LEWISTON, Maine — The biggest night — and late afternoon — in the brief history of mixed martial arts in the state is set for Saturday at the Androscoggin Bank Colisee, where NEF VII will feature more than 60 professional and amateur fighters.
Nine pro bouts and 23 amateur contests were scheduled by early Friday, with the main event matching former Ultimate Fighting Championship contender Marcus “The Irish Hand Grenade” Davis of Bangor (21-9) against up-and-coming Darrius Heyliger (5-1) from Team Bombsquad in upstate New York in a welterweight (170-pound) bout.
Two New England Fights Maine championship bouts also are on the card, which begins at 4 p.m.
The co-main event will see UFC veteran Henry Martinez (9-5) battle Team Bombsquad’s Dez Green (8-1) for the Maine state lightweight title, while Dexter native Travis “The Showstopper” Bartlett (8-3) will face former NFL player Tyler King (6-1) for the Maine state heavyweight crown.
The main event provides a definite contrast in opponents, with the 39-year-old Davis some 15 years older and 5 inches shorter than his rangy 24-year-old opponent.
“I’m going to be the smaller guy,” said Davis. “He’s 6-2 and I’m 5-9. He’s got a lot of reach and he’s a really good fighter, a multifaceted fighter. He’s won by submission, he’s knocked out guys, he’s got crisp hands and good kicks.
“He’s got the reach advantage and he’s got a grappling advantage with his long legs.”
Davis hopes to counter Heyliger’s height and reach with aggression in what likely will be his last fight as a welterweight before dropping down a weight class to compete in a Bellator MMA lightweight (155-pound) tournament this fall.
“I’ve got to be first,” said Davis. “I’ve got to control the tempo and be faster. I’m already a lot faster than I have been, and going to 155 I may be able to get close to where I was when I was boxing.”
But while Heyliger sees a potential victory over Davis as a major step in his own dream to reach MMA’s highest level, he knows he must be able to counter the speed and cage savvy of his more experienced opponent.
“Marcus is a great fighter, he’s going to come to fight. He always comes to fight,” said Heyliger, who has been competing on the MMA circuit for just two years. “But it is a fight, and you’ve got to do everything possible to win the fight.”
Green (8-1) is a former two-time Mid-American Conference wrestling champion at the Division I University of Buffalo, and he will be seeking his fourth win in as many fights for the New England Fights promotion.
His bid for the inaugural NEF state lightweight title will be challenged by Martinez, a 29-year-old from Albuquerque, N.M., now competing under Davis’ Team Irish banner.
“This is going to be my first five-round fight,” said Green. “I’m going in there with a lot of energy. I’m looking for the finish. “
Martinez (9-5) competed in the UFC for his last three fights before being released by that organization after being knocked out with a head kick by Daron Cruickshank on the UFC on Fox 5 card last Dec. 6.
“He showed he could take some punishment,” said the 23-year-old Green, “but I don’t think that’s what you want to be known for.”
Bartlett and King originally were scheduled to fight on an NEF card last June, but Bartlett had to back out because of an illness.
Now the two get to square off for the inaugural Maine heavyweight championship, with Bartlett bringing an 8-3 record to the cage while King is 6-1 and ranked tops in the region in his weight class by NortheastMMA.net.
Another highly anticipated pro fight features Ray “All Business” Wood (2-0) of Bucksport and Young’s MMA in Bangor against 20-year-old Ahsan Abdullah (3-2) from Team Bombsquad in a featherweight (145-pound) matchup.
Wood has scored TKO victories over John Raio and Walter Smith-Cotito since turning pro last November after compiling a 4-1 amateur record.
Wood’s amateur career included a first-round TKO over Abdullah in February 2012 during New England Fights’ first card in Maine.
Abdullah has been busy since then, winning two amateur bouts and fighting five more times since turning professional last August.
He is coming off a three-round, split-decision loss to Jordan Stiner on April 13 at King of Prussia, Pa.
Other pro bouts match Cody Anderson against Jarod Lawton at 180 pounds; Jon Lemke against George Reagan and Josh Parker against Jesse Erickson, both at 155 pounds; and Ernesto Ornelas against Matt Almy and Tommy Balzano against Jimmy Alexander, both at 125 pounds.