As 2010 draws to a close, it’s time to reflect upon the year that was. And while everyone and their mother is going to be compiling “best of” lists involving some UFC heavyweight champ’s rise and fall or a dominant Strikeforce fighter, few – if any – will turn their lenses toward regional, grassroots mixed martial arts. Well, screw ‘em. Here’s MMA Journalist’s definitive “Best of Northeast MMA in 2010” list, in no particular order.
- Tom Gallicchio vs. Aaron Meisner, M-1 Global “Selection”, August 7th – In the semifinals of the M-1 Global welterweight tournament in Atlantic City, veteran scrapper Tom Gallicchio had the toughest fight of anyone in the division when he took on Muay Thai ace Aaron Meisner (who looked the sharpest and deadliest of his career). For two rounds “Da Tank” ate an assortment of knees and fists, but he refused to fall, and in the final round he snagged a takedown, took Meisner’s back, and choked him out. Gallicchio had one more bout to go to win the tournament. Compared to this semifinal contest, though, it was a cakewalk.
- Chris Weidman vs. Uriah Hall, ROC 31, September 24th – In just a few fights, TSMMA’s Uriah Hall had established himself as a monster striker, so when Team Serra/Longo rep Chris Weidman challenged him for his ROC middleweight belt, few expected the stud wrestler to throw leather. But he did, and after clipping Hall on the chin and sending him to the canvas, Weidman earned himself the TKO win and the title.
- Munah Holland vs. Kim Couture, ROC 32, October 23rd – Although it was her MMA debut, TSMMA’s Munah Holland was no stranger to the art of putting knuckles to people’s faces – and it showed when she took on the infamous Kim Couture. For three rounds Holland blasted her foe, and when time ran out there was no questioning who had earned the unanimous decision victory and who had gotten beaten up.
- Joe Aviles vs. George Sheppard, ROC 33, December 3rd – Supposedly, Joe Aviles is really good at judo and jiu-jitsu. But we haven’t seen that yet, as he’s been utterly crushing opponents on the feet before it can even get to the ground. At ROC 31 Aviles shocked the crowd with a flying knee-KO of Mike Medrano. However, it was his too-fast-to-see knockout of George Sheppard at ROC 33 that deserves top honors. They swung and connected with right hands simultaneously, but it was Sheppard who wound up unconscious, and it took numerous views of the instant replay to figure out what had happened.
- Jimmie Rivera vs. Abel Cullum, KOTC: “No Mercy”, September 17th – TSMMA star player Jimmie Rivera made the trek on up to the Foxwoods Casino in Connecticut to square off against King of the Cage 135-pound champ Abel Cullum, and goddamn if Rivera didn’t go the distance with the DREAM veteran and take his belt. In the end it was a split decision victory, and after teammate Lyman Good’s Bellator strap, Rivera became the second TSMMA rep to snag a national MMA title.
- Nick Pace vs. Steve DeAngelis, ROC 30, June 11th – As the old adage goes, “To get into the UFC you have to beat someone tough.” In taking on longtime badass Steve DeAngelis, and submitting him with a slick D’Arce, TSMMAer Nick Pace did just that. He’s since fought in the WEC and the UFC, but the thrilling first-round win over DeAngelis was without a doubt the stepping stone to get there.
- John Cholish vs. Hitalo Machado, UCC 2, May 14th – Watching an up-and-comer ascend to greatness is always fun to see, and Team Renzo exponent John Cholish’s climb is no exception. At the second Urban Conflict Championship in Jersey City, Cholish found himself evenly matched with Hitalo Machado in the jiu-jitsu department, so he switched things up and Muay Thai’d the hell out of Machado’s legs. The TKO win came halfway into the fourth round when Machado could no longer stand.
- Gregor Gracie vs. Mariusz Linke, Brick City FC, October 2nd – With the last name “Gracie”, the bar is set pretty high for Gregor. That’s why, when he fell to a Doug Gordon kick back at ROC 18 in 2008, it was somewhat of a stunner. It took two and a half years for Gracie to get back on the MMA horse, but with the Brick City Fighting Championship in Newark as the backdrop, he lived up to his family name by utilizing smooth strikes and seamless jiu-jitsu to dominate and submit Mariusz Linke. Gregor was back.
- Chris Wing vs. Geidrius Karavackas, ROC 30, June 11th – Though making his pro debut at ROC 30, Chris Wing already had a decent amount of hype behind him. And with good reason, as he sported a substantial (and successful) amateur record, plus there was talk that he could punch out a bison. But not everyone can transition to the pro leagues smoothly. When facing the tough Geidrius Karavackas, would Wing crumble? Um, nope. Wing needed a little over six minutes of combat to KO his foe, and with another knockout win since, the world now knows what to expect when the welterweight steps into the cage: pure, unbridled fury.
- Ryan LaFlare vs. Justin Haskins, ROC 28, February 19th – Bellmore Kickboxing MVP Ryan LaFlare was undefeated when he took on WEC vet Justin Haskins for the ROC belt, and it didn’t take long to see why. Combining aggressive grappling with aggressive striking, LaFlare is a handful – or a fistful, which was the case when Haskins took one too many on the noggin and started dozing. The welterweight division is pretty deep in the Northeast, but with this win, LaFlare proved he’s among the best.
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