LEWISTON, Maine — It was bad enough that Steve Earland broke his ankle in a snowmobile accident more than four years ago, but when it came to the recuperation process at home he didn’t even have cable television to occupy his time.
The Surry native, now living in Blue Hill, soon resolved the latter problem and in doing so discovered mixed martial arts.
“I got into it on a whim,” said the 26-year-old Earland on Saturday evening after scoring his first amateur MMA victory, a unanimous decision over Dylan Morrison of Augusta during NEF VII at the Androscoggin Bank Colisee.
“I was laid up for three months, so I wound up getting cable. I didn’t know anything about the UFC (Ultimate Fighting Championship) until I saw “The Ultimate Fighter” Season 3. I just watched it because I couldn’t do anything else and I loved it. I thought, ‘This stuff is awesome, I’ve got to check it out.’”
Once Earland’s ankle healed, he eventually found Marcus Davis’ Team Irish MMA Fitness Academy in Brewer, where he has been training for the last four years.
Earland’s victory over Morrison came in just his second bout, a physical affair he controlled on the ground after scoring several takedowns.
“This fight became instinct,” said Earland. “I didn’t fight him the way I wanted to. I wanted to come out and just flow more, but he rushed me and the whole fight turned into a back-and-forth brawl.
“It was kind of sloppy but there were times it was technical. I wanted to just stand and trade but he kept coming forward and rushing me.”
Earland won each of the three three-minute rounds on all three judges’ scorecards: 30-27, 30-27 and 30-26.
“I won every round because of takedowns, but punching-wise his power was more than I expected,” said Earland. “We both caught each other, we both were dazed — hard. It was a good fight.”
Earland was one of 15 fighters representing Davis’ Team Irish gyms in Brewer and Westbrook to appear on the NEF VII card.
Team Irish went 6-5 in its 11 amateur bouts on the evening, with Andrew Tripp of North Waterboro remaining undefeated by applying an armbar that forced Steven Prue of Gainsville, Fla., to tap out at 1:06 of the first round of their welterweight bout and Andrew Hughes of Brewer scoring a second-round TKO of Scott Basci of Gainsville, Fla., also in the 170-pound division.
Another Team Irish welterweight, Adam Nielsen of Bangor, scored a technical knockout via punches over Art Belgrade of Jacksonville, Fla., at 43 seconds of the second round, while flyweight Steve Desjardins of Bangor stopped Auburn’s Conner Murphy with a rear naked choke at 1:00 of the second round.
Kent Smallwood of Bangor secured Team Irish’s final amateur win at 175 pounds with a TKO of New Gloucester’s Brandon Traknis at 2:41 of the first round. Smallwood countered a kick by Traknis with a straight left hand that sent his opponent to the mat, and from there landed a succession of unanswered punches to prompt the stoppage.
In one of the more action-packed amateur bouts of the card, Crowsneck Boutin of Lubec outlasted John Parker of Littleton, N.H., in a middleweight bout. Parker was most effective when the two combatants were standing but Boutin used his strength and ground work to earn a 29-28 decision on all three judges’ scorecards.
Another close battle came at 145 pounds where Alex Clark of Auburn scored a unanimous decision over Caleb Costello of Team Irish. The bout was stopped briefly in the first round when Clark struck Costello with an unintentional knee to the groin, but Costello regrouped and the two fought on nearly even terms during the remainder of the bout.
The quickest stoppage among the amateur bouts belonged to 259-pound Kevin Smith of Ellsworth, fighting out of Young’s MMA in Bangor. Smith threw his opponent, Jordan Dickens of Saint John, New Brunswick, to the mat in the opening seconds of their heavyweight match and went on to land numerous unanswered strikes to earn a win by technical knockout just 38 seconds into the first round.
And Buck “Knuckles” Pineau of Portland avenged a loss last year by defeating Allen Josselyn of Littleton, N.H., by unanimous decision. Pineau, who lost by unanimous decision to Josselyn in Lewiston last September, won each of the three rounds on all three judges’ cards in the rematch.
In other amateur bouts, 135 pounds: Nick Spencer (Choi’s) def. Steve Sobel (Young’s MMA), TKO at 0:09 of the second round; 195: Chris Cobbett (CMBJJ) def. Jacob Cameron (Independent), TKO at 2:30 of the first round; 165: Tollison Lewis (Balanced Ground) def. Jeremy Tyler (Team Irish) by guillotine choke at 2:41 of the first round; 155: Caleb Hall (Mountain Valley Wrestling) def. Corey Hinkley (CMBJJ), TKO at 2:33 of the third round; 170: Chris Ouellette (Havoc) def. Jarrod Tyler (Team Irish), TKO at 1:43 of second round; 170: Nelson Blanco (First Coast FC) def. Joel Adams (Team Irish) by rear naked choke at 1:23 of third round; 205: Ramone Saintvil (CMBJJ) de. Mike Secord (Balanced Ground), KO at 1:26 of first round; 155: Dominic Cofone (Balanced Ground) def. Rob Solveson (Bombsquad) by rear naked choke at 2:38 of the first round; 145: Matt Denning (CMBJJ) def. Trevor Kell (Team Irish) by guillotine choke at 2:04 of the first round; 140: Erik Nelson (CMBJJ) def. Cody Sargent (Balanced Ground) by rear naked choke at 1:20 of the second round; and 130: Mike Brown (DWMMA/TPS) def. Trevor Hebert (Frosty’s 1st Class) by arm bar at 0:48 of the first round.