PORTLAND, May 5 -- On a clear night in Northern Oregon, Matt Lindland (Pictures) and Randy Couture (Pictures) held the nineteenth installment of their local MMA promotion, Sportfight in front of 5,900 fans at the Portland Rose Garden. Two lightweight boxers may have been fighting this night, but no one here cared. They were more star struck with Couture and Lindland as well as other notable fighters Ed Herman (Pictures), Josh Haynes (Pictures), and the Portland Wolfpack.
"I was so nervous about this one," Lindland admitted. "I've put on shows on holidays and other occasions, but I was really concerned about this one." He didn't need to be as MMA fans came out in droves to support him and "The Natural," who was ringside throughout the event.
In the night's main event, Enoch Wilson (Pictures) and Travis Bush fought a rematch of their last fight in Sportfight XVIII when the judges ruled the contest a draw. That match, coupled with Wison's recent media exposure on MSNBC's Warrior Nation probably fueled the large turnout for tonight's event. From the outset it was apparent that both men wanted this fight badly.
In the first, Bush showed extreme aggression by repeatedly taking Wilson to the ground. Wilson, himself a highly decorated wrestler couldn't stop Bush's assault and found himself working hard to hold off the determined grappler. Bush secured Wilson's back, but had difficulty doing anything from there. Wilson managed to get up and slam Bush down hard, however the tough Bush worked his way out and got another takedown of his own, clearly frustrating Wilson. The round ended too close to call.
In round two Wilson put Bush against the ropes. Bush looked for a guillotine but it wasn't there, so he went for Wilson's back, but again was unsuccessful. It was a wrestlers' war that got neither man anywhere after three minutes. Somewhere along the way, Wilson as cut over his right eye and began bleeding. Wilson detected the blood and started punching from the guard, connecting with a couple. But then he lost top position and found himself on the defensive with Bush in his own guard. Bush attempted an arm-triangle choke, but it wasn't there. The round ended with Bush on top.
Not wanting to rely on the judges again, both men come out swinging in round three, with Wilson getting the better of the exchange. In the clinch, Wilson landed several knees and cut Bush below the eye, but then he was back in Bush's guard before Bush transitioned to his back. Again Bush had difficulty advancing his position. Wilson then exploded with what little energy he had left and began raining down hammer fists.
Moments later, though, Bush somehow reversed Wilson and was back on top. Bush certainly looked fresher and more aggressive. The fight ended with a flurry of punches in the guard, but none did any damage. Once again this fight goes to the judges.
This time there was a decision and it was a unanimous one, as all three judges score it 29-28 in favor of the more aggressive Travis Bush, who's the new Sportfight lightweight champion.
"It went pretty much how I wanted it to," Bush said afterward with ice on his eye. "He's a great wrestler, but I just had better skills tonight."
Wilson had to agree: "He's just a cock-strong kid. He kept coming and kept me off balance. I couldn't get my game plan going as well as I wanted to."
In the night's co-main event, "Fast" Eddy Ellis (Pictures) brought a wealth of MMA knowledge into the ring against Ed Nuno, who hadn't fought since last October, for the Sportfight welterweight championship.
With a three-fight winning streak on the line, Ellis came out blazing and looked sharp. It looked as if the pair got together before the fight and agreed to display their high-flying kicking skills, as they traded several high and low kicks to each other's legs and heads. Ellis, bleeding first from the nose, showed defiance by taunting Nuno momentarily as Nuno threw punches. Ellis got a takedown and trapped Nuno against the ropes, where he established side-control. The round ended with Ellis on top, where he displayed good sportsmanship by helping Nuno up. It was close, but Ellis appeared to win the round.
In the second, Nuno came out striking again. With kickboxer Chris Wilson shouting instructions to Nuno from his corner, the fight turned into a stand-up war. However it was Ellis who took advantage with big kicks to Nuno's legs.
"Fast" Eddy used these kicks to set up a takedown, where he then worked from Nuno's half-guard. Ellis eventually took Nuno's back and tried desperately for a rear-naked choke, which Nuno defended against. With 20 seconds left in the round, Nuno suddenly exploded, rolled over and delivered three crushing blows to Ellis' head, knocking him out. Nuno wins by KO at 4:53 the second to capture the Sportfight welterweight championship.
