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April 25, 2019

New England Fights 38: Stormborn The Preview

Travis Lizotte

Portland, Maine - Everybody knows what they say about April showers; but the storm due to hit Portland, Maine Saturday (April 27th) night will be one of epic proportions; as New England Fights presents NEF 38: Stormborn live from the sold out Aura Nightclub in the heart of Portland's Old Port! Promoters Matt Peterson and Nick DiSalvo have put together eighteen mixed martial arts battles including; 4 professional fights, 14 amateur fights, with four of those amateur fights determining the thrones of their divisions. Two currents King's put their titles on the line, as Amateur Welterweight Champion Duncan "The Highlander" Smith (4-3) looks to defend his 170 pound strap against unbeaten Challenger; Jon Tefft (2-0). Smith has no intentions of relinquishing back to back titles, after suffering a tough submission loss to Dave Spero (6-2) a Combat Zone 69, and looks to prove that his team at Evolution Athletix has him ready to defend his title against First Class MMA's Tefft. Tefft was away from action for the entire year in 2018, after beginning his amateur career with two straight stoppage victories, Tefft comes down from Middleweight to Welterweight, for the showdown with Duncan Smith, as he welcomes his first shot at Amateur Gold!

Current New England Fights Amateur Bantamweight "King of the North;" "Killa" Kam Arnold (4-0) has been one of the most exciting Amateur fighters in the promotion's recent history, landing four Knockouts during his reign, including a absolute war with Killian Murphy (1-1) in his last fight, earning a TKO in round four to capture the NEF Bantamweight crown. Central Main BJJ's Arnold puts that belt on the line for the first time Saturday night, when he meets NEF Bantamweight veteran Henry Clark (5-4). Choi Institute's Clark is also coming off a war with Killian Murphy, that saw Clark get his hand raised at NEF 36 by Unanimous Decision, setting up the title shot against Kam Arnold. 

Quickly becoming one of the most talked about Amateur Featherweights in all of New England following his all out, five round war with Fred Lear (6-2-1) at NEF 37 for the NEF Featherweight title that resulted in a Draw, Nostos MMA's Zac "Rocky" Richard (3-0-1) makes yet another attempt to capture the coveted crown. Richard considers himself lucky to have escaped a late round body shot from Lear in that fight and make it to the judges score cards, but Richard's pressure and Wrestling in the first couple rounds looked top level, and kept him in the fight. With Fred Lear turning pro, Richard will once again look to capture that belt; this time against Spero's Tom "The Phenom" Paglairulo (2-1). A wrestler in his own right, Pagliarulo has gone 2-1 in three fights with New Hampshire's Combat Zone, earning two stoppage victories during that time. Looking at a big step up in competition, Pagliarulo will look to seize the moment and make the best of this huge opportunity, to fight Zac Richard, in Zac's back yard, for the Featherweight belt!

Cage Titans FC Amateur Women's Bantamweight Champion; Taylor Thompson (3-0) looked impressive in her Decision win over Catie Denning (2-1) at NEF 36, putting her in line for a shot at the vacant NEF Women's Bantamweight Title. After overcoming numerous medical issues; including a cancer scare, BST MMA's Thompson will attempt to capture her second regional Amateur title as she welcomes Michigan's Andrea "Renegade" Howland (2-0) to the NEF cage for the very first time. Highly regarded in her native Michigan; Michigan Top Team's Howland trains at one of the best gyms in her home state and has been impressive in the cage earning two wins against no defeats as an Amateur. Both women are big for the 135 pound division, having fought above that weight in the past, Howland is coming in looking for her first shot an a title, while Thompson looks for her second strap and to further status as New England's top female Amateur.

With the four Amateur title fights being worth the price of admission alone, the promotion offers four professional fights to cap off the stacked main card. The professional bouts start in the Featherweight division with the afformentioned Fred Lear (Debut) making his first walk as a professional, following his draw with Zac Richard at NEF 37, as the NEF veteran kicks off his professional career against North Carolina's Bryant Bullock (1-0). Bullock followed up a 7-5 Amateur career with a Knockout win in his pro debut last September, there is no question however that he will have his hands full with the relentless Fred Lear, as the Youngs MMA product pushes for a dominant performance, on home soil, in his pro debut.

It has been over two and a half years since veteran striker Keegan Hornstra (3-10) has laced up his gloves for competition, with a new primary training facility (Evolution Athletix) as well as a new reason to fight; his one year old son Klaus, Hornstra looks to give it a "go" once again as he ends his layoff with his bout against Zenon Herrera (1-7) Saturday night. Hornstra's striking techniques and knowledge of MMA has never been in question, however Keegan's chin has made him susceptible to heavy shots. Combined with the gall to never back down from a fight, even against some of the regions top athletes, Hornstra has seen more ups than downs across 13 professional fights. Herrera knows what its like to end up on the wrong side of a fight, but the outcome never matters all the much to Zenon, who continues to fight for his love of the martial arts and his inert will to test himself. Although both fighters have backgrounds in striking, I don't believe these guys will just stand and trade for long, I think this fight will be won or lost on the ground.

Choi Institute's Caleb Hall (2-0) deserves every bit of hype surrounding his already impressive professional resume; having defeated both John Ortolani (9-13) and CJ Ewer (3-3) by first round submissions. Hall is a massive Lightweight, with heavy, consistent, grappling techniques and an arsenal of submission that could end anyone's night early. Hall will be looking for further his climb up the New England Lightweight ranks as he welcomes journeyman Jay Ellis (15-86) back to the NEF cage. Jay Ellis will be back in the NEF cage for the third time (0-2) as he once again draws one of the promotion's most talented fighters, Ellis suffered losses to both Josh Harvey (6-0-1) and Ryan Sanders (18-9) in the past and is now assigned with the tall task of solving the unblemished; Caleb Hall, in the Co-Main Event!

And in the main event, the Rasquatch; Ras Hylton (3-2) is back in the cage looking to rid himself of a first round knockout loss to the surging Yorgan de Castro (4-0) at NEF 36, in the first ever NEF Cruiserweight title fight. It goes without saying that Hylton is a physical mismatch for most average Heavyweights, standing over six and a half feet tall, Ras will have the reach advantage on just about anyone. Along with his technical striking styles and athletic movements the Jamaican Shamrock will be a problem at striking distance. First Class MMA's Hylton does however need to patch up some holes in the clinch as well as on the ground if he wants to knockoff the debuting Nebraska native Charles Penn Jr. (1-2 as Amateur). Penn turns pro after over six years away from competition MMA once the cage door closes on his professional debut with the hometown Hylton. As is always the case with Heavyweights, anything can happen when these two big men collide in the center of the Club Aura stage as Hylton v. Penn highlights an exciting night of action from Portland's Old Port!

Fights are due to get underway at 7pm local time and tickets for the event are currently sold out with no live streaming service planned. So for your exclusive live NEF 38: Stormborn coverage stay up to date with us here at WesternMassMMA as we will have you covered round by round throughout the evening! Travis Sinclair and Warchild will have their spots cage side, and my wife Tina and I will have your social media experience available to follow on Facebook. Below is a look at the entire fight card as well as the projected fight order for NEF 38: Stormborn!