There was not an empty seat at the Roanoke Moose Family Center #284, on Saturday night, as fight fans filled the capacity to see their favorite local fighters compete at Elite Warrior Challenge 15. EWC has been mixing up their combat sports cards, of late, to include several different combat sports. March 10th’s card consisted of all amateur and professional mixed martial arts bouts.
It’s often disappointing when an event’s feature bout doesn’t live up to the billing, as the top fight of the night. However, the final bout of the night, between former EWC amateur champions, Chris Rollins and James Ronsick, did not disappoint. Both pro fighters were coming off of losses, in their last bouts, and were greatly in need of a win to get momentum back on their side. The fight was largely one-sided, as Rollins utilized his ever-present cardio to put on a three-round striking clinic against the North Carolina native, Ronsick. Although the scales were tilted in favor of Rollins from an offensive output perspective, there can be no doubt that Ronsick left the event with everyone’s respect as he displayed a level of heart and determination that will be hard to find comparison. Ronsick, largely heralded as a grappler, was simply unable to execute his game plan, which had to have been to get the fight to the mat and as a result took 15 minutes of punishment as Rollins delivered an effective mix of strikes, leg kicks and at least 4 head kicks that would have dropped a lesser fighter. Ronsick did have his moments on the feet, but the volume and effectiveness just weren’t present. The judges felt the same and awarded Rollins a clean sweep of each round on the way to a 30-27 x 3 unanimous decision. With the W, Rollins has now won 2 out of his last 3 and was a split decision away from being on a three fight win streak.
The knockout of the night came from the amateur portion of the card, during the lightweight title bout between Team R.O.C.’s Justin Starks and Charlottesville BJJ’s Gordon Emery. Emery, a Brazilian jiu-jitsu black belt was making his heralded MMA debut and had the biggest pop of the night from the crowd. Both fighters were looking to lay claim to the vacant title that was last held by Starks’ teammate, Paris Artis, who vacated the belt to turn pro. The narrative for this fight, going in, was whether or not Starks could keep the fight standing and avoid the danger that loomed from Emery’s extensive ground game. Well, Starks was successful in calamitous fashion as an overhand right connected at the 27-second mark and ended Emery’s night prior to it getting started. Emery crashed to the canvas, after the right connected and unfortunately had to endure two additional, forceful, right hands to the head, as he appeared to be already out. After several moments, Emery was able to be helped to his feet and later in the night accompanied his featured figher, Chris Rollins, to the cage for his bout. It was a violent win for the new amateur lightweight champion, Starks.
The submission of the night was not the quickest submission that occurred on the card, as that honor went to Joshua Oxendine. However, the MMA in VA pick for sub of the night went to debuting pro, Paris Artis. Artis, the afore-mentioned former EWC amateur lightweight champion, was making his debut against local fan favorite, Chad Wiggington, in the EWC pro lightweight division. Although not a busy fighter, since turning pro in 2015, Wiggington and his wrestling background have always been formidable and he has always been a gamer. Artis, the much larger of the two fighters would have to face that wrestling ability early, as Chad went right in for a takedown in the early portion of the first round, however, was unsuccessful. Ultimately, it was Artis who got the fight to the mat and spent most of the round controlling Wiggington, sinking in a number of submission attempts and employing ground and pound that opened a nasty cut over Wiggington’s left eye. Artis definitely won the first round and it was more of the same in the second as Artis landed a head kick that sent Wiggington stumbling backwards toward the canvas. Artis pounced and worked in a rear-naked choke at the 1:03 mark of the 2nd, forcing Wiggington to submit. Even though Wiggington was fighting two weight classes higher than his last bout, he has never been handled, like Artis handled him, and hasn’t been submitted since 2012, when he was an amateur. That’s back to back finishes over two high level grapplers, for Artis, who will look to hold onto the EWC pro lightweight title for the foreseeable future.
Other highlights included the afore mentioned submission by Joshua Oxendine, over the previously undefeated Jacob Cosgro, one minute and 26 seconds into the first stanza. With the victory came the amateur flyweight belt, one day prior to his birthday. Quite the present for Oxendine.
There is a new problem in the flyweight/bantamweight divisions, with the arrival of Charlottesville BJJ’s Jose Barrena. Barrena, in a 130-pound catchweight bout, looked far from a debuting fighter as he utilized great movement, punching combos and body kicks to overwhelm Samuel One-Bull in the opening fight of the night.
Marcus Levester notched his first pro victory, defeating Rick Caruso by TKO at the 29-second mark of the opening round. Caruso looked to have been out when his head hit the canvas, following the punch, possibly waking him back up. Levester landed one or two more shots, one of which appeared to momentarily make Caruso’s body go limp, once again. With that shot, referee Wayne Spinola, stepped in and waved off the fight. However, at that moment, Caruso was conscious and shooting for a single leg on Levester. After the fight had been waved off, Caruso stood on his own but was stumbling backwards as he was protesting the stoppage. Spinola appeared to be countering Caruso’s protest by gesturing to the fact that Caruso’s legs were still wobbly as he was protesting. It was a flashy way for Levester to get his first pro win and an equally heartbreaking way for Caruso to have the night end, in his return to MMA, after a three and a half year absence.
Last, but certainly not least, Dreon Martin 2.0 arrived on the scene. Winless in his prior three pro bouts, Martin took on North Carolina fighter, Kevin Schroder in the EWC featherweight division. Martin had not competed at featherweight as a pro and had actually competed as high as welterweight. So, the questions (not in his mind) coming into the fight were could he make the weight that he hadn’t seen since later in his amateur career and would the cut take a toll on his performance in the fight. The answers were a resounding yes and no, respectively, as Martin made the weight with no problem and after the first round, barely appeared to be breathing more than a normal pace, in his corner. What also made itself known was Martin’s ground game, which had rarely been showcased in his prior bouts, of late. Martin, whose prior wins were comprised 50% of knockouts, was able to get Schroder to the mat and spend considerable time in top control. In the second round, Schroder tried to work toward some top time of his own, but seemed uninterested in relinquishing a takedown attempt, against the cage, as he must have absorbed 20 uncontested elbows to his head, by Martin. The cumulative effect of those elbows finally forced Schroder to drop to the mat, where Martin followed and landed punches until the referee stepped in and waved off the fight. Dreon Martin, 2.0, put on the most complete performance of his career and helped him notch his first pro victory.
Lastly, on a side note, there is a new commentator on the scene, as pro fighter, Brandon Pennington, made his debut and showed that he is a natural. Brandon showed extensive knowledge about the fighters and showed a natural charisma on the broadcast.
For a complete rundown of the final results, check out the Tapology event page.
EWC’s next MMA event will be held on May 19th.