LEWISTON, Maine — A mammoth 35-bout New England Fights mixed martial arts card scheduled for May 18 at the Androscoggin Bank Colisee was approved this week by the Combat Sports Authority of Maine.
The NEF 7 show features nine professional bouts headlined by Bangor’s Marcus Davis (21-9) taking on top prospect Darrius Heyliger (4-1) in a welterweight bout, as well as UFC veteran Henry Martinez (9-5) squaring off against Dez Green (8-1) for the NEF Maine lightweight title, and Dexter native Travis “The Showstopper” Bartlett (8-3) meeting Randy “The Wolf” Smith (14-13-1) for the NEF Maine heavyweight crown.
Twenty-six amateur bouts also are scheduled.
“As a fight fan you can’t give me enough fights for my dollar,” said NEF co-owner and matchmaker Matt Peterson of Rumford. “We’ve got a pro card that would hold its own anywhere in the country, in my opinion, as well as a full amateur card.”
NEF 7 will serves as a showcase of sorts for Davis’ Team Irish MMA Fitness Academy, which has 17 fighters slated to compete on the card, including pros Davis, Martinez, Jon Lemke (2-0) and Tommy Balzano (0-1) and amateurs Andrew Tripp (4-0), Andrew Hughes (4-1) and Adrianna Gomez, who will be competing in one of two scheduled women’s bouts.
As for Davis, he will be making his second home-state appearance this year, the first coming during a nationally televised Bellator MMA show in Lewiston on March 21. That bout against Californian Waachiim Spiritwolf ended in the first round as a no contest after Spiritwolf could not recover from what was ruled by the referee as an unintentional low knee to his groin.
“I was absolutely floored by the support I received, heard and felt that night,” said Davis. “Due to some unfortunate events, my opponent that night didn’t allow for a great battle. But this time, I have a dangerous fighter (Heyliger) in front of me who is very skilled in all areas, and I’m taking him very seriously.”
Martinez, a Maine resident recently released from the top-tier UFC promotion, has a new opponent in his scheduled fight for the inaugural Maine lightweight title.
Dez Green, a teammate of Heyliger at Team Bombsquad in upstate New York, has stepped up to replace Martinez’s original opponent for the title fight, Windham native Jamie Harrison, who removed himself from the card for personal reasons.
“I’m very excited to be fighting Henry,” said Green. “I’ve been wanting a shot at a more familiar name in the sport, so I will make the most of this opportunity and take the Maine state title belt on May 18.”
That bout will end a roundabout quest by New England Fights to crown a champion in the 155-pound division.
NEF launched a lightweight tournament last September on its Fight Night IV card in Lewiston, with the original semifinals involving Harrison, Bruce Boyington, Josh Parker and Tony Woodman. Harrison defeated Parker to advance to the final, but Woodman was injured and had to pull out of the tournament, with Green then stepping in and defeating Boyington.
Harrison and Green were scheduled to meet for the title last November, but an injury forced Harrison to withdraw from the bout.
Green originally was unavailable in May for a rescheduled bout, so Harrison was matched against Martinez. But when Harrison withdrew from the rescheduled bout last week, Green became available for the title shot he had earned more than six months ago.
“The pathway to the Maine state MMA lightweight title has not been a straight one,” said Peterson. “That being said, this 155-pound matchup has all the elements of the type of tale they immortalize in folklore. Henry’s last fight was in the UFC where he was facing the best in the world. If Dez beats Henry, he could get the call from the big show to be fighting in the UFC next.”