LEWISTON, Maine — The rematch was much more competitive, but the result was the same Saturday night as Gil de Freitas retained his Maine mixed martial arts welterweight title with a hard-fought unanimous decision over Brewer’s “The” Ryan Sanders.
The five-round, 25-minute bout capped off the 15-fight New England Fights XIII show held before an estimated 1,650 fans at the Androscoggin Bank Colisee.
De Freitas dominated the proceedings when he originally won the title and defeated Sanders by unanimous decision at NEF IV on Sept. 8, 2012.
The rematch was closer, though all three judges scored the fight 49-46 for the Brazilian who fights out of Ludlow, Massachusetts.
“I let my hands go, I rocked him and felt great, but then he was able to implement his game plan and get me to the ground,” said Sanders, 6-5 as a professional. “I honestly thought I could compete with him on the ground and hold my own, but he was just so strong and was able to hold me down.
“When I got to my feet, I was winning with the striking, but I started to hesitate and think. The human part of my brain took over from the animal part. In the first round, I was in beast mode and felt great. It was right there and slipped through my hands.”
Sanders not only won the first round on the judges’ scorecards by controlling the action from a standing position, but the Young’s MMA fighter also inflicted a cut near de Freitas’ right eye.
But de Freitas regrouped between rounds and began using his upper-body strength and some punishing kicks to take charge beginning in the second round.
Sanders was a willing counter-attacker with his back on the mat and escaped from several takedowns, but the bout grew more in style to their first meeting 19 months earlier with de Freitas spending most of the later rounds on top, smothering Sanders and landing a succession of strikes to the body.
Sanders mounted one final bid in the final minute, reversing de Freitas into a guillotine choke attempt, but the champion escaped and improved his professional record to 16-5.
“He tried some different things this time, I felt the fight was really tough,” said de Freitas through an interpreter. “This time, he tried to put me down a few times, and the last fight, I was putting him down.”
None of the other four professional bouts went the distance.
Devin Powell scored a 24-second stoppage of Team Irish’s Jon Lemke by a guillotine choke in the co-main event. The finish to the lightweight bout was set up when Powell used a high kick to Lemke’s right temple to score a quick knockdown.
Powell improved to 3-1, while Lemke fell to 3-2 with his second straight defeat.
Amos Collins of Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, secured his second victory in six professional fights, forcing John “First Class” Raio to tap out with just two seconds left in the five-minute first round of their 150-pound clash with an arm triangle.
The loss ended a two-fight winning streak for the popular postal worker, who is 2-5.
Auburn lightweight Jesse Erickson required just 36 seconds to stop John Daniels with a rear naked choke, and Brazilian Rodrigo Ranieri de Faria stopped Jay Jay Torres with an armbar at 2:01 of the first round in a battle of 140-pounders making their pro debuts.
Among the amateur bouts, Aaron Lacey fought through an apparent broken right hand suffered during the first round to score a three-round unanimous decision over Windham’s Dom Cofone.
Lacey (4-1) won all three rounds — the third round most convincingly — in rebounding from his only loss, a three-round decision to unbeaten Matt Tullos in Salem, New Hampshire, on April 4.
Cofone (4-4) of Windham tried to keep the bout, fought at a catchweight of 150 pounds, at close quarters to capitalize on his wrestling background. But Lacey was more effective at creating space for his striking game despite suffering the apparent broken hand early in the match.
The NEF XIII undercard also marked a big night for the Bang family of Auburn.
Steven Bang, fighting out of Central Maine Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, improved to 3-1 with a third-round stoppage of Winterport’s Jeremy Tyler in their lightweight amateur bout.
Bang’s younger brother Sheldon Bang — a senior at Edward Little High School in Auburn — was a winner in his MMA debut as he scored a unanimous decision over Carl Langston.
Steven Bang gained control of his bout in the second round after escaping a guillotine choke-hold attempt by Tyler, 4-2 after having his four-fight win streak ended. Bang then scored a quick takedown in the final round before ending the fight with a rear naked choke 54 seconds into the period.
Sheldon Bang, Maine’s 2014 132-pound Class A high school wrestling state champion, used his grappling expertise to offset Langston’s striking and kicking while winning the first and third rounds.
Meanwhile, Tyler’s older brother Jarrod Tyler scored his second straight victory with a unanimous decision over Jason LaChance at 155 pounds.
The Team Irish fighter (2-1) used his upper-body strength to control the first two rounds, registering several takedowns that proved crucial to the victory as LaChance rallied with some powerful kicks to win the final round.
Zach Elkins of Fleming Island, Florida, scored perhaps the most impressive win among the amateur bouts with a first-round stoppage of Ashland native Buck “Knuckles” Pineau of the Choi Institute of Portland.
Pineau (7-3) entered the bout as the top-ranked amateur middleweight in New England, but Elkins — ranked 11th nationally among amateur middleweights — punched his way to a technical knockout at 1:25 of the opening round.