Issac Hardman remained undefeated and continued his stellar year as he claimed the XFC lightweight title with victory over New Zealand’s Kieran Joblin in the main event of XFC 31.
It was one of three professional title bouts on the card which took place at the Logan Metro Centre, south of Brisbane in Australia on Saturday night.
Hardman had earlier in the year claimed the AFC lightweight crown and was looking to get a big scalp over defending XFC champion Joblin. An early low blow halted the contest momentarily and with both fighting inside the pocket, the inside leg-kick landed low again moments later with Joblin getting a stern warning from the referee Peter Hickmott. Hardman landed a nice counter, dropping Joblin to the canvas with a left. Hardman waited for his opponent to stand back up with the defending champion looking to secure a late takedown. The Integrated MMA and Nitro boxing trained fighter stuffed the takedown attempt and finished the round standing over opponent, landing leg kicks.
Hardman showed composure well past his young age, as he picked his punches with precision, even having the time to sportingly tell the referee that his opponent slipped on a wet patch on the canvas. The referee stopped the contest to check on a cut that had opened up on Joblin’s face. The Kiwi showed that he still was in the hunt, securing a takedown late in the round.
The pace slowed early in the third as the crowd favourite Hardman took centre of the cage and went to work with punches. Another inadvertent low-blow, the third for Joblin, forced the referee to to take a point off the champs scorecards. Hardman increased the tempo and dropped Joblin with a flurry of punches, before pacing away before end of the round.
Knowing he needed to get a stoppage, Joblin began to flurry but could not get his distance with Hardman pressing on the front foot not giving him an inch. Joblin remained active off the back foot circling with his back against the cage as the blood began to flow more freely from the cut. Hardman was stuffing the takedowns and throwing big flurries. Joblin pressed his opponent against the cage which allowed the referee to check on the cut and it was decided to end the contest at a time of 4:06 of round number four.
The win takes Hardman’s professional record to 8-0 as he wraps a second regional title around his waist from as many bouts.
When asked about the upcoming UFC carding in Sydney, Hardman responded that he is setting his sights on well and truly dominating the local scene, but wouldn’t say no if opportunity arose.
“I’m taking it as these man (Adrian Pang & Blair Studley) give it to me. Slow and steady wins the race. That’s what we have been doing. You have to be humble in victory and defeat and hopefully that’s what I entail.
“If it comes, it comes. You can’t say no but I’m happy here in Australia taking over. Let’s take over Australia first,” Hardman responded.
David Francis challenged for the XFC welterweight title with UFC interim middleweight title holder Rob Whittaker in his corner but in a five-round battle, lost out to Matt Vaile who successfully defended the title for the third time in a grueling and competitive contest.
Vaile and Francis remained fairly composed through the first stanza, choosing to box from the outside. Vaile started to connect with his combos in the second as he attacked the head and body. Francis came back into it in the third round, forcing Vaile to start missing. A perfectly timed takedown from Francis put his opponent on the canvas but Vaile straight away utilised the cage to stand back up. Vaile smartly changed his game-up in the final seconds of the round to secure a takedown of his own. The cat-and-mouse game continued in the championship rounds, with neither fighter dominating as it became a battle of fitness.
The closely contested fight showed on the judges scorecards, with two judges giving it to Vaile 48-47 and one to Francis 48-47. Another win for Vaile who takes his record to 8-1, with his lone loss coming to former UFC fighter Ben Alloway.
Charlene Broome (nee: Watt) secured another win over Hera Tamati to defend her XFC women’s flyweight title belt. Broome came into the fight on the back of two losses, including a loss to Japanese veteran Rin Nikai late last year. It was a fun back-and-forth first round with both women throwing heavy leather but Broome began to show her experience in the second round. The Incorporated Martial Arts trained fighter secured a takedown where she was able to transition to mount, before raining down strikes to get the referee stoppage. Tamati protested the stoppage to the referee, claiming it was premature.
Glen Pettigrew won a unanimous decision against Craig Callaghan in a battle of two contrasting styles. Callaghan wanted the fight standing and at every opportunity went on the front foot however Pettigrew controlled the grappling exchanges enough to get the judges nod.
Nicole Szepesvary made quick work of opponent Leigha Aurisch, getting the fight to the ground and securing the tap, only 1:34 into the fight. In her post-fight speech, Szepesvary hinted that she would be interested in taking on the winner of tonight’s women’s flyweight title bout.
In a light-heavyweight clash, Noke Martial Arts trained and former amateur champion, John Martin Fraser, finished strong to force a TKO stoppage over opponent Justin Danielson.
Earlier on the card Shem Murdoch stepped up on late notice, and came out victorious, submitting Jackson Small with a guillotine choke in the second round.
Notably in the amateur ranks, Kieran Cronin added an interim XFC bantamweight belt to his amateur XFC flyweight title, as Latham Stevens was forced to quit on his stool at the end of round three. Cronin announced that he will be stepping up into the pro ranks for his next bout.