Last night MFC25 went down, at the Edmonton Expo Center, and came off without a hitch. It was also broadcast live on HDNET.
Vindication featured a new look, a few new celebrities, a change of venue, a few drinks, a bit of a party, and some intriguing match ups on the local and Canadian MMA scene.
A few thoughts from a local longtime fight fan as I watched the main card.
There is a lot of internet based criticism of Mark. I would reiterate that I have never met the man. But the facts are that he is smart enough to see an opening here in Edmonton, Alberta for a huge following of fight fans.
As it pertains to the Pav and the MFC, I look at it like this: Whether you like him, or hate him, you have to admit that he has done a good job with this promotion. He has brought some excellent fighting to a vibrant new venue, broadcast it on free tv, and put on a show with each card. He has outclassed other local MMA organizations with higher level fighters and match ups. When he began, few, if any "name" fighters wanted to come up here. There are a lot of world class fighters plying the trade here now. The MFC has gotten better in a very short amount of time. It has been with Pavelich at the wheel since it started.
The facts are that this was a stacked card with a good mix of veteran and rookie fighters with ranking and future main card match ups on the line.
His personality, his look, his...whatever...The facts are that he has worked tirelessly, and come up with a smooth, professional, and fun to watch MMA organization with a local flavor. The tickets are a fair price. The fights are made up of some of the best future, and former UFC roster fighters, and local prospects. In the end it casts a positive light on the City of Edmonton.
You have to admit that its pretty good MMA for an Oil Town in the frozen Northern tundra of Alberta.
I was disappointed to see that we had called in Guy Mezger ahead of local professional broadcaster Jason Gregor. Mezger does not have a quarter of the interview and color skill of Gregor, who has supported the MFC for as long as I have been watching it. I "get" that Gregor isn't as sexy as ex MMA fighter turned commentator Mezger, nor as world renowned.
Still, Gregor talks a lot of MMA on his daily rush hour radio show, and speaks very highly of the MFC while promoting local mma. He deserved a shot at the big time on this day, despite the fact that yes, he could loosen up a bit while on camera.
But he is a better with the mic, a better interviewer, known and popular locally, and dedicated to the MFC and the betterment of MMA in Edmonton.
This move was for a more professional and tv friendly approach, as was the hiring of Maria Kanellis the ex WWE Diva. (who has never met a camera she did not like) To someone who has never watched, you might have called the performances of Mezger and Kanellis good work. I am not saying they did a poor job.
But still, Gregor didn't "lose" the job.
It was taken away from him without giving him a chance to prove that he could handle it.
The televised Card on HDNET looked like this to me.
Gavin Neil vs. Ritchie Hightower:
Not much to say here. Neil overwhelmed Hightower. There is no easy or nice way to put it.
He may not look like much, but this Neil kid has skills. He needs more fights, and if he keeps finishing them, you will see a lot more of him. I can only assume his nickname of "forrest" is a reference to Forrest Griffin, the immaculate UFC Fighter.
If so, I would say this. Forrest Griffin does lead with his face sometimes but the guy is an absolute gym rat. Forrest Griffin does not get tired and rarely can be hurt in a fight, due mostly to his fantastic conditioning.
Given the set of skills that were put on display by Neil, over a tough kid in Hightower, it looks to me like he needs to train harder, ala Griffin.
If Neil becomes a five round fighter I think "forrest" could "run" through a few more opponents yet.
Ryan Fortin vs. Chase Gormley :
A good fight between veteran Chase Gormley, and local product Ryan Fortin. Gormley outclassed the kid. There is no way to sugarcoat it. Gormley came in with a plan, and basically executed it to perfection. Fortin lacks the experience and skill to counter such a high level, and intelligent fighter at this stage of his career. Gormley is a lot further along the path than Fortin and has an excellent wrestling base that he put on display.
But with that said the physical upside of Fortin was impressive to say the least. He is 6'7 and 263 pounds already at the young age of 23. This sport is about prospects, and with work I believe we are watching one. A high level one in fact.
The problem with someone like Fortin is that it is difficult to find people to train them. Ben Saunders, Mike Swick, and Stephan Struve all encounter the exact same thing. How does someone who is 165 pounds and 5'9 teach someone with the natural gift of size to fight?
This kid specifically is so raw that some time with a Randy Couture, a Mark De la Grotte, or a Greg Jackson to customize a training and discipline plan for his natural assets is an absolute requirement now while his career, his skills, and his body are still so young.
It is not meant as a shot at his current trainers who have obviously turned him into a tough opponent to deal with at times. I am saying that he needs to learn to fight using his natural physical gifts as a strength, and as something that is unique and hard to deal with. This kid with some wrestling and boxing work is young enough that he could be a monster in the mold of Brett "the grim" Rogers.
