Shamrock FC: 320 - Recap
Saturday night was Shamrock FC's debut on the FITE network, and there was plenty of fireworks for fans tuning in.
Main event participant Erion Zekthi had to overcome some early adversity and then later some controversial judging to win a split decision to improve to 4-1 as a professional.
Zekthi took Esboar to the limit controlling the majority of the fight and winning on two of the three judges' scorecards. Only one judge scored the fight in favor of Escobar, 29-28 while the other two judges had the fight 30-27 Zekthi.
From the opening bell the two bantamweights seemed eager to trade. There was a moment of concern early for Zekthi when Escobar connected with an overhand that put Zekthi onto the canvas.
"He dazed me," Zekthi said. "I was looking for an uppercut and he just beat me to the punch. He hit me with an overhand flush. I dropped, but when I came back to I was on the floor and he was top of me, so I was like 'fuck it', keep going."
After that Zekthi switched to plan B, and his grappling took over.
"I needed to regain myself, that was the first time I've ever been rocked," Zekthi said. "I wanted to make sure I was safe, I've heard it's not the first one that takes you out, it's the succession of punches after that. I wanted to make sure I was in a position that I got my wits about me, I was rocked for a good 30 - 45 seconds and I knew if he hit me again, I'd be out. I wanted to get my wits, get my bearings, and breath."
Zekthi would fight on the back of Esboar for the remainder of round one, landing punches, but unable to get a choke to land.
"I was landing some ground and pound from the top and I hit him with one and felt his face drop," Zekthi said. "I got excited thinking I would finish it in the first round, then hit him with another and he woke up."
Esboar seemingly had no answer for Zekthi's grappling who took him down several more times in the second. With Escobar winded in the third, Zekthi seemed more willing to stand-up, and the fighters traded shots for the most lengthy period of standup. Zekthi seemed to be getting the better of the exchanges, connecting with a head kick, but not willing to take any chances, Zekthi decided it was time to play it safe and once again put Escobar to the floor and road out the round on top.
When the decision was read, there was a murmur resonating in the crowd as a split decision was announced, the third such decision of Zekthi's pro career.
After the fight, Zekthi addressed one judge in particular.
"I don't know what more you want from me," Zekthi said. "How much more can I dominate someone when I was on top all of the second round, and I was the one who hurt him in the third round. What more do you want? Should I just forgo all of my wrestling, forget all my jiu-jitsu and just brawl with them? You were a shit referee, and now you're a shit judge. You don't belong in this sport, you don't know what you're doing."
In the co-main event, Chicago's Shah Zolfaghari made it two for two in Ameristar St. Charles. Zolfaghari, followed up on the KO victory over Kevin Engel earlier this year to score a second highlight-reel knockout on Darryl Cobb.
In the first round, Cobb connected frequently with sharp kicks to the body, landing big punches on Zolfaghari who seemed content to counter. It was more of the same in the second, as Cobb looked much improved since his last outing, and was patient with his offense while connecting often. Going into the final round Zolfaghari would need a stoppage to prevent defeat, and that's exactly what he got when he maneuvered Cobb to put his back against the cage before connecting with a vicious spinning hook kick that sent Cobb into a heap.
Garrett Wells won his third in a row when he submitted Kevin Mueller with a rear naked choke. Wells quickly got the fight to the ground and worked his ground and pound from mount, forcing Mueller to turn to his belly, exposing his back. From there Wells flattened out his opponent and sunk in the choke. This was Well's third submission victory in a row, improving his record to 3-2.
Kicking off the pro portion of the card, Kris Craig might have been off for a year, but he never lost a step. Craig landed a nasty leg kick that forced a clinch, and inside trip put him into side control against Jason Stevenson. From there, the former college wrestler kept the pressure on, eventually grabbing the arm and scoring an Americana submission victory.
"He likes to wing that right hand pretty hard," Craig said. "I was hoping he'd commit to one and I'd get to exchange a bit, touch him with my hands a bit. After I leg kicked him I don't think he wanted any part of being on our feet. The takedown was just there, he was kind of falling over. From there my wrestling is just too good, I don't care about someone's jiu-jitsu. When I'm punching you in the face, your jiu-jitsu doesn't matter."
Craig improved to 2-0 as a pro, and after the long layoff wants to get right back in there.
