The very best of MMA in Minnesota was on display on Saturday night as Driller Promotions/Sterling Entertainment Group provided what might have been the event of the year in St. Paul's Crowne Plaza hotel.
Throwdown at the Crowne featured co-main events including the long-awaited bout between Dan Moret and Damion Hill, as well as a battle of giants between Brett Murphy and Raphael Butler for the brand new Minnesota heavyweight championship.
The Driller/SEG shows have been getting rave reviews all year, but none were better than this.
From beginning to end of the 14-fight card, fans got their money's worth and then some. The co-main events delivered in exciting fashion and the undercard might have been the best we've seen in quite some time.
If you're interested in watching the event for yourself, check out the Driller Promotions/Sterling Entertainment Group Throwdown at the Crowne live stream replay. Be advised, though, that the commentary is "extra colorful" for this one.
If you'd rather read play-by-play of the event, continue here!
For more MMA news, fighter interviews and opinions, follow Nick Caron: @NicholasCaron.
Leg kick from Melina early and Isaacson clinched him immediately. Clinch throw attempt from Isaacson but Melina stayed on his feet as Isaacson pushed him into the cage. Melina broke free and swung wildly, but missed. Nice right overhand from Melina, then he he got tagged back with a left from Isaacson and fell onto his back. Isaacson quickly took side control and Melina flipped over to a turtle position. Isaacson looked to take his back but Melina showed great defense. A tremendous spin from Melina flipped the positioning and Isaacson ended up on his back. Isaacson with a sweep and got back on top, in Melina’s guard. Isaacson stood up and Melina went for some up-kicks, but none landed. Isaacson went back in and Melina got over into a turtle position again as the round ended.
Bleacher Report Unofficial Score: 10-9 Isaacson
Front kick attempt from Melina missed. Nice overhand right from Melina. Head kick by Isaacson blocked. Melina shot in for a double but Isaacson sprawled away nicely. Isaacson looked to take Melina’s back again while throwing some punches from Melina's back. Melina was taking quite a bit of damage and wasn’t advancing his position. He finally tapped.
Congratulations to Gary Isaacson for the first win of his amateur MMA career.
Official Result: Gary Isaacson defeated John Melina by submission (strikes) at 1:38 in Round 2.
Excellent show sportsmanship from both men as they hugged in the center of the cage.
Lytle went for a body kick but grazed instead with a left to the jaw. Nunn has landed a few counterpunches early, but nothing that has really staggered Lytle much. Lytle moved in for a clinch and tried to pull Nunn into his guard, but he stood right up and didn’t fall into Lytle’s game. A big uppercut from Nunn seemed to catch Lytle and he quickly pulled guard, but Nunn stood right up. Lytle landed an up-kick and Nunn had seen enough of that position as he walked away to let Lytle back up. Nice right from Lytle and they went back to the clinch. When they broke apart, Lytle landed a body kick but ate a right hook from Nunn. Nice takedown against the cage from Lytle and he quickly took Nunn’s back. He nearly wrapped up a rear-naked choke in the final seconds of the round, but Nunn was able to escape the round.
Bleacher Report Unofficial Score: 10-9 Nunn
Lytle landed a leg kick but got caught again with a left. Big right hand from Nunn staggered Lytle for a moment. Lytle seemed to be having trouble keeping his hands up after throwing his punches. Lytle nearly got a takedown but Nunn did a great job of staying on his feet. He clipped Lytle with a right hand and Lytle dropped his hands for the final time as Nunn followed up with a thunderous right head kick to the jaw that ended the fight in a very exciting knockout!
Official Result: DaVonta Nunn defeated Tom Lytle by knockout (head kick) at 1:23 in Round 2.
