Hi, it’s Peggy Morgan. All the usual Western Mass MMA dudes are covering the CES card in Beverly, so they foisted the Combat Zone card onto me, which made perfect sense once I got here and realized that there aren’t snacks at the press table at Combat Zone, whereas at CES there are bowls of pretzels and m&m’s and stuff. I’ve never actually covered any of the CES shows, but I have pillaged the press table’s m&m’s there many times.
Tonight’s event, which is at the Radisson in Manchester, NH, is apparently the 61st Combat Zone. This makes me feel old af because I fought on the very first Combat Zone card back in like 1922 at the Wonderland Ballroom in Revere. I had an amateur kickboxing match that night in which I wore a pair of shiny wide-legged nylon pants as I frantically punch-kick-punch-kicked my way to a unanimous decision loss.
Things are a little different here tonight than they were back in the dark ages of Combat Zone’s inception. For one thing, the crowd isn’t comprised of a bunch of drunkien bikers blowing cigarette smoke into the cage and screaming obscene things about my opponent’s and my breasts (though, God knows, that could happen later this evening during the two scheduled female bouts – fight fans haven’t changed that much).
Bout 1: 155lbs David Foss 1-0 (Natnapa Muay Thai) vs Demetri Photis 0-0 (NETT)
David Foss walks out to something that sounds like it might be Drowning Pool. He appears to be approximately fifteen years old and smiles happily as he makes his way to the cage. Demetri Photis enters to Jim Croce’s “Bad, Bad Leroy Brown.” Although he looks only a year or two older than his opponent, he has an incipient mustache and a thicker build.
The match begins with both fighters throwing single punches and kicks. Photis is the first to shake off his nerves and comes in with a combination, and pretty soon both fighters are standing inside the pocket trading shots. Round one is fairly fast paced with both men throwing a sh*t ton of punches. It’s difficult to say who took the round, but if pressed I’d have to give it to Photis, not only because I like his purple shorts better than his opponent’s black ones, but also because he landed some leveraged shots to the face and body of Foss.
Foss picks it up in round 2 and consistently backs Photis toward the fence. He lands a head kick that has the crowd “ooooooo”ing. Midway through the round, Photis loses his mouthguard and the ref stops the action briefly so his cornerman can stick it back in. Round 2 clearly goes to Foss, despite his inferior shorts.
Round 3: Foss comes out and boots Photis in the gut, then throws some jumping sh*t., Both fighters are throwing leather, but Foss’s punches and kicks have a lot more snap. Toward the middle of the round, Photis wakes up a little and starts backing Foss up, and the two men spend the last minute of the round trading punches and kicks and punches and kicks and punches and kicks. It’s close, but I’m giving the round to Foss.
Walkout music winner: Demetri Photis
Fight Winner: David Foss via split decision (29-28; 28-29; 29-28)
Bout 2: 200lbs Kristian Lombari 2-1 (Team Fury) vs David Jamie 0-0 (NETT)
Kristian Lombari walks out to some sorta rap song, but I don’t know what it is cuz I only listen to Lil Wayne. David Jamie, who is significantly shorter than Lombari, also walks out to rap. Choosing a winner for the walkout music comp is gonna be hard. I’m probably gonna have to go with Jamie because his rap song was way more emotionally vulnerable, and I admire his bravery.
Round 1: The fight starts with a low blow to Jamie. The crowd boos while Jaime recovers. Both men are throwing bombs. Jamie tries for some spinning shit. Lombari barrels in with his head down like a bull and lands a couple shots. Jaime blasts Lombari with a few nasty overhands. Some lady stands in front of me with a cell phone so I can’t see what’s going on, but it appears that Lombari has been knocked out. Then, mysteriously, they call the round and Lombari is resurrected for round 2. Jaime
Round 2 opens and it’s Lombari who attempts some spinning shit this time. Lombari is backing Jamie across the cage, landing heavy punches. There is a group of recreational unsanctioned corner people standing in front of the press table screaming at one of the fighters (I dunno which) that the other one is tired (they’re both tired). With ten seconds left in the round, Lombari lands a heavy overhand. Round 2: Lombari
At the beginning of round three, both men seem tentative. Jamie is backing up and Lombari is moving forward with his chin in the air. One minute in and there aren’t many punches being thrown. Unsanctioned corner man screams “ATTACK!” and Lombari throws a looping punch that causes him to lose his footing and fall over. Lombari lands a couple good shots in the last two seconds of the round. Round 3: Lombari
Walkout music winner: Jamie
Fight winner: Kristian Lombari via UD
Bout 3: 170lbs Duncan Smith 0-0 (Team Irish) vs Isiah Ocasio 0-0 (Ocasio’s Martial Arts)
Duncan Smith walks out to “Fitzpleasure” by Alt-J. Isiah Ocasio walks out to rap. Smith appears to have a height advantage, but it’s hard to tell how much of his height can be attributed to his hair, which is quite voluptuous. I end up speaking to Smith later and asking how he would like me to describe his hair, and the adjective he chose was “vagabond,” which I amended to “rugged.”
