Josh Harvey followed a familiar script as New England Fights made its mixed martial arts debut at the Collins Center for the Arts in Orono on Saturday night.
The undefeated NEF professional featherweight champion ended his non-title bout against Dominic Jones as quickly as possible.
Harvey scored a submission victory over Jones at 2:31 of the first round in the main event of “NEF 40: School of Hard Knocks” to improve his record to 7-0-1 — with all those victories coming in the opening five minutes.
“A first-round stoppage is always a pleasant feeling, and another one is an even better feeling,” said the 29-year-old Harvey, a former state high school wrestling champion from Dexter Regional High School.
“It never in this sport can be exactly what you want. You’re always going to feel like you could have done a little more and been a little better, but the fans were excited to be there, and I got to bring a lot of people together and we all had a good time.”
Jones, who also entered the cage with a wrestling background, was willing to go to the mat with Harvey from the outset of this 160-pound catchweight contest. But Harvey gained control and kept working the advantage until he got the chance to pursue the quick stoppage.
“The far-side key lock that ended the fight was a split-second opportunity that was given to me through a couple of landed elbows,” Harvey said. “When he turned away from the elbow, his arm was trapped on the far side and it was a no-brainer.”
Harvey’s victory capped off an action-packed 15-fight card that included only two bouts that were decided by decision.
The other professional bout during the show featured a stunning one-punch knockout by Ellsworth cruiserweight Chris Sarro, who was making his MMA debut.
Sarro, who in January won his weight class at the Northern New England Golden Gloves boxing championships, also moved back to Maine earlier this year after the death of his friend Jacob Sinclair, to whom he dedicated his first mixed martial arts bout.
Sarro was matched up against veteran Ras Hylton, who had a 4-3 pro record and a considerable height and reach advantage.
Sarro waited patiently as Hylton fended him off during the opening minute of the fight with kicks and hand movement, but once the former boxer spotted an opening he delivered a devastating overhand right that knocked his opponent down and immediately ended the fight at 1:07 of the first round.
“That knockout, we’d been training that for eight weeks,” said Sarro, who works out at Acadia BJJ in Ellsworth. “That overhand right circling to the left and working off his kicks, we were basically timing his kicks and he left his chin exposed, and ‘Ding,’ it was lights out.”
Other highlights of the night were Tom Pagliarulo’s successful defense of the NEF amateur featherweight title and Glory Watson of Young’s MMA in Bangor improving her amateur MMA record to 6-0.
Pagliarulo improved his record to 4-1 with a straight right hand that bloodied challenger Jimmy Jackson’s nose in the final seconds of the first round. Jackson (4-4) was checked out by cageside medical personnel, and the Young’s MMA fighter was unable to start the second round.
Watson had fought her past three bouts at 125 pounds but opted to move down to the 115-pound strawweight division after scoring a razor-thin victory over Caree Hill for the vacant NEF women’s flyweight belt in June.
It looked to be a good move based on early returns, as Watson showed off her quickness while dominating Canadian Lin MacMillan from the outset until closing out the match at 1:23 of the first round with a succession of strikes from top position on the mat.
“Getting to the ground-and-pound position, I’m super familiar with that because I get to it a lot in the gym, so it was really a great feeling for me knowing that I’d got my spot,” Watson said.
Fellow amateurs Mike Bezanson (3-0), Nate White (3-0), Caleb Austin (2-0), Ben Murtiff (2-0), Mike Murray (2-0) also remained unbeaten while Nathaniel Grimard won his MMA debut.
Devin Corson of The Outlet in Dexter also was impressive during his unanimous-decision victory over Jacob Deppmeyer at 155 pounds, while other winners were Zac Richard (4-2-1), Steve Desjardins (5-3), Taylor Bartlett (2-2-1) and Justin Philbrook (1-2).