Single-leg takedown attempt attempt from Erickson early looked like it wasn't going to work, but he finally got Jordan to the ground. Unfortunately for Erickson, it didn't say there long as Jordan got back up to his feet. Erickson brought him to the ground again, but they again scrambled back to their feet. Big overhand barely missed from Erickson as he pushed Jordan into the cage. Jordan switched it around and looked for a throw, but Erickson didn’t allow it. Erickson appears to be very strong. Nice right hand landed from Erickson but he got a little overzealous and Jordan caught him with a punch of his own. Erickson was a bit rocked and shot in for the takedown, but that allowed Jordan to take his back. He quickly looked for the rear-naked choke, but that allowed Erickson to flip over and end up on top. He couldn’t keep Jordan there though as he got right back up to his feet. Right leg kick from Jordan. Both fighters exchanged left jabs. Body kick attempt from Jordan got caught and Erickson nearly got a takedown but Jordan pulled his foot away and got a takedown of his own! The fighters were against the cage, right in front of Jordan's corner. Jordan looked for a mount, but Erickson’s power became evident again as he powered right out of it. Jordan stayed collected and got his back before quickly putting in his hooks. Erickson knew that the rear-naked choke was coming and tried his best to avoid it. Jordan was relentless as he looked for the submission, throwing punches to the side of Erickson’s head. Erickson finally saw an opening and got out of the position, but he couldn’t get completely to his feet before the round ended.
Bleacher Report Unofficial Score: 10-9 Jordan
Superman punch from Jordan early and Erickson shot in for a takedown, but ended up on his back in the scramble. He nearly got a sweep, but Jordan was too quick and ended up keeping him against the cage. Jordan looked for a kneeling guillotine choke. A knee to the top of the head from Jordan caused a stop in the action due to it being an illegal strike (Erickson was on the ground) and the ref stood the fight back up.
When they began again, Erickson threw a big punch combination but nothing landed too clean and Jordan stayed on his feet. More punches from Erickson that seemed to mostly miss, then Erickson shot in for another takedown. Jordan saw it coming again, though, and sprawled out of it. Jordan used his ground and pound to open up Erickson before he took mount. Erickson didn’t let that stand for too long, though, as he flipped over and Jordan lost his hooks in the process. With Erickson on his knees, Jordan put in the hooks once again and looked for yet another rear-naked choke. Erickson kept his chin low and was able to fend off the choke, even throwing a few punches to Jordan’s face in the process. Erickson finally broke free and got back to his feet. Nice left hook from Erickson as he began to get the better of the standup exchange. Jordan shot in for a takedown and Erickson sprawled, but Jordan slid around him and was able to nearly take his back again in the final seconds of the round.
Bleacher Report Unofficial Score: 10-9 Jordan (20-18 Jordan overall)
Jordan seemed a bit more hesitant in the standup to start the third and Erickson was still throwing with a lot of power. Jordan wanted no part of it and clinched against cage. Erickson fell to one knee, preventing Jordan from landing any knees. Erickson was taking some damage against the cage and opened up enough for Jordan to get him all the way to the mat. Jordan left his neck open, though and Erickson grabbed it and looked for a guillotine choke from his back. Jordan wriggled free and into side control. Erickson flipped over onto his knees again and Jordan began looking to put in his hooks, but Erickson got to his feet. Erickson looked a bit desperate as he threw wildly for the knockout, but got caught by Jordan in the process and fell to his back where he took more damage on the ground. Jordan landed a shot below the belt, though, and the fight was brought back to the feet by the referee after a momentary stoppage.
The fight restarted and Erickson immediately shot in for a single-leg takedown, but he gave up his back again in the process, as Jordan just wouldn’t allow himself to be taken down. Nice knees to the body from Jordan and he controlled Erickson on the mat to the final bell.
Bleacher Report Unofficial Score: 10-9 Jordan (30-27 Jordan overall)
Official Result: Clarence Jordan defeated Jake Erickson by unanimous decision (30-27, 30-27, 30-27)
Krevelen shot in immediately and got Johnson to the mat with relative ease. He began looking for ground-and-pound early as Johnson tried to tie up his arms. Johnson blocked most of the shots early. Finally Krevelen exploded and landed a few shots which seemed to open Johnson up. Krevelen moved to half-guard and threw down more. Johnson gave up his back and Krevelen put the hooks in. He looked for a rear-naked choke and Johnson did his best to prevent the submission, rolling around and keeping Krevelen from doing much or finishing the rear-naked choke. Johnson worked to his feet with Krevelen still on his back and tried to dump Krevelen on his head. It didn’t happen and Krevelen stuck to his back on the mat again. Nice punches to the side of the head from Krevelen. Big knee to the body from Krevelen opened Johnson up and even though Krevelen didn’t have the hooks in, he locked on the rear-naked choke and earned the submission in dominant fashion.
