But it did, thanks to a hometown hero and a Russian crowd that turned out to cheer the Red Devil fight club and an appearance by the world’s greatest heavyweight.
Tonight’s main event at the Boardwalk Hall saw the first-ever title fight for MFC as 170-pound Philadelphia native Eddie Alvarez (Pictures) took on Derrick Noble (Pictures). As per usual, Alvarez bought half of downtown Philly along for the ride, all decked out in yellow Alvarez t-shirts.
But unlike past Alvarez bouts, this one did not seem like it was over before it started. In fact, Noble came in looking much bigger than his opponent, something Eddie acknowledged after the fight. But Alvarez erased any doubts in oh, about 60 seconds, pummeling Noble with a barrage of at least 20 unanswered punches before the referee stopped it.
The victory lap afterwards lasted about 10 times as long as the fight itself.
Alvarez is a gamer, there’s no doubt. But is he ready for the big time? The offers are sure to trickle in now that he’s got a belt, but the opinion here is that 155 is the best shot he’s got.
The main card’s heavyweight bout featured Sergey Kaznovsky (Pictures) against Jerome Smith (Pictures). Smith was clearly overmatched, but for a good two minutes or so exhibited a Wesley Correira (Pictures)-like ability to absorb serious punishment, as he ate fierce punches, withstood takedowns, knees … you name it before finally getting knocked out at 3:25 of the first round.
Eric Oganov and Chris Liguori (Pictures) squared off at 170 pounds in one of the more entertaining, fast-paced fights of the night. Both fighters pushed a very fierce pace throughout this one.
While they were evenly matched on the ground, Liguori connected with more power shots in the first round, connecting with a five-punch combination that formed a welt under the Russian’s eye about 90 seconds into the fight. He also attempted a flying knee, a technique he would repeat throughout the fight with limited success.
Round two was basically even as Oganov attempted more submissions and scored a nice takedown with about 30 seconds to go. Liguori kept up the pressure, however, opening up a cut on Oganov’s face. By round three Oganov was gassed, and Liguori took advantage, seizing top mount and reining down the punches before the ref stopped it at 3:14.
The best fight of the card pitted Vladimir Zenin (Pictures) against Racine, Wis. native Matt Lee. Both of these guys showed up ripped and ready to fight.
Zenin set a relentless pace early, shooting in for a double-leg and seizing control in the first minute. But Lee fought gamely, demonstrating some great takedown defenses — think Forrest Griffin (Pictures) against Tito Ortiz (Pictures) — and turning the tide in the latter half of the round. Lee stole the round with a great sprawl followed by about 10 unanswered punches before the bell sounded.
Round two began with Lee scoring with a low kick. The fight soon went to the ground where Zenin made the fatal mistake of giving Lee his back. The bout was stopped after another flurry by the American at 1:32.
Joey Brown (Pictures) against Vadim Kulchitskiy won’t make any highlight reels. In fact, it seemed to go on forever, prompting one fan to groan, “I can’t take these guys anymore.” Not even PRIDE heavyweight champion Fedor Emelianenko (Pictures), seated ringside and shouting instructions to his Red Devil stable, could add any spark to this one.
Two out of shape guys that were gassed about two minutes into the bout, they flailed punches Wes Sims (Pictures)’ style, attempted submissions including finger locks, jaw locks and a Kimura Sherdog contributor Will Clark described as “something you could time with a calendar.”
Supported by the fired up Russian crowd who chanted his name, Kulchitskiy deserved to win this one, but I’ve seen better bouts in a New Haven bar.
In preliminary action, another Fight Factory product, 170-pounder Stephen Haigh (Pictures), squared off against Toraji of AACC of Tokyo. This one was notable for the costumes — Haigh entered wearing a tiger mask ala Genki Sudo (Pictures) or Kazushi Sakuraba (Pictures), while Toraji wore Apollo Creed-esque stars and stripes spandex.
Haigh scored a flash knockdown a minute into round one, but Toraji quickly recovered and pushed the pace. Clearly he was the better conditioned fighter here but was never able to fully capitalize as Haigh avoided his submission attempts and hung on through two rounds. The judges had it even — you can chalk that up to the hometown advantage — but Haigh recovered in round three and eked out the decision.
Tara Larosa (Pictures) of Northwest Elite out of Fayetteville, North Carolina took on Hitomi Akano (Pictures) (ACCC, Tokyo, Japan) at 135 in one of two ladies bouts tonight. Larosa, with an Alvarez-like contingent, sported a cowboy hat and pranced around the ring with an American flag. But the seemingly overmatched Akano took the lead early, scoring with an impressive four-punch combination and dominating on the ground.
Larosa took over in round two, scoring a takedown of her own and using her strength advantage to land repeatedly with strikes while avoiding Akano’s submission attempts. Tied after two rounds, Larosa took the third “sudden victory” period easily by continuing to score with strikes at will.
Shauna Busler of Sioux Falls took on Amanda Buckner of Portland, Maine in another bout that did not disappoint. Busler worked harder and was the aggressor through much of the fight, but ended up basically beating herself. She threw knees frequently, but few connected, and her many submission attempts wasted a lot of her energy.
After two periods, action moved to a “sudden victory” round where she finally gassed out at the 3:30 mark when the referee stopped it.
In a light heavyweight bout, Muay Thai fighter Kinichi Yamamoto took on Bronx-native Kaream Ellington (Pictures). After weathering a storm of painful kicks, Ellington took control, first gaining top mount and connecting with three consecutive knees to the head late into the round, which dropped the Tokyo native. A barrage of strikes followed that left Yamamoto in an unconscious heap at 4:59 of round one.
The evening’s first bout pitted Yasuke Masuda against Rich Franklin (Pictures)-coached Mike Patt. This was very much a “blink and you’ll miss it” fight. Here’s the complete replay: Patt threw a roundhouse to the head. Patt dropped Masuda with a left to the head. Fight over in 20 seconds. Patt disappeared, Franklin in tow, and called it a night.