Gracie and Silverbacks Win at IFL Finals

By Steven Curtis Dec 30, 2006
UNCASVILLE, Conn., Dec. 29 — Brimming with confidence while introduced yet another slate of coaches — Mario Sperry (Pictures) and Dan Henderson (Pictures) — for the 2007 International Fight League season, IFL co-founder Kurt Otto declared, “Barring a nuclear war, I don’t know how we can lose.”

The same could be said of the Quad Cities Silverbacks, who easily captured the IFL championship over the Portland Wolfpack Friday evening at the Mohegan Sun. And in a very close bout, Renzo Gracie (Pictures) won the evening’s main event over Carlos Newton (Pictures) by a split decision.

Newton entered the ring for only the second time since 2003, and at 184 pounds was well above his old fighting weight. At the outset both fighters looked tentative. They also took sportsmanship to a new level, as Newton helped Gracie to his feet twice during the three-round fight.

Gracie attempted an omoplata and a kneebar on Newton late in the first round, yet the 30-year-old Canadian escaped from both in an otherwise uneventful opening frame.

Round two saw a more aggressive Newton scoring an early takedown and one more halfway through the round. Gracie, 39, tried to bait Newton into an armbar by giving up his arm, but “Ronin” didn’t bite.

When Newton scrambled for position, Gracie countered with a fireman’s carry. A nice stand-up exchange closed the round.

The final period began with another stand-up exchange followed by Newton (13-11-0) scoring a takedown. Gracie looked visibly tired at this point, but Newton could not capitalize — his feints were too slow and a number of his punches missed wildly.

The crowd of 6,825 was under whelmed and rained down boos. As the judges’ decision was announced, Gracie, now 12-6-1, shook his head and pointed to Carlos, even declaring Newton the victor in spite of the judges.

Newton wasn’t surprised by the judges’ decision.

“I don’t have the best record in MMA, but to be honest with you I’m used to this by now,” said the head coach of the Toronto Dragons, who defeated Gracie by split decision in a PRIDE bout three years ago. “I’ve been through this six or seven times.”

Fortunately there was little controversy in the Silverbacks’ dominating 4-1 victory over the Wolfpack.

With head coach Matt Lindland (Pictures) in his corner, welterweight Chris Wilson had one of the most dominating performances, boldly declaring he’d win “everything” in the IFL and then backing it up by stopping Rory Markham (Pictures), who was undefeated in four previous IFL bouts.

Both fighters set a furious pace at the outset, with Wilson dropping his opponent with a nasty right at the one-minute mark. But Markham showed a remarkable ability to recover as he got up, raised his hand and smiled.

Wilson followed up with a sweep, and Markham bounced back from that too, only to get caught with a left-right combination that later was awarded the night’s “quickest finish” award at 2:14 of round one. It would be the Wolfpack’s only victory over the Pat Miletich (Pictures)-led Silverbacks.

The weakest bout of the Silverbacks-Wolfpack title was at 185, as Portland’s Matt Horwich (Pictures) took on Quad Cities’ Ryan McGivern (Pictures). Horwich started out aggressively, but with the exception of a Kimura attempt in round two, he never gained any momentum. McGivern won a unanimous decision by taking Horwich down with ease. The win poured salt in the Wolfpacks’ wounds but was a real snoozer for the fans.

The lightweight bout featuring Ryan Schultz (Pictures) and Bart Palaszewski (Pictures) was awarded “Fight of the Night” honors by the IFL, and you get no argument here. Before the bout, Palaszewski said he was aiming for “one clean shot” to do some serious damage, and he’d get that chance but only after weathering a serious beating from “The Lion.”

Schultz dominated rounds one and two with a furious assault, including a knockdown of Palaszewski in round two and a couple of takedowns. Round three looked like more of the same as Schultz maintained the advantage and continued to be the aggressor.

But this time a costly mistake changed the whole course of the fight. Schultz pushed forward with his hands down and the Silverback capitalized with a hard right hand that put his foe down for good 2:16 of the third. As a precaution Schultz was carried out on a stretcher, but raised his hands to cheers from the crowd.

Fight officials confirmed that he’s doing fine.

In the second team championship fight Devin Cole (Pictures) fought Silverbacks 264-pounder Ben Rothwell (Pictures). Having lost the coin toss, Miletich chose “Big” Ben to lead off, sensing it would place an “exclamation point” on his team’s performance. Rothwell delivered, taking complete control early and throwing everything at Cole: punches, low kicks and finally a devastating roundhouse to the head that dropped the Wolfpack heavyweight in a bloody heap.

Referee Mario Yamasaki stopped it at 3:16 of the first. Rothwell later credited the Miletich camp for his expanded repertoire, and his coach said that “the two best heavyweights in the world are in the IFL and UFC.”

Regardless of whether or not you agree, it’s clear that Rothwell is one of the most deceivingly talented big guys in MMA.

The team championship fights began with Aaron Stark (Pictures) of the Wolfpack facing Mike Ciesnolevicz (Pictures) at 205. Lindland picked this bout to lead off and Ciesnolevicz took it as a personal offense. He was intent on proving he was no weak leak on this night and he pulled it off.

The first two rounds were pretty close, as both fighters scored takedowns and attempted guillotines. The fight was decided in round three when Ciesnolevicz connected with a nasty roundhouse kick to Stark’s head, dropping the wrestler to the canvas.

Moving in for the kill, Ciesnolevicz landed some fierce combinations and took Stark’s back, sinking a choke that literally put his opponent to sleep at 1:03 of round three.

On the undercard, “Iron” Mike Whitehead (Pictures) took a unanimous decision against Krysztof Soszynski (Pictures).

Reese Andy (Pictures) stopped Jamal Patterson (Pictures) at 3:24 of round two.

Andre Gusmao (Pictures) out-pointed Brent Beauparlant (Pictures) on each judge’s card.

Erik Owings (Pictures) also scored a unanimous decision over Ed West (Pictures).

Jake Ellenberger (Pictures) finished Ben Uker (Pictures) in the second period.
<h2>Fight Finder</h2>