Most MMA events have a tagline associated with their event. They are usually something cool and catchy that will let fans know what the fight card is all about. Spartan Promotions did not have an official tagline for their fourth show, on December 1st, but a fitting name could have been Battle of the Spartans IV: Changes.
The upstart amateur promotion was back at the Virginia Sportsplex, in Ruther Glen, VA this past Saturday night for an evening of amateur action, pitting some of the top amateurs from the Mid-Atlantic Region, against each other.
The changes, as mentioned above, began earlier in the week, as the card that at one time had 12 fights scheduled, was trimmed down to 8 by the time weigh-ins occurred on Friday, November 30th. It seems the UFC is not the only promotion being bitten by the injury bug, as Spartan Promotions had four fights cancel due to fighter injuries, prior to weigh-ins. The good news for James Jones and his promotion was that the eight remaining fights were all of very good quality. However, there were more changes to come.
Friday, November 30th will be a day that will live on in infamy, in the MMA community, as the Battle of the Spartans weigh-ins would be the stage for another fight cancellation and an absolute melee that revolved around that fight’s demise. Spartan was set to have its first female MMA fight, pitting Shanie Rusth against Cassie Crisano. Rusth was able to make-weight, but Crisano was over the agreed upon weight limit and the Rusth camp declined to accept the fight, reducing the card to seven fights. After the fight refusal, Cassie Crisano was spit on by Shanie Rusth and according to many eyewitnesses, was struck in the face by professional fighter, Frank Lester, Rusth’s boyfriend. The Spartan card now consisted of seven fights, five of which were title tilts. However, even more changes were coming.
Fight day, December 1st, arrived. One more fight was cancelled due to an undisclosed fighter injury, so the card was down to six fights, five of which were title contests. One more change was on the way…..a BIG one.
Prior to the first fight, Spartan Promotions announced a co-promotion partnership with fellow Virginia amateur promotion, Onslaught Fights, for 2013. The co-promotion will mean that Spartan will branch out into the Harrisonburg and Richmond markets, as well as maintaining their presence in Ruther Glen. This co-promotion is enormous for amateur MMA in the Commonwealth of Virginia and a move that has rarely, if ever, been done in the amateur circuit. The partnership will also have the prospect of professional fights on the table, as well.
The fight card kicked off with its first fight, the only non-title fight on the card, pitting Craig Yerkey vs. Anthony Tisdale. The fight was back and forth until Yerkey took an illegal blow to the back of the head, which caused time to be called. Yerkey was able to resume fighting and finish out the round, but was unable to answer the bell for the 2nd and Tisdale was declared the winner, by TKO.
The second fight was for the brand new Featherweight title, being unveiled that night, pitting Nathan Miller, an Independent vs. Dreon Martin of Team Rock Bottom. There was no feeling out process in this one, as Miller and Martin let the leather fly, with the culmination being a KO for Dreon Martin at the 1:20 mark of Round 1. With the win, Martin becomes the first Spartan Promotions Featherweight Champion.
The third fight of the night was for the new Spartan Promotions Interim Welterweight Title, with Chris Davis of The Hive against J.R. Rumley of Team Rock Bottom. Spartan’s reining Welterweight Champ, Travis Davidson, was injured several weeks ago in a fight in another promotion and was unable to defend his Spartan title. So, the winner of the Interim belt will be set to face Davidson at Battle of the Spartans V, in March 2013. The Davis-Rumley match was hotly contested by the two under-twenty year olds. The Team Rock Bottom fighter, Rumley, came out and won the first two rounds by controlling the majority of both rounds and was making it look like Team Rock Bottom was going to acquire it’s second title belt of the night. However, in true Hive fashion, Davis was able to persevere and took Round 3 by securing takedowns and beginning to wear down Rumley. Davis then needed just over one minute (1:26) in the 4th to secure a rear-naked choke on Rumley and bring the interim title back to Bassett, VA and The Hive.
The fourth fight of the night was a rematch and also a grudge match between Independent, Winston Tesi and Alan Stephenson from MMA Institute. Tesi and Stephenson faced each other in March of 2012 in another promotion. That fight was at welterweight and Stephenson was the victor, via KO. The Tesi camp protested the decision as it was alleged that several of the strikes that rendered Tesi unable to continue were to the back of the head. Flash forward eight months and the rematch was set to be for another title, this time the Spartan Promotions’ Lightweight Title that was recently vacated by Christian Leonard. This had the potential to be another casualty, however, as Tesi weighed in at 164 pounds, eight pounds over the 156 pound limit. Stephenson took the fight, nonetheless. Stephenson made quite the impression on the Ruther Glen crowd as he was preceded by two teammates who were tasked with caring his four other title belts, from other promotions. Stephenson, loose and ready for battle, danced and shuffled his way toward the cage, to the delight of the crowd. The fight began with both fighters judging ranges with some low kicks and punches. At one point on the first round, Tesi took Stephenson down and made an attempt at a leg lock. Stephenson obliged and countered with an ankle lock of his own at the 2:52 mark, which caused Tesi to tap almost instantly and remain down in the cage, as we was attended to by physicians. There was no word on the severity of the injury, although Tesi was able to walk on the leg later in the night, which was a positive sign. Alan Stephenson secured his fifth title and is the new Spartan Promotions Lightweight Champion.
