We all knew here in New England that #1 ranked amateur featherweight Tom "The Phenom" Pagliarulo was something special. He compiled a 5-1 amateur record while capturing the NEF and Combat Zone 145 pound belts. He hasn't fought in almost a year and a half, but you can tell that his game has improved drastically since his last amateur fight, and he showed his growing skillset on Thursday on the undercard of the CFFC 92 event in Philadelphia, PA.
Pags took the fight on 4 days notice and took on a tough hometown fighter in Shawn Stefanelli. Both fighters were making their pro debuts, but "The Phenom" was on a completely different level than the local guy. The New England Cartel product had a significant reach advantage, and used it to his advantage in the first round, keeping the fight at range and landing a stiff jab and dominating the cage control for the first half of the round. Pags didn't throw many kicks towards the beginning of the fight, but landed a few high kicks late in the first that inflicted some serious damage on Stefanelli. The first round was a clear 10-9 for Pagliarulo. He kept the Pennsylvania fighter off-balance with a diverse striking game that is well above what you'd expect out of a debuting fighter.
As the 2nd round commenced you could see the serious damage that Stefanelli was wearing, and honestly, the doctor should have probably looked at his left eye between the first and second rounds. The 2nd round didn't go much better for Stefanelli......actually, it got much worse. A minute or so into the 2nd round Pags landed a beautiful left knee to the right eye-socket of Stefanelli - sending him falling to the cage. The swelling under the left eye commenced almost instantaneously as Pagliarulo followed the fighter with a full camp to the mat. He dominated position and maintained mount for the next few minutes, landing heaving elbows and annoying punches until Stefanelli's corner had seen enough and threw in the towel - something that you rarely see in today's advance MMA game.
To be fair, Stefanelli was tough as hell, and was visibly pissed at the his corner for throwing in the towel, but it was the right call. The ref should have paused the action in the 2nd round once the fight hit the mat in order for the cageside doctor to take a look at both eyes of Stefanelli, and I'm sure he would have stopped the fight. An incompetent ref if you ask me.
This fight couldn't have gone any better for Pagliarulo's professional debut. He took the fight on 4 days notice against a hometown guy from a solid gym, and he absolutely dominated from start to finish. His standup looked crisp, and to see a pro debuting fighter switch stances and land at will like Pags did is a rare thing to see! Regardless of notice, The Phenom was prepared for this debut, and much of this preparation can be attributed to training with ranked UFC fighters Rob Font and Calvin Kattar. Pags made a serious statement and it may be difficult for local New England promotions to coax him back into competing in the region if he racks up a few more wins with CFFC before the local athletic commissions allow the New England promotions to get back to business. Congrats to Tom Pagliarulo for representing the region and the New England Cartel like the complete phenom that he is!