The IFL Grand Prix Finals took over the Mohegan Sun Casino in Uncasville, Conn., Saturday night. On the line: five championship belts in five weight classes.
Attendance clocked in at a solid 5,731, and the crowd was loud and involved.
Perhaps the award for best prediction of the night should go to the manager of the Mohegan Sun Arena staff in the lobby prior to the event.
“If anyone has a weak stomach, I’d suggest you stay out here,” he told them. He wasn’t kidding. Not only did the event see several knockouts, but one fighter was brought out of the arena on a stretcher. Here’s how the action went down:
Heavyweight: Antoine Jaoude v. Roy Nelson
The big boys came out to rumble in the first title bout of the night. This matchup of Jaoude’s wresting skills and Nelson’s BJJ skills surprisingly resulted in a standing fight. Nelson has a notably un-fighterlike physique, but this was clearly no hinderance to his performance. In round one, the fighters spent some time in the clinch, then a flurry of solid strikes came from both sides. Jaoude was caught by several hard hits and went down; he covered it up with a takedown attempt, and was saved by the bell. In round two, both fighters come out swinging. Nelson almost immediately clocked Jaoude with a solid shot heard throughout the arena, and Jaoude went down hard. The fight was stopped, and Nelson went home wearing the first belt of the evening.
Featherweight: Wagnney Fabiano v. L.C. Davis
Fabiano took the fight to the ground early and clearly dominated with his BJJ skills. Round one came to an early end with Fabiano passing Davis’ guard and catching him in a armbar for the submission and the featherweight title.
Welterweight: Jay Hieron v. Delson Heleno
The majority of the round, the fighters chased each other around the ring, neither willing to fully to commit to an attack. The fireworks came at the end of the round, with several strikes exchanged and Heleno throwing a roundhouse kick that would ultimately undo him. The kick apparently resulted in a knee injury, and Heleno waved Hieron off soon after. The ref didn’t see it, and Hieron took Heleno to the ground and began the pounding. Again, Heleno waved him off as the bell sounded. Heleno was unable to continue the fight due to the injury and his corner helped him out of the ring.
Middleweight: Benji Radach v. Matt Horowich
In round one, Horowich was stunned briefly by a sharp blow from Radach that almost brought him to the ground. He managed to collect himself by going for the takedown and then the clinch. The remainder of the round saw the fighters working the clinch against the ropes. The fighters started aggressively in round two, both fighters coming out swinging hard. Taken to the ground, Horowich had Radach in his guard. When Radach stood, Horowich managed to return standing with a nice upkick to Radach’s head. He took Radach down soon after with a round kick to the head followed by a hook for the TKO.
Lightweight: Chris Horodecki v. Ryan Schultz
Schultz took Horodecki down early in the first round. He stayed in Horodecki’s guard, happy to spend his effort on raining strikes to his head. Horodecki made a valiant effort to return the fight to the feet, but Schultz brought him back down. When Schultz began working to pass the guard, Horodecki’s arm was trapped underneath him and he was unable to defend the pounding Schultz was giving. Schultz took full advantage of his opportunity and earned the lightweight belt over the heavy favorite, handing Horodecki his first loss.
Marcello Salazar v. Alex Cook
Salazar was unwilling to stand up with Cook who, in an earlier matchup, dealt him a TKO for his only professional loss thus far. Salazar’s strategy to go straight for the takedown made for an unexciting fight, with Cook spending the majority of the fight on his back. But Salazar knew what he needed to do to get the win, and accomplished it in a unanimous decision.
Brett Cooper v. Rory Markham – Knockout
Both fighters looked game for a slugfest in this bout – Markham appeared to have the advantage in round one, landing some good strikes, including a round kick to the head. Cooper defended by going for the takedown, but almost ruined his evening by getting caught in a nasty triangle. He worked his way free, the fight returned to the feet to finish out the round. Round two was a brutal exchange of strikes – Cooper sent a flying knee to Markham’s head that seemed to rattle Markham slightly. It was enough that Cooper was able to capitalize and bring him down with a chin strike that ended the bout.
Elias Rivera v. Tim Kennedy
Rivera started out with a solid strike to Kennedy’s face – Kennedy decided to take it to the ground. Kennedy worked for and got the mount. From there, Rivera appeared to be trying to turn his back for a turtle, but he never made it, as Kennedy took advantage of his superior position and took Rivera out with brutal strikes to the face. Rivera spent several minutes on the mat as first responders tended to him, placing him in a neck brace and carrying him out on a stretcher with an oxygen mask.