Borgata. Before last night, it was a casino untouched by the gnarled hands of MMA. But then came Cage Fury Fighting Championship 14, with its championship clobberings and undercard smashfests, and the large-bosomed occupants of that venue on the Marina-side of Atlantic City never knew what hit them. Yes, CFFC was fantastic - despite a few extended breaks to allow for the ambulance to return to the site after ferry one fighter after another to the local emergency room. However, what really made the night was the Borgata itself, which seemed to burst at the seams with the heretofore unseen violence it was barely able to contain within its event center (plus, the staff cafeteria was the bomb). Some thoughts:
-I hated seeing UFC vet Greg Soto lose, as the dude has been an integral (and virtually unsung) part of the Garden State MMA scene since Nick Lembo first started allowing amateur competitions, but it was good to see George Sullivan attain that level of success that has eluded him in the past. You see, Sullivan has been around for a long-ass time himself, toiling away in a multitude of local shows dispensing - and sometimes receiving - beatings, yet always ending up better because of it. Once upon a time you could shut down Sullivan's dangerous striking with a smothering ground game. Seems like those days are gone, and now he's got a shiny CFFC welterweight championship belt to show for his hard work.
-I was lucky enough to sit next to the legendary Jeff Blatnick for pretty much the entire night, which is fun because Jeff appreciates good rock and roll, cleavage and combat when he sees it. But it was very telling to see Jeff's reaction to Aljamain Sterling. Sterling, as fate would have it, got to defend his bantamweight belt against a surprisingly-tough Casey Johnson, and Johnson was dangerous enough to put Sterling in some hairy situations (example: a triangle choke that was very reminiscent of Matt Hughes' first tangle with Carlos Newton). And like the stud he is, Sterling battled out of it all, turned the tide, and ended up dominating. So after the dust settled, who did Jeff compare Sterling and his evident talent and ability to? UFC champ Jon Jones, of course. Keep an eye on Sterling, folks. He's going places.
-Sean Santella had zero problems putting Tuan Pham on his back and cinching on the rear naked choke. Flyweight is the perfect weight class for Santella. Absolutely perfect.
-Artur Rofi's aggressive - and seemingly unstoppable - jiu-jitsu game is exactly like that of Nick and Nate Diaz. Case in point: CFFC opponent Evan Chmielski knew what to expect and was exceedingly prepared for Rofi, and when he got the Albanian down he was defending armbars and triangle chokes like his life depended on it. So what did Rofi do? After softening Chmielski up with knees on the feet, Rofi switched from attacking from the bottom to attacking from the top, and really began prying Chmielski's limbs apart. The end came via triangle, and it came after Rofi had damn near torn his opponent's arm off a couple times. I'm not sure when Rofi will be fighting champ Joey Gambino for the belt, but it's got to be soon.
-Ozzy Dugulubgov has got power and a keen ability to unleash it with great fury. He pegged Brian Nielson with a right, dropped him with a stunning high-kick, and unloaded with a storm of punches that had the referring instantly jumping in. Like Rofi, Dugulubgov is a great talent that CFFC has in their stable.
-Mike Medrano made short work of Matt Nice, although he still managed to inexplicably get a bad cut over his eye and wind up bloody. Good to see Medrano get back on track with another win. Also notching another "W" was Brian Kelleher, who kicked a lot of ass last year before falling to two of the best guys in the Northeast. In Raphael Chavez, Kelleher faced a skilled jiu-jitsu guy unafraid to throw down, and the Bombsquad rep simply wore Chavez out - so much so that Chavez had absolutely nothing in his gas tank when Round 2 rolled around.
-Travis Wynn and Anthony Craparo had a hard-fought battle that was a bit closer than the scorecards indicated (Wynn won the unanimous decision). It was really a good showing by both men.
-Shedrick Goodridge weathered Mike Wilcox's wrestling onslaught and put him away with a nice sub. Erik Purcell kept hunting for a single-leg takedown and eventually Dan Holmes put him in a guillotine that ended it all. And Jonavin Webb made Rob Gittens fight his game - a ground war - that had Gittens on the defensive until he tapped out.