Jordan (Young Guns) Mein of Lethbridge, Alta., won a decision over former UFC welterweight Josh (The People's Warrior) Burkman in the main event Saturday night as mixed martial arts made its official debut in Ontario at "MMA: The Reckoning."
Lightweight Chris (The Polish Hammer) Horodecki of London, Ont., made short work of American David Castillo in the co-main event of the first sanctioned card in the province.
"We are making history tonight," the Casino Rama cage announcer said as the evening started.
Not in terms of excitement or quality, however. The talent on the eight-fight card was willing but limited in most cases. There were no knockouts on the night.
Still the show seemed to go smoothly in terms of organization and staging. It was well officiated and the judging made sense.
It seemed like someone forgot the stools, though. It wasn't until the third round that they appeared for the fighters between rounds.
Hamilton welterweight Joel Powell (2-2) became the first winner in the Ontario sanctioned era when he choked out Brandt Dewsberry of Lethbridge, Alta., at 4:54 of the second round.
Let history note, Dewsberry (5-1) came out first to the ear-splitting sounds of Rammstein. Montreal's Yves Lavigne was the referee.
The sellout crowd of 5,000 was subdued for most of the night with the evening lacking the loud frenetic vibe of UFC shows. The Ontario show also showed more attention to cleanliness than its MMA big brothers, sending someone into the ring with a spray bottle and cloth to remove blood from the canvas.
Most of the fans sat in the sloping auditorium seats at the venue usually reserved for concerts. The hexagon-shaped cage was surrounded by some floor seats with a smaller raised bank of seats on the far side.
Four video screens helped the sightlines.
Fighters entered from one corner balcony, coming down stairs to the floor and the cage.
The referees on show were better known than most if not all of the fighters. (Big) John McCarthy, Dan Miragliotta and Lavigne are all familiar faces to MMA fans.
McCarthy got one of the biggest cheers of the evening when he was introduced. He got another when he delivered his trademark "Let's get it on" line to open the fight.
The card featured judges from Manitoba and Quebec, who used the occasion to train Ontario counterparts.
The 21-year-old Mein ran to the cage for the main event and his reach seemed to give the smaller Burkman some early pause. But the 30-year-old American, who went 5-5 in the UFC, stayed cool.
Mein (15-5) seemed to find his range in the second and drove Burkman (21-9) back to the fence, only to find himself picked up and slammed into the mat.
Mein was tired and bleeding but scored with body shots at the fence in a third round that saw both men throw big punches and connect with spinning back fists.
The judges scored it 30-27, 29-28, 29-28 for Mein.
Horodecki (17-3), a baby-faced former WEC and IFL fighter, had plenty in the stands on his side. And he wasted little time putting Castillo down, then improving his position until he could latch on a rear naked choke. Castillo (10-3) tapped at 4:24 of the first round.
In other action, English lightweight Jason (Shotgun) Young and Toronto's Jorge Britto put on a show with Young using his striking superiority to win a unanimous decision.
Britto (12-7) got the crowd going and Young reeling with a spinning back first to the head in the first. Young went down and Britto opened him up a string of strikes. But Young (8-3) rallied, putting Britto down with a head kick in the second.
Matt MacGrath used his hard-nosed top game to win a unanimous decision over English welterweight Dean Amasinger (6-4).
It wasn't pretty but MacGrath (6-5), a native of Charlottetown who fights out of Halifax, was busy on the ground.
Amasinger appeared on Season 9 of "The Ultimate Fighter" and had UFC lightweight Ross (The Real Deal) Pearson, who won that season, in his corner.
Lightweight Jason Saggo (2-0) of Bolton, Ont., looked impressive in stopping Tyler (The King) Solomon (3-2) of Port Dover, Ont., by nasty armbar at 3:25 of the second round. Saggo's ground skills were the difference - he achieved mount position twice - and he celebrated by jumping atop the cage fence.
Toronto light-heavyweight Misha Cirkunov (4-1) won a decision over Montreal's Ion Cherdivara (1-1) in a subdued affair that earned the first boos of the sanctioned Ontario era.
Australian Rob Hill (8-4) stopped Spencer Rohovie of Lethbridge via arm triangle at 1:40 of the second round. They fought at a catchweight since Hill missed the lightweight limit by a pound.
Rohovie (9-6) was a buzzsaw at times, connecting with some vicious upkicks from his back in the first round. But he also slipped firing a kick and landed on his head.
There have been MMA shows in Ontario before, but they were on First Nations reserves and were not sanctioned by the provincial government.
That changed last August when Ontario announced plans as of Jan. 1 to regulate the sport using the provincial Athletics Control Act, which is administered by the Ontario Ministry of Consumer Services. The act already sanctioned pro boxing and kickboxing.
A Maximum Fighting Championship card is set for Windsor next Friday with UFC 129, a 55,000-seat sellout at the Rogers Centre, slated for April 30 in Toronto.
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