UNCASVILLE, Conn. -- Despite the bad weather, 4,530 fans made their way Friday to Mohegan Sun for the IFL.
It was a night filled with upsets that had a throwback feel, not just because IFL matchmaker Kurt Otto was seen raising the roof during the lightweight title fight but also because two fights ended in back-to-back kneebars. The consecutive submissions left members of the media scratching their heads, trying to remember how many years it had been since that happened.
The fights that were expected to be good were just that, as the IFL continues to showcase fighters that like to fight and impress the crowd while doing so.
Roy Nelson (Pictures)'s title defense against Brad Imes (Pictures) was supposed to be a slugfest, and it was. Only it was a one-sided affair.
Nelson showed why he is the most underrated heavyweight in the game against a tough and difficult opponent in Imes. Both men came out throwing heavy leather, but trading blows with Nelson has proven to be a bad plan. Imes landed a knee and a jab, and that was about it.
Nelson tagged him early with a punch that had him stumbling. Imes hung in there for quite a while as Nelson continued to pick him apart with an onslaught of strikes. The beating continued until another hard shot finally dropped Imes, and Nelson pounced on top of him before the ref called off the storm at 2:55 in round one.
"He's one of those guys that takes a lickin' and keeps on tickin," Nelson said of Imes. "I'm glad I'm the only one that has finished him that way. Everyone else like Rashad [Evans] or even Heath [Herring] couldn't put him away, and they had to take him to the third round and win a decision."
Ken Shamrock (Pictures) just nodded his head as his fighter celebrated by rubbing his belly, which delighted the crowd. Shamrock knows what others have seemed slow to understand: Roy Nelson is the real deal.
"I consider myself top five, easy," Nelson said on where he sees himself in the heavyweight division. Then, taking a playful jab at Sherdog.com, he added: "If I stopped fighting, I'd probably be in the top 10."
Most fans figured Ryan Schultz (Pictures)'s lightweight title defense against Deividas Taurosevicius (Pictures) would be the fight of the night, and the two didn't disappoint. They were cautious at times but also attacked each other full bore.
The second and third rounds were a seesaw battle with both men getting takedowns. Taurosevicius spent his time on the ground looking for triangles or escaping from the bottom. When Schultz was on top, he made sure to deliver ground and pound, usually stealing the rounds in the final minute.
In the last two rounds of the title fight, Schultz used his wrestling to take over. Any chance he got to dish out some punishment, he made it count.
Taurosevicius seemed to wobble Schultz after connecting with a hard punch in the final round, but that was his only shot as Schultz balled him up in the corner of the ring and smothered him with shots.
Schultz was awarded the unanimous decision, 48-47 on all three judges' cards.
Following the fight it was announced that Taurosevicius had broken his foot early in the first round, making it all the more impressive he was able to hang in there so long.
Ryan McGivern (Pictures) came out throwing hard, crisp punches in his middleweight title defense against Dan Miller (Pictures). Eventually, though, Miller scored a rare takedown against the former Iowa wrestler. McGivern then landed an up-kick from his back that rocked Miller.
Miller was undeterred, though, and soon he dropped down for a kneebar that had McGivern tapping at 3:36 in the first round. With less than 10 fights under his belt, Miller is now an IFL champion.
Mike Massenzio came out strong, delivering a high kick to the chin of Danillo Villefort. Villefort looked for a judo toss, but he ended up on his back, where Massenzio stacked him up and delivered some blows.
Villefort made his move during a scramble, wrapping his legs around Massenzio's midsection while grabbing for his legs. Massenzio lost his balance, and when he hit the ground, Villefort got the angle he was looking for and locked in a solid kneebar. The submission ended the red-hot Massenzio's win streak, as he tapped at 3:25 in the first round.
Massenzio had come into the fight heavily touted, but Villefort was confident he could win no matter where the fight went.
"He's a tough guy," Villefort said. "He's a tough wrestler, so we knew he was going to take me down -- it's OK, he's doing me a favor. I'm a jiu-jitsu black belt, you know. I have confidence in my ground game and that's it."
There was just something in the eyes of Josh Souder, even during the weigh-ins the day before his matchup against Zac George (Pictures).
After being told he was a quarter-pound heavy, he looked as if he wanted to tear the official's head off as he paced the stage. The IFL touted him as being the first of "Team Prodigy" from Ohio to break into a big show.
Souder made the most of the opportunity, mauling George after their first separation and piling it on as George crumpled into the corner. The fight was stopped at just 47 seconds into the first round.
"I worked the body and then threw a body shot and then an overhand right, and that hurt him," Souder said. "So when we clinched, I let go and then threw it again and that's what hurt his eye. He fell down, and I finished him off."
The first two rounds of Matt Horwich (Pictures)'s fight against Joey Guel (Pictures) were mostly comprised of Horwich punching his way inside the clinch. Guel successfully pummeled his way out of most trouble, but he wasn't able to get much offense going against the former middleweight champ.
Horwich got serious in the third, pressing forward with strikes until finally taking Guel down and getting side control. He spent the rest of the round delivering short shots and keeping Guel from getting any offense going.
Horwich has been very entertaining of late, but this fight was not. He took the unanimous decision: 30-27, 29-28 and 30-27.
John Howard got a grappling lesson from Nick Calandrino for most of the first round, including a rear-naked attempt mixed with some side control.
In the third round, though, Howard connected with a knee and some heavy shots that opened a cut. The flurry convinced the ref that Calandrino was done, and the fight was stopped at 2:44, though Calandrino heavily protested the decision.
Aaron Stark (Pictures) dominated Lamont Lister (Pictures) with his superior wrestling for most of the first round. The second round was uneventful, and in the third Stark knocked his opponent to the ground with a right hand.
Stark fell into a triangle, but eventually he escaped and finished the fight on top for the unanimous decision, 30-27 on all the cards.
John Franchi (Pictures) looked like he was in a nice, calm training session in the first fight of the night. He patiently worked his way onto Frank Latina (Pictures)'s back, got a body triangle and dispatched Latina early with a rear-naked choke at 2:19 in the first round.