Official Result: Alex Van Krevelen defeated Bruce Johnson by submission (rear-naked choke) at 3:58 in Round 1.
Head kick missed by Friday and Ehrhorn quickly shot for the single and got the fight to the ground. Ehrhorn moved into side control but Friday was able to move it back to half-guard. Ehrhorn looked for a guillotine choke and Friday got the sweep, putting Ehrhorn on his back. Ehrhorn looked for a triangle off his back but Friday pushed his legs aside. Ehrhorn tried to get to his feet, but that left his neck open for a tight guillotine choke from Friday and Ehrhorn had to tap.
Official Result: Bill Friday defeated Kurtis Ehrhorn by submission (guillotine choke) at 1:46 in Round 1.
“I love my Momma,” said Friday in the post-fight, in-cage interview. His family was watching the live stream at home in Illinois.
Leg kick from Petron. Knee attempt from Johnson, but Petron caught his leg and took him to the mat. Petron unloaded from half-guard with punches. Johnson tried to get free, but Petron took mount. That didn’t last long before Johnson flipped it over and ended up on top. He then stood back up as he wanted to test Petron's striking. Johnson backed Petron into the cage and went for an uppercut, but Petron shot in and took him down again. Triangle attempt from the bottom by Johnson, but Petron didn’t seem concerned as he moved into side control. Petron went for an Americana and nearly dislocated Johnson’s shoulder before finally getting the tap.
Official Result: Dustan Petron defeated Frank Johnson by submission (Americana) at 2:48 in Round 1.
Two Minnesota legends went at it in this one as former UFC veteran Brad Kohler battled Shane DeZee in what is expected to be the final bout of Kohler's MMA career.
Kohler is an absolute brick, but very short at 5’8”. The 48-year-old came to fight in this one.
Clinch initiated by Kohler and he looked for a takedown but DeZee’s balance was excellent against the cage. Big right hand from Kohler rocked DeZee and put him on the ground where Kohler immediately jumped on top of him for some ground-and-pound. DeZee covered up but he took quite a bit of damage. DeZee began landing elbows from his back, but they landed to the top of Kohler's head in an illegal area. Kohler was hurt from it and DeZee got a point taken.
The referee put the fight back in the same position with Kohler on top. DeZee looked for a triangle, but Kohler’s thick frame made that very difficult and he passed to half-guard. DeZee was unable to get to his feet and Kohler continued to control him and land punches from the top as the round came to an end.
Bleacher Report Unofficial Score: 10-8 Kohler (referee took point from DeZee)
Both fighters looked very tired going into the second, which is to be expected given their age. The fighters clinched and Kohler appeared to land a low blow. The referee stopped the action momentarily. Kohler yelled “that was not a low blow," but DeZee was still given time to recover.
When they resumed, a frustrated Kohler threw an unexpected sidekick and began to look very confident. He shot in for a takedown but DeZee stayed on his feet and landed a couple knees before Kohler finally got him to the mat. Kohler threw punches from the top and DeZee flipped onto his stomach but Kohler just kept throwing. Finally DeZee tapped even though it didn't look like he was taking a whole lot of damage.
Official Result: Brad Kohler defeated Shane DeZee by submission (strikes) at 1:32 in Round 2.
The historic fight saw Kohler get a standing ovation from the fans in attendance.
An emotional Kohler thanked his friends, family and teammates while confirming his victorious retirement from the sport.
If you want to watch an exciting fight, this is the one to see. This unbelievable bout had so much back-and-forth action that it was hard to even keep up.
Both fighters missed kicks early. Then a nice takedown from Hartman slowed things down. Nice ground-and-pound from Hartman from side control against the cage. Curtis tried to use the cage to flip Hartman off him, but that allowed Hartman to get mount where he looked for a head-arm triangle. Curtis flipped the position over and Hartman couldn’t finish the submission. Curtis stood up and looked like he was going to allow Hartman up, but Hartman shot for an ankle. He ate some punches but once again got Curtis on his back. Hartman left himself open, though, and Curtis swept him again. Hartman looked for a kimura off his back, but Curtis was able to avoid it and landed some big ground-and-pound. Hartman was in trouble as Curtis unloaded on him, finally taking his back in the process. Curtis looked for a rear-naked choke but slipped off Hartman’s back and Hartman got back on top of him. Nice back-and-forth striking on the ground before the round came to an end.
