Pete Sell (top) scored a submission win at Ring of Combat 36. | Photo: Keith Mills/Sherdog.com
ATLANTIC CITY, N.J. -- The 36th edition of Ring of Combat at the Tropicana Casino was the stage for UFC veteran Pete Sell’s return to action following a two-year hiatus.
The Serra-Longo product took the ROC “National” welterweight title from champion Elijah Harshbarger, despite an extremely shaky first round. Harshbarger went right after Sell from the opening bell and was either in mount or on his opponent’s back in what he called the “best round of my life.”
But the seasoned vet weathered the storm, and surprisingly there was no worry from his corner in between rounds.
“He can absorb a lot of punishment,” Matt Serra told Sherdog.com following the bout. “He was really just playing catch-up on position on the floor. He was a little bit out of position so he had to play catch-up and before you know it the round was over. But I wasn't worried as far as taking abuse or anything. Drago's a beast.”
Not only was his corner not concerned, but Sell was raring to go for round two.
“The first thing Drago told me before he even sat on his stool was, ‘He's getting tired,’” said Serra. “I thought that was hysterical. I [asked], ‘You good?’ He said, ‘I'm fine. He's getting tired.’”
The second round opened with a superman punch from Harshbarger that Sell eluded. The subsequent collision saw Sell end up on top and dominate position, much in the same fashion Harshbarger displayed in the opening period. Soon enough Sell trapped one of Harshbarger's arms and secured an armbar submission on the other limb, forcing a tap at 3:24 of round two.
The ROC “National” bantamweight title was also on the line as Aljamain Sterling took on Renzo Gracie representative Claudio Ledesma. The 15-minute bout was primarily a battle for positioning with Sterling getting the better of his foe. The Long Island native took a split decision victory (29-28, 29-28, 28-29) to take possession of the title.
Sean Santella and Tito Jones had a hard-fought duel that saw the Whippany, N.J., native go after Jones early, scoring a big slam in the first round. But after the early fireworks the contest became a battle of attrition.
Santella scored with takedowns, but he could not hold Jones down. It was enough for Santella to score a unanimous decision (30-27, 30-27, 30-27) victory.
Al Iaquinta took a split decision from Gabriel Miglioli in a hotly-contested lightweight dustup. The resilient Iaquinta survived an opening-round onslaught from Miglioli to capture rounds two and three on dual scorecards (29-28, 28-29, 29-28).
A relatively uneventful light heavyweight bout saw Ryan Contaldi earn a unanimous decision win (30-27, 30-27, 30-27) over Hammer House fighter Rob Wince. Contaldi took Wince down at will; the Ohioan had no answer.
In a 130-pound women’s tilt, Munah Holland bulldozed Marissa Caldwell by technical knockout with punches at the 1:00 mark of round two.
Welterweight Whitney Jean-Francois went right after Erik Oganov from the jump, only to be submitted by the M-1 veteran at 1:35 of the opening frame.
In other ROC 36 action, Casey Manrique beat Brandon Saling with a rear-naked choke at 1:30 of round two; James Jenkins bested Jason McLean via unanimous decision (30-27, 30-27, 29-28); Ed Gordon outpointed J.A. Dudley (30-28, 29-28, 29-28); Keith Berish stopped David Colabella with a knee and punches at 1:04 of round one; Mike Prokop guillotined Brian Smiley in just 26 seconds; Frankie Perez tapped Andre Shuler with a rear-naked choke at 2:32 of the second; Jimbo Hoffman scored a RNC submission win over Mike Benoit in 3:19; Tom English edged Alex Bruzzese by majority decision.