Hollett, MacKay, and MacDonald take ECC Title belts

By Andy Cotterill and Chris Harding Apr 1, 2007
HALIFAX, March 31 - Once again Halifax took a big step forward and proved that they're the little town that could. While other more well known, and better established promotions struggle to bring in a few thousand fans, Extreme Cage Combat drew close to 4,500 to see ECC 5 "Night of Champions."

This event is just now starting to see the benefits of their fighter building process, as several of ECC regulars are really starting to come into their own and show just how tough and skilled they are.

Sometimes it's a struggle to find even one fight in an event that can be called "Fight of the Night," but ECC 5 was an exception, as there were almost too many that qualified to count.

Claiming the ECC Canadian light heavyweight belt is Halifax's own Roger Hollett (Pictures), who plowed through a towering Ricardeau Francois (Pictures) in only 20 seconds. Wary of the long legs of the French-Canadian, Hollett rushed in to get inside their range. A flurry of blows immediately followed, and a right hand caught Francois square on the jaw, dropping him to the mat.

As Francois lay there covering up, Hollett dropped blow after heavy blow, which forced Francois to tap. The referee didn't see the tap right away, and Hollett had to tell him. Hollett continued to hit until the ref finally came in to stop the fight.

For the belt ceremony, Hollett was joined in the center of the cage with his father Ralph, former three time Canadian middleweight boxing champion.

The ECC lightweight belt contenders - Jason MacKay (Pictures) and Shaun Krysa (Pictures) - put on a heck of a fight, which ended with a lot of controversy.

Krysa took MacKay down quite a few times in round one, but MacKay seemed very comfortable from down there, and displayed exceptional skills looking up at his standing opponent. Krysa tried to come in several times, but MacKay stopped him with accurate up-kicks and foot stomps. Krysa seemed a little frustrated and motioned for MacKay to stand.

Krysa was able to take MacKay down pretty much at will, and was even able to get the mount twice, but both times MacKay rolled back and escaped via TK scissors.

Round two looked to replicate the first. More of the same except at one point MacKay was able to take Krysa's back, although Krysa was able to twist to an escape.

Next came the controversy. Krysa was on his knees in MacKay's full guard, when MacKay let loose a wicked up-kick that caught Krysa flush on the chin, knocking him back to the mat.

The move was illegal since Krysa was on his knees. The referee deducted one point, and then the cage-side doctor came in to examine Krysa. After a minute the fight was called off.

In an unusual and puzzling move, the announcer claimed that since the hit was an "accidental foul" the fight would be decided by judges' scorecard, even though it was only halfway through the second round.

All three judges ruled the fight 19-18 in favor of the new lightweight champion, Jason MacKay (Pictures).

There was a lot of anticipation coming into the welterweight championship bout between Cory MacDonald (Pictures) and Rowan Cunningham (Pictures). Both fighters have excellent BJJ pedigrees and huge fan followings. Even though both weighed in at 170 pounds, MacDonald appeared to be twice the size of Cunningham.

The two fighters squared off and immediately Cunningham shot in. MacDonald showed some very strong looking sprawl technique and Cunningham tried again, but this time MacDonald caught him, dragged him down and went into his full guard.

MacDonald then put Cunningham in an anaconda choke, which he escaped right away. Cunningham was bloodied about his nose so the referee paused the fight, and the cage-side doctor checked him out.

After action resumed Cunningham immediately dropped down and drew MacDonald into his high guard. Cunningham's left leg crept higher and it appeared that he was going for a gogoplata, but MacDonald sensed it and escaped in time. Cunningham transitioned quickly to an omoplata and twisted MacDonald into a pretzel.

The shoulder lock looked tight, but MacDonald rolled out of it by using a beautiful combination of moves. Now in side control, Cunningham almost took the mount, and when MacDonald turned and gave up his back Cunningham went for it. One hook, then two, and Cunningham was tight on the back of a closed-up MacDonald to end round one.

Round two began with a Superman punch by Cunningham, who then used wrestled MacDonald to put him against the cage. For some reason referee Hubert Earle stood them up almost immediately, less than 10 seconds after hitting the mat, much to the consternation of the fans.

That was probably the turning point as MacDonald then caught Cunningham with a nice hit that knocked him down against the cage. Cunningham valiantly tried to get back up, but MacDonald was on top of him right away, raining down fists and elbows.

Cunningham was in serious trouble, and the referee was forced to step in and stop the damage.

The first ever fight held by female opponents in the Maritimes was between Halifax's Tannaya Hantelman (Pictures) and Montreal's Valerie Letourneau (Pictures). Both women come from very good camps with excellent training partners. Hantelman has Roger Hollett (Pictures) and Jason MacKay (Pictures); but Letourneau has the edge with Georges St. Pierre (Pictures), Patrick Cote (Pictures), David Loiseau (Pictures), and Jonathan Goulet (Pictures) on her side.

Letourneau used a very effective jab to keep the shorter Hantelman at distance. Hantelman constantly circled to the left, and Letourneau showed some very nice cage control, continually cutting off her movement.

