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NEF 52: Zero Hour Preview

Travis Lizotte "Full Contact Writer"

New England Fights finds itself once again center stage at the Aura Nightclub in Portland, Maine Saturday May 13th as Matt Peterson and Nick DiSalvo present NEF 52 Zero Hour. The most exciting show on the Aura Summer line up; New England Fights rolls it's hexagon into the Old Port's hottest Nightclub along with two of it's NEF Amateur Championship belts as NEF 52 will crown two new Amateur Champions Saturday. Bragging rights will be up for grabs in the Flyweight and Lightweight Divisions as the region's most highly touted amateurs look to leave Aura wrapped in NEF gold.

First, Recon's Zachary Faulkner (5-3) gets his second shot at NEF gold, this time at his accustomed 155 pounds when he meets Defensive Edge's Artur Minev (2-0) for five rounds of Lightweight action at NEF 52. Faulkner's first attempt to get strapped up for NEF fell just short in a narrowly thin Split-Decision loss to "Magic" Mike Murray for the NEF Welterweight Championship at NEF 46 in February of '22. Riding the high off a victory over Chase O'Brien at NEF 50 Faulkner will have a chance to test the unbeaten Minev at NEF 52 and long last leave the NEF cage draped with an NEF championship belt.

For Minev this will mark his third amateur bout in six months to open his MMA career, following a second round TKO in Germany to open his campaign in December, Artur moved stateside, to Wakefield, Massachuestts, before scoring his second amateur win in March over the formerly undefeated Justin Graves at CES 72. Minev will have a lot to prove to the New England MMA world here when he stands across from the eight fight veteran Faulkner with the NEF Lightweight belt on the line, in the biggest fight of his early career.

Then in the Flyweight division former NEF Flyweight title Challenger Caleb Austin (5-1, Central Maine BJJ #4 Amateur Flyweight in New England) will look for a second chance at romance at NEF 52 when he looks to capture the NEF Flyweight strap which alluded him last time out against Tyler Smythe (7-3 as an Amateur) at NEF 45 in November of 2021. Austin and Smythe went to war at NEF 45, with Smythe coming away with a fourth round TKO that put the NEF Flyweight belt in Smythe's Evolution Athletix corner. Smythe would go on to become a two promotion New England amateur Flyweight Champion in January of this year when he took a decision from Nate Russell (8-3, Fighting Arts Academy #1 Amateur Flyweight in New England) at Cage Titans 57, before later turning pro. Smythe becomes the common denominator here as Austin and Russell now lock horns for the NEF belt left vacant by "Butter Knife's" turn pro.

The Wrestling Austin should take a page out of Smythe's book on Nate Russell, as it was relentless grappling and heavy top pressure that lead to Smythe's defeat of New England's top Amateur Flyweight Russell earlier this year. If Austin can employ his grinding wrestling style against Russell it may only be time separating "Dr. Feelgood" from his first taste of regional gold, However, as an 11 fight veteran there is not much Nate Russell hasn't seen and overcome inside the New England steel cages as he remains a 'tough out' for any Northeastern 125'er. Following both of these talented Flyweight's run ins with Smythe this match up became more of a foregone conclusion for those "in the know" around New England MMA and the score will finally be settled May 13th as New England's #1 and #4 Amateur 125'ers vie for NEF Flyweight supremacy.

Russell joined our Steve Domenico on "The Room Podcast" and explained why he is ready to capture his fifth regional amateur title Saturday night against the young Austin, check out the complete interview below.

Accompanying the two amateur title fights, two bouts will be contested in the professional ranks at NEF 52, and first out the chute we have a pair of Massachusetts Lightweight veterans, and submission specialists. NEF veteran Anthony Vasta (2-3, Defensive Edge) has made himself a nice little home inside the NEF Hexagon, claiming wins against both Aaron Hughes (by Submission) and Josh Beuparlant (by TKO) as he claims himself a co-main event nod here against his toughest opposition to date, undefeated Gerry Meuse (3-0, Sityodtong). Meuse has spent his entire fighting career South of the 207, competing in both New Hampshire and Massachusetts before making his NEF debut this Saturday night when he settles the score with Vasta in the Pine Tree State.

