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Combat Zone Returns with a Bang!

Updated: Nov 2, 2021

It's been almost two years since The Armory at the Doubletree Hotel in downtown Manchester has been rockin' with MMA action. New England's longest running promotion, Combat Zone MMA, calls the venue home, and they haven't held an event since January of 2020 due to the covid pandemic. The promotion is owned and run by UFC featherweight Calvin Kattar and his brother Jamison, while the fights are matched by Jerome Brashears. The trio and their crew rolled into ManchVegas on Friday night to put on their 74th event since 2003.

Combat Zone 74: Now or Never was a well balanced mix of MMA, Kickboxing, and grappling, that showcased a number of local talents in front of a raucous crowd that filled the venue with an incredible energy all night. I've been to a number of Combat Zone events at The Armory, but I've never seen a crowd this big, loud, and passionate from the first fight to the last. At one point I tried to make my way back to the concession area to grab a bite, but swimming through the sea of people proved to be a daunting task, and the lines for grub were too long for my liking, so I made my way back to my cageside seat with the understanding that I wouldn't be eating until the late night ride home.

The lighting was on point, the audio was great, and the promotion showed off a new black canvas that really gave the fights an updated feel. Their old blue mats were cool and all, but it was a little played out, and the canvas update really looked sharp.

Beyond the aesthetics, the card was matched really well by Brashears, and the entertainment value that CZ 74 provided throughout the night was truly impressive. The event had a plethora of knockouts, knockdowns, and stand up wars, but there was also some solid grappling displayed and a few back and forth battles that kept fans on the edge of their seats. What sticks out to me the most from the night was the number of highlight real KO's that were dealt out, and the deafening response from the capacity crowd each time. An historic night for an historic promotion in our region.

Spencer Payne Claims Gold in an Epic Way

If you haven't seen Spencer Payne (4-0) fight yet, do yourself a favor and make sure you grab a ticket to the next card that he's fighting on. Spencer Payne is a bad, bad man...... The Ginsberg MMA product was 3-0 coming into this amateur middleweight championship bout against a very tough Carlton Charles (3-3). He was also the #1 ranked ammy middleweight in New England in our rankings, and when he left the cage Friday night, there was no doubt in anyone's mind who the best amateur 185er in the region was.

After a first round that saw Payne just miss with a number of haymakers, he eventually got a takedown and started to work for an arm triangle. He wasn't able to lock it up tight, and Charles did a good job defending before the bell rang.

The 2nd round was a different story, as Payne eventually landed a hellish head kick that connected flush on Charles' jaw, and sent him careening to the canvas! Charles' head slammed against the mat, and that force seemed to have woken him up from the knockout blow. Payne didn't find it necessary to follow up, as referee John English appropriately stepped in to call and end to the fight, and crowned Spencer Payne the new Combat Zone amateur middleweight champion.

It was an impressive performance for the #1 ranked Payne. His striking looks incredibly sharp and powerful, which is somewhat surprising, as you'd expect him to be more of a grappler training under BJJ blackbelt Dave Ginsberg, but what we've found out about Payne is that his striking is probably his most dangerous asset. I'm not sure what Payne's plans are for the future, but this guy is a high-level amateur that should have a successful run in the pro ranks. We haven't seen him tested yet, but what we have seen so far out of Spencer Payne is utter dominance in his first 4 amateur MMA bouts. He's dispatched two high-level amateur middleweights in Jeff Reynolds (2-2) and Carlton Charles, and he's made it look easy. Keep an eye out for this guy, as he's got a shot to make a serious run at the next level.

The New England Cartel Grabs Two Wins on Their Home Turf

With New England Cartel team member Calvin Kattar owning the promotion, this is a perfect setting for getting his teammates some exposure in their own backyard. This was exactly the case for Nick Fiore (3-0) and Tom Pagliarulo (3-0), as both were able to perform, and win, in front of their local fanbases.

Tom Pagliarulo has made a statement very quickly in his young professional career. The Haverhill, Mass native was 2-0 coming into his bout against Elias Jose De Oliveira (0-1), and the former #1 ranked amateur featherweight in the region didn't disappoint, as he dispatched Oliveira in brutal fashion 11 seconds into the very first round. Pags was coming off dominant victories over Shawn Stefanelli (0-1) and Josh Hardy (0-1) this year, and he now had the opportunity to perform in front of his hometown crowd with his Cartel brothers by his side.

