ATLANTIC CITY, N.J. -- The next time you complain about your job’s mind-numbing tedium, take a moment and be grateful you were not stuck in Monte Cox’s shoes on Friday night.
After assembling a tremendous lineup for his Extreme Challenge promotion’s latest offering, Cox saw “War at the Shore” come apart at the seams. Headliners Eddie Alvarez and Wilson Reis bowed out of their bouts at the Tropicana Resort and Casino, leaving former Bodog Fight women’s champion Tara Larosa to shoulder the burden of providing a worthy main event for fight-starved fans in the Northeast.
Luckily for Larosa, being a New Jersey native meant she had the entire crowd firmly in her corner, as the raucous patrons united behind their hometown girl.
That did not faze her opponent, Alexis Davis, who quickly seized the initiative on the feet and forced Larosa to seek the safety of the clinch. An extended stalemate ensued, as neither fighter could secure the upper hand, forcing a referee restart the restless crowd instantly approved. That restart set the stage for the best action of the first round, as Larosa (16-1) promptly dropped Davis with a short hook that would have ended the night for the upstart had her strong guard not corralled Larosa for the remainder of the round.
The second stanza saw another protracted clinch battle won by Davis (6-2), who scored a surprising trip takedown. Even more shocking was the ease with which Davis waltzed past Larosa’s guard. The round’s final stunner came when Larosa managed to reverse the position, only to be trapped in a triangle choke that she endured while waiting for the sweet sound of the bell. Several suspenseful seconds later, Larosa was saved by the timekeeper’s hammer.
Heading into the deciding third round, it became apparent the bout would come down to a battle of wills. As in the previous two periods, a clinch fight marked the early going, and this time, Larosa got the upper hand by securing a rear body lock that she segued into a takedown.
By then, Larosa had shaken off the cage rust from 14-month layoff, and she maintained top control while keeping a fist in Davis’ face. Unfortunately, an earlier cut sustained by Davis in the clinch proved to be the deciding factor. The referee called for a check from the doctor, who deemed the damage too severe for Davis to brave the remainder of the round. The end came 4:23 into period three.
Despite the event being held in New Jersey, one of the largest cheering sections at the Tropicana belonged to Philadelphian Charlie Brenneman. He showed off his wrestling pedigree early at the expense of Edward O’Daniel and delivered a pair of slams within the first 20 seconds of the bout. The frustration was visible on O’Daniel’s face, as his attempts to get back to an upright position were repeatedly answered by Brenneman’s slams.
However, Brenneman lacked the offensive firepower of his trainer, UFC lightweight prospect Frankie Edgar, and the constant slams became passé, as Brenneman’s attempts to pass guard and score with strikes were almost unfailingly thwarted by O’Daniel (1-3). Finally, O’Daniel’s open guard tactics caught up to him, as Brenneman (7-1) secured the dreaded crucifix position and chipped away with strikes that forced a stoppage late in the second round. Elbows brought an end to the match 4:22 into the second round.
Although most of the Northeast talent, kept the crowd happy, Queens, N.Y., native Jonathan Evans wasted his goodwill with spectators when British wrestler Kamal Shalorus promptly disposed of the New Yorker with ease. All it took was a body lock takedown and some howitzer-propelled right hands to send Evans (0-1) back to the borough with a bruised ego and a loss to boot. The action lasted a mere 35 seconds, as Shalorus (3-0) remained unbeaten.
One of the evening’s better offerings was the bantamweight tilt featuring World Extreme Cagefighting veteran Justin Robbins and Philadelphia Fight Factory product Zach Makovsky. Showing the same blitzing offensive style as stablemate Alvarez, Makovsky (5-1) kept Robbins off balance throughout the bout. Eventually, he scored a lightning-fast transition to back control and coaxed a tapout from Robbins (9-6-1) with a rear-naked choke 1:05 into round two.
On a night that saw undefeated prospects shine at the expense of veterans, ShoXC veteran Josh Barnes might have done the most to further his name.
After he rocked UFC veteran Sherman Pendergarst on the feet, he put an end to matters with a guillotine choke that elicited a quick three-tap symphony from Pendergarst (11-12). All told, it took a mere 32 seconds for Barnes (3-0) to announce himself as a prospect worth watching in the heavyweight division.
While the second half of the evening proved worthy, it was the undercard that really came through.
The clash between John Meyer and Craig Kaufman hit leadoff. Meyer (6-3) controlled the action with his wrestling before unexpectedly transitioning from a Kaufman (6-3) sweep into a heel hook that sounded his opponent’s death knell 85 seconds into the third round.
Also on the undercard was the professional debut of bantamweight Tuan Pham, who needed only his left hand to overwhelm and stop Minnesota Martial Arts Academy product Nat McIntyre by technical knockout 40 seconds into the first round. The defeat snapped a seven-fight winning streak for McIntyre (7-2).
Equally impressive was the debut of Dan Stittgen, who turned an attempted armbar by Kurt Pellegrino protégé Greg Killian into a standing rear-naked choke that, despite valiant defense from Killian (1-1), sealed the deal with just 10 seconds left in the first round. Stittgen (1-0), who took a vociferous verbal volley from Killian’s cheering section during introductions, offered some choice words and gestures to his deriders afterwards.
While none of the undercard bouts disappointed, the showstopper of the night’s opening half was the bantamweight brawl between Iowa’s Mike Powell and Brazilian Sidemar Honorio.
The opening round alone saw the unorthodox Honorio (3-0) drop Powell twice with high kicks. Powell responded with rugged punching volleys that had Honorio scrambling for breathing room. With the crowd hoping for another round of back-and-forth action, Honorio was clearly thinking otherwise, as he dropped Powell (7-2) with another high kick that left the referee no choice but to call it a night for the prone Iowan 24 seconds into the second stanza.