LEWISTON, Maine — One is a rising star on the Maine mixed martial arts scene.
The other might be considered the fighting face of the New England Fights promotion that will conclude its first year of hosting MMA cards in the Pine Tree State with Fight Night V on Nov. 17.
Together, the scheduled pro debuts of 23-year-old Ray “All Business” Wood and 35-year-old John “First Class” Raio against each other in a featherweight (145-pound) bout is expected to be one of the highlights of the 5 p.m. card at the Androscoggin Bank Colisee.
Wood is coming off an impressive three-round unanimous decision over the top-ranked amateur featherweight in the region according to NortheastMMA.net, previously unbeaten Sophanartih “Soap” Am, on Oct. 12 in Derry, N.H.
“I went in there and felt that I did what I was supposed to do,” said Wood, a Brewer resident who was ranked third regionally among 145-pound amateurs heading into his fight against Am. “I felt like he got pushed to the top of the rankings without that many tough fights.”
The former standout athlete from Bucksport High School required little recovery time after that bout before resuming his training regimen in anticipation of his bout with Raio.
“I just jumped right back into the cage,” said Wood, who trains at Young’s MMA in Bangor. “I took a couple of days off, but both fights are important to me so I wanted to get right back at it.”
Wood said he wasn’t expecting to have two fights so close together, but the matchup against Raio seemed like a natural given their popularity within the state’s MMA circles.
“Once they gave me John Raio for an opponent, I figured why not?” said Wood, who was 5-1 as an amateur.
Raio, a 35-year-old postal worker who lives in Topsham, is a former state wrestling champion from Gardiner Area High School who is 4-0 in the amateur MMA ranks — with all of his bouts on previous Fight Night cards.
Mixing family and job responsibilities with his MMA aspirations makes scheduling bouts at times problematic for Raio, so when the Wood fight was offered it was easy for him to accept even though he knows it won’t be easy.
“It will definitely be my toughest fight so far,” said Raio. “I see him as the best amateur in New England, and I expect it won’t be long before he’s one of the top pros.”
Wood is seen as the favorite against Raio but takes nothing for granted.
“Anybody can take anybody out on a given night, and that’s the challenge,” he said. “It’s going to be a fight no matter what.”
Green gets new opponent
Undefeated Dez Green of Team Bombsquad in Ithaca, N.Y., was due to fight for the NEF Maine State MMA lightweight (155-pound) championship at Fight Night V until his opponent, Windham native Jamie Harrison, had to drop out after being injured during training.
But Green (5-0) will still appear on the card in a nontitle fight against Brandon “Bad Luck” Fleming of Marshfield, Mass., at a catchweight of 150 pounds.
Green is a protege of Ryan Ciotoli, the same coach responsible for the meteoric rise of current UFC light heavyweight champion Jon “Bones” Jones. Similarly, Green has had a lightning-quick rise since taking his first amateur fight 11 months ago, going 3-0 as an amateur before turning professional.
“Dez is probably our most popular nonlocal fighter,” said New England Fights co-owner and matchmaker Matt Peterson. “He’s had two successful performances on NEF cards this year — once as an amateur and once as a pro. The NEF fans have really taken to him.”
Fleming went 6-0 as an amateur before making his pro debut with a victory on a Bellator card in Uncasville, Conn., in March. He is now 2-1 as a pro after dropping a unanimous decision to Rob Font last month in Plymouth, Mass.
The other three pro bouts on the 18-fight Fight Night V card have “The” Ryan Sanders (4-2) against Jarod Lawton (1-1) at 170 pounds, Bruce Boyington (3-4) against John Ortolani (6-6) at 155 and Paul Gorman (9-9) against Adam Toussaint (5-4) for the NEF Maine State MMA bantamweight (135-pound) championship.