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Review of "Cage Fights at the Epicentre 2"!

Fight Lab Promotions held their second "Cagefights at the Epicentre" event on Friday evening and they reminded fight fans in the Carolinas why they are one of the top MMA promoters in the region. The first thing that I was struck by was just how fun the atmosphere was. I was unsure what to think about having a MMA fight card on the roof of one of the hottest night spots in Charlotte but I was pleasantly surprised at just how great it was. The venue was packed. I don't know what the official attendance was but there was a large and vocal crowd present. The fight card did not disappoint. There was a little bit of everything: submission, knockouts, close decisions and lots of heart displayed. Fight Lab is gaining lots of brand recognition in this region and they have consistently put on entertaining cards with some of the top amateurs around. Now, onto a review of the fights:

Featherweight- Jason Reno (1-0) def. Charles "Philly" Johnson (2-1) by unanimous decision. The first round saw both fighters somewhat struggling to find their range. Reno was able to connect a little more with his jab and even landed a few nice leg kicks and shots from the clinch. The second round saw the fighters settle down a little more and both landed a few shots standing. Reno scored a nice takedown and immediately took side mount. He soon advanced to full mount and landed a few strikes but Johnson was able to ride out the storm and even survived an armbar attempt at the end of the round. The final frame started with each fighter landing some nice jabs. Reno slammed Johnson and remained patient, waiting for his moment to advance position. When he saw an opening he obtained full mount and landed some nice punches. It appeared for a moment that Johnson would escape but he ended up getting stuck in a triangle choke as Reno took the win at the 2:50 mark of the 1st round by submission.

Lightweight- Sebastian "Sabretooth" Wodjack (3-0) def. Jason Salvo (1-3) by KO in the 2nd. This was one of the most exciting standup battles of the evening. Wodjack got the first round started with some strong leg kicks. However, it seemed that about every time Wodjack would land a leg kick Salvo answered with a straight right hand. Wodjack landed a nice combination that had Salvo bleeding quite a bit from the nose. Salvo landed one counter right hand, in particular, that had Wodjack shaken. Both fighters exchanged bombs toward the end of  the round and Wodjack closed with  some nice leg kicks. The second round saw Wodjack stick to his impressive leg kicks early. Salvo managed to score with another combination of powerful punches and back Wodjack up against the cage. At this point both fighters are bleeding quite a bit and the crowd is loving the action. Wodjack ends the contest with a huge left hook at 1:09 of the second.

Bantamweight- Brantley Furr (2-0) def. Ryan Conn (1-5) by split decision. The opening frame saw Furr strike first, landing a nice right hand. He followed up with a clinch and some knees. Conn scored an impressive takedown and Furr did an okay job of controlling him from the bottom. Furr made his way back to his feet but Conn landed another nice takedown. Conn took side mount and landed some nice knees to the body and lots of hammerfists. Furr got out and tried to sink in a Peruvian necktie as the round ended but Conn avoided it nicely. The way you scored this round probably determined who you thought won the fight. The second round saw Furr do some good work. He started by landing a nice punch. Conn tried a takedown and Furr landed a guillotine choke. Conn showed a ton of heart and fought out of it somehow. Conn ended up in side control and landed a few shots but Furr's activity and submission attempts probably won him the round 10-9. The third round appeared to belong to Conn. Furr landed a right hand early but Conn landed another strong takedown with authority. Conn softened Furr up with some nice knees to the back and side of Furr and soon obtained full mount. Furr rolled and Conn immediately took his back, where he proceeded to attempt a rear naked choke and landed some shots. Conn ended up in full mount again when Furr tried to escape and ended the round in dominant position, actively looking for a submission. There was no doubt that the crowd thought that Conn won. When a fight goes to the scorecards anything can happen but both fighters deserve a lot of credit for their effort and it was an entertaining scrap. I'd like to see both compete again soon.

Ricky "The Sniper" Rainey (3-0) def. Casey Baynes (2-1) by unanimous decision. Rainey had yet to be taken past 40 seconds so this fight was good for him, providing him needed rounds. He looked terrific in the first round, landing his jab at will and scoring with some stout right hands and uppercuts anytime Baynes attempted to close the distance. Rainey appears to keep moving fairly well and his successful use of the jab continued throughout the fight. To the credit of Baynes, he was a game opponent and refused to quit despite being knocked down several times throughout the fight and receiving several cuts and what appeared to be a couple of hematomas. Baynes is reportedly has some nice submission skills and Rainey did a good job of staying out of a bad position. Baynes fought back and even managed to take Rainey down but this was an easy bout for the judges to score. Rainey won in a shutout. As Rainey continues to challenge himself he'll get even better. He appears to have some real talent and if he continues to work hard at all facets he could be one to watch.

Lightweight- Kevin Forant (4-1) def. Kurtis Cloward (7-3) by submission in the 1st. Forant scored with a couple of right hands but Cloward took the fight to the canvas. Forant nearly landed an armbar but Cloward defended nicely. However, Forant kept looking and quickly sunk in another armbar that secured the win for him at 1:07 of the 1stround.

