Charlottesville-based Fight Night Challenge returned to the Main Street Arena, in Charlottesville, VA, on Saturday, April 25th. Due to inclement weather that caused the cancellation of their February show, this was the amateur promotion’s inaugural event of 2015.
The 2015 FNC debut consisted of 13 bouts, made up of 11 MMA and 2 Muay Thai. Represented on the card were gyms from all over the states of VA, NC and MD and all age groups of fighters, from 15 to 40. Regardless of age or location, combatants were ready to put their skills on display.
The first fight was over almost before the crowd got comfortable in their seats, as Disciple MMA’s Bryan Lim overwhelmed his opponent, MMA Institute’s David Riner, in 18 seconds with a guillotine choke.
MMA Institute’s Mark Weisenborn, making his amateur debut, had pressure on his shoulders to not only look good in his debut, but to win and get MMAI in the win column and look good he did. The tall, lanky Weisenborn looked like anything but a debuting fighter as he used his range and ground defense, in very impressive fashion to come away with a unanimous decision victory over Team R.O.C.’s Jason Joyce. Weisenborn will be a fighter to watch in the Featherweight division.
A fighter already on our watch list was Disciple MMA’s Desmond Torres. The Osbourn Park High School Senior, with his wrestling pedigree and propensity to finish fights early, needed a little more time to finish his opponent, Morgan Stamper, than he’d needed in his prior two first round finishes, but not much more. With his prior two wins taking just a total time of 2:57 combined, Torres submitted Stamper at the 2:26 mark of the first, after he tried to do what no other fighter had previously done to Torres, pressure him. Stamper, who fights out of The Pit, in Roanoke, VA, came out of the shoot trying to overwhelm Torres. Desmond weathered the storm and got the victory, to improve to 3-0, in his young career.
Another young career was beginning, as Disciple’s Brandon Williams was set to take on MMA Institute’s Jesse Gibson, in a Muay Thai bout.
In what turned out to be a back and forth war, that took the honor of being named our Fight of the Night, Gibson won a razor thin unanimous decision. The win by Gibson was a redeeming moment of a year-long battle. Gibson’s last fight, in March of 2014, was stopped early due to Gibson suffering a cut that the referee deemed too bad to continue. However, he faced a much tougher fight, merely two months later, as he was fighting for his life and his leg, after being resuscitated on an Emergency Room table and then being told that he would have to have his leg amputated due to the severity of the infection in that leg. Gibson refused and embarked on a long road of healing and recovery, fueled by the same determination that allowed him to grit out the win against Williams, many years his junior.
The loudest fight of the night honor went to a war between two fighters that may not even be juniors in high school. Team R.O.C.’s rising star, 15-year old Tommy Cuozzi, who was accompanied from Eden, NC by 90 of his closest friends, family and teammates, ran it back against an opponent he was one up on, in MMA & Sport’s Antonio Ortega. The two teens squared off in March of last year in the same FNC cage, with Cuozzi securing a unanimous decision victory. Cuozzi, who seems to have become Charlottesville’s adopted son, showed a new wrinkle that we haven’t seen before. Always known for his ground fighting acumen, Cuozzi opened this fight with a head kick that took Ortega completely by surprise and to the mat, where Cuozzi pounced and worked a guillotine choke for the first round victory.
The crowd’s eyes had barely dried from Jesse Gibson’s post-fight interview, in the prior fight, only to witness the outpouring of emotion from Tommy as he embraced his Dad, Tom Sr., who is one of his coaches and was cornering his namesake. Once the tears turned to smiles, Cuozzi proceeded to give a post-fight speech, that most pro fighters haven’t mastered yet, where young Tommy was able to eloquently thank anyone and everyone that helped him get to this stage, including his sponsors. If fighting doesn’t work out, a political career or a career in business could be on the horizon.
As the youth movement continued, Disciple MMA’s Wes Reeves, a Freedom High School Senior, faced off against 8 Corners MMA’s Corey Champion. Reeves, an accomplished wrestler that took 3rd in the Virginia High School League 2015 wrestling tournament at 138 lbs. would test his skills against Champion, who also has a wrestling background. Reeves and Champion were evenly matched early on in the fight, but Reeves used his strength advantage and wrestling prowess to wear down Champion and finally used his Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, taught to him by his father, Disciple MMA Coach and Pro MMA fighter, Dave Reeves, to flatten Corey out and submit Champion in the 2nd round.
The FNC Heavyweight Title hung in the balance of the Main Event, as the FNC Super-Heavyweight Champ, John Calloway would look to be a two division Champion, by dropping a weight class and taking on Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu Brown Belt, Chad Tyler. There was no doubt on the one of two ways this fight would go. If it stayed standing, Calloway had the advantage and if it went to the ground, that was Tyler’s world. The latter of the two ended up being the case and Tyler secured a quick first round submission and claimed Fight Night gold.
Fight Night Challenge will return to the Main Street Arena on June 27th, where the cool comfort of the ice rink will be a haven from the Summer heat. You can follow Fight Night Challenge for those fight updates and other news at www.fightnightchallenge.com.
MMA in VA’s “Of the Night” Awards
FIGHT OF THE NIGHT
Ryan MacDonald: Brandon Williams v. Jessie Gibson
Felix Falcon: Brandon Williams v. Jessie Gibson
KNOCKOUT OF THE NIGHT
Ryan MacDonald: Todd Holshouser
Felix Falcon: Damon Minor
SUBMISSION OF THE NIGHT
Ryan MacDonald: Bryan Lim
Felix Falcon: Tommy Cuozzi
Chad Tyler d. John Calloway, Submission (Kimura), Round 1, 2:20
Todd Holshouser d. Mason Hamer, TKO, Round 3, 1:05
Wes Reeves d. Corey Champion, Submission (Rear-Naked Choke), Round 2, 2:33
Tommy Cuozzi d. Antonio Ortega, Submission (Guillotine Choke), Round 1, 2:44
Damon Minor d. Mike Scafate, TKO, Round 2, 1:07
James Neville d. Jerrod Leary, Submission (Americana), Round 1, 1:32
Josh Kearney d. Nick Panero, Submission (Kimura), Round 1, 1:34
Jarrett Bryant d. Stirling Walker Bell, Submission (Strikes), Round 2, 0:36
Desmond Torres d. Morgan Stamper, Submission (Rear-Naked Choke), Round 1, 2:26
Mark Weisenborn d. Jason Joyce, Unanimous Decision (29-28, 30-27, 30-27)
Bryan Lim d. David Riner, Submission (Guillotine), Round 1, 0:18
Jessie Gibson d. Brandon Williams, Unanimous Decision (29-27, 29-28, 29-28)
Beau Gutridge d. Ramy Yacoub, Unanimous Decision (29-28, 30-27, 29-28)