Ocasio comes in hard with clean tight punches and drops Smith early in the round, but then Smith lands a shot that has Ocasio staggering across the cage. Both fighters appear exceptionally composed for debut amateurs. The ref steps in to lecture them both about something (no one around me knows what). The action restarts and Ocasio is blasting Smith with some clean shots when the bell sounds. Rd 1: Ocasio
Smith comes out aggressive in round 2 and soon kicks Ocasio in the balls. Ocasio recovers and Smith backs him up with punches. I quit paying attention because some guy comes around to offer me a bottle of water, and when I look up again, it’s Ocasio who’s backing Smith across the cage. Rd 2: I have no f*cking clue. Maybe Smith.
Round three opens with Smith coming out aggressively again, throwing high kicks and backing Ocasio up. Ocasio lands a body shot that sends Smith reeling. Ocasio lands a spinning wheel kick that nearly drops Smith and makes the crowd “OOOOOOOO” loudly. The round ends with the fighters trading shots. Rd 3: Ocasio
Walkout song winner: Smith
Fight winner: Ocasio by UD
Bout 4: 150lbs John Bourget 1-3 (Boneyard) vs Steve Perry 1-1 (Broadway)
John Bourget walks out to something that sounds vaguely like Linkin Park, but with a hint more Satan. Steve Perry enters to a jaunty rap tune that has me chair dancing (not to be confused with pole dancing or lap dancing, so don’t even). Bourget has a significant reach advantage over Perry.
I miss the first part of the round because I’m busy flirting with Ryan Fennelly, but there seems to be a lot of punching and kicking going on. Reportedly, Bourget almost got knocked out while I was otherwise occupied.
Rd 1: Ryan Fennelly
Round 2 Perry lands some hard blows with Bourget against the cage. An unsanctioned recreational cornerman on the other side of the room screams, “KNOCK HIS HEAD OFF!” which Perry seems really to be trying to accomplish. Bourget’s punches are losing their snap, and he’s having difficulty keeping Perry at bay. Rd 2: Perry
Round 3 opens with a huggy-wuggy between the two men, who then immediately revert to trying to decapitate one another. Perry hits Bourget with an overhand right, and Bourget remains standing for a few seconds before plummeting to the canvas.
Walkout song winner: Steve Perry
Fight winner: Steve Perry by KO at 1:13 in round 3
Bout 5: 130lbs Crystal Demers 1-0 (Team Fury) vs Rachel Reinheimer 0-1 (Sityodtong)
Crystal Demers walks out to Cyndi Lauper “Girls Just Wanna Have Fun” while I alienate everyone around me by singing along. Rachel Reinheimer walks out to rap. I’ve trained with and love Rachel, so I can’t promise objectivity. My bestie Andy Cote is working her corner (insert heart emoticon).
Demers is freaking ripped, but Reinheimer is apparently unimpressed by rippling musculature and comes out aggressively. The tables turn midway through the round with Demers pushing Reinheimer against the cage and landing a flurry of shots. The women clinch and the ref separates them. The two fighters trade punches for the rest of the round. Demers might have taken the round, but I don’t wanna admit it so Round 1: I’m not gonna say
Rachel comes out aggressively again at the beginning of the second round and seems to be getting the better of Demers. Both fighters are clearly tired, but they continue throwing. Reinheimer seems to have gained an edge this round, but as I said, I can’t be trusted. Rd 2: Reinheimer.
The two women touch gloves at the beginning of the third round start throwing hands. Reinheimer’s jab and rear leg round kick are landing on Demers, who has what could develop into a pretty nasty overhand right in a few more fights. The action is back and forth. I have no idea who won, but it was an excellent bout. Rd 3: Reinheimer because I’m loyal af
Walkout music winner: Demers (sorry Rachel, but her song was really good).
Fight winner: Demers by UD
Bout 6: 155lbs Kevin Sopha 0-0 (SLS) vs Peter Moscone 0-0 (Chang’s TKD)
Kevin Sopha walks out to Chuck Berry’s “Johnnie B. Goode.” Peter Moscone walks out to something that isn’t “Johnny B. Goode.”
