LEWISTON, Maine — Coming off the first loss of his mixed martial arts career, Jon Lemke wasn’t sure what was next, save for the certainty that he would seek to learn from any mistakes that led to his setback along the Bangor waterfront last month.
The Brewer resident has been busy since then training at Marcus Davis’ Team Irish MMA Fitness Academy to iron out those kinks that 20-year-old Canadian phenom Matt DesRoches capitalized on during their battle of unbeatens on the New England Fights card.
And now he knows he’ll get the chance to apply those lessons learned in a championship setting, as Lemke (3-1) is scheduled to fight Billerica, Mass., veteran John Ortolani (7-7) for the vacant NEF Maine State MMA lightweight (155-pound) championship at NEF X on Sept. 21 at the Androscoggin Bank Colisee.
“This is awesome,” said Lemke. “I’m so grateful right now and so blessed. This is a huge opportunity both for me and my school.”
The Lemke-Ortolani clash will be one of at least two title fights on the NEF X card. Bucksport’s undefeated Ray “All Business” Wood (4-0), who won the promotion’s featherweight (145-pound) crown at NEF VIII at the Darling’s Waterfront Pavilion in Bangor on July 12 with a first-round stoppage of Canadian Lenny “The Show Stealer” Wheeler, will make his first defense of that belt against Rhode Islander Joe Pingitore (4-0-1).
The lightweight title became open earlier this summer when champion Dez Green vacated the belt after being selected to compete in Bellator MMA’s $100,000 fall featherweight (145-pound) tournament. Green (8-1) is set to fight Fabricio Guerrero (17-2) in the opening round of that tournament Sept. 13 in Temecula, Calif.
Lemke’s camp already had been in preliminary talks about fighting for an NEF title even before his first-round loss by armbar to DesRosches on Bangor’s first-ever MMA card.
Lemke still has never lost a lightweight bout, going 5-0 as an amateur and winning his first three pro bouts in that weight class — the DesRosches fight was held at a higher catch weight of 160 pounds.
“We didn’t have to look very far when we were considering who to put in for our recently vacated lightweight title,” said NEF co-owner and promoter Nick DiSalvo. “We have two candidates on our roster currently that are as talented and dangerous as any lightweights in the Northeast.”
Lemke traces his loss to DesRoches to several factors, including some overconfidence after the unbeaten start to his career and getting caught up in the atmosphere surrounding Bangor’s first-ever MMA show.
“Take nothing away from [DesRoches], but I was coming off two knockouts and I totally had the wrong mindset going into that fight,” said Lemke. “I was going to go for the knockout no matter what. Being in front of the home crowd I was so amped for that fight, it was something I’d never experienced before.
“But you live and learn. I believe if I had taken my time I could have picked him apart and eventually won the fight, but something like that brings to light all the things you’re careless about.”
Lemke’s next opponent is a two-sport professional athlete, as Ortolani plays for the Rochester Rattlers of Major League Lacrosse as well as competing in mixed martial arts.
“I’m fighting a real tough guy,” said Lemke. “He has a lot more experience than me, and he’s fought all the tough guys in New England. He’s very well rounded from what I see. He’s very dangerous on the ground, he’s got his brown belt in Brazilian jiu-jitsu, and with his standing game he’s got two good hands and throws in some kicks, too.”
Ortolani has fought at both welterweight (170 pounds) as well as lightweight, and is coming off a loss by unanimous decision to Green in Plymouth, Mass., on Feb. 23.
“I’m really excited about fighting for the NEF and Maine state title,” said Ortolani. “It’s a great opportunity for me and my team. Lemke is a tough guy from a good camp. I’m looking forward to the challenge.”
NEF welterweight champ fights Friday
New England Fights’ Maine welterweight champion Gil de Freitas was scheduled to fight Friday night at the Twin River Casino in Lincoln, R.I., against former Ultimate Fighting Championship veteran Chuck O’Neill of Bridgewater, Mass.
The Brazilian-born De Freitas, now training with Team Link in Ludlow, Mass., won his Maine title last September with a unanimous decision over “The” Ryan Sanders and will take a 14-5 record with four knockouts into the O’Neill bout.
O’Neill is 11-5 with three knockouts.