Welterweight Title Fight- Micah Lail (8-4) def. Bobby Sellers (3-2) by TKO in the 1st. This wasn't a long fight but it was one of my favorites. There was a lot of action and transitions in this one with both fighters flashing some skills. Sellers came out in a southpaw stance and scored with a nice straight left hand. He then secured a takedown. Sellers pulled a slick move and almost sunk in a lightening quick armbar. Lail escaped nicely and made Sellers pay with some big right hands. Sellers almost scored the armbar once more but Lail showed some decent defense and not only got out of harms way but ended up taking his opponent's back. Some big punches followed and Lail displayed some solid ground and pound skills as he forced the referee to step in at the 2:37 mark of the 1st round when Sellers took too many unanswered punches. It was an exciting two and a half minutes and both guys came to fight.

Bantamweight Title Fight- Matthew "Spiderman" Train (5-0) def. Kevin Hulin (4-3) by submission in the 1st.  I had heard very good things about Matt Train for quite some time from multiple sources. On Friday evening I got a chance to see for myself and I was very impressed. Not just because he won but because he defeated a fighter that also has a lot of talent and potential. Tran came out in a southpaw stance and just missed with a 1-2 combination but landed a decent leg kick. Hulin came in with a beautiful shot and slammed Tran to the mat nicely. Hulin immediately had side control and body shots followed. Tran did a nice job by getting right back to half guard and, with impressive quickness, sunk an armbar for the victory at the 2:41 mark of the 1st round. Tran has still yet to be taken past the 1st round and is one to watch out for.

Featherweight Title Fight- Nate "The Bruiser" Davis (5-1) def. Varon Webb (1-1) by TKO in the 1st. Varon Webb deserves some real credit for taking this opportunity despite not having a wealth of fight experience. The Ft. Bragg fighter came out with tenacity in this one. The fighters clinched and knees were exchanged. Webb secured the takedown and landed a few nice punches on the ground. Davis did a nice job of getting back to his feet and pressing Webb up against the fence. He then landed some nice knees to the body of Webb. When the two ended up back on the mat, Davis took his opponent's back, sunk in the hooks and proceeded to score with some big punches. After referee Al Coley saw Davis land a multitude of big punches he stepped in, giving "The Bruiser" the win at the 2:00 mark of round two.

Lightweight Title Fight- Jacob "The Brick" Allman (7-0) def. Chris "Ace of Clubs" Smith (3-2) by submission in the 1st. These two talented lightweights got things underway by immediately meeting near the center of the cage. Smith landed a punch to the body and Allman answered with a straight right hand. Allman landed a hip toss but Smith showed nice recovery by making his way back to his feet. Allman immediately scored another takedown and he landed some nice punches to the body of Smith. Allman saw an opening and took Smith's back, where he proceeded to land some really big punches. This opened up an opportunity for the defending champion to sink in a nice rear naked choke. Smith finally submitted at the 1:39 mark of the first round.

Heavyweight Title Fight- Jeremy "The Pain Train" Holm (8-0) def. Tyrone Jackson (3-2) by unanimous decision. The main event of the evening might not have been the most technical affair, but it was a crowd pleasing way to end the evening. Holm clearly won the first round, landing a few jabs and some right hands. Also, he did a good job of clinching with his opponent against the cage and landing some nice body shots and knees. This is a pattern that would continue throughout the night. The second round also belonged to Holm but Jackson did seriously stagger the defending champion in the waning seconds of the round with a big combination of punches. Jackson appeared to be at his best when he would start his combinations with a lead left hook that gave Holm some problems. Holm scored with some nice leg kicks in the third round and Jackson landed some nice punches. I scored the third round for Holm but I felt that the round was very close. Holm's use of the clinch and his ability to land strikes when he had his opponent pinned against the fence continued to be a theme in this round. The fourth round was Jackson's best. He was able to land some really clean combinations against his taller opponent (Jackson is just under 6 feet tall and Holm is about 6'6"). Jackson even secured a nice takedown and obtained side mount. Jackson landed some nice body shots and punches to the head. Holm was able to get Jackson into half guard and even got back to full guard as the round ended. It was now Holm's turn to show his heart. When it looked like Jackson had totally stolen the momentum Holm answered back with a very strong final round, shaking the challenger up with a nice combination of punches and more nice knees and punches from the clinch. All in all, it was a solid effort by both guys. They both showed heart and overcame some adversity. Jackson, especially, seemed to be done on a few occasions but would not stop fighting back. These kinds of fights take a toll on a fighter but they make for an exciting matchup for the fans.

[Note by Kelvin Hunt, 03/28/10 3:50 PM EDT ]MMA For Real was contacted by Fightlab Promotions with more information regarding what each champion received for winning their fights.  In an effort to show further appreciation for their fighters hardwork and dedication, Fightlab promotions provided each champion with a custom made belt buckle as well as their championship belt.  Not only that, they provided each fighter with a paid in full meal at the Blackfin restaurant, as well as 9th row tickets to the upcoming Ultimate Fight Night 21 event that will take place in Charlotte, NC on March 31st.  Fightlab matchmaker Michael Allen had this to say:

You know, we just want to make sure the mixed martial arts fans of North Carolina know that we take care of our fighters and go the extra mile to make sure that the fans that come to our events experience a great show.  The atmosphere was great and we look forward to seeing everyone at the Fightlabs show on May 8th.