Rex Thompson Brings Professional MMA to Vermont
Prior to Saturday, sanctioned professional MMA fights did not exist in the state of Vermont. That all changed just after 10pm when lightweight fighters, Andrew Provost and Chris Rooney, took to the cage for the first ever sanctioned professional MMA bout in Vermont history. The Provost vs. Rooney contest served as the main event for Donnybrooke Fight Promotions, Battle in Barre 5 at the Barre Civic Center, and while it may not have been the most exciting fight on the card, it was certainly the most important in regard to progress for the sport in the Green Mountain State. According to Thompson, the sanctioning process was an arduous two year journey which he described as a “nightmare”.
Most of the battle between Provost and Rooney was contested on the ground where Provost controlled the action with his superior grappling. He repeatedly took Rooney down with a variety of single and double leg attacks, and while he did not land a huge number of incredibly damaging shots, he showed positional dominance and great ground control. To his credit, Rooney battled throughout the fight and did his best to throw up submission attempts from his back. However, in the end, Provost’s grinding style and ground control proved too much and he walked away with the unanimous decision victory.
Rex Thompson and his team should be commended for facilitating what was a landmark moment for Vermont MMA.
Soivilien Dominates to Topple #1 Amateur Heavyweight in New England
Professional fighters may have held the main event slot, but amateur heavyweight, Jeff Soivilien (South Shore Sportfighting), made sure everyone in attendance would be talking about him on their way out of the arena. Never one to hold his tongue or shy away from the spotlight, Soivilien had a lot to say before his showdown with Josh Walker. Prior to Saturday, Walker was the number 1 ranked amateur heavyweight in New England and the reigning Donnybrooke Fight Promotions Heavyweight Champion. None of that seemed to matter to Soivilien who spent all week predicting an easy first round finish.
From the outset it was clear that Soivilien’s confidence was not misplaced as he immediately took it to Walker. After ducking under Walker’s initial punch, Soivilien clinched and forced Walker up against the cage. From there, he gave Walker no space to breathe while peppering him with short uppercuts and huge knees to the body. After just under two minutes of smothering pressure from Soivilien and one final knee to the body, the referee had seen enough and stepped in to save Walker from any additional damage.
While the fight was one sided, Soivilien was more than happy to entertain the crowd and embrace his role as “heel” for the evening after defeating a hometown favorite. He grabbed the microphone after the fight and stated matter of factly, “Lunch Money MMA baby, it’s only yours until I take it”.
Felipe Gunter is Officially on My Radar
While quite a few fighters made strong statements on Saturday night, in my opinion, Felipe Gunter (First Class MMA) saw the biggest rise in stock. Gunter came into his rematch with Schuyler Vaillancourt (Burgess MMA) as the number 8 ranked amateur bantamweight in New England, and I have to think he’ll be climbing higher in those rankings after a dominant performance against a solid opponent. These two wasted no time getting after it as Vaillancourt unleashed an early high kick that was mostly blocked by Gunter’s high guard. Gunter then rushed in throwing bombs until he dropped Vaillancourt against the cage. Some brutal ground and pound followed, but Vaillancourt was hanging in there until Gunter locked in a vicious guillotine from top position to force the tap.
I’m no matchmaker, but a Maine vs Maine matchup of Gunter and current #6 amateur bantamweight, Teddy Politis, might make sense in the near future. Gunter is now 3-0-0 and Politis moved to 2-0-0 after his win in August. I think that’s one the fans would like to see.
Debuting Massachusetts Amateurs make a Splash
Most regional fight cards feature a handful of fighters making their debut walk to the cage, and Battle in Barre 5 was no different. This time around, it was two Massachusetts boys invading enemy territory to take on two hometown fighters from Vermont.
In the first bout of the evening, Nick “Kid Presentable” Mulrey (South Shore Sportfighting) took on fellow debut fighter, Justin “Socks” Jarvis (Independent). After an exchange of inside leg kicks, Mulrey forced a clinch and landed a big takedown against the cage. Some light ground and pound followed before Mulrey eventually managed to take Jarvis’ back with 10 seconds left in the round, but he was unable to secure a submission before the bell. At the start of round 2, Jarvis swung a wild right hand, but Mulrey ducked under, scooped Jarvis off the mat, and walked him across the cage for a huge slam. Jarvis was holding on for dear life, but Mulrey patiently transitioned to mount and secured a TKO via ground and pound.
Mulrey’s SSSF teammate, Michael “Misanthrope” Caron, also made his debut on Saturday when he took on Mike Morris (Granite City MMA). In what felt like the “Hagler vs Hearns” version of MMA, these two engaged in a back and forth affair that had the entire crowd on its feet. Just five seconds in, Caron threw a naked leg kick that Morris countered with a left hook. The punch wobbled Caron, but he managed to avoid falling to the mat before forcing a clinch with Morris. The two spun off the cage and Caron landed a big knee to the body before being taken down. On the ground, Morris landed a clean punch before Caron scrambled to his feet. The two men exchanged huge overhand punches again and Caron secured a double leg takedown. The scrambles continued as Caron moved to full mount, but was rolled by Morris almost immediately. Morris landed a few solid punches while in Caron’s guard, but Caron kept his wits about him and hit a gorgeous hip bump sweep directly into mount. After seven vicious right hands, the ref stepped in to declare Caron the winner by TKO.
The crowd began booing the stoppage immediately as they felt Morris should have been allowed to continue. It was a slightly early stoppage in my opinion, but it did appear Caron was on the verge of putting this one away. Personally, I wouldn’t mind seeing these guys engage in a rematch down the road. Morris is clearly a talented young fighter and Caron showed he has skills as well. I know the spectators will get their money’s worth if these two decide to run it back.
A Cage Malfunction Couldn't Stop the Fight of the Night
Battle in Barre 5 may have only had seven fights on the card, but it still had a little bit of everything! When Ramano Medina (Burgess MMA) met Joseph McNeil for the Donnybrooke Amateur Lightweight Championship, the crowd got to witness the Fight of the Night, and then some.
The fight began with an extended feeling out process before McNeil attempted a single leg takedown that was stuffed by Medina. McNeil did manage to hit a throw which brought the fighters to the mat briefly, but Medina stood up quickly. McNeil hit another takedown, but once again found it difficult to keep Medina on the mat. Shortly after the fighters returned to their feet, things got interesting! McNeil forced a clinch and as both fighters crashed into the fence, the cage door came flying open. Medina fell to the floor and McNeil followed by somersaulting down the stairs with a move that would have made Simone Biles and Mary Lou Retton proud. Thankfully, the cage side doctor checked the fighters and while McNeil was a bit shaken up, both men were able to continue.
The second round began much like the first. There was a feeling out period on the feet, and McNeil attempted another takedown that was stuffed by Medina. After a brief clinch on the cage, Medina secured a takedown of his own while landing some hard ground and pound. The referee nearly intervened to stop the fight, but McNeil got to his feet momentarily, only to be taken down again. More ground and pound followed for Medina as McNeil attempted to lock in an arm bar. The round ended with Medina landing repeated shots on the ground.
The crowd was buzzing at this point and Medina caused an eruption by landing a big right hand to start the third round. McNeil recovered well and hit a single leg takedown, but Medina began attacking with submissions immediately. After an initial armbar attempt, Medina transitioned to a triangle and locked it in well. With McNeil attempting to defend the choke, Medina unleashed repeated hammer fists from bottom position and the referee was forced to step in. It was an impressive performance by both fighters and a clear Fight of the Night winner.