Moscone fights out of a TKD gym, which has me both intrigued and slightly concerned for his welfare, as his opponent appears to be able to wrestle. My concerns are somewhat alleviated during the first round when Moscone demonstrates that he is competent by getting off the ground after Sopha takes him down and then working his way off the cage. Sopha seems to be getting the better of Moscone, but Moscone’s unorthodox style could pose a problem for Sopha, who has what I would consider to be a more conventional style for MMA. Rd 1: Sopha
Moscone moves a lot, occasionally literally turning his back to Sopha and fleeing, but also ducking under punches. His chin is up and many of the things he’s doing are sloppy af, but damn he’s fun to watch. Sopha takes Moscone’s back – apparently by climbing onto him like a baby koala bear and then hipping in to drive Moscone's face down on the mat, where he punishes him with strikes. Sopha locks in an RNC toward the end of the round, but Moscone survives to see another round. Rd 2: Sopha
Beginning of round three and the two fighters touch gloves, Moscone continues to bobble around like a rabid chipmunk, taking angles that confound Sopha, who appears to be exhausted and eats some pretty nasty leg kicks. Moscone shows no sign of tiring and engages in a frenetic burst of head banging before blasting Sopha with a bunch more punches and kicks from unexpected angles. Rd 3: Moscone by WTF!!!
Walkout music winner: Sopha
Fight winner: Moscone by UD
Bout 7: 135lbs Max Casa 0-0 (F5 Fight Team) vs Carlos Vespaziano 0-0 (Juniko)
I missed Max Casa’s walkout cuz I had to go wee, but Rob who’s sitting next to me tells me his song was better than “Back in Black,” which is what Carlos Vespaziano walked out to, and Rob seems like a decent guy, so we’re gonna trust his judgment.
Vespaziano does an angry jumpy thing when he gets into the cage that makes a loud banging noise, so I’m immediately intimidated into rooting for him. Vespaziano goes to throw a high kick and Casa counters with a punch, sending Vespianzo to the canvas. Casa ends up in Vespaziano’s guard. Vespaziano locks up a triangle and rolls to mount with it, posturing up to land some strikes. I’m screaming at Vespiaziano to turn into the choke to tighten it, but he’s apparently not listening to the crazy lady yelling at him from the press table and loses it. Then a bunch of jiu jitsu happens, but I’m busy talking to Leon Davis, so I can’t tell you the particulars. Rd 1: Vespaziano?
Round two is a bunch more jiu jitsu with Vespaziano maintaining top position and punishing Casa with strikes. Rd 2: Vespaziano
Vespaziano comes out swinging for the f**king fences in round three, backing Casa against the cage, then dropping his hands to taunt the frustrated fighter before shooting a double, which he finishes. Vespaziano ends up in Casa’s half guard, and Casa is trying to guillotine Vespaziano from the wrong side, which is f**king foolish cuz he could easily end up being von flue choked. They scramble and Vespanziano ends up on top in side control, where Casa tries once again to guillotine him from the wrong f**king side, which WILL NOT WORK. Rd 3: Vespaziano
Walkout music winner: Casa
Fight winner: Vespaziano by UD
Bout 8: 125lbs Alex Walker 2-1 (Kaze Dojo) vs Anna Brown 0-0 (PMA)
Alex Walker enters to a song that is okay but not particularly compelling. Anna Brown, however, walks out to Britney Spears’ “Hit Me Baby One More Time,” to which I am both singing and dancing while typing, so we know who won the music competition for this fight.
Brown is significantly taller and has Rick Hawn in her corner, which is always an advantage. Brown comes out aggressively and takes Walker down, but then Walker grabs hold of Brown’s arm and bars the f**k outta it. Brown makes a solid effort to defend the armbar, but Walker goes belly down and Brown taps.
Walkout music winner: Brown
Fight winner: Walker via submission (armbar) 0:23 into round 1
Bout 9: 125lbs James Palmer 2-1 (F5 Fight Team) vs Joshua Meehan 4-0 (Juniko)
James Palmer reportedly didn’t show up for the fight, so Josh Meehan got in the cage to talk some sh*t, but I guess he doesn’t realize he has a microphone because he is yelling at the top of his lungs into the mic. When he finishes his (largely incomprehensible) diatribe, he throws the microphone to the floor.
