Ring of Fire returned to the 1stBank Center in Broomfield, Colo., on Saturday night for “ROF 43: Bad Blood.” The main event featured local favorite Chris Holland against UFC veteran Phil Baroni.
Baroni opened the fight strong, dominating Holland in the first round, taking him down on a couple of occasions. He complemented his ground and pound attack with a patient stand-up game, picking Holland apart, opening a cut around his left eye.
As much as round one was all Baroni, however, Holland stormed back in the second stanza, picking Baroni apart on the feet, staggering him up against the cage on several occasions. Fending off a Baroni takedown attempt, Holland opened up with a flurry of punches that dropped “The New York Bad Ass” to his knees and didn’t let up until the referee stopped it.
“The whole state was behind me, I couldn’t let them down,” Holland said after the biggest win of his career.
In a battle between two UFC veterans for the Ring of Fire featherweight championship, Cameron Dollar put in the fight of his life to capture the belt.
Dollar took the fight to Tyler Toner from the bell. He put Toner on his back early in the first round, grounding and pounding him for the majority of the first stanza. It didn’t take him as long in round two, dropping Toner with a right cross and then working to his back on the ground, finishing the fight with a rear naked choke.
“I’ve been training a lot and finally pulled my head out of my ass and trained like a champ,” said Dollar, a veteran of The Ultimate Fighter. “Love me or hate me, this is all I got.”
Justin Gaethje and Marcus Edwards, local favorites destined for even brighter lights in the future, battled it out for the Ring of Fire Young Guns lightweight title.
An obvious distaste for each other, Gaethje and Edwards went toe-to-toe for the duration of their three-round bout. The ebb and flow of this one made it difficult to declare a clear-cut winner.
Just when Gaethje started to assert his dominance, Edwards would spring to life. Remaining on their feet for the better part of the fight, each got his shots in, but in the end, the judges determined Gaethje had done enough in the first two rounds to award him the unanimous decision and the Ring of Fire belt.
If there were a knockout of the night bonus for Ring of Fire, it would have went to Vinnie Lopez. The Grudge Training Center fighter got the better of Mark Korzenowski for the majority of their fight, but sealed the deal in round three with a left hook that floored his foe and finished him off with hammerfists.
Former Denver Bronco Demetrin Veal, who now goes by the name Leandro, made his mixed martial arts debut on Saturday night, and he did so in stunning fashion, perhaps rivaling Lopez for the best knockout honors. He outsized his opponent, former WWE wrestler Chad Wicks, by six inches in height and 30 pounds in weight, and used every inch and pound to his advantage.
Leandro rocked Wicks on the feet, battering him with his stand-up, but backed off as Wicks staggered across the cage. His corner screamed at Leandro to go after Wicks, and he did.
“They said get on him, so I rushed.”
Harkening back to his NFL days, Leandro stormed across the cage – as if sacking Tom Brady – driving Wicks into the fence, basically knocking him out as he did so. He followed with a couple of punches before the referee could step in and stop the fight.
At six-foot-three, 265 pounds with the athleticism of a pro football player and the agility of a lifelong capoeira practitioner, Leandro has the potential to be a force in the heavyweight division.
Ring of Fire 43 Full Results
Chris Holland def. Phil Baroni by TKO (Strikes) at 2:50, R2
Cameron Dollar def. Tyler Toner by Submission (Rear Naked Choke) at 2:00, R2
Justin Gaethje def. Marcus Edwards (29-28, 29-28, 29-28), R3
Tommy Thompson def. Prentice Ingraham by Split Decision (28-29, 29-28, 29-28), R3
Vinnie Lopez def. Mark Korzenowski by TKO (Strikes) at 3:41, R3
Leandro Veal def. Chad Wicks by KO at 2:54, R1
Mark Taylor def. Aaron Romero by Majority Decision (29-29, 29-28, 29-28), R3
Henry Solis def. Justin Willis by TKO (Strikes) at 4:32, R2
Zach Riley def. Toby Lopez by Submission (Armbar) at 1:34, R1
Bryce Thorstad def. Zach McChesney by KO (Punches) at 0:23, R2
Aaron Trujillo def. Tyson Grippen by Submission (Guillotine Choke) at 2:12, R1
Jared Deaguero def. Nathan Torrez by TKO (Strikes) at 1:40, R1