BANGOR, Maine — Ray “All Business” Wood is now all champion.
The 24-year-old former Bucksport High School three-sport star capped off the first mixed martial arts card ever held in the Queen City on Friday night by winning the New England Fights state featherweight title with a first-round victory over Lenny Wheeler before an estimated 3,500 fans at Darling’s Waterfront Pavilion.
“I’m speechless, honestly, about this experience,” said Wood, now 4-0 as a professional fighting out of Young’s MMA in Bangor. “The crowd was unbelievable. To have that many people cheering for me, this is the best night of my career.”
Wood (4-0) used stinging leg kicks to control the standing action in the opening seconds of the clash of 145-pounders, then secured a brief takedown of his Canadian opponent along the cage wall.
When Wheeler tried to get up, Wood locked him in a guillotine choke hold, forcing the tapout just 61 seconds into the match.
“He exposed his neck and I was able to sink it in without an arm in,” said Wood. “It was almost like a front-side rear naked choke. It was deep. It felt good.”
Wheeler, a Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island, resident who hadn’t lost in more than two years, is now 6-3.
“The game plan was to stay outside, use my distance, use my kicks and pepper him from the outside,” said Wood. “He’d won his last two fights with the guillotine, so I was either going to try to take him down and pound him out or stay outside and pound him out.
“The guillotine was definitely unexpected.”
The state’s first MMA card held outdoors since the sport was legalized in Maine in 2009 was greeted with near-perfect conditions, save for some bugs that made their presence known for about a half-hour midway through the evening before a slight breeze sent them away.
Wheeler’s teammate at Wulfrun MMA in Cornwall, Prince Edward Island, 20-year-old Matt DesRoches of Fredericton, New Brunswick, won the co-main event on the “Nations Collide: Canadian Invasion” show promoted by NEF and Waterfront Concerts.
DesRoches stopped Brewer’s Jon Lemke with an arm bar at 1:49 of the first round in their battle of unbeatens at 160 pounds.
Lemke (3-1) tried for a one-leg takedown a minute into the match and it led to his undoing. DesRoches was able to fend off the attempt and get on top, from where he landed a succession of strikes that sent Lemke fully to the mat.
DesRoches then secured his fifth first-round stoppage in as many pro fights by applying an arm bar that forced Lemke to tap out.
In the first of the five pro bouts on the 14-fight card, Damon Owens of Bangor used a single kick to score a stunning first-round knockout of Topsham’s John “First Class” Raio.
Owens, who also trains at Young’s MMA, was seeking to avenge a loss by unanimous decision to Raio last year when both were competing as amateurs.
The rematch began with the fighters circling each other, and Owens landing a couple of jabs before unloading a left-leg kick to Raio’s temple that produced a knockout blow.
“I hit him with a couple of jabs and I saw the opening for the lead kick to the head,” said Owens. “I thought I could get my leg up there and get my shin across his head before he could defend it, and that’s what happened.
“It’s kind of one of those things where you see it before it happens. and I just had to take it.”
Fighters must wear shin guards for amateur matches in Maine but that isn’t required in the pro ranks — and Owens took advantage of that difference in rules to win his professional debut
“I haven’t really landed a kick like that before, and I hadn’t really thrown it wearing the shin guards because I feel like it’s a waste. Needless to say, I was itching to throw one,” Owens said.
Rhode Islander Joe “The Soul Taker” Palazio spoiled the pro debut of another Bangor-area fighter, Andrew Hughes of Brewer’s Team Irish MMA Fitness Academy, by scoring a three-round unanimous decision in their 175-pound bout. Palazio (2-0) won all three rounds on each of the three judges’ scorecards.
“Pretty Boy” Bruce Boyington of Brewer and Young’s MMA needed just 28 seconds to pound out a technical knockout via unanswered strikes over Asa Zorn in a lightweight bout.
Zorn tried to score an early takedown, but Boyington was too quick, getting on top of his opponent and landing a succession of rapid-fire strikes with each hand until the fight was stopped.
In the lone women’s bout on the card, 43-year-old Tara Mitchell of Smithfield outslugged Kim Russell, a middle school physical education teacher who lives in New Gloucester, in a 135-pound amateur matchup.
Russell won a tight first round on two of the judges’ cards before Mitchell took control in the second round with a striking game that bloodied her opponent.
“In the second round, I had to relax and let go of my punches, and in the end I had my hand raised,” said Mitchell, a veterinary technician who fights out of Wes Littlefield’s Hardcore Gym in Oakland.
Both fighters were making their debuts.
“Honestly I was nervous going in, nervous and excited at the same time,” said Mitchell. “Once I got in the cage, I was very focused on her and what I needed to do.”
If that wasn’t the most competitive amateur bout of the night, the honore may have gone to a featherweight clash between Caleb Hall of Dixfield and Zackary Adams of Brewer.
Adams got the match to the mat and controlled the first two rounds before Hall unleashed a barrage of unanswered punches at the outset of the third round to win by technical knockout 29 seconds into that final period.
“I thought I was down 2-0 (in rounds) and he maybe had a 10-8 in the second round,” said Hall, who just finished his first year at Plymouth State University where he is a member of the school’s wrestling team. “I knew I needed to come out and finish him.”