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November 19, 2017


Last night I shuffled into the Downtown Radisson Hotel in Manchester, New Hampshire an hour before the first fight was scheduled to begin for Combat Zone 64, fully resigned to enduring at least an hour of mind-numbing boredom while I waited for things to get started. Then I saw the mountain of pine boards stacked in a corner of the room, and I remembered that Johnny Burgess, the owner of Burgess MMA, was planning to try to set a new world record for the most one-inch pine boards broken in one hour. I’ve been training with the guys at Burgess a few days a week for months and months now, and I’d definitely heard Nate LaMotte mention the whole board-breaking thing, but I’ve been punched in the head too many times, and I forget things, so walking into the Radisson and seeing Sensei Burgess standing in the middle of a Stonehenge-ian circle of cinder blocks preparing to smash through thousands and thousands of pine boards was a unexpected treat.

The whole thing was spectacularly nutty. At least a dozen volunteers (probably more, but I don’t count things) were positioned along the outer edge of the circle, waiting to place fresh boards on the cinderblocks as Burgess ran around smashing through the boards much faster than I would imagine anyone would feel comfortable punching through things that were resting on top of cinderblocks. I mean, he didn’t even pause to aim, and I was nervous that he was going to miss and hit one of the blocks. About twenty minutes into the board-smashing extravaganza, I was upstairs in the locker rooms talking to some of the fighters when someone (I can’t remember who – cuz head trauma) came upstairs to show us a broken board splashed with blood from Burgess’s hand. He persevered, though, and broke previous record by over 400 boards. In the end, Burgess broke 3,676 boards, earning himself a spot in the Guinness Book of World Records.

Reportedly, setting a new world record for board breaking has been a long-time ambition for Burgess, but he also did it to raise money to fight pediatric cancer. He is planning to donate all the funds he raised to the Aflac Cancer and Blood Disorders Center at Children’s Healthcare in Atlanta. He is still accepting donations, and anyone who would like to make a contribution can send a check to Johnny Burgess, whose mailing address is 439 Donald St. Bedford, NH 03110. Please make the checks payable to Burgess, who will cash them himself and then write one big check to send to the hospital.

Onto the fights. I was commentating, and I kept forgetting to write down the results of each fight, so I mostly remember who won and how, but I don’t know the exact times (and in some cases, I’m a little fuzzy on which round the fight ended in). Also, I’m a little hungover and don’t really feel like trying to remember anything, so I apologize in advance for all the sh*t I’m about to screw up.

***Amateur Kickboxing***

190lbs Jordan Faulkner 0-0 (IND) vs Matt Gordon 2-3 (Burgess)

Before the fight, both fighters said they wanted the match to go the distance so that they could get more ring (err..cage) time. I was pretty sure this guaranteed that the fight would end in the first round, especially since these are two big boys, but I was wrong. It ended up going the distance, with Matt Gordon taking a unanimous decision victory.
Matt Gordon’s hair looked spectacular. His kickboxing looked pretty good, too. Faulkner looked very technical, but he wasn’t as aggressive as Gordon. He appeared to be waiting for Gordon to throw in order to counter him, which worked well for him on occasion, but it also meant he ate a few hard shots and was clearly the less aggressive of the two. At the end of the third round, it was pretty clear (at least to me) that Matt Gordon had taken the decision.

Matt Gordon def. Jordan Faulkner via UD

***Amateur MMA***

155lbs Nick Roman 0-0 (F5 Fight Team) vs Josh Webster 0-0 (Redline)

Early in the first round, Webster shot in on Roman and took him down. Webster squished Roman against the fence. Roman managed to reclaim guard, but his head was twisted against the cage at an uncomfortable angle, making it difficult for him to move. He tried to set up a triangle, but Webster easily postured out of it. Webster was looking to land ground and pound, but Roman did a good job of keeping him broken down so that he couldn’t get much leverage behind his shots.
I can’t remember how the fight ended up on the mat in the second round, but it did. More jiu jitsu happened, and Webster ended up getting an RNC to finish the fight.

Josh Webster def. Nick Roman via submission in rd. 2

150lbs Matt Brady 0-0 (FTA) vs Kevin Grant 0-0 (Renzo Gracie NH)

I couldn’t decide who to root for in this match because Grant has red hair (like me) and Matt Brady has a red beard. As one would expect from a fight between two people with red hairs, they both came out fast. Grant pressed Brady against the cage looking for a takedown, but Brady did a good job defending and managed to lock up a guillotine. At first, the guillotine didn’t look too viable, but it got progressively tighter. Brady sat to his guard with Grant’s neck still trapped in his arm and took an angle to finish the guillotine. Grant is a tough little ginger and refused to tap, so he ended up going unconscious. As anyone who has ever been choked unconscious can attest, waking up afterward is super disorienting. Like, it feels like you’ve been asleep for six hours, and you wake up from the craziest dreams imaginable with no idea where you are or WTF is going on. That seemed to be the case with Kevin Grant, who stared up at the ref like “what are you doing here?!” and then figured out that he’d been choked out.