His technique in some cases was good. His guard was strong. His Muay Thai was excellent in that he landed several knees, that if nothing else will have Gormley remembering him in the morning.
His hands and his boxing were sloppy and that of a brawler but showed power in both. He is a very raw talent, but a talent nonetheless.
His existing training staff has taught him to be tough. He has the look. He is game.
But he needs someone to help tie it all together with an all around approach to his in ring strategy.
Pete Spratt vs. Luigi Fiorvanti:
Like, wow! That is what a body kick looks like. I thought Spratt looked dominant from start to finish. He beat a great fighter and ex marine in Fiorvanti, and had him hurt for a great deal of the fight. Fiorvanti was unable to take Spratt down at key times in the fight, and it cost him. Spratt has a great stand up game, and has worked hard on his takedown defense. This was a big win for him.
Fiorvanti, as always, is hard to criticize in a loss. He is a tough fighter, with a great overall game, and he always comes to entertain. He just was unable to take Spratt down when he needed to. The body kicks to the liver and midsection hurt him. He will be back, and here in Edmonton, we will continue to be happy to have him.
The question of "what now" could be asked of either guy. This fight has thrown a unique twist into the rankings. Fiorvanti is a high level talent and coming in it looked as if Spratt might be on his way out at 20 - 17 with another loss.
The beauty of high level MMA is that the only thing that is for certain is that nothing is for certain. It will be interesting to see where the MFC goes from here with both fighters.
Emanuel Newton vs. Dwayne Lewis:
I thought Newton fought a good fight. A smart fight. His gameplan essentially was to play to his strengths, and in winning this decision I would say that he did so. He was trapped in a few submission attempts and got hit a few times. Still, his veteran presence and good all around game was on display on this night. He was patient and professional.
As for Lewis, I guess I am not sure what to say. Lewis is a tough guy with great hands. His ground game in the fight was good when he was in dominant position. He struggled from his back at times and I would say that and the inability to keep the fight standing was what lost him the fight.
However, I maintain that he has the right tools to win against opponents cut of the same cloth. What he genuinely needs to do is to turn his weaknesses into strengths through a more varied training system. He is so close to winning that big fight against a name fighter.
It is obvious he can strike. Can he submit guys? Can he take them down? Can he work through the guard into dominant postions to land the big bomb? He is very close and with some polish on those areas Lewis is going to surprise a few people.
But on this day Newton used his weaknesses in BJJ, and takedown defence to get the best of him in a good scrap.
Wilson Gouveia vs Ryan Jimmo:
If Lewis is close, Jimmo is there.
You might want to get used to this name. Ryan Jimmo. He took a former UFC contender to the strap in Wilson Gouveia and completely dominated him.
Yep, that's right. Jimmo kicked his ass. The part of the rules where you must "intelligently defend yourself" obviously didn't apply to the UFC vet. Several times Jimmo was punching him or elbowing him while he laid on his side and took it without doing anything, and the ref did not stop it. I thought it should have been a tko stoppage at least once, but I would remind you that Jimmo is a local product. I might very well be biased.
Still, Gouveia was able to hang on, and lose with respect in a decision. He took a lot of strikes, and was outfought for the majority of three rounds, but never quit.
Ryan Jimmo was too much for him...but I am tellin ya...Get ready to hear that name again. Give this kid the biggest fight on the card next time. He never fails to impress.
Thales Leites vs. Jesse Taylor:
The more I see Leites, the more I think he just got a raw "maia esque" deal from the UFC. I do know that his fight against Anderson Silva was one of the worst one's I have ever sat through. However, Silva is an enigma, and impossible to try to stand with at this stage of his career. Everybody Silva has fought for about 6 fights in a row looked bad in one way or another.
But Leites looked like his contender days in the U on this night. He fought a good aggresive fight and deserved to win the way he did. He was by far the better pro on this night. Taylor looked lost early and often and was cut early on. Leites is still the real deal and warranted being in the main event.
What does it mean for JT Money? I am not sure. Jesse has simply never been able to return to the championship form he was showing on "The Ultimate Fighter". I give him credit in that he has made it over a lot of hurdles since. But his name is bigger than his overall skills at this point. He needs to win a relevant fight, but is in a territory here where there are lots of them for him. I think he will be back. Wrestling with a BJJ ace like Leites is a very difficult thing to do. JT Money was unable on this night.
MFC 25: Vindication was a great card from top to bottom. I thought it ran smoothly and had a lot of competitive fights. You want MMA? The Canadian hotbed on this day was in downtown Edmonton.
I welcome your commentary. Thanks for the read.