Ring of Combat XXXI: A Night to Remember
By Shawn Baran
What can I say about the Ring of Combat XXXI card that took place Saturday night from The Tropicana Hotel & Casino in Atlantic City, NJ? Well, I will say that there is a reason that New Jersey produces some of the best MMA fighters out there today. One of the organizations that produce these fighters is Lou Neglia’s Ring of Combat. There have been 40+ fighters from ROC that have gone on to obtain UFC contracts. Saturday night proved exactly why that is.
From the preliminary card to the main card and the title fights, the action never let up. Neither did the crowd for that matter. There were several empty seats in the Grand Ballroom Saturday night, but it was not because people did show up. They just spent most of the night standing and cheering for their fighter. One thing about ROC events, they attract some of the die-hard fans of MMA and boy, are they passionate.
There were thirteen fights on this card and each fight seemed to get better than the one before it. The night kicked off with a first round KO from NJ fighter, Chris Wing. That fight set the tone and got the intense crowd more fired up. Things just progressed from there. The preliminary portion of the card saw one fight go to a decision and the other five had exciting finishes. However, every fight was an exciting one.
One preliminary fight in particular saw Tom DeBlass earn a measure of revenge against Tom Velasquez. DeBlass, in an earlier interview with TheGARV.com, had discussed his situation with Velasquez and assured us he would come away victorious. Tom was a man of his word and displayed some impressive ground work in the process. However, the ground work was not what won him the fight. Tom used his always improving striking to drop Velasquez and capitalize to earn the impressive TKO win.
It was also a great night for Kurt Pellegrino as a few of his fighters had some very impressive performances Saturday night. On the preliminary card, David Church showcased some impressive skills in a very close fight. After a third extension round was ordered, Church was able to secure a Rear Naked Choke to finish off Villi Bello.
The main card saw another Pellegrino standout, George Sullivan, put on a show for the fans that clearly favored him in this fight. Sullivan weathered some solid takedowns early on. Then used superior grappling to gain top position and then displayed some vicious ground and pound that warranted a referee stoppage and a TKO victory for Sullivan. Sullivan seems to improve with every fight, expect big things from him in the future.
Another NJ fighter, Rich Ashkar, fought a great fight against Doug Gordon. Ashkar was the crowd favorite from Bill Scott’s Jersey Shore BJJ and this one did not disappoint. The fight went three action packed rounds and the judges awarded Ashkar the unanimous decision victory. Welcome back to the cage Rich, your fans here in NJ missed you greatly.
The title fights on the card were also full of excitement. Chris Weidman and Uriah Hall were both fired up and full of intensity for their Middleweight Championship bout. They came out swinging for the fences, but Weidman got the better end of the striking and was able to drop Hall and dropped more bombs onto Hall. The referee gave Hall a chance to recover and escape, but Weidman was relentless and the fight had to be stopped in the first round.
The highlight of the championship fights was Louis Gaudinot’s flying Gullotine Choke out of Jesse Riggleman at the end of the first round. This flyweight title bout was an exciting one, especially with the highlight reel finish from Gaudinot. The Champ then continued to electrify the crowd when he jumped right out of the cage and ran up into the crowd to give his Mother a victory hug. Mom was in tears and proud of her son and his accomplishment.
As for me, I was just happy to have been there and while there were no tears, I was proud of every fighter that walked into that cage Saturday night. Jersey MMA, once again, lived up to its reputation and gave us some amazing fights. Lou Neglia’s Ring of Combat is a cornerstone of MMA on the East Coast and rightfully so.