Derak Heyman Retains Art of Combat Featherweight Belt with Decision over Eric Mendiola

Full Report from “Knuckle Up or Stand Down”

By Briggs Seekins:
St. Patrick’s Weekend is always a great time for a fight card and the First Arena in Elmira is a great venue. The home facility for the Elmira Jackals minor league hockey team, First Arena is yet another location that would be in the running to bring high-level, professional MMA crowds to an upstate city that could use the business. But, of course, the oppressive New York ban against professional MMA continues. In the meantime, promotions like Art of Combat are at least able to fill some of the void with exciting amateur cards that help Southern Tier and central New York prospects start building the kind of cage experience they need.

The First Arena crowd was lively, fueled by the holiday spirit, the day-long break in the the bitter cold weather, and probably the full moon. Fighters out of Binghamton’s Five Element MMA packed roughly half the card. Host-city Elmira was well represented, and the tough Mohawk Valley MMA team out of Utica contributed some very good fighters at the top of the card.

HeymanPorterChampion Derak Heyman with coach Jason Porter.

Fight One: Lavon Crawley vs. Art Boice; 170 lbs
Boice traveled from Kingston to face Crawley in his own backyard in this one. Boice showed aggressive wrestling and ate a couple of solid shots from Crawley while doggedly forcing his way into position for a takedown. Crawley grabbed a guillotine choke attempt against the cage, but Boice was able to defend it. Boice seemed to be at an experience disadvantage as a striker, but he was able to control distance using his wrestling and he continued to work for the takedown, ending up in Crawley’s guard. Crawley grabbed a guillotine choke attempt, but didn’t have the leverage or grip to seriously threaten it and Boice was able to defend it while improving position into mount. Boice methodically postured up and then unloaded some accurate ground-and-pound that forced Crawley to roll to his stomach, giving up his back. Boice flattened Crawley out against the mat and pounded on the sides of his head. Crawley ate too many unguarded head shots in a row and the referee stopped the fight and awarded Boice the TKO at 2:55.

Fight Two: Evan Harris vs. Donny Winslow; 170 lbs
Harris of New Paltz was another Hudson Valley fighter, with Winslow representing Vestal and essentially fighting in front of a home crowd. Winslow rallied his fans quickly with a right cross/left hook combination. He forced a clinch and secured a front head lock, single leg takedown to end up in Harris’ guard. Winslow laced him with some hard right hands from the guard and continued to work on stacking him up against the cage. Harris threatened a triangle, but it ultimately just allowed Winslow to posture up and stack him more easily. Winslow rolled Harris up against the cage and floor in a very bad position and unloaded some bombs on him, forcing a TKO at 2:53.

Fight Three: Raphael Edwards vs. George Cepero; 150 lbs
Cepero of Johnson City represented Five Element against Raphael Edwards of Newburg. Cepero landed the bigger punches standing in the opening round. He rocked Edwards with a hook, attacking aggressively. But Edwards was able to maintain his bearings and roll into dominant position on the ground. Cepero attacked with a triangle, but Edwards postured up and landed a couple of good punches from top position. Cepero worked back to his feet and forced a scramble, retaking a dominant position to finish the round.

In Round 2 both fighters came out looking to land big, bad-intentioned punches to sway the fight. Edwards began to find a very good rhythm stringing together his jab and overhand right into crisp, basic combinations. After closing in on range, Edwards landed an arching overhand right directly on Cepero’s chin, dropping him for the KO at 1:30 of Round 2.

Fight Four: Josh O’Connor vs. John Connolly; 170 lbs
There was a huge crowd reaction for both fighters in this one, with O’Connor an Elmira native and Connolly a Five Element fighter from Maine, NY. This was a well-paced, competitive three-round scrap that Connolly captured by split decision. I had Connolly winning Round 1 by controlling the majority of positioning against the cage and on the mat, and retaking his dominant position before the end of the round after briefly losing it.

O’Connor scored an early takedown in Round 2 and held half guard for most of the round before Connolly managed to roll him at the end of the round, landing in O’Connor’s guard. O’Connor threatened a triangle choke, but Connolly postured out as the round ended. I scored Round 2 10-9 for O’Connor.

O’Connor started strong in Round 3, landing a nice low kick and securing a body lock takedown into side control. O’Connor took mount, but Connolly rolled him into guard. Connolly used his length to land some shots in the guard and force O’Connor to give up his back. Connolly sunk his hooks and worked for the rear-naked choke. O’Connor had good choke defense and fought his way up to his hands and knees, working to pull Connolly high and dump him over his shoulders while escaping out the back door. Connolly adjusted nicely into a body lock to maintain his position throughout the end of the round. A very close round to end a close fight, which I scored for Connolly 10-9 to give him a 29-28 edge on my card.

Two of three judges agreed with me.

Fight Five: Sam Micale vs. Josh Conklin; 125 lbs
Representing Ultimate Athletics Syracuse, Liverpool-native Sam Micale showed great defensive wrestling and lightening quick strikes to finish off Endicott’s Josh Conklin quickly. Conklin is a powerfully built flyweight, but Conklin was able to defense his takedown attempts and maintain excellent range to counter attack with aggressive flurries. Conklin appeared to rock Micale briefly with a right hand, but Micale responded well and stayed on the offensive, finishing him by TKO against the cage at 1:35 of Round 1.

