BANGOR, Maine — Several mixed martial arts teammates from Young’s MMA in the Queen City stepped into the cage at the Cross Insurance Center’s main ballroom Saturday night with the same goal but for different reasons.
Most came through quite successfully.
Aaron Lacey, Ryan Sanders and Josh Harvey all scored first-round victories among five professional bouts contested as part of New England Fights’ “NEF 35: Wicked Season” show staged before a sellout crowd of 1,200.
Lacey, who since a 4-0 start as a pro had dropped two of his last three fights, rebounded by stopping Jon Lemke of Titan Athletics of Brewer via a rear-naked choke submission at 1:59 of the opening round of their lightweight (155-pound) matchup.
“I had to prove something to myself, prove something to Bangor and prove something to the MMA world,” Lacey said. “I lost my last fight and that takes a toll on you as a person, a fighter and as a human being. It sucks because you put in all that effort and it goes for naught, so tonight I just had to go out and prove I’m the person I think I am and the person I train to be.”
Lemke (7-9) was an opponent familiar to Lacey, having previously fought Sanders twice as well as Jesse Erickson, who worked with Lacey leading up to this bout.
“My strategy was to strike with him at first, but I didn’t really like the canvas so I didn’t want to move around and be too athletic because I felt like I was going to slip,” Lacey said. “I felt I had to be in close, put him on the fence and use the fence so I could really use my pressure to take him down and do what I did.”
Lacey (6-2) hopes to continue expanding the skills that elevated him to main-event status at NEF 35.
“I definitely would have liked to strike a little bit more,” he said. “I’ve been trying to get more comfortable on my feet, all of my wins are by submission right now, so I definitely would like to show people I have some hands because I use them in the gym a lot.”
Sanders (17-9), who has been campaigning primarily as a lightweight in recent years, took a welterweight (170-pound) bout against veteran Armando Montoya and won by guillotine choke 4:10 into their match.
The NEF lightweight champion, who won for the seventh time in his last eight fights and for the 10th time in his last 12 matches, began the match as a striker but eventually took Montoya (10-7) to the mat.
“Everybody is so focused on winning right off the bat,” Sanders said. “I’m a technician, and I have the skill set and cardio to break down people’s wills so I just wanted to pick him apart and it worked out.”
Harvey was returning to action after a 16-month layoff and required just 50 seconds to stop journeyman Jay Ellis with a triangle choke.
Fighting for the first time since April 29, 2017, Harvey was the aggressor from the outset of this lightweight clash, picking up Ellis in the opening seconds and slamming him to the mat. Ellis worked his way back up and was on top briefly before Harvey (5-0) landed his submission hold.
In another lightweight battle, promising Caleb Hall of Dixfield scored an impressive stoppage of another Young’s MMA combatant, C.J. Ewer.
Hall (2-0) earned his submission victory by d’arce choke 2:31 into the lightweight matchup against Ewer (3-2), the reigning NEF middleweight (185-pound) champion.
Hall’s teammate at The Choi Institute of Portland, Ernesto Ornelas, opened the pro portion of the show by submitting Zenon Herrera with a guillotine choke at 25 seconds of the third round.
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