LEWISTON, Maine – It might have been a long Thursday night for the nation’s second-largest mixed martial arts promotion as Bellator MMA staged its first card in Maine, but a short night for most of the combatants at the Androscoggin Bank Colisee.
Just two of the 10 fights lasted more than one round during an evening of sudden knockouts, controversial finishes and in some cases, mismatches, held in front of an estimated crowd of 3,000.
But those fans who stuck around until nearly midnight got to witness the the only fight that went the distance, as 33-year-old veteran Dave Jansen of Corbett, Ore., scored a unanimous victory over 21-year-old Polish phenom Marcin Held to win Bellator’s lightweight tournament final.
Jansen (19-2) kept the fight standing in the first round only to have Held — known for his leg-lock submissions — throw the more effective strikes.
Held (15-3) then scored a takedown in the opening seconds of the second round, though it was Jansen who controlled the match on the ground for the final three minutes of the period — though he had to escape an attempted leg lock by Held in the final 15 seconds.
Jansen escaped an arm bar submission attempt by Held midway through the third and final round and was able to maintain top position for the remainder of the five-minute period.
Each of the three judges scored the fight 29-28 in Jansen’s favor.
The win advances Jansen to a Bellator title bout against reigning lightweight champion Michael Chandler (11-0) of High Ridge, Mo.
Another main-card bout televised live on Spike TV matched Bangor’s Marcus Davis against Californian welterweight Waachim Spiritwolf.
Davis (21-9) was making only his second MMA appearance in his home state, and it was a brief.
Davis was able to take control of the cage in the opening moment and landed two high kicks, one to the neck that prompted Spiritwolf to shake his head to indicate he wasn’t hurt.
Davis soon muscled Spiritwolf up against the side of the cage before a knee near the groin sent Spiritwolf to the mat where he remained trying to regroup for five minutes until the bout was halted.
Under unified MMA rules used by the Combat Sports Authority of Maine, since the knee was ruled unintentional and two rounds had not been completed, the fight was ruled a no contest.
“It is legal to hit on the belt line,” said Davis. “I hit him right on the line. There was no cup, I felt nothing but belly, and I know when you get hit there’s a delayed reaction, too, when you get kicked there, but I think he was looking for a way out because he noticed there was no way he was going to put his hands on me.
“I think I surprised him because he thought I was just going to come out and be a boxer but I hit him with two head kicks and with one, he was looking for a way out.”
The third main-card bout ended even more suddenly, with Ryan Martinez of Greely, Co., knocking out veteran Travis Wiuff in 18 seconds of the first round.
But that wasn’t the shortest match of the night.
That honor belonged to London native Michael “Venom” Page, a world-class kickboxer who landed a lightning-quick right-hand strike that knocked out “The” Ryan Sanders of Brewer just 10 seconds into their welterweight bout.
“I was surprised,” Page said. “I was expecting a bit more of a fight and I had so much more to show. But a win is a win and I’m happy for that.”
Sanders immediately rushed toward Page as the fight began in an attempt to eliminate his opponent’s kicking range.
But Page — a 10-time world kickboxing champion competing in the first bout of his five-fight deal with Bellator — withstood the charge and countered with a quick punch to Sanders’ right temple.
“He rushed at me early, which I expected because he’s trying to close down my distance,” Page said. “I gave him a little hook turn to create some more space, and I thought he was going to actually settle for a bit but he came again and I went for my shot.
“I knew it was a clean hit, but I didn’t expect him to fall from that.”
Sanders covered up as he went to the mat, and Page walked away as referee John English stopped the fight seemingly just as it had begun.
“The game plan was to get in close and stay in tight, and I just got caught,” said Sanders, who fights out of Young’s MMA in Bangor. “It was kind of a quick stoppage by the ref. I was turtled up, but I was coherent enough to know what was going on. I knew I was hurt, but I turtled up so I could recover.
“It was a good shot. It was quick, I didn’t see it.”
The other six prelim fights concluded nearly as quickly — with six ending in the first round as several Maine fighters struggled as they stepped up in class.
The only local winner during the prelims was Brewer’s Jon Lemke, who scored a first-round technical knockout of Auburn’s Jesse Erickson in a lightweight bout.
Lemke, who fights out of Davis’ Team Irish MMA Fitness Academy in Brewer, used his striking game to gain control against Erickson in the opening moment of their fight, then, after being backed into the side of the cage momentarily, he regained the upper hand with a flurry of knee kicks followed by a succession of punches that ended the fight.
“I felt a little flat at first,” said Lemke, now 2-0 as a professional. “He landed some good strikes at first and I didn’t expect him to stand there and trade with me. I expected him to rush me and try to take me down right away. I knew he was a [jujitsu] guy primarily, but it worked out in my favor.
“He got me against the cage a couple of times but I was able to defend it. I felt a lot stronger than him, and I kind of knew going in that I was going to be stronger than him so I stayed relaxed.”
In other preliminary fights, Vince Murdock of Sacramento, Calif., handled local favorite John “First Class” Raio of Brunswick, controlling their featherweight (145-pound) bout from the outset and scoring a technical knockout via unanswered strikes at 4:01 of the third round.
Joe Pacheco of Charlotte, N.C., had little difficulty improving his record to 6-0, earning a first-round submission victory over Pierry Pierre of Plymouth, Mass.
“Crazy” Mike Mucitelli of Syracuse, N.Y., the top-ranked light heavyweight in the region by NortheastMMA.net, used an armbar to force Brent “Frosty” Dillingham of Lewiston to tap out at 2:48 of the first round. Mucitelli is now 5-0.
Also remaining unbeaten was middleweight Jason Butcher of Cincinnati, Ohio, now 6-0 after stopping Norwegian Jack Hermansson with a triangle choke hold at 2:24 of the opening round.
And middleweight Dave Vitkay of Atlanta, Ga., required just 18 seconds to defeat Rumford’s Jesse Peterson. Vitkay (12-12) used two knee kicks to back Peterson up, then applied a guillotine choke hold that quickly ended the match.