New England Fights 45: Uprising; The Preview

Updated: Nov 5, 2021

Travis Lizotte "Full Contact Writer"


New England Fights brings post-pandemic MMA back to the great state of Maine this Friday night as Matt Peterson and Nick DiSalvo present New England Fights 45: Uprising from the Aura Nightclub in the heart of Portland’s Old Port.



NEF returned to action in July of this year from Milford, New Hampshire’s Hampshire Dome, as NEF 44: Back in Black marked the end of a year and a half long layoff for the promotion due to restrictions from Covid-19. With things beginning to return to normal in NEF’s home state of Maine; NEF 45 will mark the first time sanctioned MMA has taken place in Maine since February of 2020 (NEF 42: Symphony of Destruction) as New England Fights returns to Aura Nightclub this Friday. Without skipping a beat the NEF brass have lined up another absolutely tantalizing lineup of fisticuffs as they unveil 21 MMA fights, including three amateur title fights, six professional MMA bouts leading up to the Main Event where NEF Featherweight Champion; Josh “Hook On” Harvey (7-1-1, Vision Quest MT) defends his NEF Featherweight strap against Brazilian combat sports veteran Aguilando Brandao (9-8).

As we have grown to expect from the NEF matchmakers; NEF 45’s amateur undercard is littered with local up and coming talent; A pair of Middleweight scraps catch my eye on the undercard including a bout between First Class MMA’s Brett Martin (Ammy Debut), who makes his long awaited NEF debut against three fight NEF veteran Justin Philbrook (1-2). Also, Vision Quest Muay Thai’s Brandon Oldenburg (Ammy Debut) welcomes fellow debuter; Titan AthleticsBryant Wade (Ammy Debut). Both Martin and Oldenburg were anticipated to make their debuts this summer at NEF 44: Back In Black before having their fights fell through. I was excited to see these guys from two top local gyms make their debuts back in July, add a couple more months of anticipation to that and I’ll have these two guys circled on my fight card come Friday night.


Also on my radar, highlighting the nine fight undercard is a pair of Strawweight matchups, first a clash of two 115 pound men when Matt Miles (1-0) makes his second straight NEF start, hoping to improve upon his split-decision victory over Juan Quinom at NEF 44, when he welcomes Karasu Tongu Academy’s Julian Menjivar (Ammy Debut) to the NEF cage. I was cageside for Matt Miles back and forth war with Quinom this summer, and I visited Menjivar’s camp at KTA in Nashua last week as he put a wrap on his NEF 45 fight camp with head coach Walter Smith-Cotito and I can tell you these guys are going to put on a show! Miles is very raw, but one thing we know about him is he likes to stand and bang, Menjivar will be the more technical fighter but he has yet to put his skills to the test locked inside a cage with another man...Will Miles relentless forward pressure be too much for the debuting Menjivar to handle or will the technical striking of Menjivar decimate the guard of Miles and swing the fight in his favor? Either way I’ll have my eye on this fight between these two 115 pounders.



Two fight NEF veteran and promotional fan favorite; Young’s MMA’s BJ Garceau (1-1) returns to the NEF cage for the first time in nearly three years Friday night when she meets Hayley Martin (Ammy Debut) who will be making “a dream come true” when she steps inside the NEF cage for the first time as an amateur just a few weeks following her 50th birthday. Martin told NEF in an interview that she wants to show the fans “what hard work and dedication look like” when she steps in the cage Friday night for “every woman that thought dreams can’t come true.” Standing across from Martin when the pin drops Friday night will be a refocused BJ Garceau who told NEF that she has “never wanted to fight this bad” which could be a scary thought coming from Garceau, who in her two NEF appearances; has gone to war with both Sarah Ziehm (Split Decision win at NEF 32) and Chelsea Tucker (3rd round TKO loss at NEF 36). With the fire that seems to be burning inside both of these ladies I’m sure emotions will be spilling over into the cage when the bell sounds on this one, as these two represent the only Women’s MMA bout of the night!


The NEF 45 main card kicks off with Three Amateur Belts on the line as the vacant NEF Amateur Flyweight and vacant Amateur Bantamweight belts will both find new homes Friday night in Portland. At 125 pounds Undefeated NEF Flyweight prospect Caleb Austin (5-0) looks to add an NEF title to an already impressive Amateur resume when he meets Evolution Athletix slugger Tyler Smythe (2-1) with the 125 pound strap on the line. Smythe told NEF that he plans on the wrestling pedigreed Caleb Austin “Shooting for his life” as the 23 year old went on to explain that he doesn’t believe that Austin has fought “anybody that's going to put on a pace and willing to dig down deep and really fight,” something Smythe is willing to endure to bring the Flyweight belt back home to Evolution Athletix and hand the red-hot Austin his first loss inside the cage.


Squaring off for New England Fights vacant Bantamweight Amateur title will be yet another Evolution Athletix product; as undefeated Teddy Politis (2-0, 2 Submissions) meets fellow undefeated prospect; First Class MMA’s Filipe Gunter (3-0). Now this matchup may sound somewhat familiar with some of our readers, as our own Brendan Boates called for this matchup following Filipe’s first round Guillotine of Schuyler Vaillancourt (1-2) at DonnyBrooke Promotions; Battle in Barre 5 back in September. As fate would have it this matchup will come to fruition Friday night in Portland, Maine with the NEF Bantamweight strap on the line.



