Monday, April 21, 2014

Cage Fury Fighting Championship 34: Main Shines, Santella Stumbles


Andy Main cinching up the triangle on Brian Kelleher
They say timing is everything, and never was that adage more true than at Saturday night's Cage Fury Fighting Championship 34 in Morristown, N.J. For main eventer Sean Santella - who's long been hailed as one of the top flyweight prospects coming out of the Northeast, and whose win streak and collection of belts would lend credence to that notion - the issue of timing was more about when he'd be able to make that inevitable leap into the UFC. For co-main eventer Andy Main, who's already had a run on TUF, and has lately been fighting in Pancrase in Japan, it was all about his timing in the cage.

Timing is that often elusive, often essential component to success - and on Saturday night, it was wrong for some and right for others.

It is no coincidence that the headlining bout for CFFC 34 featured Santella, a.k.a. "Shorty Rock". The venue, the Mennen Sports Arena, is a town or two away from his home, and given that close proximity, how could the place not be packed with his fans? Plus, the talk around the campfire was that Santella had already been fielding offers to appear inside the Octagon, and only injuries and health - i.e., timing - had kept him in the regional mix. Therefore, to behold Shorty Rock in action now, to see firsthand his dangerous submission game and superstar scrambles, was to gaze upon the future. When he made his way to the cage amidst the cheers and applause, the expectation wasn't so much how he was going to defeat opponent Nick Honstein as it was which particular UFC event Santella would next appear in.

Challenger Honstein - who'd been flown in from Colorado to play the role of fish to Santella's shark - had other ideas, and for nearly five full rounds he dominated the local hero, employing a stifling top game while the crowd stared in muted silence.
Honstein controlling Santella
Santella had his moments. He went for a variety of subs almost continuously, and in the final frame came so close to finishing Honstein that the audience nearly had a collective heart attack.

In the end, the challenger rightfully dethroned the champ via decision. Now the question mark hanging over Shorty Rock's head isn't so much about when he'll be in the UFC as it is when he can get back on track.

To look back upon the almost seven-year career of Main is to witness a fighter in the throes of evolution. Back in the day, Main's two modes of attack were to either throw heavy leather or find a triangle or armbar from his back, and his losses came at the hands of those who could neutralize those. But nowadays there's more to him, a whole arsenal of transitions and set-ups, and woe be to those who think they can slam their way out of trouble.

Such was the case with Brian Kelleher, a hard-nosed Bellator vet who's dodged more than his fair share of submissions in his years in the cage. In the span of a minute and a half, Kelleher was hoisting Main up, throwing him down, and fending off a triangle choke that only got tighter and tighter.

The sword of timing cut in Main's favor - cut in the way only perfectly applied technique can within the cage - and the partisan crowd cheered for their hero.
Main victorious
In 2003, Josh Key was ending bouts at BAMA Fight Night with kicks. But against New Yorker Bradley Desir on Saturday, kicks were only part of the package, and for much of their exciting scrap Key was just as keen on taking "Featherstone" down and working him over on the ground.
Key taking Desir into deep waters
Yet for all his trouble defending Key's expert takedowns, Desir is the master at escaping trouble. As each round wore on, more and more of his Muay Thai entered into the equation, until finally, 36 seconds into the third, after feeding Key a plethora of hard knees, kicks and punches, Desir was the last man standing.
Desir celebrates his TKO win
Desir's victory was quality win, as was Claudio Ledesma's over Marcio Bittencourt. It's hard to gauge how dangerous a fighter is when that fighter has spent the sum of their career in Brazil (where accurate records are about as mythical as unicorns), but it was safe to assume that Bittencourt was the wrong person to go to the ground with. That didn't faze the experienced Ledesma though, who as a pro has lost only to the likes of Zach Makovsky, Anthony Leone, Aljamain Sterling and Jimmie Rivera (i.e., the elite of the Northeast). For two rounds Ledesma imposed his will, and his actions paved the way for a guillotine finish just a little over a minute into Round 3.

If CFFC 34 was damaging to Santella's standing as the region's top flyweight, it was great for Ledesma's place in the food chain.
Ledesma raining down hell from above
He was picked up and slammed in Matt Hughes-fashion, but Lewis Rumsey remained undaunted, and fed Mike Stewart a nonstop buffet of leather that eventually withered the former Reality Fighting champ at almost the three-minute mark of the second round. With over 30 combined pro and amateur fights to his name, Rumsey has clearly been in the fire before, and that experience paid dividends against Stewart.
Rumsey pressing Stewart against the cage
Full results:

  • Nick Honstein def. Sean Santella via Unanimous Decision
  • Andy Main def. Brian Kelleher via Submission (Triangle Choke) at 1:26, R1
  • Emmanuel Walo def. Cheljean Erwin-Davis via Unanimous Decision
  • Lewis Rumsey def. Mike Stewart via TKO (Punches) at 2:59, R2
  • Claudio Ledesma def. Marcio Bittencourt via Submission (Guillotine) at 1:10, R3
  • Mike Wade def. Shedrick Goodridge via Submission (Guillotine) at 2:04, R1
  • Plinio Cruz def. J.A. Dudley via Submission (Armbar) at 4:12, R1
  • Brad Desir def. Josh Key via TKO (Punches) at :16, R3

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