Bout 10: 135lbs Andy Aiello 3-2 (Lauzon’s MMA) vs Chris Caterino 0-1 (Gate City)
I’m not sure what Andy Aiello walked out to because I was once again busy flirting with Ryan Fennelly, but Chris Caterino came out to Jimi Hedrix’s Voodoo child. I’ve trained with Andy Aiello and generally think he’s a pretty swell guy, so I’m going to be completely biased once again. Actually, I’m going to be completely biased for pretty much every fight from here on out.
Both fighters come out tentatively with their hands high. Joe Lauzon is in Aiello’s corner and repeatedly yells for Aiello to “hit him with the hammer” and then something else about a “tsunami.” Aiello stalks Caterino, who stays out of the shorter fighter’s range, and there’s not a lot of action, making Lauzon’s corner advice the most interesting part of the fight so far. Aiello finally manages to back Caterino against the cage and hit him with some stuff (stuff being a technical term), but the Caterino gets off the cage and goes right back to running away. A lot. I think maybe three or four strikes landed in all of round one. Rd. 1: Aiello (who seemed actually to be interested in fighting).
Round two Aiello lunges in and lands a few body shots, but Caterino stays just outside his range. Caterino’s corner probably yelled at him for not throwing any punches the last round because he sort of tries to engage. Aiello backs him against the fence and lands a flurry, but Caterino escapes and throws a few punches of his own. A woman, my mother’s age leans across the table and asks, “Is this MMA or boxing?” Aiello backs Caterino up repeatedly, landing at least a few decent shots each time. Caterino uses his length and lands some clean straight punches on Aiello, opening up a cut that ends the fight.
Walkout music winner: Ryan Fennelly
Fight winner: Chris Caterino via doctor stoppage 4:08 into round 2
Bout 11: 160lbs Brandon Odom 0-0 (Wreckroom) vs Vovka Clay 4-2 (Triumph)
Disclaimer: I’ve known Vovka Clay since he was an eighteen years old and walked into Triumph asking to fight one of our pros for his senior project, which apparently involved creating a Powerpoint presentation about getting his ass kicked by John Ortolani in front of his friends and a terrified young teacher who clearly worried the incident might cause her to lose her job.
I have no idea what Odom’s entrance music was, but Clay’s was some unexpectedly emotional sh*t given that he’s Russian and views smiling as a sign of weakness. Clay’s remarkable lack of muscle tone is especially evident beneath the unforgiving cage lights. Clay opens the round with unprecedentedly decent striking (probably thanks to the coaching of an Irish dude named Paddy Ivers) before hitting a double leg and dumping Odom to the canvas. There follows a harrowing period of three minutes in which I scream blood thirsty sh*t at Clay from the press table while he manages to stay on top of Odom and batter him with strikes, forcing John English to step in to stop the fight at 3:11 into round one.
Walkout music winner: Clay
Fight winner: Clay via TKO 3:11 into round 1
Bout 12: 160lbs George Sheppard 15-12 (MMA Institute) vs Lucas Cruz 8-5 (Sityodtong)
I’m not too crazy about either of their entrance songs, but I’ve trained with Cruz at Sityodtong (and also cornered against him in his fight against John Ortolani), so I’m gonna give the music win to him purely out of bias.
Round one starts out with a whole lotta circling and punching. Sheppard gets ahold of Cruz’s legs and finishes a takedown. He ends up in top half guard, but has difficulty maintaining control of Cruz, who works his way back up to his feet. They exchange punches, and Sheppard goes for another takedown, which Cruz defends. Cruz and Sheppard take turns reversing each other against the cage and landing knees. As the round winds to a close, Cruz disengages and then comes back in to land a punch and attempt another takedown, which Sheppard successfully defends. It’s a close round. I think maybe Sheppard might have taken it just because of the takedown. Rd. 1: Sheppard
I’m distracted because Odom walks past the press table, and I’m pretty sure he’s still wearing his handwraps, a circumstance that strikes me as odd. I look up in time to see Cruz finish a takedown on Sheppard before taking his back and sinking in a rear naked tap that forces Sheppard to tap.
Walkout music winner: Cruz, I guess.
Fight winner: Cruz by submission (RNC) at 1:42 into round 2
***Amateur MMA Welterweight Title Fight***
Bout 13: 170lbs Martin Thompson 2-0 (FAA) vs Tommy Lee Davis 3-0 (Juniko)
I was peeing again during the fighters’ entrance, but Rob who’s sitting next to me says that Thompson won the walkout music contest and that he didn’t particularly care for Tommy Lee’s song choice. I was under the impression that I didn’t know either fighter, but then I recovered a memory of sparring with Tommy Lee Davis at Sityodtong to get ready for my fight with Megan Anderson, so I decide to root for him.