Bleacher Report Unofficial Score: 10-9 Hartman
Huge overhand right grazed on Hartman and a push kick knocked him down. Curtis exploded with punches and the referee looked like he was nearly going to stop it, but Hartman stayed alive by grabbing Curtis’ leg and putting him on his back against the cage. Not much damage from the top by Hartman but he was controlling Curtis pretty well. Nice punch from the bottom by Curtis but he left his legs too high and Hartman passed into side control, then right into mount! He looked for the head-arm triangle again and once again it let Curtis sweep him. Curtis immediately began looking to inflict damage on the top, but Hartman saw his arm coming and nearly caught him in a triangle-armbar. Curtis broke free and punished his opponent with more punches from the top. Curtis passed to side control in the scramble and began unloading with some big knees to the body. Beautiful usage of the cage by Hartman as he flipped over and took Curtis’ back. He looked to be close to cinching in a rear-naked choke as the round came to an end.
Bleacher Report Unofficial Score: 10-9 Curtis (19-19 overall)
The fighters shook hands before what would likely be a decisive third round.
Curtis caught the foot on a body kick attempt from Hartman and landed some punches. A huge knee from Curtis caught Hartman and staggered him, but he was able to stay on his feet and kept coming forward. Curtis got the takedown and looked to get some more ground-and-pound but Hartman caught his arm and looked for a kimura. It looked like it was in very deep, but an amazing roll got Curtis out of trouble and onto Hartman’s back. He landed some punches and began looking for a rear-naked choke. Hartman avoided it but took more punches for his trouble. Hartman came out the back and ended up on top once again. Hartman looked very tired but knew he had to impress the judges in the final minutes, so he kept pushing. Curtis grabbed Hartman's head, preventing too much damage from the top, but Hartman scored points by landing body shots. Curtis tried to get to his feet, but Hartman went for the arm-triangle choke for a third time. It looked like it was deep, but Curtis got free yet again and ended up on top. With seconds remaining, he unloaded on Hartman until the final bell.
Bleacher Report Unofficial Score: 10-9 Curtis (29-28 Curtis overall)
Official Result: Deangelo Curtis defeated Taylor Hartman by unanimous decision (29-28, 29-28, 29-28)
This incredible fight was given a standing ovation by the fans in what could be a legitimate Minnesota fight of the year candidate. Unbelievable back-and-forth action. It’s unfortunate that there has to be a loser in a fight like that, because both guys are truly winners.
Delgado missed a right hand and Smith took him to the mat quickly. Delgado instantly began looking for submissions including an omoplata off his back but Smith avoided them and got back to his feet. Delgado went in for a takedown of his own. Smith had great balance and it took awhile, but Delgado eventually got the fight back to the ground. Delgado landed a couple punches but Smith got to his feet. Delgado got another takedown. Smith shot back up to his feet again and got the takedown on Delgado this time. Smith stood up and moved into half-guard before taking Delgado’s back. He wasn’t doing much damage, though. With the fight in front of his corner and while he was in control, Smith asked how much time he had left in the round. He still had over three minutes. He looked for a rear-naked choke but Delgado slipped out and flipped over on top of Smith where he landed a couple nice shots. Smith stood up and shot in once again. Delgado went for a guillotine choke but Smith didn’t allow it and the fight went back to the standup game. A nice jumping left hand from Delgado landed but Smith quickly took him down before the round came to an end.
Bleacher Report Unofficial Score: 10-9 Smith
Smith got a double-leg takedown just seconds into the round and dropped Delgado to his back. Delgado worked his way back to his feet, but another takedown from Smith put him on his back again. Delgado rolled away but ate a big punch that opened him up. Smith took mount and began to unload on Delgado. Delgado blocked most of the punches but finally Smith broke free and began to really punish him. Delgado was finally forced to tap.
