Hardrock MMA returned to Turfway Park in Florence, Kentucky on Saturday night, and the fans in Northern Kentucky clearly missed the promotion, as a packed house was on hand to witness Hardrock MMA 81. It was reportedly the biggest crowd for MMA in Turfway history, which is a testament to the great card that was on tap for the evening.
Check out our recap of the night’s event below.
Performance of the Night: Perry Stargel
Fight of the Night: Jamal Mohammed vs. Shawn Nickell
Submission of the Night: Eric Moell
Knockout of the Night: Owen Reeves
Dollar Beard Club Beard of the Night: Jordan Zawahri
For full results from Hardrock MMA 81, click here.
It’s not anything new for Eric Moell (8-3). Another win, another submission, and one has to be wondering if he’s getting close to making the jump to a national promotion sooner rather than later. He put away a very tough James London (2-1) out of Area 502 MMA, and looked great in doing so. There was also a huge group of supporters on hand making noise for the Alliance MMA product, who called Turfway his backyard when I spoke to him prior to the fight.
Billy Horne (14-4) may be closer to the end of his career than the beginning, but he clearly still loves fighting, and fans still love showing up and rooting for him. Horne is a legend in local MMA circles, and to see him still going strong at 38 is a treat. He now has six wins in a row dating back to his lone Bellator appearance in 2012, including four of those wins via submission.
He did exactly what he needed to do in the bout with Trotter, which was get the fight to the ground against the powerful boxer. Once it was on the mat, Mojo was in his comfort zone, and he sunk in the hooks before locking in the rear naked choke and forcing the tap.
All three pro bouts ended via submission in the first round, and Marissa “Shorty” Caldwell (3-5) got things started by tapping fan favorite Gina Begley (0-2) with a rear naked choke. It was the first win for the Vision MMA product since 2010, and the third submission win of her career. She talked about the last year or so being the toughest of her life, from seeing her father pass away to friends struggling with the loss of a baby. She had a great message of perseverance and got a great ovation from the crowd.
I don’t know about you, but I could watch Jamal Mohammed (9-0) and Shawn Nickell (9-4) fight a thousand times. The style matchup is just that great. Nickell has legit boxing and incredible footwork, but Mohammed was able to keep him at bay for a good portion of the fight by throwing spinning kicks and side kicks. Mohammed also showed off his brown belt jiu-jitsu skills, and Nickell just wasn’t able to do enough to stay on his feet in the fight. Mohammed got the win and the Hardrock MMA featherweight title, but there was no real loser in this fight that is sure to be a candidate for fight of the year.
Including the amateur main event, the amateur bouts on this card were incredibly entertaining. Of 13 amateur bouts, 11 were finishes, including 8 via knockout or TKO.
Son of Siam’s David Rankin (8-0) stayed perfect despite a stiff test from veteran Christopher Meyers (11-13). Rankin seemed to come out a little slow, but he regrouped in between the first and second rounds and was able to use his long limbs to lock in a standing guillotine to force the tap.
Team Kraken’s Brandon Phelps (3-0) stayed unbeaten by submitting Dustin Lema (5-5) with a guillotine in the second round. The third amateur submission was also a guillotine, as Ronald Raines (2-0) put Joshua Carter (0-1) to sleep in just 41 seconds in their bout.
Vision’s Perry Stargel (2-0) blitzed veteran Justin Collett (13-30) and dropped him with a hook before finishing the TKO and earning the fastest finish of the night in just 23 seconds. Much props to Collett, though, who stepped in on about 24 hours notice for this bout.
Justin Smith (1-0) was the talk of the night. A former two-time All-Big Ten linebacker at Indiana University and Super Bowl champion with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Smith now lives in St. Croix in the U.S. Virgin Islands where he’s a math teacher. Home visiting his family for the summer in Indiana, he decided to try out this MMA thing. He put together some vicious combinations and stopped G-Force’s Talon Gregory in just 38 seconds. Oh yeah, and he’s also 37 years old.
It would have been the fight of the night if not for the Mohammed vs. Nickell bout, but Owen Reeves (2-0) and T.J. Lee (0-1) still put on a show. In a renewal of the Vision MMA vs. Team G-Force rivalry, Reeves had a comeback win out of nowhere, as he blasted Lee with a head kick to get the knockout in the third round. Reeves was down two rounds and appeared to be headed toward a decision loss, before earning a standup from referee Gary Copeland and making the most of the opportunity to get the knockout win.
Hardrock MMA returns in less than three weeks, as Hardrock MMA 82 takes place at Expo Five in Louisville.