Hantelman offered some nice roundhouse and front kicks, but at this point Letourneau found her range, landing several crisp punches that snapped back the head of her opponent.

Progressing into the second round, Letourneau seemed to be keeping her strength while Hantelman waned. With Letourneau steadily advancing, Hantelman tried in vain to connect with some kicks, then finally got a vicious looking knee to the face of Letourneau. But at this point it was evident that there was no more gas in the tank of Hantelman, and Letourneau didn't seem affected.

Hantelman finally had enough and said something to the referee as she turned into the cage to avoid the punishment. Letourneau continued to strike away until finally the referee stepped in to stop it.

Travis Axworthy (Pictures) made a big statement tonight with his armbar submission over tough Shawn Marchand (Pictures).

The two came out to bang and Axworthy with a nice head throw right away. Marchand tried for a Kimura on the left arm of Axworthy. Good defense by Marchand from the bottom, but Axworthy got the mount, and after his second attempt secured a nice armbar for the win.

The battle of the Matt's had Matt Dutkoski (Pictures) versus Matt Hamilton (Matt Hamilton' class='LinkSilver'>Pictures). Nice match-up with this pair, who appeared to be fairly even. Dutkoski got the mount with one-second left in round one.

Hamilton attempted a single-leg trip, but Dutkoski reversed and ended in Hamilton's half guard, and was able to crank on a tight-looking armbar for the submission. Dutkoski goes to 3–0.

Adam MacDonald (Adam MacDonald' class='LinkSilver'>Pictures) almost wiped out after a high kick attempt on his opponent, Michael Waugh (Pictures), but recovered nicely. MacDonald jumped in with a single punch that may have knocked Waugh out. With Waugh face-first against the mat it was hard to tell his status, and MacDonald was unsure what to do. He waited momentarily, but referee Ken Wood did nothing so MacDonald went to continue, but at this point Waugh had recovered.

Inside the Thai clinch MacDonald connected with a knee before putting Waugh on the mat and taking mount. He teed off until the referee mercifully stepped in and stopped the fight.

It was a great start to the match between Stjepan Vujnovic (Pictures) and St. John, New Brunswick police officer Andrew Belyea (Pictures). Belyea came out swinging and was matched by Vujnovic, who caught him and knocked him down.

Vujnovic had side-control, but Belyea pulled a Chuck Liddell (Pictures) and just stood up. Vujnovic, who scored a single-leg takedown before getting knee-to-belly, then finally the mount, answered wicked-looking knees from Belyea with foot stomps.

Belyea escaped and was in Vujnovic's guard, but Vujnovic grabbed an arm and got a secure looking armbar, forcing Belyea to tap.

Fastest fight of the night was the brutal 17-second knockout of Curtis Fiander (Pictures) by Craig Skinner (Pictures).

Both 0-2 coming into this fight, the pair must have felt they had something to prove and came out swinging. Fiander clinched up, and Skinner pushed off to throw some more punches. Fiander tried to trade, but Skinner caught him flush on the chin and knocked him out on his feet, toppling him to the mat.

Peter McGrath (Pictures) and Mike Skudder (Pictures) gave the crowd a great fight.

Round one was mostly Skudder, who looked very strong. He used that strength to take down and control McGrath against the cage. McGrath tried some strikes and kicks but couldn't quite seem to get any effectiveness out of them.

Rounds two and three saw McGrath really start to find his range with both his punches and kicks. Skudder continued to advance, but it was apparent that McGrath had figured him out.

Skudder didn't make any attempt to check kicks, and no head movement meant a stationary target to McGrath. As tired as he looked, Skudder still somehow managed to take down McGrath several times, but McGrath would just stand to get away from the now exhausted Skudder.

In the end it went to the judges' scorecard and McGrath was awarded the unanimous decision.

The opening fight of the card was a brawl between Tim Skidmore (Pictures) and Tim Kelly (Pictures). Kelly looked ultra-intense and Skidmore didn't make eye contact when the referee brought them together.

Kelly came out swinging while Skidmore responded with an immediate single-leg takedown. Skidmore picked up Kelly while in his guard and slammed him down. After a couple of nice reverses they were back on their feet.

Kelly spit his mouthpiece out for the first of what would end up being three times, and referee Troy Swann warned him not to do it again.

Skidmore was on top when the mouthpiece came out for the second time and the referee sent Kelly to his corner.

Kelly answered a nice high kick by Skidmore with some punches before the mouthpiece came out for the third time.

At the start of the second stanza, Skidmore landed a high kick that downed an off-balance Kelly. Skidmore almost had a guillotine, but quickly grabbed an available arm and applied an armbar to win via submission.

ECC promoters don't have a definite schedule for their next event, but are thinking of June. One major problem with Halifax is that with a half-dozen universities in the area, there is a massive exodus of students when summer comes, which significantly reduces the available customer base.

So ECC is considering making their next event an "unplugged" show, similar to what the MFC does in Alberta, and what TKO has just started in Quebec with their TKOMMA Tourney. An unplugged event is usually a smaller show, perhaps at a smaller venue. This is also an opportunity to focus more on newer fighters.
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