FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: Auburn, Maine (May 15, 2022)
Three scintillating stoppages at the apex of the professional card Saturday highlighted an unforgettable night in the New England Fights cage at NEF 47: “The Battle of L/A.”
NEF mainstays Jesse “The Viking” Erickson and “The” Ryan Sanders thrilled a sellout crowd at Norway Savings Bank Arena in Auburn, Maine with first-round, co-headline triumphs, and pro newcomer Ross Dannar slugged out an early contender for both upset and fight of the year.
Erickson (11-8) needed merely 1:57 to subdue estranged training partner and student Matt “Ken Doll” Denning (5-13) in their highly anticipated grudge match. A master of quick submissions known far and wide for his jiu-jitsu acumen, Erickson wasted no time taking the bout to the canvas and locked in a rear naked choke.
In an emotional post-fight address to a crowd that sounded largely pro-Erickson when the local combatants were introduced, the instructor from Central Maine Jiu-Jitsu echoed a universal sentiment in dedicating the win to his fallen friend and stablemate, Jesse Peterson, who passed away unexpectedly in March.
“I just want to thank everybody for coming. There was a lot of support and love here tonight. I’m extremely grateful for it,” Erickson said. “Jesse Peterson, we know you’re watching. Till Valhalla, brother.”
Erickson and Denning shook hands and embraced briefly after the fight. The CMBJJ camp parted ways with their former colleague four years ago, a time when Denning acknowledged he was wrestling with multiple personal demons.
Bangor-based Sanders (19-9), who hadn’t fought since a three-fight winning streak with NEF in 2018, earned the night’s most spectacular knockout with a vicious kick to the head of Mark “Pockets” Gardner (2-3) just 25 seconds after the opening bell.
Sanders, the former NEF pro lightweight champion, fought at welterweight under the umbrella of Vision Quest Muay Thai and renowned coach Primo Bellarosa for the first time. He flattened Gardner with a looping left foot and landed one strike for good measure before the referee quickly intervened.
Dannar, who was 2-1 as an amateur, all decisions, was paired with rising star Mohammad Al Kinani in what many observers expected was another steppingstone for the undefeated lightweight.
The first round played out according to that script, with Dannar’s chin absorbing all the best shots Al Kinani had to offer. Representing UFC veteran Devin Powell’s Nostos MMA, Dannar didn’t blink, punctuating a back-and-forth second stanza with an authoritative takedown.
It was a game-changing sequence. Dannar quickly gained top control at the outset of the third round, unleashing a fusillade of unanswered strikes that sealed the deal at the 44-second mark.
“I thought he was gonna knock me out. I’m just as surprised as the rest of you,” Dannar said. “Mo’s badass. It was everything that I possibly could have asked for. I wouldn’t be feeling this great right now if he wasn’t such a great fighter too.”
Arguably the loudest cheers of the night were reserved for rising women’s star Glory Watson (3-1), who took down a lion-hearted, out-of-state foe, New Jersey’s Natalie Schlesinger, by unanimous decision.
After a first round that split the three judges’ points of view, Watson gained command with a late flurry just before the bell to end the second session. Watson’s stand-up game reigned supreme in the decisive third.
“This girl is tough. She’s one hell of a fighter. That was obvious to everybody. I couldn’t have asked for anything better,” Watson said. “I’m grateful to her for coming up. I just want to stay as active as I can, long as I don’t get hurt. I’d love to have it be for one of the (national) names, but if not, I’ll be right here with NEF. They’re amazing.”
In other pro action, Nathaniel Grimard (2-0) grabbed another grind-it-out win, this time at the expense of a relative unknown opponent in Andrew Provost. Grimard took the bout to the mat early and often, conspicuously in front of trainer Powell and his other seconds from Nostos MMA, and he breezed by a 30-27 margin on all three cards.
“I got the win. It wasn’t exciting, but hopefully I put on a show,” Grimard said.
An emotional, hard-fought affair between Nate Boucher (0-2) of CMBJJ and New Jersey’s David Juliano ended with Juliano getting the win by submission at 1:29 of the second round.
Juliano suddenly gained control with a move that seemingly could have injured Boucher’s arm or shoulder had the fight not been stopped. Boucher is the nephew of Jesse Peterson.
“That didn’t go according to plan,” Boucher said. “This camp was extremely difficult due to my Uncle Jesse’s passing, and win or lose, this was 100 percent dedicated to him.”
In another camp-long war of words between past training partners that came to a head, Anthony Vasta (1-1) used his height and reach advantage and a D’arce choke to subdue Aaron Hughes (1-3) at 2:05 of the second round.
Carl Langston rounded out the pro portion of the proceedings with his second consecutive win after a six-fight losing skid to start his paid career, a unanimous decision over fellow Maine journeyman Zenon Herrera.
Topping the amateur activity, colorful Billy Markle (5-1) of Spotswood, New Jersey won the NEF bantamweight belt with a unanimous decision over Felipe Gunter (4-2).
Markle overcame a deep cut near his eye to dominate the final four rounds of the title bout.
“I’ve always wanted to win an amateur title ever since I was a kid,” Markle said. “This was definitely my last amateur fight before turning pro. That kid’s a fuckin’ dog. He just kept coming forward.”
David Burke of Nostos raised eyebrows in his amateur debut with a 19-second TKO of David McCarty. Seth Godfrey needed only 37 seconds to take out George Pissimissis via strikes.
In two other far more contentious amateur scraps, Joe Peters earned a ground-and-pound, third-round stoppage of Bryant Wade, leaving both fighters at 1-1, and Cassidy Bedard defeated Michelle MacDavid by disqualification due to a poke in the eye midway through the third and final stanza. MacDavid previously had a point deducted for a hair pull.
Rounding out the amateur results: Nate Dorr and Julian Sirois each debuted with unanimous decision victories over Tyler Parent and Chris Strout, respectively; Curtis Ouellette (3-3) of CMBJJ evened his ledger with a knockout of George Demers with seven seconds remaining in the opening round; and Josh Medeiros (2-1) used a standing guillotine to earn the tap against Joey Butera at 46 seconds of the second round.
New England Fights will return to Portland on Saturday, July 30 for NEF 48: “Heatwave” at the Thompson’s Point outdoor venue. For more information about the card, go to www.NewEnglandFights.com.
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.