Tom DeBlass stayed unbeaten by showing off his leglocking at Ring of Combat 39. | Photo: Keith Mills
Undefeated prospect Tom DeBlass needed just 41 seconds to submit Randy Smith with a first-round heel hook in the Ring of Combat 39 main event on Friday at the Tropicana Resort and Casino in Atlantic City, N.J.
The submission over Smith -- who became a third replacement option after Lewis Rumsey and Carlos Brooks withdrew with injuries -- made DeBlass a two-division champion, as he added the Ring of Combat heavyweight title to his light heavyweight gold.
“After opponent after opponent kept dropping out, I said, ‘Maybe this just isn’t meant to be,’” DeBlass said, “but the thought of not fighting ... I needed to fight. I needed to get after it.”
More than promotional hardware was at stake for DeBlass (7-0), as the 29-year-old aims for more substantial opportunities, perhaps in the UFC.
“I wanted to really make a statement, but I understand MMA is MMA,” he said. “I think some of my supporters weren’t taking Randy as seriously as they should have because maybe he doesn’t look the part, but Randy’s a tough guy. I just knew my skill was at a much higher level than his.”
Less than two weeks before his scheduled featherweight title bout, champion Deividas Taurosevicius was forced off the card due to injury. For Jeff Lentz, Taurosevicius’ exit meant fighting Giovanni Moljo for the Ring of Combat regional featherweight title.
“Mentally, I stayed on track, but I train for everybody: southpaw, orthodox, forever,” Lentz told Sherdog.com. “Training specifically for Deividas for four to six weeks didn’t really throw me off to bad. That’s life. I just had to keep a strong mindset and push forward.”
The change in opponent did not affect Lentz in the cage, as he came away with a unanimous decision by sweeping the scorecards by identical 30-25 counts. He now turns his attention to a potential April title fight with Taurosevicius.
“That was the fight I expected,” Lentz said. “That was a fight that did a lot for me. That fight put me where I needed to be. He’s a big name. He’s a tough guy. Not only does it show people that I’m here to stay, but it’ll give me piece of mind that I can beat top-notch opponents, too.”
After losing his welterweight championship to Nordine Taleb at Ring of Combat 38 in November, Pete Sell returned to the cage against Mitch Whitesel. Long known for his striking prowess, the UFC veteran got the better of Whitesel with his ground game. Sell finished all three rounds on top of the Wreckroom MMA representative, earning a unanimous decision.
Team Tiger Schulmann product Uriah Hall battled Daniel Akinyemi in a chaotic middleweight bout that featured high points for both men but ended in an instant during a scramble on the mat. As the two middleweights fought for position, Hall grabbed Akinyemi’s leg and twisted, forcing the tapout with two second left in the first round.
“I think when I heard that 10-second mark, I pushed him away a little bit,” Hall said. “I saw him about to stand up, and, I’m like, ‘Wait a minute. Is that a leg?’ So, I just went for it. It was actually a heel hook. It was really cool.”
A showdown between Team Combat and Pellegrino MMA representatives resulted in the show’s first submission, as Duane van Helvoirt took out Lester Caslow. An early takedown from van Helvoirt quickly turned into a triangle choke, and Caslow was forced to submit 1:49 into round one.
In light heavyweight action, Georgian power lifter David Tkeshelashvili and Ed Gordon collided in a strength-versus-technique matchup. Tkeshelashvili’s strength gave Gordon problems early, but, as the fight wore on, the Georgian wore down. Serra-Longo Fight Team’s Gordon took the victory via majority decision: 29-29, 29-28 and 29-28.
Former Northwestern University wrestler Jarred Mercado took down Rafael Fagundes Machado in every round and kept him on his back. The work was enough to earn the Grudge Training Center export a unanimous decision by 30-25, 30-27 and 30-27 scores.
The lone women’s bout saw Team Tiger Schulmann’s Munah Holland ride a strong third round to a majority decision over Pearl Gonzalez: 29-29, 29-28 and 29-28.
Serra-Longo Fight Team representative James Jenkins scored an emphatic technical knockout against Dwayne Shelton. Jenkins was on his way to a unanimous decision before he turned it on late and finished off Shelton 1:51 into the third round.
Ricardo Almeida Jiu-Jitsu lightweight product Frankie Perez kept his perfect record intact with a unanimous decision against Jeremy Uy, earning 20-16, 20-17 and 20-17 scores from the judges.
At featherweight, Andre Harrison hit takedowns whenever he wanted to against Carlos Fonseca, cruising to a unanimous decision: 20-18, 20-18 and 20-17.
The opening bout of the event saw Whitney Jean-Francois stop Serra-Longo Fight Team’s Pat Defranco on punches 2:31 into the opening round.