There was plenty of action this weekend for New England MMA fight fans, as we had 3 fighters competing at the highest level of the sport, and New England Fights making its triumphant return with NEF 44: Back in Black at the Hampshire Dome in Milford, NH.
Knight, Cherant, and Porter all in Action at UFC Vegas 34
There is nothing more satisfying than watching home-grown New England talent making it the UFC and performing on the biggest stage in all of combat sports. On Saturday night in Las Vegas we had the pleasure of watching 3 of New England's "Big Guys" fight under the bright lights at UFC Vegas 34. William "Knightmare" Knight (10-2), from Connecticut, took on fellow New Englander, Fabio "Water Buffalo" Cherant (7-3) in a light heavyweight clash.
It was a bitter-sweet contest for us New Englanders to watch, as one of our own would leave in defeat, but that's part of the game at this level. At the end of the battle, William Knight walked away with his hand raised after landing a short left hook counter that dropped Cherant with about a minute left in the first round. Cherant was charging in with strikes, and initially I had no idea what put him to the mat face first, but after watching it on replay, it looked as though Knight landed a short counter left hook to the chin, ultimately sending the "Water Buffalo" to the mat for slaughter. Knight followed up with heavy right hands to the dome as he had his foe's back before the ref could step in and stop the fight.
The strike that ended the fight didn't seem to be all that powerful, but sometimes it doesn't matter what technique or what power is thrown into a strike in order to put an opponent out. Oftentimes it comes down to the placement of the strike, and it seemed that this was the defining factor in this fight ending sequence.
Before the counter-left landed it was a competitive fight. Both fighters were patient, and displayed a high fight IQ that we hadn't seen in the past from either. But as William Knight has shown in the past, he's one of the most powerful fighters in the UFC, regardless of weight class. Knight now improves to 2-1 in the UFC, while Cherant drops to 0-2 in the big leagues since claiming the LFA light heavyweight title back in February of this year.
Also competing on the card was Connecticut native, and William Knight teammate, Parker Porter (12-6). Both Knight and Porter train at Thornton MMA in West Hartford, Connecticut, and both have recently been given the opportunity to compete at the highest level of the sport, with Knight debuting with the UFC in September of last year and Porter in August of last year.
Porter took on 10 fight UFC vet, Chase Sherman (15-8), in a heavyweight clash on the main card of UFC Vegas 34. In a highly entertaining clash, Porter and Sherman threw down in a striking battle for 3 rounds, which ultimately concluded with the New Englander standing in the middle of the cage with his hand raised in victory via unanimous decision.
It was a rare high-volumed striking affair for the heavyweight class, with both fighters connecting throughout the fight. In the end, Porter's cardio and striking volume proved to be the difference in the fight, as he continuously backed up the withering Sherman as the fight progressed, landing punches that slowly sapped the will from the "Vanilla Gorilla".
An extremely impressive fight, and by far the best performance of Porter's long career in the sport. That's 2 wins in a row under the UFC banner for Porter. Keep an eye out for this guy, as he seems to become more comfortable in the cage with each passing fight and looks to be coming into his own.
NEF 44: Back in Black
Bezanson Confirms what we all Knew; he's the Best 170 lb Ammy in New England
After a year and a half hiatus due to covid, New England Fights made its triumphant return to action, and also made its promotional debut in the Granite State, as NEF 44 invaded the Hampshire Dome in Milford, New Hampshire Saturday night, showcasing 17 fights in total. 2 of the fights were for amateur gold, as current NEF amateur welterweight champ, Duncan Smith (6-3) took on undefeated New Hampshire native, Mike "All Class" Bezanson (6-0). This was a matchup that pitted two top ranked amateur welterweights in the region. The 5th ranked Smith ended up succumbing to the striking pressure that the #1 ranked Bezanson unleashed late in the first round.
Initially Smith was controlling the fight by pressuring Bezanson and winning the cage wrestling. Smith eventually was able to get Bezanson to the mat, but "All Class" was able to get back to his feet pretty quickly. The Evolution Athletix product knew that his path to victory was to close the distance on Bezanson and not allow him to employ his eccentric, high-level striking game, and it seemed to be playing out the way that Smith had planned for it until an inadvertent knee while clinched against the cage ended up forcing the ref to step in and halt the matchup in order to give Bezanson time to recover.
