What a night it was for Empire Fighting Championship to embark on its quest of being one of the premier fight promotions on the Gulf Coast. EFC 1 kicked off on Saturday, March 30, from the Gulf Coast Coliseum in Biloxi, Mississippi. Enjoyed live by over fourteen hundred fight fans in attendance, the event featured two combat jiu jitsu matches and eleven outstanding bouts of mixed martial arts.
There was no shortage of action on the evening, as nine of the eleven MMA matches ended in finishes, including six by way of submission, and three knockouts (two 1st-round KO’s). Several Gulf Coast gyms had huge showings and seized the opportunity to showcase their top talents as fighters from Gladiators Academy of Lafayette, Alan Belcher MMA, Beat-2-Sleep, TWebb MMA and Port City MMA had potent performances.
Read along as I recap all of the night’s MMA action and demonstrate how Empire Fighting Championship should soon be heralded as one of the most dominant fight promotions in the region.
Justin Robinson vs. Douglas Rozsell
Biloxi’s Justin Robinson could not have asked for a better beginning to his MMA career as he made short work of Douglas Rozsell. After evading a few opening kicks from Rozsell, Robinson secured a double leg takedown. From there, he maintained top control, improved his position and quickly locked up the arm triangle.
Victor: Justin Robinson, 1st-round submission, 1:29, arm triangle
Garrett McMahan vs. Brandon Parnell
In the second bout of the evening, Garrett McMahan made his mixed martial arts debut against Brandon Parnell. After a brief intermission (McMahan seemingly forgot his cup), action was underway and Parnell shot in for an early takedown. However, his attempt was reversed and McMahan found himself on top and in control.
McMahan spent the majority of the round on top and on the back of Parnell, and at one point it appeared as though McMahan would lock up the rear naked choke. Parnell persevered though, and reversed the position to secure a spiderweb. From there, he couldn’t get McMahan’s arm lose for the armbar, and the fight returned to a stand up as the horn blew to end the first round. I scored it 10/9 McMahan.
Even though the second round began with a glove touch, both fighters were jawing at each other as the tension built throughout the coliseum. Trying to build off of his first-round success, McMahan secured an early takedown and found himself in side control. From there, he effortlessly passed to mount and, even though Parnell initially did a good job controlling posture, McMahan eventually postured-up and delivered punishing strikes that at any moment could had stopped the fight.
However, it appeared that McMahan may had tired himself out with the punches and he lowered his posture, which Parnell quickly took advantage of by bridging his hips and sweeping by way of an Upa escape. Parnell may had gained position, but he made a critical mistake. Rather than keeping his weight heavy and maintaining top control, he stood up, allowing McMahan easy access to his legs. McMahan obliged and took control of Parnell’s leg, locking up a quick and painful heel hook for the tap.
Victor: Garrett McMahan, 2nd-round submission, 2:14, heel hook
Ethan Hughes vs. Heath Herndon
After a few brief exchanges, Herndon made a nice level change as he shot for and secured a single leg takedown. He found himself in Hughes’ guard, but could not deliver much damage as Hughes was extraordinarily active from the bottom, continuously threatening armbar and triangle attempts. Hughes did give up his back at the end of the round, but there wasn’t enough time to capitalize. I scored it 10/9 Herndon as the horn blew.
The second round began similarly to the first with some nice exchanges, but it was a head kick from Hughes that would change the fight. The kick visibly rocked Herndon, and Hughes, smelling blood, took Herndon to the canvas. Hughes delivered several heavy knees from side control before transitioning to mount, and from there, with a quick shift of the hips, found the armbar.
Victor: Ethan Hughes, 2nd-round submission, 1:27, armbar
Josh Mayo vs. Evan Fremin
In the fourth mixed martial arts bout of the evening, Josh Mayo took on Evan Fremin. Mayo seemed to have found his range first, as he used his jab to keep Fremin to the outside, while delivering some nice strikes and combinations. I scored the first round 10/9 Mayo.
