FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: Lewiston, Maine (April 30, 2017) – Again, blood flowed from the head of Jon Lemke. Again, “The” Ryan Sanders had his hand raised in victory.
This time, however, there was zero controversy or conjecture about the finish, and that authoritative ending made Sanders an NEF mixed martial arts champion for the first time.
Sanders used a guillotine choke to stop Lemke just 22 seconds into the second round and win the vacant New England Fights lightweight championship at “NEF 28: Invincible,” held Saturday night at the Androscoggin Bank Colisee in Lewiston.
Their previous non-title confrontation in November 2016 ended with Lemke unable to continue due to an accidental cut. Sanders earned the victory by winning the first two rounds on all three judges’ scorecards.
In the title-bout rematch, Sanders likely was behind on those cards after Lemke used a late takedown to punctuate what had been a back-and-forth, stand-up opening session.
“He hit me right in the … gut, and it … hurt,” Sanders said, peppering the statement with the smile and the expletives that are his calling card. “I knew the first round was going to tough, because he’s a killer, and I tend to be a slow starter.”
Sanders (14-8) wasted no time getting Lemke (6-8) to the mat and earning the tap in round two. It was his seventh win in nine NEF appearances.
The Bangor-based battler dedicated the win to his wife, Vanessa, who was in the cage to put the belt around her husband’s waist. The couple celebrated their fifth wedding anniversary Friday.
“She saved my life,” Sanders said. “She’s the reason I’m here, the reason I fight, and the reason I’m a champion.”
In the co-main event, Josh Harvey (4-0) stayed undefeated with a brutal, 50-second knockout of Derek Shorey.
Shorey (4-9) returned to the NEF cage to raise funds for four of his children and their mother, who lost their home in a recent New Hampshire apartment fire.
“He’s a great guy and a super warrior. I’m glad he stepped up to fight,” Harvey said. “Next I’d like to fight someone else who’s undefeated.”
Matt Denning of Auburn ended his four-fight winless streak with authority. “Ken Doll” made his long-awaited return to the NEF cage with a first-round verdict over Josh Parker.
Denning used his grappling strength to win the grudge match. He rallied from an early takedown, dominated on the ground, and used a guillotine to put it away in the fourth minute.
“It feels good to win. I finally got one,” Denning said. “I’m at 145 pounds, which is where I belong.”
Bellator veteran Walter Smith-Cotito improved his NEF record to 3-0, and he has done it against eye-opening opposition. On the heels of past wins over Bruce Boyington and Elias Leland, Smith-Cotito defeated Andre Belcarris via rear naked choke at 2:05 of the second round. Belcarris was making his pro debut after 34 amateur bouts.
Dominic Jones made a triumphant pro debut, taking out NEF mainstay Tollison Lewis with only 30 seconds remaining in the first round. Jones won all his amateur fights by decision, but be used his wrestling acumen to dominate his taller opponent on the ground and earn the TKO.
First-round stoppages also were the rule in the amateur portion of the card, with all four fights ending in under two minutes.
The most controversial result involved Caleb “Dr. Feelgood” Austin, an 18-year-old senior out of Mountain Valley High School in Rumford, taking on James Ploss of Kaze Dojo in Lancester, New Hampshire. It was the cage debut for both combatants.
Ploss was the aggressor from the opening bell and immediately took the action to the mat. That also played to the strengths of Austin, who amassed an astonishing 208-11 record while winning two state championships as a schoolboy wrestlers.
At about the 30-second mark, Ploss applied a guillotine and forced a tap from Austin. Unfortunately for Ploss, the referee did not see Austin tap and he allowed the fight to continue after Ploss had released the hold.
Austin took full advantage of the reprieve and showed power in both his stand-up and striking game, eventually earning a TKO in the flyweight fracas at the 1:57 mark.
Josh “Basketball” Jones left no doubt whatsoever in his debut victory over Sean Worcester (0-3).
Jones, 29, who was drafted by the NBA Development League before embarking on a professional career in Germany and Canada, went on the early attack with looping haymakers. He dropped Worcester to the canvas and ended the middleweight scrap with a barrage of haymakers after only 20 seconds.
Jacob Deppmeyer evened his ledger in the amateur hexagon at 1-1 with a 77-second dismissal of Glenn Kasabian at a catch weight of 140. The wins by Dominic and Josh Jones as well as Dettmeyer made First Class MMA a perfect 3-0 on the evening.
Mason Travers joined the parade of fighters making a successful amateur debut with his win over Nigel Moye at 1:10 of the opening stanza.
Many big announcements were made concerning “NEF 29: Stars and Stripes,” which will be held Saturday, June 17 at Androscoggin Bank Colisee. The main event will feature the Maine homecoming of Ray “All Business” Wood. Former NEF bantamweight champion Paul Gorman will also be featured.
Professional boxing will return to share the spotlight, led by local favorites Brandon Montella of North Anson and Russell Lamour of Portland, and with a special guest: Former heavyweight champion James “Buster’ Douglas will be in attendance to greet fans and sign autographs.
Tickets start at $25 and are available at www.TheColisee.com or by calling the Colisee box office at 207.783.2009, extension 525.