LEWISTON, Maine — Devin Powell won’t be defending his New England Fights lightweight title on Saturday night at the Androscoggin Bank Colisee.

But as the South Berwick native prepares for his Ultimate Fighting Championship debut in January in Phoenix, Arizona, he has nothing but respect for the two veteran mixed martial arts combatants who will be featured in the main event of NEF 26.

That lightweight bout matches Bangor-area fighters and former Team Irish teammates “The” Ryan Sanders (11-8) against Jon Lemke (5-6).

“A huge part of getting to the big show is having that good record, but people don’t realize how hard this sport is” said Powell, 8-1 as a professional. “You look at a guy like Jon Lemke who’s fought a lot of great fighters. He doesn’t have a perfect record, but he’s still a great fighter, and in some of those fights he lost, he was that close to winning.

“Then take someone like Ryan Sanders, he has a couple of losses that I’ve seen and thought they were super questionable. You take two or three of those and flip them the other way, and all of a sudden it’s a phenomenal record,” he said.

“It’s really hard to stay at .500 or above in this sport,” he added.

Sanders, who several years ago switched his training base from Team Irish to Young’s MMA in Bangor, has won four of his last five fights, most recently earning a unanimous decision over Derrick Kennington in August at the “Dana White: Lookin’ for a Fight” show promoted by NEF at the Cross Insurance Center in Bangor.

Sanders’ recent run also includes a 1-1 record with the nationally televised CES MMA promotion based in Rhode Island.

A veteran of 11 NEF-produced shows, Sanders’ list of opponents reflects a who’s who of past and present regional and national standouts such as Bellator star Michael “Venom” Page, former UFC contender Marcus Davis, CES lightweight champ Luis Felix and former CES welterweight champion Gil de Freitas.

This will mark Sanders’ first fight in Lewiston in two years after he recently signed a new contract with NEF.

Lemke, who still trains with Team Irish in Brewer, similarly has challenged some of the best in the Northeast, losing twice to Powell and once by controversial split decision to former NEF lightweight champion Bruce Boyington, now competing for the World Series of Fighting.

The Sanders-Lemke clash is one of three professional bouts on the 14-fight NEF 26 card.

The co-feature matches featherweights Derek Shorey (4-7) of Dover-Foxcroft and Josh Parker (4-8) of Benton. Shorey is coming off a first-round win over Pete Rogers Jr. at CES 38 in September in Lincoln, Rhode Island, and Parker is returning to the cage after spending the last three years in the boxing ring.

Brewer’s Aaron Lacey (3-0) will attempt to maintain his undefeated record when he faces Littleton, New Hampshire’s Taylor Trahan (6-6) in another featherweight battle. This will mark the third fight in four months for Lacey, another Young’s MMA product. He edged New Hampshire’s John Santos by split decision at the “Dana White: Lookin’ for a Fight” show in August, then stopped Corey Trial by first-round submission at NEF 25 in September.

The amateur portion of the card will be headlined by an NEF heavyweight title fight between Nick Gulliver (3-0) and Yorgan DeCastro (2-2). Also scheduled are two women’s bouts, with Floridian Jessica Borga (2-2) facing Brazilian jiu-jitsu black belt Brianne Genschel (0-0) and Newcastle’s Hannah Sparrell (1-1) against Fernanda Araujo (4-4-2).

Team Irish members set for CZ 60

Several Team Irish fighters are set to compete Saturday night as part of Combat Zone 60, a show to be held at the Radisson Hotel in Manchester, New Hampshire.

Among those on that card is Veazie bantamweight Rachael Joyce, who will attempt to improve her record to 3-0 when she takes on Massachusetts product Rachel Reinheimer. Reinheimer (2-1) may be familiar to Maine mixed martial arts fans for her unanimous-decision victory over Angela Young of Young’s MMA at NEF 19 on Sept. 12, 2015, in Lewiston.

Other Team Irish fighters at CZ 60 include Ashland native Buck Pineau and Trescott Township product Crowsneck Boutin, who will be involved in separate kickboxing bouts.

Ernie Clark

Ernie Clark is a veteran sportswriter who has worked with the Bangor Daily News for more than a decade. A four-time Maine Sportswriter of the Year as selected by the National Sportscasters and Sportswriters...