Travis Lizotte "Full Contact Writer"
It's been a year and a half since the crew of New England MMA sat cageside for our very first event as a team at Premier FC 30 and if feels amazing to say that 19 months later we will finally be back at the MassMutual Center tonight to witness Premier FC make regional MMA history with a first of it's kind (here in New England) one night, eight man, Lightweight Tournament to crown the Premier FC Lightweight Champion! With twenty fights locked and loaded following yesterday's weigh-ins, Premier FC comes back with a BANG and a line up that includes some of the country's top fighting talents including numerous UFC and Bellator veterans as well as some of the New England region's brightest stars. Premier FC 31 will kickoff tonight at 6 pm from the MassMutual Center in Springfield, Massachusetts and here is a look at some of the biggest match-ups on an absolutely stacked card put together by the Premier organization!
Lightweight Tournament Opening round matchups have been set; after all eight men came in on weight yesterday the promotion drew names at random to determine the opening round matchups. The tournament's opening round will consist of four fights, one round each and here are your matchups.
Fight #1 D'juan Owens vs. Anthony Pike: Known to some New England hardcore MMA fans for his scraps with Nate Andrews and Joe Giannetti, D'Juan "Dirty South" Owens (18-16-1) finds himself back in New England looking to capture a title once again. Owens draws a virtually unknown commodity in fellow Lightweight Anthony Pike, one thing I can say about Pike is he brings the best mustache to the tournament but beyond that I will be anxious to see what Pike brings to the cage when the pin drops on his opening round scrap with D'Juan Owens.
Fight #2 Ali Zebian vs. Kody Murray: Westfield, Massachusetts' Ali Zebian (6-2) will be looking to capture the Premier FC Lighteight title for the second time in his professional career and further his case for a call up to a top promotion Saturday night. That journey starts with his first round bout with Vermont's Kody Murray. Murray burst on to the New England MMA scene last time out with a dramatic upset of Premier FC veteran Miguel Cuevas in his professional debut, Murray looks to continue his upset strategy tonight when he matches wits with former Champion Ali Zebian.
Fight #3 Jacob Bohn vs. Sam Watford: New York's Jacob "Jaguar" Bohn (10-7) is back on the New England scene and looking to leave with yet another strap. Already the Reality Fighting Lightweight title holder, Bohn would love to further his case as one of the top unsigned fighters in the Northeast tonight by capturing yet another regional title. Bohn draws fellow New Yorker and Bellator veteran Sam Watford (2-2), who looks to put an end to his current two fight losing skid by dispatching Bohn on his way to the second round of the Premier FC tournament.
Fight #4 Estevan Payan vs. Dylan Salvador: Fan will recognize the name Estevan Payan (17-14) from his run with Strikeforce, Bellator and the UFC. Payan definitely comes into this tournament as the most experienced of the 8 competitors having tested his skills against some of the best in the world. If Payan hope to add a Premier FC belt to his already storied career he will have to get through Georgia's Dylan Salvador (3-0) to do so. Salvador is reletively new to the MMA scene competing as a kickboxer for the first three years of his professional fighting career. With just three MMA bouts under his belt, he makes his run at the Premier FC strap tonight, and that run starts with Estevan Payan.
Some of New England MMA's biggest names highlight six more professional bouts this evening; Starting in the Flyweight division, Fighting Arts Academy's Tim Flores (1-1) will look to bounce back off the first loss of his career (Decision to Ron Leon at Reality) when he welcomes fellow New England Flyweight Brandon Neiford (Debut) to the professional ranks. This interaction was really cool to see at weigh-ins, in an extremely shallow New England Flyweight division these guys both showed a ton of respect to one another for making this fight happen and we are all better for it as this fight pits two of the top Flyweights in the region!
New England MMA veteran Matt "Ken Doll" Denning (5-10) makes his return to the cage in hopes to shake a current four fight skid as he welcomes talented Springfield native Sage Philippe (0-1) who will be looking for his first professional victory in his Premier FC debut. This is an interesting matchup, if this one stays on the feet the advantage will definitely lie in the corner of Philippe, however, if Denning can survive the tactical striking of Philippe and get this fight to the ground this one could have an entirely different story, as all of Denning's five professional wins have come via Submission.
Giants meet in the Heavyweight division as Bellator MMA veterans Ras Hylton (6-5) and Domingos Barros (6-1) do battle on tonight's main card. Maine's Hylton will be making the walk for the first time since his Technical Decision loss to Davion Franklin at Bellator 246, a fight where Hylton could not continue due to blows to the back of the head by Franklin. Hylton looks to get one back tonight when he welcomes fellow two-fight Bellator veteran Domingos Barros (6-1) to the Premier FC cage for the first time. Barros began his prefessional career an impressive 6-0 but was saddled with his first loss last time out at Bellator 230 when Kirill Sidelnikov (12-6) outlasted Barros on his way to a Unanimous Decision victory. This should be a great fight as two Bellator Heavyweights find themselves back on the regional scene with something to prove!
Up Next New Hampshire's Tim "The Bear" Caron (10-3) continues to test himself against some of the World's best Middleweights as he looks for his chance to crack the UFC roster. Caron welcomes former UFC combatant Marcel Fortuna (9-4) to the New England scene for the first time as the former UFC fighter looks to break out of a personal three fight losing streak against the uber talented New Englander; Tim Caron. This is another fight that could easily be contested in the upper levels of the sport, good on Premier FC for stacking this card with the best talent they could find!
One of the promotion's biggest draws and former multiple weight class Amateur champion Pat "The Gorilla Ninja" Casey comes back to Premier FC following two losses for Bellator MMA in 2020. Casey is battling a personal three fight losing streak, something he has never faced in his otherwise successful career, Casey looks to get back on track with the promotion he calls home when he welcome's New Jersey's Timmy Tyler (2-6) back to the Premier FC cage. Last time Tyler entered the Premier proving grounds he picked up a first round TKO over always tough Vermont native Jason Showers. Tyler looks to make it back to back wins under the Premier banner at the expense of one of the promotion's top names in Pat Casey when they meet at a Catchweight of 175 pounds tonight.
Tonight's Co-Main event will feature reigning Premier FC Middleweight Champion Yu Ji (3-1) who captured the PFC Middleweight title at Premier FC 30 with a first round knockout of Pat Casey. Ji will now make the move up to 205 pounds for his attempt to capture the Premier FC Light-Heavyweight strap left vacated by double champ, Terrance Jean-Jacques. Standing across the cage from Ji when tonight's co-main event gets underway will be London' England's George Tokkos (4-2). Another veteran of Bellator MMA Tokkos began his career 4-0 before suffering back to back losses under the Bellator banner. Tokkos turns to New England, and Premier FC to get his career back on track as he hopes to solve New York's Ji and capture a regional title on his way back to top prospect status.
The Light-Heavyweight co-main event will play second fiddle to the finals of the Eight Man Lightweight tournament, which will serve as tonight's Main Event with the competitors being determined based on the results of the first two rounds of competition. Premier FC 31 gets underway from the MassMutual Center in Springfield, Massachusetts tonight at 6 pm with tickets still available at PremierFC.com. Again follow NewEnglandMMA.com all night as we will be providing live round by round coverage of Premier FC 31 as we see it from our seats cageside. Below is a look at tonight's entire Premier FC fight card.