Making the first defense of his newly minted NEF Amateur Featherweight Title Nathaniel Grimard (4-0, Nostos MMA) puts his belt up for grabs at NEF 45. Grimard captured the NEF title this July at NEF 44 with a second round TKO of Brandon Maillet-Fevens (3-2) and told our Steve Domenico on The Room Podcast that he wants to fight “the toughest guys they (NEF matchmakers) can find.” This is just the kind of challenge Grimard asked for, as he welcomes fellow regional Featherweight Title holder; Billy “The Kid” Wilson (6-1, JacksonWink, Ranked #1 Amateur Featherweight in the Southwest by Tapology). As Grimard indicated during the interview; this one has fight of the night written all over it as these two high level amateurs collide with Grimard’s belt on the line!


Kicking off the professional portion of the evening, Former NEF Middleweight Champion and Welterweight Challenger; CJ “Albino Rhino” Ewer (3-3, Young’s MMA) looks to put a stop to his current three fight skid when he welcomes Waterville’s Shaun Ray (0-1) back to the cage for his second straight promotional start. Ray was greeted by a first round Arm Triangle against Caleb Hall (4-0) at NEF 44 and the task doesn’t get much easier here against former Middleweight Champion Ewer as these two are set to share three rounds at Welterweight.

Next, WSOF (now Professional Fighters League; PFL) veteran Rodrigo “The Young Lion” Almeida (14-4) returns to the MMA arena for the first time in three years as he meets “The Silent Assassin” Jay Ellis (15-100) who will be looking for his first win in 4 years, or in Jay Ellis terms; 27 fights...Ellis is quite literally “The Weekend Warrior” as he shows up on all corners of the map, on weight and ready to scrap, whenever the phone rings.



We go back to the Welterweight division for the next professional bout, when, a man who needs no introduction, but we’ll give it to ya anyway; Matt “Ken Doll” Denning (5-11) returns to the NEF cage after three and a half years fighting “away from home.” All five of Denning’s professional wins, as well as his four amateur wins before them, came inside the NEF cage. Denning continues his march through the buzzsaw of New England’s toughest Martial Artists when he takes on a man we have regarded as a “Dark Horse” in the regions Welterweight division; decorated Wrestler and Recon MMA co-owner: Jonathan Deupree (Pro Debut). Deupree makes his professional debut following a five year layoff from MMA competition and will be looking to make a splash at NEF 45. A win here for Deupree will put the New England Welterweight division on notice, as he meets the busiest man in New England MMA; Matt Denning. Denning told our Steve Domenico “he doesn’t even care” who his opponent is anymore, he just wants to fight, and he’ll fight anyone.



There is a score to settle, at a Catchweight of 140 pounds, in our next professional contest as five fight pro; Young’s MMA’s Carl Langston (0-5) makes his third walk as a pro under the NEF banner when he welcomes the professional debut of former NEF Amateur Featherweight/Lightweight Champion and fan favorite; Zac “Rocky” Richard. Langston has never been one to shy away from stiff competition, and is not someone you just put away (4 of 5 pro losses have come by decision)...everyone in the room knows that Carl wants to stand and strike...everyone it the room also knows that Zac Richard wants this fight on the ground or in the clinch, where he can work his explosive wrestling and keep Langston in “defense mode.” Richard spoke with our Steve Dominico leading up to the fight and explained how his change in training camps, to Evolution Athletix in Saco, has “Rocky” ready as ever to make his professional debut Friday night against the veteran Carl Langston.


Action returns to the Welterweight division for the evening’s co-main event as NEF and Bellator veteran Mark “Pockets” Gardner (1-2, The Academy) returns to his hometown of Portland, Maine as he looks to put back-to-back losses behind him in his NEF return against New England MMA Welterweight veteran Nick “JC” Alley (7-4, Team Link Hooksett). Alley’s CES 61 Unanimous Decision win over Welterweight super-prospect; John Gotti III (5-1) set Alley up with another UFC Fight Pass appearance at CFFC 94, where he ran into yet another can’t miss Welterweight prospect in Solomon Renfro (8-2)...a fight that tested every ounce of heart Alley had. "JC" stood toe to toe with Renfro for four and a half minutes before crumbling to a combination of Renfro’s fists. Alley aims to prove that he is still one of the top Welterweights in the region by dispatching Gardner, in Friday night’s Co-Feature.



On to the Main Event, where the reigning NEF Featherweight champion Josh “Hook On Harvey (7-1-1, Vision Quest Muay Thai) and quite possibly one of the top five unsigned regional talents in the Northeast, puts his belt on the line for the first time when he “Hooks on” with veteran of 15 years on the New England MMA scene; Revere, Massachusetts’ Aguilando Brandao (9-8). Brandao holds submission wins over Josh LaBerge (11-7) and Pedro Gonzalez (13-5) on his way to nine career victories, all coming by finish (1 Knockout, 8 Submissions). Brandao has not entered the MMA cage since 2013, although he has tested himself inside the boxing ring five times in 2021, in effort to ready his hands for an MMA return Friday night against a red-hot prospect; ill willed Champion Josh Harvey. Harvey promised our Steve Domenico to "give the fans what they have wanted to see" in the NEF 45 Main Event; and that is “a stand up fight” with the 17 fight veteran Aguilando Brandao as Harvey continues his ascent up the Featherweight ladder.