In all honesty, I pretty much expected this fight to play out as it did. Oliveira is a BJJ practitioner who has very limited skills on the feet. Pags is a high-level striker who has a wrestling background. This is an awful combination for a single-threat MMA fighter like Oliveira. From what I've been told, Oliveira is a very good BJJ practitioner, but beyond that, he doesn't have much to offer in the other skillsets needed to be successful in MMA. This was particularly evident within the 11 seconds he was in the cage with "The Phenom". He shot in for a sloppy single leg to try and get the fight to the mat, which he knew was his only shot, but Pagliarulo was expecting it, like any well-coached fighter should, and delivered a vicious knee to the forehead of Oliveira, sending him to the mat in a fetal position with his hands protecting his head. Pags did the right thing and delivered heavy elbows until the ref stepped in to call off the carnage before our eyes.

Another stellar performance for one of the regions biggest prospects, but I'm not sure what the fight did to progress him as a fighter. Oliveira shouldn't have been sharing the cage with the level of fighter that Pagliarulo is, but I assume that Brasher didn't have many options for local fighters to line up across the cage from Pags. This will be a common theme regionally moving forward for Pagliarulo. If he wants to fight in the New England region, then the respective promotion will need to fly in some talent from outside of the region to give him some competition, because I don't see anyone at 145 in the region who wants to take a fight with "The Phenom".

The 2nd member of the Cartel who captured victory was undefeated pro Nick Fiore. Fiore's first two victories as a pro came against the same guy - Jay Ellis (15-100). Fiore stepped up in competition this go-around, as he took on a solid athlete, and dangerous striker, in Jerome Mickle (3-10).

Out of the gate Mickle was getting the better of the standup, and it looked like there may be an upset in the making. The upset bid was put to rest once Fiore gathered Mickle with a double leg takedown, and brought him to his world.....the mat. Mickle's corner yelled at their fighter as soon as his back hit the mat - "get up....we're not playing jiu-jitsu with this kid!" They had the right thought, but Mickle didn't have the skills to get back to his feet, where he wanted the fight. Fiore eventually transitioned to a mounted triangle, and rained down heavy elbows before the ref stepped in to put a stop to the fight in the first round.

Fiore and Pagliarulo both improve to 3-0 in their young careers, and have bright futures ahead of them. Look for them to keep building their stock under their teammates promotional banner in the near future.

Drew Yeadon and Joe Movsessian Blow the Roof Off the Building in a Fight of the Night Battle

There were quite a few debuting fighters on this card, and this can either work out great for a promotion, or it can backfire and present mismatches and unskilled fighters in the cage. The former definitely played out Friday night in Manchester, as there were a number of intriguing and entertaining fights that pitted debuting fighters against each other.

The one amateur fight that stole the show was Drew Yeadon (1-0) from Regiment Training Center, against Joe Movsessian (0-1) from Zichelle MMA. Both fighters were making their amateur MMA debut, while Yeadon was from a well established gym in the region, Movsessian was the 1st MMA fighter to come out of the recently established Zichelle MMA, which is owned and operated by long-time New England MMA veteran, Mike Zichelle.

Over the course of 3 rounds, Yeadon and Movsessian threw down in a standup war that saw both of them delivering flash knockouts on the other, and almost ending the fight. In the 1st round Yeadon landed a beautiful right cross to Movsessian's chin, sending him to the canvas, but Movsessian quickly recovered and got back to his feet before Yeadon could pounce.

Both fighters were displaying some high-level striking skills, which was crazy to watch as both were making their debuts. Both Yeadon and Movsessian were finding success through the 1st two rounds, and you'd have to give Yeadon the 1st round due to the knock down, but the 2nd round was close, and it looked like Yeadon may be slightly ahead on the score cards as the fight entered the 3rd and final round. Movsessian changed the tide as he landed a heavy right hook that put Yeadon limp, and seemed to mark the end of the fight as Movsessian jumped on his pray and landed some heavy hammerfists, but Yeadon rallied, grabbed for a single leg, and was able to fend off the threat to force the fight to the judges' scorecards. Ultimately Yeadon left with his hand raised in a split-decision victory. What an awesome battle put on by these two! Keep an eye out for both of these young talents in the near future.

Nayou Shar Almost Decapitated a Man

A couple of heavyweights threw down in some amateur MMA action as well, and man was it a scary sight. Nayou Shar (1-0) took on Bruce Pacy (0-1) in a debut fight for both men. It was chaos from the outset, but all came to an abrupt conclusion when Shar landed a HEAVY right hook from hell, and sent Pacy slamming to the canvas face first in emphatic fashion! The referee correctly stepped in to stop the fight, and Shar commenced on one of the more impressive dance celebrations that I've ever seen.

All-in-all Combat Zone 74 was one of the best events I've seen in a while. The energy in the building was equally matched by the entertainment in the cage. With some highlight reel knockouts, a few back and forth wars, and some high-level grappling on display in front of a packed house. Combat Zone is back, and I don't think they are going anywhere. You can check out the full results from the night on the event page.


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