LEWISTON, Maine — As the twilight of his mixed martial arts career continues, 39-year-old Marcus Davis has expanded from pure fighter to an on-the-job trainer.
The former Ultimate Fighting Championship contender from Bangor known as “The Irish Hand Grenade” offered a subtle lesson to 24-year-old Darrius Heyliger in the main event of NEF VII, a show held before an estimated 2,500 fans at the Androscoggin Bank Colisee on Saturday night.
Spotting the 6-foot-2-inch welterweight from Team Bombsquad in Ithaca, N.Y., 15 years of youth, 5 inches of height and significant reach, Davis used experience and strategy to earn a three-round unanimous decision.
“When he would come forward, then I would jump in with shots and push him back against the cage, rough him up a little against the cage, then break away and back out to the center and dictate the pace again,” said Davis.
“He didn’t make any real big mistakes, he just made the mistake of standing in front of me and following me rather than backing away and going, ‘No, I’m not going to fight, you have to come to me.’ I knew I could get him to do that. He’s a young kid in his 20s. I have a daughter that young.”
The victory came in Davis’ final 170-pound fight before he competes this fall in the Bellator MMA lightweight (155-pound) tournament.
He won all three rounds on one judge’s scorecard and won two of the three rounds according to the other two judges in defeating Heyliger (5-2).
“I told everybody this is how the fight is going to go,” said Davis. “This fight is going to a decision. I’m going to end up working a lot and doing whatever because I can’t force things. I don’t do well against these guys who are 6-feet-2 and over and that’s what I had tonight.
“What I had to do was instead of jump in and force it, I had to stay away and move a lot, pick away with those kicks, kick his leg and run away to make him come forward, and by him coming forward it gave me the ability to negate his reach.”
Davis (22-9) used kicks to set the early offensive tone in a bout staged almost entirely with both fighters standing.
Davis pinned Heyliger against the cage wall several times during the first five-minute round. When Heyliger came out more aggressively in Round 2, Davis used several damaging strikes to gain control of the cage.
Heyliger landed some effective kicks during the third round, but Davis answered with more strikes to secure the victory.
The Davis-Heyliger bout was preceded by two New England Fights championship contests at the end of a 30-fight marathon that lasted 7 hours and 20 minutes.
Dez Green, Heyliger’s Team Bombsquad teammate, won the NEF lightweight championship with a second-round stoppage of Henry Martinez, who until recently had been fighting for the UFC.
“I really wanted a statement win, and I felt if I not only came out here and beat Martinez but finished him, that would be a solid statement to let guys know I’m a contender at 155,” said the 23-year-old Green.
The former Division I college wrestler used a superior stand-up game to put away Martinez at 2:50 of the second round. A kick to the chin sent Martinez reeling and Green followed with a series of right-hand strikes before finishing the fight with several more kicks.
Tyler King, a former NFL player now living in Norwood, Mass., won the promotion’s heavyweight title by defeating Dexter native Travis Bartlett with a first-round arm triangle.
King (7-1) controlled the match from the outset until Bartlett tapped out 3:24 into the opening period. Bartlett (8-4) subsequently announced his retirement from the sport.
Bucksport native Ray “All Business” Wood used an armbar to stop Team Bombsquad’s Ahsan Abdullah at 2:30 of the second round of their 150-pound bout.
Wood (3-0) opened the fight with some punishing kicks but spent the rest of the first round and much of the second period counterattacking from his back along the cage wall as Abdullah was content to bury his head in Wood’s chest.
“I expected him to come at me with his hands,” said the 23-year-old Wood, who trains at Young’s MMA in Bangor, “but I guess he watched my last fight and didn’t want anything to do with my stand-up.”
Midway through the second round, Wood found room for his finishing move.
“I only had one arm to defend, the only arm he had free. He kept trying to bury his forearm in my face and that presented an arm bar every time,” said Wood. “The first time I attempted it I’m pretty sure I got the tap, it was a quick, little tap. The second time I really locked it down and snapped it out there like my coaches ask and got the tap real quick.”
Jon Lemke of Brewer and Team Irish also improved to 3-0 with a second-round knockout of Jacksonville, Fla., lightweight George Reagan. Lemke knocked down Reagan twice with right hands during the second round, the second time prompting referee Jimmy Bickford to stop the match 2:05 into the period.
In other pro bouts, Portland flyweight Tommy Balzano of Portland knocked out Jimmy Alexander of Gainsville, Fla., with a knee to the chin at 2:10 of the first round; Team Bombsquad flyweight Matt Almy made a successful pro debut, forcing Portland’s Ernesto Ornelas to tap out with a heel hook at 1:00 of the first round; Auburn lightweight Jesse Erickson of Auburn applied an armbar to defeat Skowhegan’s Josh Parker in 51 seconds; and Augusta’s Jarod Lawton rallied to defeat Cody Anderson of Billerica, Mass., with a triangle choke hold at 3:03 of the third round of their 180-pound bout.