Davis lands a takedown on Thompson and stands over him to nail him with some brutal shots, but Thompson manages to get back up. The rest of the round is fairly dynamic, punches, kicks takedown attempts, blah blah blah MMA stuff. Rd 1: Davis
Round two starts with both men swinging hard. Davis lands a hard shot on Thompson, who drops but then immediately rolls up to his knees for a double leg. Davis starts to defend but then inexplicably decides to pull guard for an arm-in guillotine, which he (predictably) loses, giving Thompson the advantage of being over him in his guard where he can pummel him with strikes. A bunch of jiu jitsu happens, and then the two men end up back on their feet. The round ends with Thompson trying desperately for a single leg while Davis smashes him in the head with hammer fists. Rd 2: Thompson
Round three opens with the two men touching gloves before Davis pushes Thompson against the cage looking for a takedown. I’m not sure precisely how it happens but the two fighters tumble to the canvas with Thompson on top in half guard. The bell rings. Rd 3: Thompson
It’s passed my bedtime, and I’m only half paying attention until Davis goes to throw a f*cking BOMB but misses and falls to the ground. There follows a series of booming takedowns (I think Thompson landed them, but I’m only half paying attention). The two fighters get back to their feet and Davis presses Thompson to the cage, not doing a whole lot but landing enough knees to keep ref Kevin McDonald from separating them to restart the action. Round 4: Thompson (I think, but I was only kinda paying attention).
Thompson lands a hard left on Davis at the beginning of round five, then dives in for a double, which Davis defends. Thompson has Davis pressed to the cage, and Thompson looks to finish a single while Davis defends and throws looping punches at Thompson’s head and body. Thompson refuses to give up Davis’s leg, continuing to absorb blows as he drops for a low single, which Davis manages to step out of. The round ends with Davis pushing Thompson to the cage. Rd 5: I’m saying Davis, but I wouldn’t be surprised if the refs say Thompson since he had Davis against the cage for most of the round.
Walkout music winner: Thompson
Fight winner: Thompson by split decision
*** Main Event***
***Amateur MMA Featherweight Title Fight***
Bout 14: 145lbs John Douma 4-3 (Tri-Force MMA) vs Brendon Marotte 5-1 (PMA)
I’m too tired to care about the entrance songs, neither of which was good enough to rouse me from my stupor. I used to train with Douma at Tri-Force, and I know he’s a solid wrestler. I don’t know a whole lot about Brendon Marotte other than that Rick Hawn coaches him.
As Douma’s friend and former training partner, I would like to take this opportunity to encourage him to invest in a more stylish pair of fight shorts, his current shorts being a dreary shade of gray and looking a lot like the uniform shorts my seven year old wears on gym day at his Catholic school. Despite his uninspired attire, Douma lands a takedown on Marotte and then batters him with a few strikes. Marotte works his way back to his feet, but Douma takes him down again, establishing mount briefly before being reversed by the wily Marotte. Douma scrambles back to his feet, and the round ends. Rd. 1: Douma
At the beginning of the second round, the fighters trade hard shots, but neither one seems particularly phased by them. Douma takes Marotte down and lands in his guard. Douma works his way to half guard, but then Marotte gets back up. Douma takes him down yet again. Douma gets to side control and appears to be trying to lock up a d’arce, but he loses position and Marotte gets back up, only to be taken down AGAIN. The round ends with Douma on top in half guard. Rd. 2: Douma
Round three: Douma takes Marotte down. Marotte gets back up. Marotte lands one of those slapping kicks that crowds love. Douma takes Marotte down and grabs his arm, going belly down for what appears to be a tight armbar that Marotte slops out of. Marotte enjoys a few seconds in top position before being reversed by Douma. Marotte stands back up. Douma takes him down. The round ends. Rd 3: Douma
Realizing he’s way behind on the score cards, Marotte opens the fourth round throwing his hands with intensity and even trying for a takedown, which Douma easily defends. Then Douma takes Marotte down. Marotte attempts to stand up. Douma pushes him back to the ground. Marotte attempts to stand up again. Douma pushes him back down to the ground again. The ten second warning sounds and the two men are back on their feet. Marotte launches a bomb that Douma ducks. Rd. 4: Douma
Round number five, and Douma takes Marotte down. Marotte appears finally to be exhausted because Douma manages to keep him down for at least an entire minute before Marotte gets back to his feet so that Douma can take him down only seconds later. Douma takes Marotte’s back, but Marotte begins to escape, and the round ends. Rd 5: Douma
Entrance music winner: meh
Fight winner: Douma by UD