Official Result: Derrick Smith defeated Patrick Delgado by submission (strikes) at 1:14 in Round 2.
Martin landed a handful of strong leg kicks to Knutson's lead left leg early in the round. He then began working his jab between the leg kicks, which seemed to be throwing Knutson off. Knutson answered landed a leg kick of his own. Nice left from Martin seemed to affect Knutson as he grabbed his eye and began squinting. The referee didn’t stop it though. Another leg kick from Martin followed by a punch exchange from both men. More jabs from Martin as he began to show his superiority in the standup game. A big body punch from Martin came before more huge leg kick. Knutson finally landed a solid right hand, but that didn't slow down Martin for long as he connected with another jab. Big overhand right from Martin grazed its target, but he slipped and fell to the mat in the process. Knutson tried to pounce on him but Martin flipped him over immediately and landed on top. Knutson worked a rubber guard from his back in side control, preventing any real damage before the round ended.
Bleacher Report Unofficial Score: 10-9 Martin
After taking a ton of leg kicks in the first round, Knutson came out and tried to implement it more into his own game this round. Knutson backed Martin up with a jab, but Martin answered back with a combination of his own. More leg kicks from Knutson. An overhand right by Martin connected and he shot in for a double-leg takedown. Knutson tried to lock up a guillotine choke, but Martin was far too strong for that. Martin looked for a Americana from the top but Knutson wouldn’t allow it. Martin controlled the round from the top, continually looking for the Americana and pressuring Knutson to expel his energy defending it.
Bleacher Report Unofficial Score: 10-9 Martin (20-18 Martin overall)
The fighters exchanged leg kicks early in the round. Knutson went for another leg kick, but Martin saw the opportunity and shot in for a running double-leg takedown. Knutson hit the cage and fell to his back with Martin on top of him. Martin moved to side control as Knutson looked to use his feet on the cage to flip him over. Martin finally got the kimura and although Knutson survived for a long time, he was finally forced to tap.
Official Result: Anthony Martin submitted Jonny Knutson by submission (kimura) at 2:10 in Round 3.
Knutson’s arm appeared to be hurt as he sat in the corner of the cage in pain. He was able to walk out of the cage under his own strength. We wish him the best of luck with his recovery if he is injured.
This fight was for the Driller Promotions amateur welterweight championship. As an amateur bout, the five-round fight utilized three minute rounds.
Cruz landed four straight leg kicks before he got answered by one by Rud. Superman punch missed by Cruz, then he pushed Rud into the cage. From the clinch, Cruz looked for an opportunity to bring the fight to the mat. Rud landed punches to the body with his back against the cage. He wasn't doing enough damage, though, and the referee broke things up. Leg kick from Cruz before he shot in again and put Rud against the fence. Cruz looked for a single and got Rud to the ground, but not in a dominant enough position and Rud stood right back up before the round ended.
Bleacher Report Unofficial Score: 10-9 Rud
This was a very close round that probably could have gone either way as Rud did land more strikes even though his back was against the fence through most of the round.
Leaping front kick missed by Rud, but he followed it up with a nice body kick. Rud’s hands looked to be opening up a bit more. Body kick attempt from Rud but Cruz caught it and pushed him against the cage. Rud looked for a standing guillotine choke but Cruz wasn't close to tapping. Rather than use all of his strength on a submission that wasn’t going to happen, Rud let go. The fighters went to center cage again. The round came to an end without either fighter really looking truly dominant.
Bleacher Report Unofficial Score: 10-9 Cruz (19-19 overall)
This was another very close round, but Cruz's control of the action probably earned it for him even though he didn't land many strikes.
Rud went for another body kick, but this time when Cruz caught it, Rud yanked it away rather than get clinched again. Nice left hook from Rud and Cruz seemed to think it hit him in the eye. No stoppage though and the fight continued. Nice jab from Rud as he began to take over in the striking game. He then connected with left hook. Cruz answered back with a string of his own punches, but nothing that landed with much power. Rud moved in and clinched Cruz as the round came to an end.
Bleacher Report Unofficial Score: 10-9 Rud (29-28 Rud overall)
Both fighters looked to be in good shape as we headed into the championship rounds.
