There were only 10 fights (9 MMA, 1 Muay Thai) on tap Saturday night at Plymouth Memorial Hall, but the Cage Titans 51 show was still sold out with a raucous crowd in attendance. Although there was still some weight issue drama hanging over the event as doors opened, once the first fight commenced all of that was gone and the attention focused on the action in the cage.
"The Party" Snags Some Gold
Many people in the region have seen the quick rise of adopted son, Joe "The Party" Penafiel (9-3), over the course of the past 7 months, but Saturday night marked his most impressive accomplishment to date. Penafiel showed up on the scene back in July of last year at Cage Titans 48, and was brought in to be a heal to local popular fighter Pat Gilbride (3-2). "The Party" changed those plans by dispatching Gilbride via unanimous decision. He then proceeded to take out Richie Santiago and Bruno Dias over the next 2 Cage Titans events, and set himself up in a position to be competing for the interim Cage Titans bantamweight belt.
The Florida native, who is currently ranked 3rd in New England at Bantamweight, was taking on local streaking fighter and 7th ranked Lionel "Boogz" Young (10-18) to determine who will be crowned champ of the 135ers. Those plans changed slightly due to Young missing weight by 5 pounds. Penafiel was still eligible to win the belt if he claimed victory, but Young would not be fighting for gold after the weight miss.
It was a grinding affair that had a mix of cage fighting, standup striking, and some grappling. During the early portions of the fight the two were content with clinching against the cage for position, and possible takedown opportunities. As the fight progressed, both were throwing tactical strikes, but never committing to an aggressive flurry to try and put the other away.
This 5 round affair was settled in the deep waters in the 5th round, as Young looked visibly tired in the 4th and 5th rounds, and you could see the momentum continuing to build for "The Party" as the fight progressed. Penafiel's in-your-face, high-pressure game turned out to be too much for Young. Penafiel landed some strikes against the cage, which opened a door for Penafiel to get a takedown, and he capitalized by landing some heavy elbows before the ref stepped in to stop the fight at 2:55 in round 5, and declaring Penafiel champion of the pro bantamweight division under the Cage Titans banner.
That's 4 wins in a row in 4 straight Cage Titans events for "The Party"! Impressive to say the least that Penafiel has accomplished so much in such a short period of time here in New England. The kid is talented, and he backs it up on the mic, and with a schtick that many here in New England are warming up to during a very cold winter.
Giannetti and Bohn Throw Down in a Grueling War to Remember
The main event pitted two lightweight veterans from the New England MMA scene, as top ranked Joe "Skellator" Giannetti (11-4) took on 7th ranked Jacob “The Jaguar” Bohn (10-9) in what supposed to have been for the Cage Titans lightweight belt, but those plans changed when Giannetti missed weight on Friday. The bout was rebooked as a 5 round non-title bout after some monetary concessions were made by the Giannetti camp, and Cage Titans was able to hold on to their main event.
The bout lived up to its billing, and both fighters threw down in a lightweight clash that was 100% fought on the feet, and both showed incredible skill and heart. Giannetti used his size and range advantage to keep Bohn on the outside. "Skeletor" implemented a very effective counter striking game whenever Bohn would enter the pocket and throw.
Low kicks proved to be highly effective for Bohn, as the damage on Giannetti's leg began to show in the 3rd and 4th rounds, but the damage that Bohn incurred when entering the pocket proved to be too much in the long run, as Giannetti put the Rochester, New York native away late in the 4th round via ground N pound.
Bohn seem to injure his knee when Giannetti threw a high-volumed flurry against the cage mid-way through the 4th round. Bohn dropped to the mat and covered up as Giannetti landed unanswered blows to his grounded opponent before the ref could jump in and stop the fight.
The cardio and heart that both fighters showed throughout the fight was incredible to watch in person, and my hat goes off to both warriors. Although there may have been some animosity between the two over the previous 24 hours due to the weight issues, both guys showed true professionalism after the bout had ended, hugging and posing for a picture with each other. Giannetti was apologetic on the mic for missing weight, and thanked Bohn for taking the fight anyway. True class displayed by both fighters, and this one was a deep-water war that we won't forget anytime soon.
2 Amateur Split Decisions had Fans on the Edge of Their Seats
In other notable fights from Cage Titans 51, we'd be remissed if we didn't mention the two battles between Andrew Valdina (3-2) and Arthur Mpofu (4-2), and Phil LoCigno (0-2) and Danny Wahlberg (1-0).
The Cage Titans amateur bantamweight belt was on the line, as Lauzon MMA product Andrew Valdina taped them up to go to war with Arthur Mpofu, who's originally from the area, but now trains at SBG Alabama down south. This was an incredibly high-level amateur fight that took place entirely on the feet, and kept the crowd buzzing from start to finish.
There was some tension between the two at weigh-ins in a highly intense staredown on Friday, and that even spilled over to just before the fight tipped off inside the cage. Valdina and Mpofu had to be separated in the middle of the cage as the fighters were being announced, and with both fighters having a huge fan turnout, it built the energy in the room to a new levels!
The highly-tactical striking battle displayed both fighters throwing combinations that you typically do not see on the amateur level. Valdina is currently ranked 2nd in the region in the amateur 135 pound division, while Mpofu is ranked 4th, and boy did those rankings look accurate, as both guys threw down in a very close striking battle over the course of 5 rounds.
Mpofu did a great job of landing a stiff jab throughout the fight, but he also was very effective in his counter striking game, as Valdina was definitely the aggressor, and pushed forward most of the bout. Most of the 5 rounds were super close rounds that really could have gone either way, and with the fans screaming with every change of momentum in the fight, it made for an incredible atmosphere within Plymouth Memorial Hall.
I personally thought that Mpofu won 3 out of the 5 rounds, and the judges agreed with me.....kind of. Mpofu ended up winning via split decision, and claimed the Cage Titans amateur bantamweight belt after owning it previously 3 years back. An awesome striking display by high-level amateurs that we will surely see in the pro ranks in the not so distant future.
In what could very easily we labeled as "Fight of the Night", Phil Locigno engaged in a back and forth war with Danny Wahlberg over the course of 3 rounds. LoCigno trains at Sityodtong Boston and is a union tradesmen that found a love for the sport of MMA a little later in life than many people do. Wahlberg trains at USMMA and was making his amateur MMA debut, but you wouldn't have thought that with how he performed in the cage on Saturday night.
Both guys met in the center of the cage and started throwing heavy shots. Wahlberg landed some heavy punches that rocked LoCigno, but the Sityodtong product returned fire and put Wahlberg on his ass at one point as well. The momentum of the fight shifted with each exchange, and with both fighters throwing caution to the wind, it was an incredible fight to witness in person.
Wahlberg won the first 2 rounds by landing more effective strikes that had a visible impact on LoCigno, but LoCigno didn't fold, and showed the heart that he has. Getting the fight to the mat in the 3rd round proved to be an effective approach for LoCigno, but it was too little too late as Wahlberg won the first two rounds in 2 of the 3 judges' eyes. Awesome fight and incredible display of heart by both of the guys! Can't wait to see where they go from here.
Cage Titans Makes Quick Turnaround with Combat Night III on 2/25
In just 3 weeks Cage Titans will return to Plymouth with an 18 fight card that will be a combination of MMA (pro & ammy), traditional Muay Thai, and small-gloved Muay Thai. It's a quick turnaround, but with numerous fights needing to be pushed off of the CT 51 card, it seems as though that February 25th will be a long night with a lot of action.