A change of opponent on roughly one week's notice and the news that his light heavyweight title defense would become a heavyweight title bout didn't hinder Tom DeBlass from doing what he does best. Winning.
The #3-ranked light heavyweight on the 2012 World MMA Light Heavyweight Scouting Report dispatched of sizable veteran Randy Smith in forty-one seconds flat to win the Ring of Combat heavyweight crown on Friday night at the Tropicana Resort and Casino in Atlantic City, New Jersey. DeBlass used speedy footwork early to avoid Smith's advances before pulling guard and transitioning to his defenseless leg, locking down a heel hook to win.
The victory undoubtedly shines a spotlight on DeBlass as one of the best up-and-coming light heavyweight talents in the world. Despite the change in opponent and the obvious skill difference between Smith and himself, a win is a win, and DeBlass has won seven straight, remaining unblemished in his professional fight career. It's time for DeBlass to get his shot in the big leagues.
Pellegrino MMA's Jeff Lentz implemented a high-flying karate striking game to cruise to a dominant unanimous decision victory over Giovanni Moljo to win the vacant Ring of Combat featherweight regional crown. The 22-year-old TUF alumni scored 30-25 scores across the board, punishing Moljo with a steady diet of heavy leg, body, and head kicks. His best chance to finish occurred in the second round after he buried a body kick into Moljo's midsection. Unfortunately, Lentz wasn't aggressive enough to finish, and Moljo proved throughout the fight that he was a tough competitor despite landing little offense. Lentz will face Ring of Combat featherweight national champion Deividas Taurosevicius next.
UFC veteran Pete ‘Drago' Sell rebounded from a tough loss at the hands of heralded prospect Nordine Taleb in November to beat Mitch Whitesel by unanimous decision. Whitesel proved to be a tough cookie in the opening minutes of the fight, wielding a strong jab and quick footwork to keep Sell at bay. As the fight dragged on, however, Sell found a way to bring the fight to the ground, slowing down Whitesel and controlling him to a point in which his offensive abilities weakened. Sell dominated the second and third rounds from top control, easily taking home a win to start out this year on a good note.
Tiger Schulmann's Uriah Hall survived an opening round scare at the hands of Daniel Akinyemi, submitting the Iron Ring finalist via heel hook with only ten seconds left in the round. Akinyemi took it to Hall early, blasting through his weak takedown defense and putting him on his back repeatedly. It looked as if Akinyemi was well on his way to winning the first round before Hall found his opportunity in Akinyemi's exposed limb.
Serra-Longo prospect Ed Gordon narrowly edged David Tkeshelashvili of the Republic of Georgia, winning by majority decision on the scorecards, 29-29, 29-28, 29-28, in light heavyweight action. Neither fighter was overly impressive or dominant in the affair, but Tkeshelashvili did hurt Gordon with a stray punch in the second round after a grappling intense first that saw Tkeshelashvili come up short trying to throw Gordon to the mat repeatedly. Gordon rebounded in the third with a more calculated approach on the feet, using footwork and speed to move in and out of Tkeshelashvili's range. It paid off, winning him the round and the fight.
Rookie Jarred Mercado extended his undefeated record to five, dominating Rafael Fagundes Machado with an aggressive, relentless takedown game that he couldn't defend. It was so dominant, in fact, that one judge scored two 10-8 rounds in favor of Mercado.
Fellow prospect James Jenkins had similar success, stomping the surprisingly game Dwayne Shelton with ground and pound for two rounds before finishing him in the third round with strikes on the feet. The Serra-Longo prospect improves to 5-0 with the win.
One of the most impressive performances of the evening came from 22-year-old Ricardo Almeida prospect Frankie Perez. Over the course of two rounds, he uses slick Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu skills to dominate newcomer Jeremy Uy. Only Uy's heart saved him from a stoppage as he willed his way out of submission holds to survive to the judge's decision. Perez remains undefeated at 3-0.
Dutch import Duane van Helvoirt proved that good grapplers can come from the Netherlands as he cinched up a triangle choke in a minute and forty-nine seconds, putting his opponent, Lester Caslow, to sleep almost instantly.
Andre Harrison used explosive takedowns and quick transitions to bury Carlos Fonseca into the canvas for two rounds, extending his record to 2-0. Fonseca was game for most of the fight, escaping to his feet on multiple occasions, but Harrison's wrestling was menacing to the striking gameplan that Fonseca was attempting to execute. Harrison scored 20-18, 20-17, and 20-18 scores from the judges.
In women's action, Munah Holland came back in the final two rounds after losing the first to defeat grappler Pearl Gonzalez at her own game. Gonzalez was able to easily take the opening frame by controlling Holland from a headlock position, punching her repeatedly to remain active enough to stay in the position. The tide changed in the second when Holland pressed the action from the start, eventually taking down Gonzalez and scrambling to get her back. From there, Holland threatened with the choke and sustained the position to win the round. She managed to work over Gonzalez in the same manner in the third, finding a way to back control to steal the round and win the fight narrowly by majority decision.
In the opening bout of the evening, welterweights Whitney Francois and Pat Defranco went to battle quickly from the start, throwing down in wild exchanges that saw both of them wobbled before the one minute mark passed. After a stoppage of action due to an eye poke, the insanity continued, but Francois was the first to land cleanly, connecting two heavy rights to Defranco's chin. Defranco hit the canvas immediately, and referee Kevin Mulhall jumped in to stop the fight despite Defranco reaching for Francois' leg. It could be deemed a questionable stoppage, but Defranco was clearly rung by the shots.
Anthony Harrison def. Carlos Fonseca via unanimous decision (20-18, 20-17, 20-18)
Whitney Francois def. Pat Defranco by KO at 2:31 of Round 1
Frankie Perez def. Jeremy Uy via unanimous decision (20-16, 20-17, 20-17)
James Jenkins def. Dwayne Shelton via TKO, 1:51 of Round 3
Munah Holland def. Pearl Gonzalez via majority decision (29-29, 29-28, 29-28)
Jarred Mercado def. Rafael Fagundes Machado via unanimous decision (30-25, 30-27, 30-27)
Ed Gordon def. David Tkeshelashvili by majority decision (29-29, 29-28, 29-28)
Duane van Helvoirt def. Lester Caslow via submission (triangle choke) at 1:49 of Round 1.
Uriah Hall def. Daniel Akinyemi via submission (heel hook) at 3:58 of Round 1.
Pete Sell def. Mike Whitesel via unanimous decision (30-29, 30-28, 29-28)
Jeff Lentz def. Giovanni Moljo via unanimous decision (30-25, 30-25, 30-25).
Tom DeBlass def. Randy Smith via submission (heel hook) at 0:41 of Round 1.