Tuesday, April 20, 2010

SPORTS >> NO MIXED RECEPTION: Cabot fans turn out, embrace MMA

Joe Sexton, right, pins Madrid, Spain native Mendez Mosely to the cage.


Leader sportswriter

Local mixed martial arts fans turned out in droves for “Chaos in Cabot,” a first-of-its-kind MMA event held at Veterans Community Center on Saturday.

The show was promoted by AXCMMA of North Little Rock, and featured a number of local fighters.

There were 20 matches on the card with two professional bouts. The main event was a women’s bout between unbeaten fighters Jessica Higler of Iowa and Arkansas native Kim Conner-Hamby, but the packed house invested much of its energy in cheering on the local amateurs.

One of those fighters, 17-year-old Nick Gauden, of Cabot, improved his record to 2-0 with a dramatic, three-round decision over Ray Olvey.

Olvey took the advantage in the first round before Gauden caught him with a flurry of punches and bloodied his nose in the second. The two stood toe-to-toe in the final round, but Gauden, the overwhelming crowd favorite, earned the victory by unanimous decision.

The hometown crowd dared judges to rule in favor of Olvey by chanting “Nick, Nick, Nick,” as soon as the bout was completed. Promoter and ring announcer

Nathan Kirby praised the efforts of both fighters after the match and encouraged the fans to take pride in their young hometown hero.

Gauden received a champion’s exit from the ring, complete with a ride on his teammates’ shoulders and congratulations from numerous friends, fans and family.

“He was a big person; he definitely hit hard,” Gauden said of Olvey. “Second round, I just had to really think about that. I got my angles right, head bobbing. He was an amazing fighter — it was just awesome. I loved it.”

Gauden also said having the crowd behind him made a difference in his performance.

“It definitely gives you a confidence boost,” Gauden said. “You want to go out there and take him down. You don’t care how many punches you take.

“When everyone’s cheering you on, you’ve got so much adrenaline coming. You’re staring at this guy straight in the face. He wants to hit you — you want to hit him.”

Ward resident and Austin police officer Johnny “Five-O” McFall took perhaps the quickest and easiest victory of the night when he pummeled Cabot fighter Dennis Wilkes into a technical knock out in fewer than 30 seconds.

McFall, who improved to 4-0, was the immediate aggressor. He caught Wilkes with a series of quick crosses before slamming him to the mat of the octagon ring.

McFall then struck Wilkes with a series of strong rights, prompting the official to stop the match less than a minute in. McFall’s next fight will be a heavyweight title fight for Ring Rulers on May 14 in Shreveport, Louisiana.

“My coaches, they wanted me to come out, be strong on stand-up,” McFall said. “They wanted me to come out and do some pounding. They didn’t want me to go to the ground — most of my fights have been TKO on the ground. I need to improve on my stand-up, so tonight was a test for me.”

As for the main event, it was Connor-Hamby taking a three-round split decision to hand Hilger her first career loss.

In other bouts, Gravel Ridge’s John Jessa and opponent Keeton Horton both made their debut in the event’s first fight, with Horton winning by TKO in the second round. Searcy fighter J.R. Lynn, fighting out of Beebe’s Team Wolfpack dojo, defeated Dierks fighter Briar Morrow by tap-out in the second round.

Lynn dropped Morrow in the first round and kept the advantage and forced submission early in Round 2.