On the undercard, light heavyweight "Judo" Jon Krohn took on Lion's Den fighter Whisper Goodman. Coming off an unimpressive decision win in the IFL, Krohn looked to make tonight's fight against the shredded abs-bearing Goodman more exciting. Too bad no one told Whisper.
In the first round, Goodman completely avoided engaging Krohn within striking distance and forced Jon to use his Judo experience to take him down. Krohn took side-control, but Goodman stood back up. Both fighters looked surprisingly winded just halfway through the first. However Krohn was alert enough to catch Goodman switching weight from one leg to the other and clinched, which set him up for a crowd pleasing, over-the-head body slam that would make the WWE proud. Krohn didn't capitalize, though, despite gaining north-south control. The round ended with neither man looking convincing.
In round two there's more posturing and the fair weather Johnson fans start to wonder how that boxing pay-per-view event is going. Both take big swings at the other with no result. Finally Krohn follows up a combination with a takedown, but again can't get any advantage on the ground. The two get back to their feet, but not before Goodman ate a huge knee that seemed to stun him. Krohn landed another takedown and then rolled to Goodman's back with hooks sunk in. However, Goodman defended well and Krohn was unable to get any solid shots in. The round ends quietly. One might say in a Whisper even.
In the third and final round, Krohn stepped up the pressure and went for another takedown but left his neck out too far and nearly got caught in a guillotine choke. Moments later, Krohn took Whisper down into side-control and had Goodman holding on for dear life. Krohn easily mounted Goodman, who tried to squirm out, but found himself in a solid armbar and had to tap out at 2:10 of third round.
Welterweights Blake Fredericks and James Birdsley delivered the fight and controversy of the night. Fredericks apparently channeled Jens Pulver (Pictures) because he looked just like a twin little evil as he took to the ring.
In round one, the two clinched and traded knee skin and takedowns. First Fredericks got one, then Birdsley took his. Birdsley ended up on top, but was kicked off and decided to throw a few thigh kicks Blake's way. A moment later Birdsley got Frederick's back -- but apparently no one told Frederick's to stay down when another man is on top of you, as he stood up and walked around the ring for 20 seconds with Birdsley on his back.
Fredericks finally decided to turn around and get in Birdsley's face, only to find a takedown waiting for him. Fredericks almost applied a triangle choke and bloodied Birdsley's nose in the process. As the round neared an end, both landed big shots and nearly get a submission, driving the crowd crazy.
In round two Birdsley landed a solid leg kick followed by a takedown. Birdsley flattened Fredericks out, but couldn't finish him. For several minutes, though, Birdsley was in control from behind with hooks sunk in. However, he couldn't manage to get past Fredericks' defense, despite several attempts. Against the ropes, Birdsley went for a rear-naked choke and lands a few shots to the back of Frederick's head. Apparently Fredericks was merely saving energy because he exploded on Birdsley with a sweet turnaround and moved into Birdsley's guard swinging, knocking his mouthpiece out.
The referee's stoppage to reinstall the mouthpiece saved Birdsley from a pummeling, though it was apparent he was hurt and trying to survive. He made it out of the round -- barely.
Round three starts off with Birdsley getting a quick takedown and before inexplicably spitting his mouthpiece out, theoretically for what he was about to do. From underneath, Fredericks caught Birdsley in an armbar, but instead of tapping, Birdsley decided to take a page out of Mike Tyson's playbook and sinks his teeth into Fredericks' thigh, causing immediate bleeding.
Fredericks complained to the referee, who caught the illegal maneuver and stopped the bout. Upon inspection by the ring doctor, Birdsley was disqualified for illegal Hannibal Lector impersonation 44 seconds of the third round. Birdsley left the arena under immense boos from the crowd.
Before entering the ring, Paul Wermeki got the award for the most colorful shorts of the night, entering with flaming red and yellow Muay Thai boxing shorts. The stocky heavyweight took on Josh Bennitt, another from the Team Quest stable, who were not having a good night up to this point.
