Jamie Varner got back in the win column at XFC 14. | File Photo
A month ago, he was talking retirement. Now, Jamie Varner may have put himself back on the path to relevance.
Varner blasted through an overmatched Nate Jolly in a little more than a minute, as the former WEC lightweight champion knocked out the Team Oxendine representative in the Xtreme Fighting Championships 14 “Resurrection” headliner on Friday at the UCF Arena in Orlando, Fla. The end came 69 seconds into round one, as Varner blitzed Jolly (10-4, 1-1 XFC) with power punches from inside his guard.
Varner (18-6-1, 2 NC, 1-0 XFC) weathered an early takedown, responded with one of his own and went to his ground-and-pound. He rattled Jolly with the first right hand he unleashed. More punches followed, as Jolly’s defenses crumbled and Varner won for just the second time since January 2009.
In the co-main event, UFC veteran Carmelo Marrero came out on the right side of a unanimous decision over Scott Barrett in a grueling heavyweight duel, leaning heavily on accurate punching, superior hand speed and brutal knees from the clinch. Marrero (14-5, 1 NC, 1-0 XFC) swept the scorecards by identical 30-27 counts.
The two heavyweights exchanged liberally, but Marrero’s quicker hands found the mark with more regularity. However, his most effective weapons were knees to the body and head from the clinch, one of which bloodied Barrett’s nose in the third round. Based at the Hardcore Gym in Athens, Ga., Barrett (12-3, 0-2 XFC) delivered his share of powerful punches but did nothing to dent Marrero’s resolve.
Marrero, who burst on the scene in 2006 with a split decision victory over Cheick Kongo at UFC 64, has rattled off four wins in five appearances.
Meanwhile, women’s 125-pound prospect Marianna Kheyfets kept her perfect professional record intact, as she rode excellent counterstriking and late takedowns to a unanimous decision over Molly Helsel. All three judges scored it for the American Top Team standout: 29-28, 29-28 and 30-27.
Kheyfets (4-0, 3-0 XFC) started slowly and wound up on her back in the first round after Helsel turned a caught kick into a takedown. She ate a few elbows but largely neutralized Helsel (8-13-1, 0-1 XFC) with her guard, forcing a restart. From that point forward, Kheyfets was in control. She countered beautifully to the head and body, mixing in jabs and kicks in the second round. In round three, Kheyfets bloodied Helsel’s nose with a counter right hand and struck for a pair of late tactical takedowns to seal the victory.
Elsewhere, American Top Team’s Nicolae Cury needed a little more than a minute to submit Elijah Harshbarger with a first-round armbar in a featured welterweight matchup. Harshbarger (6-4, 0-1 XFC) tapped out to the Brazilian judoka 87 seconds into round one.
Cury (6-2, 1-0 XFC) deftly stuffed Harshbarger’s initial takedown attempt, powered him to the ground and moved into half guard. He mounted soon after and, as Harshbarger tried to roll free, snatched the Lloyd Irvin protégé’s right arm for the finish. Cury, 31, has posted four wins in his last five outings.
In other action, Bellator Fighting Championships veteran Carlos Mikey Gomez submitted Mike Bernhard with a rear-naked choke 3:50 into the second round; middleweight Reggie Pena won for the seventh time in nine fights and defeated Josh Clark by unanimous decision, earning 29-28, 30-27 and 29-28 nods from the judges; and former XFC lightweight champion John Mahlow recorded a unanimous decision over Bruce Connors, sweeping the scorecards by matching 30-27 counts.