FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: Portland, Maine (February 13, 2022) – One new champion and one successful title defense in the amateur ranks and one stunning reversal of fortune at the professional level highlighted New England Fights’ 10-year anniversary card Saturday night.
“NEF 46: Decade of Dominance” was a jam-packed, 15-fight fusillade before another sold-out, energetic crowd at Aura in Portland, Maine.
Mike Murray and Zach Faulkner thrilled those fans with an early “Fight of the Year” candidate in their brouhaha for the vacant 170-pound title. Murray (4-2) applied the lessons he learned in prior losses to Zac Richard and Tim Birkenhead at NEF 40 and 41, respectively, by rallying for a split decision victory over Faulkner (4-2).
On the heels of a unanimous win on the scorecards in his most recent fight, Faulkner set the tone with a thunderous slam in the opening round. He fought out of a guillotine attempt in the second stanza and bounced back from a pair of early Murray takedowns to inflict a fair share of punishment in the third.
Murray turned momentum in his direction by landing a bundle of bombs in round four, and Faulkner’s takedown late in the fifth likely wasn’t enough to seal the deal after Murray connected with a series of body punches.
The other title bout took much less time and left far less to interpretation. Tyler Smythe (4-1) was authoritative in his first defense of the 125-pound strap, dispatching Ryan Burgess (3-3) via rear naked choke at 2:37 of the opening round.
Burgess ended a four-year layoff from the NEF hexagon to challenge Smythe, who won the title with a technical knockout of Caleb Austin.
He pushed the issue early, but Smythe turned the tables on that aggression by throwing Burgess to the mat. Burgess’ attempt at a retaliatory armbar failed, and Smythe ultimately locked in a guillotine choke that ended his night.
In a highlight among the five professional bouts, Carl Langston – winless in six prior pro bouts after an extensive amateur career – avenged his most recent defeat with a rear naked choke of Zac Richard.
The end came 81 seconds after the opening bell, when Richard (1-1), a past NEF amateur champion and decorated wrestler, went for a takedown. He initially succeeded but gave up his back and fell victim to the choke.
Both fighters accepted the 140-pound bout on only a few days’ notice after their initial opponents became unavailable. Richard lowered the boom on Langston with a knockout at 3:52 of the first round in his pro debut back in November.
Langston, who went 7-9 as an amateur and took four of his six pro conquerors to the scorecards, promised a different outcome in his pre-fight remarks, and he delivered.
Aaron Lacey of Bangor, Maine, making his first appearance in the cage since September 2018, improved to 7-2 in the pro main event with a second-round technical knockout to strikes over Bronx bomber and Bellator veteran Jerome Mickle (4-12). In an emotional moment to end the night, Mickle announced his retirement after nearly nine years of cage competition.
Lacey took advantage of an early takedown to dominate the first round of the 155-pound showcase, then ramped up his ground-and-pound assault to another level in the second chapter before the referee waved off the proceedings at 1:42.
In the sole women’s fight on the card, crowd-pleasing Glory Watson (2-1) continued her winning ways with a rear naked choke of previously undefeated Alibeth Milliron (2-1) at 2:23 of the second round in their 115-pound tussle.
Both women landed early haymakers, with Watson’s facial expressions indicating she was anything but hurt. She further demonstrated that point by taking Milliron to the canvas and narrowly running out of time in her first attempt to turn out the lights.
Milliron made more overtures with the stand-up game in round two. A quick takedown and a series of punches gave Watson another opportunity for the choke, however, and she sealed the deal.
In a battle of two 140-pounders making their pro debut, Nate Grimard exercised top control throughout and breezed to a unanimous decision over Anthony Vasta. Grimard’s success as a pro comes as no surprise to fans. He is a former NEF Amateur Featherweight Champion who put together a record of 4-1 in the amateur ranks.
Mohammad Al Kinani also enjoyed a victorious dive into the pro waters, needing only 42 seconds to dismiss Chris Rooney (0-2) via strikes at 155. Al Kinani countered Rooney’s early kick with a flurry, dropping Rooney and subjecting him to another barrage that hastened the stoppage.
First Class MMA stablemates Cody Kilton and Justin Kangas passed muster with the judges in back-to-back amateur bouts.
Kilton (2-1) carved out a unanimous decision over Kaleb Kenney (0-2) at 155. Kangas (1-3) tasted victory for the first time with a split decision verdict at the expense of Jon Assam (2-4). Kangas kept control on the ground through the second and third rounds to put the long-awaited mark in the left-hand column of his ledger.
Three amateur bouts featured the rookie outing for both combatants.
Mike Jolicoeur used an arm triangle to take care of business against Will Smith at 145. In a 125-pound collision, Key Baltazar locked in a rear naked choke at 1:33 of the second round against Quinn Poirier. Baltazar’s team, Nostos MMA, was an undefeated 3-0 at “NEF 46.” Jack Burke punctuated his win over Nick Legrande with a brutal knockout blow at 1:25 of the opening frame in their 265-pound rumble.
Curtis Ouellette (2-3) spoiled Christopher Smith’s debut with a TKO via accumulation of strikes in round three.
Two other amateur scraps produced first-round finishes. Jeff Reynolds (3-2) won by rear naked choke over David McCarty (1-1) at 185, and Ben Grady (3-0) kept his record spotless when Brandon Maillet-Fevens (3-3) couldn’t continue after injuring his arm while blocking a kick. Reynolds’ win gave his team of Karasu Tengu Academy a perfect record of 2-0 on the night.
The quick results from Portland, Maine:
Aaron Lacey def. Jerome Mickle via TKO (round two)
Carl Lagston def. Zac Richard via rear-naked choke (round one)
Glory Watson def. Alibeth Milliron via rear-naked choke (round two)
Nathaniel Grimard def. Anthony Vasta via unanimous decision
Mohammad Al Kinani def. Chris Rooney via TKO (round one)
Mike Murray def. Zach Faulkner via unanimous decision
Tyler Smythe def. Ryan Burgess via guillotine (round one)
Mike Jolicoeur def. Will Smith via arm triangle (round one)
Key Baltazar def. Quinn Poirier via rear-naked choke (round two)
Jack Burke def. Nick Legrande via KO (round one)
Jeff Reynolds def. David McCarty via rear-naked choke (round one)
Ben Grady def. Brandon Maillet-Fevens via TKO (round one)
Cody Kilton def. Kaleb Kenney via unanimous decision
Justin Kangas def. Jon Assam via split decision
Curtis Ouellette def. Christopher Smith via TKO (round three)
NEF announced that it will return to the Twin Cities for its next installment. “NEF 47: Good Friends, Better Enemies” will pit Lewiston-Auburn mainstays Jesse Erickson and Matthew Denning in the main event. The card is scheduled for Saturday, April 30 at Norway Savings Bank Arena in Auburn, Maine. For more details or to get your seats now, go to newenglandfights.com/tickets.
About New England Fights
New England Fights (“NEF”) is a fight events promotions company. NEF’s mission is to create the highest quality events for fighters and fans alike. NEF’s executive team has extensive experience in combat sports management, events production, media relations, marketing, legal and advertising.