Mayo tried to open up as the second round began, but Fremin changed levels and took him down. From there, Fremin secured position, meticulously isolating one of Mayo’s arms. Fremin then locked up the arm triangle, securing the tap early in the round.
Victor: Evan Fremin, 2nd-round submission, 1:36, arm triangle
Andrew Yfantis vs. Terry Wiggins
Both fighters found their ranges early, connecting with combinations and big kicks. Wiggins landed some heavy punches mid-way through the round, and finished it with some nice uppercuts. Even though Yfantis did a great job of maintaining control throughout the round, I scored it 10/9 Wiggins.
After some brief early round exchanges, the fighters locked up in the second, and it wasn’t until a big takedown from Wiggins that things began to open up a bit. From the top, Wiggins delivered some ground and pound, but Yfantis attempted a triangle that transitioned to an armbar attempt, and it allowed him to reverse the position and end the round on top. Even though Wiggins got the takedown, I thought that Yfantis had done just enough at the end to steal the round, and I had it 19/19 heading into the final round.
In the third round, it was evident that both men were feeling the effects of a long and tiring fight, as they continually locked up and postured for position against the cage. In these positions, however, Yfantis was a bit more effective with his knees, and undoubtedly earned points here on the scorecards. Right before the final horn blew, Yfantis secured a takedown, and for the first time on the night, we were headed to the judges’ scorecards.
Victor: Andrew Yfantis, split decision
Odie Delaney vs. Hunter Jones
In the sixth MMA match of the evening, Odie Delaney met Hunter Jones. The fight opened with some nice front kicks by Delaney, followed by a takedown. Delaney was very effective in controlling Jones’ arm from the top as he threatened first a kimura, then an armbar. Delaney maintained top control as Jones tried to scramble, and he flattened Jones out on his back. Delaney then quickly threw his leg over and locked up the armbar for a dynamite first-round submission.
Victor: Odie Delaney, 1st-round submission, 1:29, armbar
Dennis Hughes vs. AJ Fletcher
AJ Fletcher entered this fight riding a huge wave of momentum. However, it was almost dramatically cut short by a huge spinning back fist thrown by Dennis Hughes in the opening seconds of the first round that sent Fletcher to the canvas. Fletcher recovered quickly, and shortly after secured a double leg takedown. Fletcher found himself in Hughes’ guard, and for the second time in less than a minute, found himself in trouble. Hughes threw a leg over and locked up an armbar that many throughout the coliseum thought would surely bring on the tap.
But, Fletcher powered through the submission attempt and reversed position, ending up in side control. Fletcher couldn’t generate much ground and pound from the position, so he got to his feet and elected to bring the fight back to a stand up. From there, Fletcher must have found his range, because he delivered a heavy right hand, followed by a head kick that knocked Hughes to the canvas. Fletcher pursued, and ended the round on top. Even though it was a close one, I had it scored 10/9 Fletcher.
The second round began with another heavy right by Fletcher, followed by some nice exchanges. Fletcher secured a takedown about a minute into the round, and from there, did a great job with top control, countering the crafty escape attempts of Hughes. Fletcher threatened a key lock several times throughout the round, but couldn’t quite get it secured. Fletcher ended the round on top, and I had it 20/18 Fletcher going into the final round.
For the second, and what would be the final time of the night, we were headed into the third round, as Dennis Hughes seemed to need a finish to snatch the win out of AJ Fletcher’s hands. As the round began, there were several nice exchanges landed by both fighters. Hughes landed a Superman punch that seemed to force Fletcher to take the fight back to the ground. Hughes’ corner was urgently directing him to get back to his feet, seemingly knowing that he very well could had been down two rounds to none. However, Fletcher maintained control throughout the round, and did more than enough to get the decision and Fight of the Night award.