Matt Brady def. Kevin Grant via ref stoppage in rd. 1

135lbs Fouad Shain 1-0 (F5 Fight Team) vs James Ploss 0-1 (Kaze)

I was rooting for Ploss just because I spoke to him in the locker room before this fight and his previous fight at Combat Zone 63, and he’s soft-spoken and kinda nerdy and not the sort of person one would expect to fight MMA. He ended up getting armbarred, but he showed a lot of improvement over last time. In general, this fight was a great technical matchup, with both fighters displaying slick bjj. Shain had a very nice looking beard and also hit a devastating hip toss in the second round, but Ploss managed quickly to reverse him and get to top side control. There was a lot of swirling and squiggling around on the ground afterwards, which is when Shain got ahold of Ploss’s arm and bend it the wrong way, forcing him to tap.

Fouad Shain def. James Ploss via submission in rd. 2

***Professional MMA***

160lbs Taylor Trahan 6-8 (Team Link) vs Connor Barry 3-1 (Redline)

Trahan usually fights at 145lbs and came up 15 pounds to meet Barry at 160. This fight ended up being a pretty good demonstration of why it’s generally considered a bad idea to fight up in weight. Barry looked significantly larger than Trahan, who really isn’t very big even for a 45-er. Barry quickly opened up a cut on Trahan’s forehead. The cut was close to Trahan’s hairline, but it bled profusely, and the blood began pouring into Trahan’s eyes. The doctor was called in to check the laceration, and he decided to let the fight continue. I was starting to zone out, so I don’t remember every detail, but I remember that the fight ended up on the ground with Conor landing some hard punches and elbows, a few of which hit the back of Trahan’s head. After a particularly nasty elbow to the back of the head, Trahan went limp and the ref pulled Barry off him and called the doctor back in. After examining Trahan, the doctor called an end to the fight and Trahan and Barry were brought to the center of the cage for the official decision. I think most people there assumed that Barry had won because there was a lot of surprised booing when Barry was disqualified for landing an illegal blow and Trahan was declared the winner.

Taylor Trahan def. Conor Barry via DQ

185lbs Mitch Whitesel 16-28 (Wreckroom Athletics) vs Tim Caron 7-1 (Burgess)

There was a heavy Team Burgess presence in the crowd, and when Tim Caron walked out, the cheering was so loud that I couldn’t even hear the other commentators through my headset. There was a delay in starting the fight because the doctor was still in the locker room with Trahan, and the two fighters shuffled around the cage while the crowd entertained itself by drunkenly singing along to Sweet Caroline. The fight finally got going, but I missed the first part of it because Troy Pickering and I were too busy admiring how handsome Nate LaMotte, who was cornering Caron, looked with his new teeth. Both fighters looked very composed and they spent the first part of the round feeling each other out. Then Whitesel, who looked to be the stronger of the two, pushed Caron against the cage. Caron didn’t seem particularly concerned and let Whitesel expend energy holding him against the fence. Whitesel landed a takedown, but Caron squirmed around to his back to lock up an RNC.

Tim Caron def. Mitch Whitesel via submission in rd. 1

***Amateur MMA***

145lbs Ali Zebian 6-3 (FAA) vs Nick Fiore 3-1 (Renzo Gracie NH)

This was originally slated as an amateur title fight, but Zebian came in heavy and so it was changed into a regular fight.

Honestly, I can’t remember most of this fight, but I do remember that it was an exciting matchup. I recall that in the second round, Fiore got Zebian to the mat and landed some fierce ground and pound, forcing Zebian to give up his back. Fiore seemed content to punish Zebian, and landed a lot of shots before sinking in a rear naked and forcing Zebian to tap.

Nick Fiore def. Ali Zebian via submission in rd. 2

***Professional MMA Featherweight Title***

145lbs Aaron Lacey 4-0 (Young’s) vs Vovka Clay 7-2 (Triumph)

This fight was originally scheduled for Combat Zone 63, but then Vovka broke his own hand trying to choke Dennis Olson in the gym (according to Vovka, he was “trying to save Dennis’s life” and that’s how his hand ended up breaking – don’t ask me to explain this because I can’t). Vovka subsequently took a fight for Bellator, prompting some Facebook drama when Lacey’s teammates accused Vovka of backing out of the fight to duck Lacey. Being Russian, Vovka didn’t seem particularly concerned about any of it, though.

It’s no secret that Vovka likes choking people, and Lacey did a good job keeping Vovka from taking him down. I think Vovka surprised many people (including me) with his striking. He’s been working with Muay Thai coach Paddy Ivers, and his standup has really improved. At some point in the middle of the first round, Vovka began moving in with elbows, one of which opened up a nasty-looking cut on Lacey’s head. Blood poured down Lacey’s face. The doctor came in to check the cut, and determined that Lacey was able to continue. During the second round, it looked as though Vovka opened up a second cut closer to Lacey’s eye, but at that point there was already so much blood that it was hard to tell where it was coming from. Both Vovka and Lacey were covered in blood, and at one point Vovka slipped in a puddle of blood on the mat. Those of us sitting near the ring scooted back to avoid being in the splash zone. About 2:30 into the second round, the doctor was called in for (I think) the third time and called an end to the fight.

Vovka Clay def. Aaron Lacey via doctor’s stoppage in rd. 2