The co-main event was for the Spartan Promotions Bantamweight Title, as Chad “Honey Bun” Wiggington of The Hive looked to secure the second title of the night for his team. However, standing in front of that accomplishment was Jesse Stirn of Baltimore’s Ground Control Academy, which boasts fighters such as John Rallo, Ryan Mackin and Dan Root. The step up in competition seemed to fuel the 17-year-old Wiggington, who is still in High School, as he proceeded to go out and control Stirn and take the first three rounds of the fight. However, at the 2:06 mark of Round 4, the experience and determination of Stirn shown through as he was able to secure Wiggington’s back and sink in the rear-naked choke. Immediately after the referee separated the two, Stirn proceeded to lose what I could only imagine was his breakfast, lunch AND dinner in a cage-side trash can. Gross, yes, but it showed the level of intensity that was brought by both young fighters. The future looks bright for both of these young warriors.
So, the main event was finally upon us. The Spartan Light Heavyweight belt was up for grabs as 195 lbs. Champion, Bryan “Bam Bam” Sager took on another member of The Hive, Mike “Sledgehammer” Hodges. The Hive fans, for what they lacked in numbers, made up for in decibels and were cheering their lungs out for their fighter. Hodges came to the cage first, sporting a Michael Myers mask and being accompanied by the sounds of the Halloween movie theme. The venue was silent, which increased the eeriness of the already spooky theme song. There was a fire in Hodges’ eyes that showed he was focused and ready to do damage. It was then Sager’s turn to make his way to the cage. Accompanied by seemingly every one of his fans, he wasted no time in getting to the cage and as he entered the cage, provided a furious jumping double foot stomp, which apparently didn’t impress Hodges, as he counted with an ever louder jumping stomp. Sager was carrying a very visible size advantage over Hodges, as Hodges is a small Light Heavy. However, what Hodges may lack in size, he makes up for in heart and determination and most of all, strength, as he came right out of the blocks pushing the action. The two fighters exchanged several strikes, with Hodges distinctly winning that battle and the fans in the arena were able to understand why he was called Sledgehammer. Hodges pushed forward the entire round and after seeing a distinct advantage in the stand-up, decided to take the fight down and with his strong wrestling, was controlling the bigger Sager. However, Sager was able to reverse position, but chose to disengage and allow the fight back to its feet. Hodges got the fight right back down to the mat, flattened Sager out and rained down punches that might make Tito Ortiz jealous. Sager was valiantly trying to move and dodge, but the referee saw enough and stopped the fight at the 2:47 mark of the first round, giving Hodges the victory via TKO. Hodges, who stated that he had encountered a good deal of trash talk from Sager during the week, was fired up, to say the least. As he separated from Sager, he stood over him, peering down with his arms crossed, for several seconds, and then proceeded to make the motion of “gravedigger” as he imitated the motion of digging dirt and shoveling it on top of Sager. Then, in a true showing of sportsmanship, Sager attached the belt around the waist of the new Spartan Light Heavyweight Champion.
The night was not over yet, however. There was still the matter of awarding the “Wounded Warrior Spartan Helmet” to the fighter that the VA National Guard deemed to have the most heart, sportsmanship and valor, regardless of a win or loss during the night. This award was given at the after party. The recipient of the helmet was Nathan Miller, who was defeated for the Featherweight belt, earlier in the night. The National Guard rep stated that they though Miller absolutely left everything in the cage and even after getting knocked out, jump right back up and wanted more. Many fans thought that the award should have gone to Mike Hodges, for his dominant performance in the Main Event, but the conjecture was that his “grave digger” move cost him sportsmanship points and ultimately cost him the award.
So, that was the conclusion of the small but mighty Battle of the Spartans IV event. For the fans and fighters that were in attendance at the after-party, a preview of the fireworks that will occur at Battle of the Spartans V took place. Welterweight Champion, Travis Davidson, was seated at the venue with his group, indulging in some food and beverage at the Quaker Steak & Lube in Fredericksburg, VA. As The Hive entourage, including Interim Welterweight Champ Chris Davis entered, Travis began eyeing them immediately and not in a way that said, hey, congrats on your title. Approximately 30 minutes later, words began to be exchanged between the two camps, most notably between Davidson and the Professional Hive fighter, Jeremy Boardwine. Davidson appeared to be irritated by the fact that someone else, besides himself, was being considered the Spartan Welterweight Champion. After some “Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays exchanges” across the room, Davidson and his crew left the venue, but the talking has continued between Davidson and Boardwine on Twitter. So, for some fans and fighters, BOTS V can’t get here soon enough. Stay tuned!
Anthony Tisdale d. Craig Yerkey, TKO, Round 1, 5:00 (Yerkey didn’t answer bell for 2nd)
Dreon Martin d. Nathan Miller, KO, Round 1, 1:20
Chris Davis d. J.R. Rumley, Rear-Naked Choke, Round 4, 1:26
Alan Stephenson d. Winston Tesi, Ankle Lock, Round 1, 2:52
Jesse Stirn d. Chad Wiggington, Rear-Naked Choke, Round 4, 2:06
Mike Hodges d. Bryan Sager, TKO, Round 1, 2:47
With the co-promotion partnership between Spartan Promotions and Onslaught Fights, 2013 should be a good one for MMA fans in Virginia.