Victor: AJ Fletcher, unanimous decision
Trey Mohler vs. Brad Walley
No one could question the heart and zeal of Brad Walley, taking a fight against as dangerous an opponent as Trey Mohler on less than a day’s notice. The situation must have been difficult for Mohler as well, undoubtedly trying his best to balance nerves and uncertainty on the day he was supposed to fight. That being said, he displayed a dominant prowess inside the cage Saturday night, emphasizing that he is ready to fight anyone, anytime.
The fight opened with a nice display of striking from Walley, however Mohler locked up the Thai clinch, and Walley simply could not get his head free. Mohler sent several high knees straight up center, eventually connecting with Walley’s face and crumpling him to the canvas. Mohler pursued and landed hammer fists followed by heavy lefts, until the referee had seen enough and called the TKO.
Victor: Trey Mohler, 1st-round TKO
Trent Fairley vs. Nakia Brown
In the first ever title fight for Empire Fighting Championship, Trent Fairley took on Nakia Brown. Brown entered this fight as one of the top ranked amateur Featherweights in the Gulf Coast with a record of 5-0, and he did not disappoint in EFC’s inaugural event.
As the first round began, both fighters took their time finding their respective ranges. However, Nakia found his first, landing a heavy head kick early in the round. Brown kept Fairley to the outside by establishing his jab, then landed a body kick that reverberated throughout the coliseum. Fairley actually caught the kick, but Brown applied forward pressure and used it to help him take Fairley down.
From the canvas, Brown took and controlled Fairley’s back, displaying the wrestling pedigree that has accelerated his short MMA career. Although Fairley got back to his feet by the end of the round, Brown did more than enough to win it.
Both fighters kept to the outside to begin the second round. Brown landed another body kick that was caught by Fairley, and this allowed Brown to close the distance. Brown, being an accomplished high school wrestler, was more than happy to lock up with Fairley, and he quickly took Fairley down to the canvas. Similar to the first round, Brown maintained control of Fairley’s back, but this time, he was more effective in delivering punches that were obviously affecting Fairley.
While trying to defend himself against the relentless pressure and strikes from Brown, Fairley let Brown get his arm under his chin. Shortly after, Brown locked up the rear naked choke and became the first ever EFC Featherweight champion.
Victor: Nakia Brown, 2nd-round submission, 2:15, rear naked choke
Joshua Langley vs. Lachlan Kritsonis
In what many saw as the most anticipated fight on the card, undefeated Joshua Langley met Lachlan Kritsonis in the first ever Flyweight title fight for Empire Fighting Championship. Both of these young men entered the fight with a great deal of momentum and expectation, but it was Lachlan Kritsonis who would answer the call on this night. Langley came out seemingly with the correct game plan in what could had been a long and drawn out title fight, landing several nice leg kicks. However, the southpaw Kritsonis dialed in his range with a heavy left and followed it up with the knockout shot merely thirty seconds into the fight.
Victor: Lachlan Kritsonis, 1st-round knockout, 0:36
Mike Barnett vs. Andy Brossett
The main event of the evening featured the only professional fight of Empire Fighting Championship 1, in Mike Barnett versus Andy Brossett. As the first round opened up, both fighters took their time finding their ranges, and Barnett found a body punch, that he would use much to his advantage, throughout the fight.
Both men spent the first half of the opening round locking up and battling for position. Brossett secured a double leg takedown about midway through the round, but the position was reversed and Barnett found himself on top. However, they quickly got up to their feet, and Brosett began opening up more with his hands. The round finished with some decent exchanges, and although it was a tough one to score, I gave it to Brossett 10/9.
The second round began with some exchanges and effective leg kicks from Brossett. Barnett, however, began to piece together combinations, throwing a leg kick behind his 1-2. Utilizing his combinations, Barnett walked Brossett back to the cage and opened up, dropping Brossett to the canvas. Barnett pursued, delivering strikes and ground and pound from the top, until the referee had seen enough to call the TKO.
Victor: Mike Barnett, 2nd-round TKO, 1:59