In the first round both immediately came out swinging but ended up quickly on the ground when Wermeki shot from the open and got Bennitt down. However, Team Quest is known for ground-and-pound and with Chris Wilson and Josh Haynes (Pictures) yelling instructions from the corner, Bennitt reversed and landed repeated shots along the ropes. Wermeki couldn't answer the assault and rolled over, giving Bennitt his back, which Bennitt quickly took advantage of. With Wermeki, flattened out and pummeled, the referee called the match when a bloodied Wermeki stopped defending himself at 4:03 of the first.
If you're going to be a janitor and want to fight, you might as well put two and two together and be the janitor at Team Quest. Eighteen year-old Tyson Jeffries did just that. The janitor at team Quest has been waiting a while to get his chance in the Sportfight ring, and didn't disappoint the crowd taking the fight to veteran Dave Colburtson.
In the first round, with members of Quest cheering on their young comrade, Jeffries and Colburtson came out swinging for the fences and delivered the best round of the evening with crisp exchanges. During the round, Jeffries set up and executed two takedowns, landing several punches along the way that seem to hurt Colburtson.
However, Colburtson, known for cardiovascular endurance, weathered Jeffries brutal storm of combinations and takedowns. In the second round, with the crowd cheering wildly for the two lightweights, Jeffries went for a takedown again, but got caught in a guillotine and had no choice but to tap. Both fighters showed immense heart for seven minutes of non-stop action.
Former police officer Greg Thompson entered to rousing welcome in a middleweight match-up against Steve Storwick. In round one both come out cautiously, measuring the distance with a few jabs. Each connected with a punch or two, but nothing was decisive. In the clinch, however, Thompson seemed to have better inside punches, connecting with two uppercuts. Breaking from the clinch, though, Storwick broke the law and sent the former cop to the canvas with an uppercut of his own on that was right on target. The referee quickly stepped in and stopped the bout at 1:25 of first round.
Mike Pierce and Tim Sternod stepped into the ring and immediately Pierce made his presence known with several successful takedowns. However, Pierce couldn't seem to finish Sternod despite gaining north-south control and then side control. The round ended with Pierce dominating nonetheless.
In round two Pierce immediately picked up Sternod and slammed him to the mat. On the way down Sternod put his arm down to stop his fall and found it trapped underneath him. The awkward angle forced a dislocation of his shoulder and he was forced to tap out. Sternod remained on the mat in pain for several minutes while medics attended to him before finally taking him out on a stretcher.
In the knockout of the evening, Jon Clift, a scruffy looking athlete, fought Casey McEuin, who hasn't been putting in many hours on the strength machines.
Clift dominated McEuin on the ground, but couldn't seem to get a Kimura on him despite a great effort. Back on their feet, McEuin threw a spinning back kick that grazed Clift's face. Clift closed the distance, got McEuin in a Greco-Roman hold, picked him up and delivered a massive body slam. Unfortunately the referee didn't see what 5,900 fans in the building saw … McEuin was out cold. Clift managed to deliver three crushing punches to an unconscious McEuin before the ref steps in punctually 2:23 of round one.
Looking just a tad overweight, Rob Stalcup had his work cut out for him against the nimbler and more aggressive Travis Bell, who sported an aerodynamic looking blonde streak across his head in Dennis Rodman-esque fashion. It must have brought him favorable attention from the Gods because he immediately came out firing and got Stalcup against the ropes, where he worked to his back. Just short of two minutes into the fight Bell got the rear-naked choke and Stalcup tapped out.
Undefeated welterweight Lynn Bently from Olympia, Wash. took on Peter Aspenwall, who looked fit to fight. The two immediately staged a striking war at first, with neither gaining an advantage. Bently finally went for a takedown, but Aspenwall successfully defended.
In the most acrobatic move of the night, Bently went for a flying punch with Aspenwall on the ground and was kicked nearly into the third row. Bently regained his composure after being nearly flipped like a pancake and moved in on Aspenwall again, but was caught in a lightning quick Kimura, which he tapped to at 1:42 of the first.