action packed night. As always, MMA in VA will be there to bring you all the live results.
MMA in VA’s “Of the Night” Awards
Fight of the Night: Jacob Ashley v. Mike Butler
Submission of the Night: Daryl Jones
KO of the Night: None
Muay Thai Bouts
Evan Green d. Carlos Martinez, Unanimous Decision (29-28, 29-28, 30-27)
David Riner d. Luke Canady, Unanimous Decision (29-28, 30-27, 29-28)
Pablo Garcia d. Chris Rollins, Technical Submission (Rear-Naked Choke), Round 2, 4:39
Daryl Jones d. Matthew Ferguson, Submission (Calf Slice), Round 1, 4:52
Robbie Lillard d. Stirling Walker Bell, Submission (Triangle Choke), Round 1, 2:11
James Dunn d. Jonathan Vernon, Submission (Head & Arm Choke), Round 2, 0:43
Mike Butler d. Jacob Ashley, Split Decision (28-29, 29-28, 29-28)
Brian Dawson d. Jack Ruppert, Disqualification (Kick to the head of a grounded opponent)
John Stover d. Fadhel Benemar, Technical Submission (Rear-naked choke), Round 1, 2:17
James Neville d. Anthony Wilson, Submission (Rear-Naked Choke), Round 1, 2:43