Micale did confirm with a laugh in his post-fight interview that “he hit me hard.”

Fight Six: Jake Lamphere vs. Luke Visingard; 205 lbs
These two light-heavyweights fought a competitive opening round with a bunch of positioning exchanges in what was essentially a grappling match with some tactical striking thrown in. I scored it 10-9 for Towanda, PA, native Lamphere against Binghamton-area Visingard.

In Round 2 Lamphere secured a takedown early and moved quickly into side control. He was able to improve into full mount and force Visingard to give up his back. Lamphere continued to pound at his now defenseless opponent and the referee called a stoppage at 1:37 of the round.

AlisaAlisa of ECG Productions, left, served as the night’s ring girl.

Fight Seven: Fidel Torres vs. Dylan Smith; 140 lbs
Representing Ultimate Athletics Syracuse, Cicero’s Fidel Torres faced another Five Element fighter, Dylan Smith of Vestal. Early in the round Smith landed some nice jab-cross combinations and Torres lowered his level and secured a body-lock takedown against the cage. Smith immediately started working an aggressive high guard. He threatened an omoplata shoulder lock and a triangle choke, before transitioning into an arm bar that fully extended Torres’s elbow, forcing a submission stoppage at 2:25 of the round.

Fight Eight: Austin Craig vs. Nate Sherwood; 190 lbs
Oshuwa, Ontario, native Austin Craig showed very good forward-backward movement and landed two nice jab/body kick combinations on Vestal’s Sherwood. After the two clinched briefly against the cage, Craig landed a big hook as they were separating that took Sherwood’s balance. Craig swarmed him against the cage, landing heavy, thudding punches that caused a stoppage at 2:22 of the round.

Fight Nine: Derek Falk vs. Paul Karabon; 135 lbs
Falk continued the roster of Canadian fighters as he faced Apalachin’s Karabon. Falk caught a low kick by Karabon that allowed him to secure a takedown. Karabon threatened a deep arm bar but Falk was able to slam his way out of it. He passed guard and quickly grabbed his own deep arm bar, planking out to prevent Karabon from defending. The referee called a stoppage at :40 seconds of the round.

Feature Fight: Rob Best vs. Erik Gillette; 160 lbs
Mohawk Valley MMA’s Rob Best squared off against Five Element’s Erik Gillette with both fighters showing a lot of emotion during the introductions, but starting slowly at the bell. Eventually Best secured a takedown. Gillette attempted an arm bar, but Best postured out easily and maintained dominant position against the cage for the rest of the round.

Early in Round 2 Gillette threw a body kick that made him lose balance and Best attacked aggressively, grabbing a tight guillotine choke and pulling Gillette into his guard. With tight positioning, he forced the tap 35 seconds into the round.

Feature Fight: Dillon Yarka vs. Randy Sissenstein; 140 lbs
Yarka of Elmira and Sissenstein of Maine met in the second “Feature Fight.” Yarka threw a nice jab-cross combination and Sissenstein lowered his level and shot deep on Yarka, but Yarka countered by grabbing a guillotine choke and securing the win at just 27 seconds of the first.

Co-Main Event: Pete San Antonio vs. Matt Kurey; 170 lbs
San Antonio of Utica and Kurey of Binghamton turned in an exciting first round, mixing standup exchanges with hard grappling for position along the cage. I scored it 10-9 for San Antonio, as he got some of the better punches landed in the exchanges.

Round 2 started at a slightly slower pace but San Antonio finally secured a brutal slam takedown into side control. Kurey showed some good defensive grappling to keep the fight scrambling as much as possible, but San Antonio continued to maintain dominant position landing heavy knees and blows to his body and head.

Kurey rallied hard in the final round and won it on my card on the strength of securing a takedown and maintaining dominant position for most of the round. But it was too little too late, as San Antonio hung on to record a unanimous decision.

Main Event: Eric Mendiola vs. Derak Heyman; Featherweight Title Fight
Tioga’s Heyman defended his Art of Combat 145-pound title against Rome’s Mendiola in a fight that lived up to its billing. The champion showed outstanding wrestling and mat control in Round 1, securing an early takedown and holding a good half guard position for landing punches to Mendiola’s torso. Mendiola forced a scramble and worked his way back to his feet, but Heyman was able to reshoot and finish the round on top.

Mendiola showed some good adjustments in the second round and used better movement to complicate Heyman’s attempts to take the fight to the ground. Mendiola rocked the champ with a hard shot off a clinch that staggered Heyman’s balance and forced him to pull guard. Heyman was able to sweep from the bottom position and finish the round in very strong position. It was a close round I felt Heyman stole at the end.

Heyman put the fight away with a strong Round 3. After some cautious opening seconds from both fighters, Heyman timed a nice shot and Mendiola attempted to counter with a Kimura lock. Mendiola held onto the Kimura far too long and Heyman was able to roll through and force a scramble that allowed him to seize a dominant standing back-control position. He slammed Mendiola into side control and maintained dominant position for the rest of the fight.

Heyman is on tap to represent Team Syracuse Gladius on April 26 in Cortland when the central New York all-star team faces a squad from Tennessee in a historic amateur team tournament.

Submission of the Night: Dylan Smith

KO of the Night: Sam Micale

Fight of the Night: Derak Heyman over Eric Mendiola

HeymanSwordDerak Heyman receives the victory sword from ring girl Alisa.

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