It was a night of upsets as Ben Nguyen, Anton Zafir and Sam Kei all walked away with Nitro titles on Saturday night. The eleventh installment of Nitro was held at the Logan Entertainment Centre.
In the main-event, popular yet controversial bantamweight Julian “Julz The Jackal” Rabaud was unsuccessful in reclaiming his Nitro title with his opponent Ben Nguyen securing a 25-second knock-out victory.
After an altercation at the weigh-in the day before, Rabaud was in no mood to touch gloves before the fight. Nguyen, an American fighter now based in Queensland, quickly made his mark though putting his opponent on the back-foot and landing a big right hook that dropped Rabaud. Nguyen landed a further four or five punches before the contest was halted. The end came only 25-seconds into the fight.
A big win for Nguyen who wins his fourth fight from as many bouts in Australia to take his professional record to 11-6. Nguyen is a natural flyweight fighter who was moving up a weight division for this bout. Rabaud’s record drops to 5-2.
Anton Zafir was expected to face Matthew Frincu in a bout to see who would meet Corey Nelson for the title. Unfortunately numerous injuries forced Frincu to pull-out of the fight two weeks prior to the event. Coming off a strong and quick win at AFC 8, Nelson stepped up on late notice and put his title on the line against Zafir.
Zafir, was expected to be another victim for Nelson however Zafir, a Proserpine, North Queensland based teacher had other plans.
Nelson started the fight by landing a side-kick to Zafir’s mid-section. Zafir immediately went for a takedown attempt which was defended by Nelson. Zafir worked on it and eventually got the fight to the canvas however Nelson utilised a guillotine attempt to get back to his feet. On their feet, Nelson landed an accidental low-blow that forced a short break in the action. When it restarted Nelson attempted a spinning heel-kick which was countered by a perfectly timed single-leg from Zafir. Nelson defended well before Zafir got it to ground again, this time with a trip. Zafir moved to side-control where he landed short elbows and with seconds remaining in the round, Zafir attempted to pass to mount which allowed Nelson enough space to escape back to his feet.
Nelson started the second round strong, landing the early shots before Zafir caught a kick and got the fight to the ground where he wanted it. Zafir looked to transition to side-control but this time Nelson was able to pop out his hips and get back to his feet where he landed some solid shots to the cheers of his supporters. A sloppy takedown attempt from Zafir was stuffed by Nelson who was able to utilise control against the cage. Zafir finished the round off with another takedown late in the round.
Both guys still looked to have a lot left in the gas-tank as Zafir landed an early leg-kick only for Nelson to return with a straight right. Another shot landed flush as Nelson started to become the slight aggressor. On their feet though, both stayed composed and picked their strikes. Zafir landed another takedown and quickly transitioned from guard to side-control where he was able to land short elbows and control the action from there. It wasn’t until the final seconds that Nelson was able to escape.
The verdict came back unanimous, with all three judges unanimously giving the decision to Zafir who became the Nitro welterweight title.
Former Nitro light-heavyweight champion Sam Kei returned and reclaimed the title he once held, defeating MMA veteran Api Hemara by decision. The title was vacated by Joe Muir who had recently moved down to the middleweight division.
Kei stuffed a takedown attempt in the opening few seconds of the fight as the two started throwing heavy hands. Hemara landed a big punch that dropped Kei to the canvas. Kei got back to his feet and returned fire with a nice step-up knee. The two again exchanged heavy shots with Hemara in particular landing a straight. Hemara had started to tire by the end of the round which ended with Kei landing three consecutive strong leg-kicks.
Hemara landed a leg-kick of his own to start the second round with Kei shortly after shooting in and getting the fight to the ground. Kei stayed on top in side-control but fight was halted after Kei landed a knee to a grounded opponent. It was a well needed break for Hemara who took the opportunity to take in some deep breathes. When it restarted, Kei secured another takedown straight into side-control however Hemara was able to work back to his feet. On their feet the two exchanged punches and Kei got another takedown. This time Hemara was able to reverse and finished the round strong landing a shoulder strike from the top and short elbows.
With the both guys exhausted, the third round started slowly. Hemara missed with early punches but was pushing the action before Kei landed a series of strikes. Hemara found a second wind late in the last round and was on the front foot coming forward. Kei though used Hemara’s forward movement to duck under for a takedown.
All three judges awarded the fight to Kei who now moves his professional record to 3-2. Kei is now scheduled to fight on Brace 27 against Michael Turner on May 17. Hemara who has been inactive in recent times, drops to 9-10, 2 draws.
In what turned out to be a number one contender fight, Tiger Muay-Thai and Integrated MMA fighter Gokhan “Pitbull” Turkyilmaz made an impressive statement against local fighter Alex MacDonald, getting the TKO stoppage only 29-seconds into the fight.
Turkyilmaz missed early with a high-kick and followed it up with a low kick. Shortly after a straight right from Turkyilmaz found it’s mark as MacDonald was dropped against the cage. Turkyilmaz immediately pummeled MacDonald with further strikes that forced the referee to halt the fight. It was confirmed following the bout, that Turkyilmaz will get a title the next title shot at lightweight. Ben Wall vacated the title after he signed with the UFC.
C4 MMA fighter Luke Morris’ impressive form at flyweight continued as he outworked Michael Roger to win a unanimous decision. The fight was evenly contested in the early round as both fighters battled for position on the ground and against the cage. Morris started to take control in the second round taking the back and attempting to sink in the rear-naked choke. Roger defended and ended up on the bottom as Morris secured mount. Morris stayed tight from the top before Roger regained half-guard and eventually escaped back to his feet. In the last round, Roger closed the distance early looking to get the momentum back. Morris though changed levels and got the early takedown. Against the cage in half-guard, Morris utilised short elbows and punches as Roger struggled to find a way back to his feet. All three judges awarded the decision to Morris who has looked like a different fighter since dropping to flyweight. He did lose his opening flyweight fight but that came at the hands of now current bantamweight champion Ben Nguyen via decision.
Local fighter Maui Tuigamala secured a submission win over Matt Eland to remain undefeated as a professional. Tuigamala got the early takedown but was forced to defend as Eland remained active off his back. Some short punches and elbows got through and Tuigamala attempted to pass to side-control. Eland scrambled up and attempted a standing guillotine that Tuigamala escaped. Late in the round Tuigamala took the back of his opponent only for Eland to escape back into guard. Tuigamala got the takedown early in the second round where he landed short strikes. Eland was able to reverse, however off his back, Tuigamala locked up the armbar and rolled his opponent over to secure the tap and the win at 3:16 of round two.
Earlier in the night, Five Rings Dojo fighter Ryan Heketa stayed calm and composed as he stalked his opponent Ali Kocak around the cage before finishing it with a body-kick, only 3:24 of the opening round.
Youngster Jayden Eynaud was making his professional debut but it proved to be an unsuccessful one as Riley Mallett got the knockout stoppage with heavy strikes from inside the guard. The end came only 1:16 into the fight.
In the opening fight of the night, James Klingner defeated Eddie Trewin under controversial circumstances. Klingner locked up a tight standing guillotine midway through the opening round and the referee halted the contest after Trewin failed to respond to the referee. The technical submission win came only 3:16 into the fight. Trewin’s corner immediately protested the stoppage and will be appealing the result.
The middleweight debut of Joe Muir was put on hold as his opponent Semir Celikovic was forced out of their scheduled match-up after experiencing complications with the weight cut.
Nitro MMA 12 will return to the Logan Entertainment Centre on July 5.