Those who bought tickets to Lion Fight 24 on Friday at the Foxwoods Resort Casino in Mashantucket, Conn., got their money’s worth.
Ky Hollenbeck fought Richard Abraham in the main event. Theirs was a clinch-filled trench war that unfortunately was cut short. Both men were cut from accidental clashes of heads, but Hollenbeck got the worst of it. After suffering a gash near his left eye in the third round, he found himself in the clinch again in the fourth. There, they continued to maul one another. However, roughly a minute into the round, Hollenbeck suffered another laceration. The referee asked for an assessment from the cageside doctor, who deemed the cut too severe and advised that the bout be stopped 1:11 into round four.
Following several minutes of confusion with the Connecticut commission, the fight went to the scorecards. Hollenbeck was awarded a unanimous technical decision: 40-36, 40-36 and 39-36.
In the co-feature, Ognjen Topic was a little too quick and precise for Stephen Meleady, as he took a unanimous decision from the Irishman and claimed the vacant Lion Fight lightweight championship. The two contenders tore into each other with leg kicks, elbows on the inside and punches from all angles, but Topic was a step ahead when it mattered most. He earned the nod from the three ringside judges, drawing 49-46, 50-45 and 50-45 scores.
Meanwhile, Lion Fight super welterweight champion Jo Nattawut proved yet again that he ranks among the world’s best, as he knocked out Charlie Peters in the third round.
Nattawut chopped away with vicious kicks to the legs and body; and when Peters began to wither, the Atlanta-based Thai fighter put his foot on the gas. Nattawut hurt the Englishman with thudding round kicks to the ribs and forced him into the ropes, bouncing a series of elbows off his head and gloves. When Peters could endure no more, he appeared to try and kneel, but a menacing elbow connected to the head and knocked him unconscious. The end came at 1:56 of the third round, as Nattawut retained his title.
Elsewhere, Gaston Bolanos electrified the crowd with another victory via spinning back elbow, as he stopped Ben Yelle at 2:04 of the second round; and welterweight Chris Mauceri authored a potential “Knockout of the Year” nominee, knocking Frenchman Nicolas Parlanti cold with an exquisite spinning back elbow and ending their back-and-forth encounter 66 seconds into round three. Parlanti was removed from the ring on a stretcher.
Finally, what may have been the “Fight of the Night” belonged to lightweights Julio Pena and Yeison Berdugo. Pena absorbed two knockdowns in the first round, and it appeared as though Berdugo was on his way to an easy win. That was not the case. Pena stormed back and floored his adversary with a left hook late in the frame. From there, the war was on.
The two lightweights ripped at each other for virtually every second of every round, firing uppercuts, hooks, crosses, head kicks, body kicks and nasty elbows. They had gassed by the fourth round, where Berdugo almost brought it to a close with a crushing knee strike to the body. Pena dropped to his knees and struggled to get back to his feet, but he survived.
Buoyed by his resilience, Pena’s violent leg attack paid off in the fifth round, as a series of brutal low kicks took the life out of Berdugo. After Berdugo endured a few more leg kicks and a right hand to the face, Pena’s shin impacted his thigh for the final time. Berdugo collapsed, resulting in the stoppage at 31 seconds of the fifth round.
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