ST. GEORGE – A caged ring, raucous rap music and 22 guys intent on beating the daylights out of each other.
It sounds like an event you’d find in Las Vegas or Southern California, but in actuality, it has become an extremely popular semi-annual event in southern Utah.
Welcome to Crown Fighting Championships 2013, St. George’s own Mixed Martial Arts extravaganza.
About 1,200 fans filled the Dixie Convention Center to watch five amateur fights and six professional fights Saturday night and despite the lack of much blood (a surprising crowd-pleaser), just about everyone left happy.
“What a night,” ring announcer Max Ah Quin said. “This was a real treat. There were some great fights.”
A hooting and hollering crowd seemed to enjoy the evening as the level of fighting built to a climax. The early fights, all amateurs and many of the fighters first-timers, were quick, with none of them going the distance. But as the talent-level grew, so did the intensity and the length of the matches.
Local resident Sam Edwards started the night, squaring off with an opponent from New York. And though Edwards’ night would be short (he was TKO’ed in the first round), he said the experience was grand.
“It was fun,” he said. “I thought my match was called too soon. I was stunned at first, but I was ready to go as soon as I got up. Still, it was a fun and exciting night. I’ll learn from it.”
Edwards, a self-described adrenaline junkie, said he will be back again despite losing his first match. “I’ve got to get a win,” he said.
Fourteen of the 22 fighters were from Utah and eight of those were from St. George or Cedar City and the Fusion MMA fighting club, which means MMA has a real base in southern Utah and, if the delighted fans are any indication, it also has a devoted group of fans.
Sam Edwards (St. George) vs. Brian Dubuc (New York)
Edwards showed his inexperience by coming out of a wrestling grip unguarded and taking a hard Dubuc right hand that buckled his knees and momentarily stunned him. The referee had seen enough and called the fight just 16 seconds in. Edwards was defiant, saying he was ready to continue, but the decision had been made. Winner: Dubuc
Jermaine Tisi (Prevail MMA) vs. Aaron Camis (St. George, Fusion MMA)
This match started a trend with several matches turning into wrestling bouts. Tisi was a bit bigger than Camis and once he got on top, started delivering devastating head shots. The referee stopped it at 2:55 of the first round. Winner: Tisi
Cody Kesiel (Team Assault) vs. Matt Arrington (St. George, Fusion MMA)
This was a classic wrestler vs. fighter match. The taller, rangier Arrington tried to make it a stand-up fight, where he had a clear advantage. Kesiel took a few pops getting inside on Arrington, but eventually got him down on the mat midway through the first round. Early in the second round Kesiel forced Arrington to submit after an impressive choke-hold. Winner: Kesiel
Cy Nelson (Hanksville, Tenacious) vs. Brandon Hart (St. George, Fusion MMA)
Hart became the first Fusion and first St. Georgian to win on the night. The 35-year old Hart got Nelson in a scissor-leg hold and forced a submission, or tap-out, at the 2:05 mark of the first round. Winner: Hart
Kevin Tarma (Salt Lake City, Elite) vs. Ryan Phillips (St. George, Fusion MMA)
The final amateur fight of the night was very partisan as Phillips had his own cheering section. He rewarded their devotion with a close, exciting match that ended when Phillips got Tarma in a headlock. Winner: Phillips
Tino Flores (Vernal, Unbroken Circle) vs. Ryan Beech (Vernal, Fusion MMA)
Beech, originally from Vernal, made it three straight wins for Fusion and the Blue Corner by beating Flores soundly. This match was never close and the referee stopped when a defenseless Flores started bleeding profusely from the head at 2:27 of the first round. Winner: Beech
Tico Pringle (Sanpete County, Team Assault) vs. Daniel Sensintaffar (Excel MMA)
Pringle, a former Snow College and BYU defensive back, seemed to be winning the match. Both fighters exchanged entertaining leg kicks and aerial assaults. But Sensintaffar got Pringle on the ground and twisted his arm into an “arm-bar” submission with just eight seconds left in the first round. Winner: Sensintaffar
Boostayre Nefarios (Las Vegas, Sunset MMA) vs. James Martinez (Grand Junction, Crest Combat)
This was a bizarre and fascinating match. Martinez, with huge muttonchop sideburns (someone in the crowd yelled, “Go get ’em, Wolverine!”) seemed to be winning the match and had delivered some impressive jabs to Nefarios’ head. But the match was stopped for two or three minutes when Nefarios claimed to have something in his right eye. After the break, Nefarios pounded Martinez into submission, forcing a tap-out at the 2:57 mark of the first round.
Don Moroney (Sanpete County, Team Assault) vs. Kirt Patterson (Moab, Moab Combat)
Patterson was clearly winning into the second round when Moroney landed a couple of knees to Patterson’s head. They were deemed illegal (Patterson apparently had a hand on the ground at the time), so Patterson was allowed time to recover. Though Patterson dominated the rest of the match, it did go the distance. Patterson won a unanimous decision. After the bout, Patterson retrieved his grandson (!) from the audience and paraded him around the ring on his shoulders. Winner: Patterson
Mike Crisman (West Valley, CCS) vs. Tallon Torres (Cedar City, Fusion MMA)
This may have been the most entertaining fight of the night. Crisman used unorthodox tactics to get the better of Torres in many respects. Foot-stomps and knee kicks were his favorites, but Torres endured and won a close, but unanimous, decision. Torres may be sorer Sunday morning though. Winner: Torres
Fight 11 (Main Event)
Chris Kennedy (Las Vegas, Independent) vs. Danny Davis, Jr. (Las Vegas, Drysdale Jiu Jitsu)
These two were clearly the best fighters of the night and both looked invincible. But the chiseled Kennedy started to crumble when a cut opened on his bald head in the second round. The ring became a bloody mess, but to Kennedy’s credit, he endured to the match’s end. All three judges awarded the lanky Davis the victory. Winner: Davis
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