Body kick attempt from Cruz got caught and Rud shot in, taking the fight to the ground just seconds in. Rud moved to side control, but Cruz got back to his feet from there. Rud stayed on him and threw a combination of punches, but none of them landed cleanly. Nice left jabs from Rud and a big hook. Cruz landed a leg kick. Grazing head kick from Cruz, but Rud kept moving forward and jabbed him again. Cruz with a leg kick. More punching combinations from Rud. Cruz shot in for a takedown, but couldn’t get it before the round ended.
Bleacher Report Unofficial Score: 10-9 Rud (39-37 Rud overall)
Rud’s striking appeared to be really catching up to Cruz as he finally just decided to rush in and throw with a little more urgency rather than get picked apart. It allowed Rud to take him down, though, as he didn’t land much in his fury of punches. Cruz got back to his feet after taking minimal damage on the ground and landed a solid right hand followed by two leg kicks to Rud’s lead left leg. Cruz continued to throw big leg kicks and Rud finally started to show the effects as he tried to check them. Great left hand from Cruz landed and Rud looked tired. Cruz shot in for a takedown before the round came to an end, but he might not have gotten it before the bell rang.
Bleacher Report Unofficial Score: 10-9 Cruz (48-47 Rud overall)
Official Result: Heath Rud defeated Melvin Cruz by unanimous decision (48-47, 49-46, 49-46) to become the Driller Promotions Amateur Welterweight Champion
Larson with a clinch early, but couldn’t do much with it. Right hook from Scholten. Big overhand right from Larson grazed Scholten’s face. Leg kick from Larson. Another one and Scholten seemed to already be feeling it. Larson clinched and got a trip. He quickly took mount and Scholten looked to use his feet on the cage to roll over. He did, but Larson stayed on top of him, taking his back in the process. Larson threw down with some big punches from the top. Hammerfists from Larson as he was in full control on the top. Scholten covered up and just tried to keep his head away from the big slugger. Larson unloaded and Scholten couldn’t escape as he rolled onto his back and took more damage before finally tapping out.
Official Result: Matt Larson defeats Brad Scholten by submission (strikes) at 3:08 in Round 1.
This highly-anticipated fight was actually scheduled to happen a few weeks ago at the Hyatt in Minneapolis, but food poisoning caused Damion Hill to be physically unable to perform and the fight was rescheduled for Saturday night's event in St. Paul.
Both fighters brought fans to the venue, but it was clear that Moret's fans were the more vocal of the two as they chanted for their fighter before these two top-10 ranked Minnesota 155-pounders locked horns in the cage. You could just feel the anticipation in the air for this one.
Damion Hill shot out of his corner and began throwing immediately. An incredible flurry of punches from both men started the fight as the fans went crazy. Hill appeared to be getting the better of the standup and Moret finally clinched and slammed Hill to the mat onto his knees. Moret got Hill’s back quickly and looked for the rear-naked choke. Hill fought as hard as he could, but couldn’t escape and was forced to tap when Moret locked on the submission.
Official Result: Dan Moret defeated Damion Hill by submission (rear-naked choke) at 1:00 in Round 1.
The crowning of the brand new Minnesota heavyweight champion was the main event of this incredible fight card.
Undefeated heavyweights Brett Murphy and Raphael Butler, two of the biggest fighters in the state and both of whom are consensus top-10-ranked in the state, are both knockout artists who can finish a fight in the blink of an eye.
For Butler, a former pro boxer who had only competed three times in MMA, this was unquestionably the biggest test for him inside the cage.
Murphy came in and looked to attack, but Butler pushed him away. The two fighters met again in the cage and Murphy landed a huge shot, flattening Murphy immediately. The fight was over that quickly with a lightning-quick punch that landed right on the button. The instant knockout got the fans out of their seats as they were not expecting the fight to be over so quickly.
Official result: Raphael Butler defeated Brett Murphy by knockout (punch) at 0:15 in Round 1 to become the Minnesota MMA heavyweight champion.
Congratulations to Butler whose surprising MMA career has just continued to get better and better. He can now make a serious case that he is the top fighter in the state at 206+ pounds. The sky is the limit for this monster and it might not be too long at all before we see him on the big stage.