“A dark and stormy night. Not bad…” said Joe Smith, a head coach from Illinois’ Midwest Training Center. Smith and MTC lightweight prospect Will Brooks stood beneath a tent Saturday night, gazing out at the thickening rain.
Following an expansive amateur card earlier that afternoon, XFO 41: Outdoor War 7 was nearly cancelled. Heavy weather sent the crowd packing back and forth, from cage-side to tent and back again. While crew and athletic commission hashed out the details, fighters paced the warm-up room, anxious and eager to let loose.
And let loose they would. By tap out or TKO, seven of eight bouts left the judges out of work, starting with flyweights Christopher Haney and Dexter Wright.
Haney improved his record to 2-1-0 thanks to a kick to the choppers that left Wright (2-2-0) stiff on the mat. The end came at a mere ten seconds into the first round.
In the night’s lone heavyweight bout, TUF alum Mike Marrello (12-3-1) took to the cage for the first time in two years, facing off against Iowa roughneck Brad Scholten (11-9-0). A leg kick followed by a straight right put Scholten on his heels early in the first, and a head kick brought him to his knees soon after. There was no rest for the weary, as Marrello bullied his way to full mount, leveling heavy punches and elbows to the head of the beleaguered Scholten, who rolled to his belly and left himself open to a fight-ending rear-naked choke. Marrello elicited the tap at 1:16 of Round 1.
Middleweights Kent Rexford (2-1-0) and Quartis Stitt (1-2-0) opened their bout with nasty clinch work along the fence. Among a flurry of knees and uppercuts, Stitt struck Rexford below the belt, bringing a pause to the action and, once restarted, Rexford opted to change things up. Planting Stitt on his back, Rexford delivered ground and pound from full guard, leaving Stitt frustrated and worn out as the first round came to a close.
Barreling forward with punches to start the second, Stitt left himself open for an uppercut that sent him tumbling to the mat. With punches from back mount, Rexford forced the referee to save Stitt at 1:17 of the second.
Team Curran product Joey “The Real” Diehl (2-2-0) righted ship Saturday evening with a submission win over Josh Epps (3-5-0).
Diehl went undefeated in his amateur career, but has had trouble finding his footing in the early going of his professional campaign, with two of three bounds ending in defeat. Diehl would not be denied on Saturday, however, as he absorbed a flying knee before driving Epps to the mat. Ignoring the gash on his face, Diehl advanced to mount, where a string of elbows preceded an arm triangle choke. Diehl’s submission win came at 1:57 of Round 1.
Bantamweight Greg Reddington (1-0-0) overcame a hostile crowd and the submission game of local favorite Christian Reynoso (1-1-0) to make a successful professional debut.
Across fifteen minutes, Reddington bullied and bruised Reynoso, finding great success both in the clinch and from within Reynoso’s full guard. An arsenal of uppercuts, takedowns, and elbows earned Reddington scores of 30-27 across the board.
Full dark, no stars for the sixth fight of the evening, which saw undefeated Chicago lightweight Will Brooks (4-0-0) employ well-timed wrestling and a keen submission game against Pontiac, Illinois’ Joseph Richardson (1-1-0).
The pair indulged in a wild exchange of kicks and punches to start, with neither man claiming a clear advantage. Richardson proved overzealous on the feet, however, as a wide hook left him open to a body lock and slam. In partial side control, Brooks opted to stand back up, where a second, lunging hook from Richardson proved too irresistible, and Brooks again brought the fight to the mat with a slam. Rather than suffer full mount, Richardson turtled up, only to have Brooks slip in an arm bar from back mount. Richardson struggled mightily, but was ultimately forced to tap out at 3:49 of the opening round.
In the night’s co-main event, Daniel Aguirre (4-0-0) took to the cage against the traveling Casey Dyer (6-2-0) in a bantamweight attraction.
It was ferocity right out the gate, as Dyer and Aguirre punished each other with snapping leg kicks and thudding knees to the body. A low blow left the fouled Aguirre unshaken, and, upon restarting, he snapped Dyer’s head back with straight punches and knees. Dyer, whose lanky frame belies a certain ruggedness and tenacity, refused to wilt, and slipped a punch en route to a takedown. His luck would run out there, however, as Aguirre locked on a rare, fight-ending guillotine from half guard at 2:19 of the first round.
In his post-fight interview, Aguirre announced that his next bout will come at Chicago Cagefighting Championships 4 against Carson Beebe, marking a step up in competition for the promising Team No Ego fighter.
Last but certainly not least, in the night’s main event, UFC veteran Eric “Ravishing Red” Schafer made his middleweight debut against MTC’s Chris Albandia.
Schafer landed a jab and uppercut early, persuading Albandia to shoot for an ill-considered takedown, at which point Schafer sprawled, locked up a guillotine, and pulled guard. The submission looked deep, but Albandia, who owns a victory over UFC welterweight Brian Ebersole, managed to escape. Schafer was persistent, however, and Albandia, hanging around in Schafer’s guard a little too long, soon found himself in a triangle choke. Albandia tapped at 1:41 of the first. With the loss, his record falls to 8-7-0, while Schafer snaps a two-fight skid, improving to 13-6-2.
Schafer, in impressive shape at 185 pounds, enthused over his cut from light-heavyweight: “I feel faster, I feel great. I’m gonna kill everyone.”
Eric Schafer def. Chris Albandia by submission (triangle choke) at 1:41 of Round 1
Daniel Aguirre def. Casey Dyer by submission (guillotine choke) at 2:19 of Round 1
Will Brooks def. Joseph Richardson by submission (rear naked choke) at 3:49 of Round 1
Greg Reddington def. Christian Reynoso by unanimous decision
Joey Diehl def. Josh Epps by submission (arm triangle choke) at 1:57 of Round 1
Kent Rexford def. Quartis Stitt by TKO at 1:17 of Round 2
Mike Marrello def. Josh Scholten by submission (rear naked choke) at 1:16 of Round 1
Chris Haney def. Dexter Wright by KO at :10 of Round 1