This was just the break that Bezanson needed, as the fighters were now reset at the desired distance for "All Class". It didn't take long for Bezanson to connect on some punches that ended up shaking the sturdy foundation of Duncan Smith. After a few hooks, jabs, and uppercuts, Bezanson sent Smith to the Canvas, and was pulled off the purely defensive foe and was declared the new owner of the New England Fights amateur welterweight strap - his 2nd ammy belt (he's also the Combat Zone 170 lb champ).
This was a highly anticipated matchup in the amateur ranks, and it solidified the fact that Mike Bezanson is the undisputed king in the amateur welterweight division here in New England, improving his record to a perfect 6-0 (6 KO's), and positioning himself nicely to make the leap to the pro ranks in the near future. Bezanson recently made the move to Manchester, New Hampshire and now claims Burgess MMA as his home, although he still had his long-time coach from Kaze Dojo, Greg Williams, in his corner.
Grimard Adds More Gold to his Mantle
Nostos MMA product and Devin Powell disciple, Nate Grimard (4-0), was looking to add to his collection of belts in an amateur featherweight contest against Brandon Maillet-Fevens (3-2). Grimard recently claimed his first belt down in Florida at WCFL 29 when he submitted Michael Larrimore in the 1st round. This time around Grimard didn't have to travel as far in order to claim his jewelry, as he found himself back in his home cage of the NEF.
Grimard improved to 4-0 as an amateur with a dominant grappling performance, taking down Maillet-Fevens at will and delivering ground and pound that was at a professional level. The 23 year old has improved by leaps and bounds in each of his 4 fights, and will surely find himself near the top of the amateur featherweight rankings when they are released later on this year. The newly crowned champ also received his blue belt from Nostos head coach Devin Powell after the fight, adding a nice cherry on the top of an already impressive night.
Deppmeyer Makes Quick Work of Hughes
In an intriguing pro featherweight battle, Jacob Deppmeyer (2-0) brought the thunder on a fellow New England 45er with a high ceiling, Aaron Hughes (1-1). The bout pitted the 1-0 Deppmeyer of First Class MMA against a 1-0 Aaron "Short Fuse" Hughes of Regiment Training Center. What many anticipated to be a high-volumed striking affair, turned out to be just that, with both fighters throwing aggressively in the center of the cage. Eventually Deppmeyer was able to catch Hughes with a straight right to the jaw that sent Hughes careening to the mat. Hughes covered up in desperation as he attempted to gain his wits, but Deppmeyer was able to finish him off with hammerfists on the ground at 1:22 of the very first round.
An impressive performance by Deppmeyer! This kid has improved by leaps and bounds in his short time in the cage. His hands looked quick, accurate, and powerful. Definitely someone to watch out for in the featherweight division.
Caleb Hall is a Man Amongst Boys
The NEF faithful know Caleb Hall (4-0) well, as the Maine native has fought all but one of his 15 amateur and pro fights in the NEF cage. Hall, the former NEF amateur featherweight champ, recently made the move out to Las Vegas to train at Syndicate MMA, one of the top gyms in the country, but he found himself back in New England to take on a debuting Shaun Ray (although he does claim to be 2-0 in unsanctioned fights).
Hall is known for his powerful wrestling game, and evolving submission skills, and both proved to be on display on Saturday night, as he absolutely mauled Ray in :56 seconds. Hall grabbed a single leg, elevated Ray, and slammed him to the mat with authority, eventually working position until he secured an arm triangle and a tap from Ray.
This quick demolition improved Hall to 4-0 as a pro, and has continued to propel his career in the direction of stardom. Don't be surprised if you see this kid competing in the UFC in the near future.
Here are the Fight Night Awards given out by our Traviz Lizotte.
FIGHT OF THE NIGHT: Curtis Ouellette vs. Zach Faulkner
KO OF THE NIGHT: Kyle Pufahl headkick/uppercut of Ryan Savage
SUB OF THE NIGHT: Caleb Hall arm triangle over Shaun Ray