For those unfamiliar with Meuse; you can expect and athletic grappler with an "in your face" strategy. A pace that has lead to finishes in all three of his professional contests including a second round TKO of Jake Hixenbaugh (2-1) to go with two first round submissions. As crafty as the 23 year old Vasta can be on the ground, I believe Meuse to possess the strength in the grappling department, enough so to make Anthony consider trying to keep this one standing. As former UFC Middleweight Michael Bisping often reminds us during UFC broadcasts; "When you get two wrestlers or grapplers together, you can usually expect a striking affair." We'll quickly learn just what the narrative is in this one, when the pin drops on these two Lightweights in Saturday night's Co-Main event.

Nostos MMA's Nathaniel Grimard (3-2) overcame back to back first round submission losses last time out at NEF 51 when he stopped Carl Langston with strikes in the first round back in February. Nate finds himself right back in the saddle drawing Main Event status Saturday night, making his second straight start for his home promotion, less than three months removed from this third professional victory. The former NEF Amateur Featherweight Champion Grimard looks to start stringing wins together, positioning himself for a shot at the promotion's professional title. His opportunity to do just that comes May 13th at Aura when he take on the striking heavy Robert Wusstig (7-12) looking for his second consecutive victory.

Wusstig made his New England MMA debut earlier this year at Combat FC 3 taking former NEF Lightweight Mo Al Kinani (5-2, Evolution Athletix) to decision, albeit in a losing effort. Formally of Guam, Wusstig currently trains with Team Andrello and fights out of Syracuse, New York. Known to his fan base as "Real Deal", Wusstig stares down the barrel of yet another exciting New England MMA prospect at NEF 52, when he looks to upset Grimard in this New England Fights Featherweight Main Event. Grimard sat down with our Steve Domenico on "The Room Podcast" leading up to the fight to discuss what he calls "the toughest fight I've had" against Wusstig.

New England Fights also announced this week that Lightweight fan favorite; Jesse "The Viking" Erickson (11-9) will return to the NEF cage July 8th at NEF 53 looking for his 12th NEF victory as a pro. News of Jesse's opponent will drop during the NEF 52 broadcast.

Also at NEF 52 Amateur standout Robert Gray (1-0, Team Krane) will look to improve upon a 30 second starching of Cody Dular (1-2) in his debut at NEF 50, when the former Heavyweight trims down to a Catchweight of 190 pounds where he meets Jack Burke (1-2) who is looking to put an end to his current two fight skid. Undefeated Amateur Flyweights Alex Morris (1-0, Nostos MMA) and Qasim Abdulla (1-0, Choi Institute) also share the cage in a battle of Undefeated 125 pound prospects.

Kyler Hoobler (2-0, Lee Brothers MMA), fresh off a Split-Decision win over Johnathan Gardner (0-2) at NEF 51 that caught the attention of our Combat Cowboy, returns to meet the always tough KTA Nashua product Joe Peters (1-3) at a Catchweight of 180 pounds. And former University of Southern Maine pitcher Dalton Rice (Debut, Recon) looks to fill his competitive void left by collegiate baseball, when he laces up the gloves against Defensive Edge BJJ black belt Zach Danesh (1-1) in an amateur Middleweight bout.

In all 16 fights make up the bill at Aura in Portland, Maine Saturday night as New England Fights has once again sold out the two floors of the Old Port Nightclub. Those who are left on the outside looking in can go to to order the pay-per-view presentation of NEF 52: Zero Hour or follow along with us at New England MMA as we guide you through Saturday night's fight card with live play-by-play results of all the action as it unfolds.

View the entire NEF 52: Zero Hour fight card below.


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