"I'd like to go right back," Craig said. "That layoff wasn't really planned. I had my first pro fight and kinda got hurt a bit in training. I was supposed to fight earlier this year but had people back out, but after this, I just want to flow into the next one. Around here, I don't know anyone pro-wise that's out there. I'd like to fight Corbin (Howard) again. I know his schedule is kind of weird when he can fight, but other than that I'd just like to take another fight fairly soon."
It's safe to say, Dustin Ventimiglia is back. The second-generation MMA prospect looked fully recovered from his catastrophic, life-threatening, workplace injury two years ago, and in the shape that had many local fight fans buzzing about his potential. Ventimiglia made an emotional and victorious return to the cage last September, 16 months after the accident that left him in a medically induced coma. The September bout saw Ventimiglia needing two and a half rounds to find the submission on a very tough Arvin Mills to win his fourth. His fifth victory came Saturday night at the expense of "The Silver Fox", 44 year-old Jason Gavril.
From the minute the bell rang, it was clear Ventimiglia wanted to end this quickly. A takedown near the cage put Gavril onto his back, a bad spot for the elder Garvil who looked to close his guard, but unable to. Ventimiglia, from a standing guard rained down punches from above and forced a ref stoppage early in the first. Gavril looked as if he had plenty of fight left in him, but the ref aired on the side of safety, and Gavril walks out without any significant damage.
Wrestling standout Jesse Martinelli used heavy pressure to stay out of danger out point and control the fight against James Bailey who looked for submissions early and often. Martnelli nearly fell into a triangle choke early but escaped before Bailey transitioned into an armbar. Martinelli was able to stack Bailey and once again land some good shots to survive the second submission attempt. The round ended with Bailey attempting a guillotine off his back while Martinelli was pressuring him against the cage.
In the second Martinelli sat in the guard while peppering Bailey with shots to claim the round. The third was more of the same with Martinelli using his wrestling pedigree to full advantage, avoiding danger and scoring points with the judges. In the end, Martinelli wins a unanimous decision and improves to 5-0.
In a match between two bantamweights, Kory Beck secured a quick takedown of Richard Jones, landing in side control. From there Beck moved to mount, took the back, flattened Jones out and landed heavy punches to earn the first-round TKO finish.
After losing nearly 30 pounds, and overcoming crippling anxiety, Adrienne Archey made a successful debut in the cage. Archey got the better of the exchanges with Priscilia Lay in their women's kickboxing bout winning a split decision after three exciting around. Also in women's kickboxing, Amy DePeter out of Arnold BJJ outpointed KC's Phylicia Phillips to score a unanimous decision.
Bantamweight Jackson Henson wasted no time in a first-round demolishing of Joe Foti. Henson showed why many of the coaches at St. Charles MMA have high hopes for this 20-year old prospect. The son of former Olympic Wrestler Sammy Henson has only been training since January, but shows tremendous process building off a strong wrestling pedigree.
Cruiserweight Kevin Arnold made a huge first impression with a big slam to start the match. The impressive feat of strength setup a quick finish of Toby Gvillo in Arnold's MMA debut. Arnold picked up the big man and put him down hard before landing in side control, from there Arnold quickly transitioned into the mount, raining down heavy hands before Gvillo turtled, giving up his back. From there it was academic as Arnold continued to punch from the back mount, forcing Gvillo to tap due to strikes.
Tyler Roussin and Arvin Mills entertained fans in a 3- round kickboxing bout. The 36-year-old Roussin allowed Mills to exhaust himself with offense before going to work and taking the fight into deep waters. Roussin uses his clench to wear down his opponent and in the third, he came alive landing a barrage of leg kicks and long, straight punches.
In a lightweight bout, Josh Mitchell threw the kitchen sink at his opponent Logan Miller. Mitchell peppered him with punches, kicks and even a spin side kick against the cage, but it was a rear naked choke that finally put Miller away.
Kicking off the night was a featherweight match-up between Nathan Murray and Ted Clark. Murray used his reach and landed with accurate punches that put Clark onto the mat, allowing Murray to score a first-round TKO.
Shamrock FC will be in action next month in Kansas City at Ameristar KC before returning to St. Louis in September to the River City Casino for a card headlined by Sal Woods and Lucas Lopes.
Photo courtesy of Mike Hume