by Ken Pishna – MMAWeekly.com (Photos courtesy of April Pishna)
BROOMFIELD, COLO. – Before a packed house at the Broomfield Events Center, Ultimate Fighter Season 3 veteran Mike Nickels surprised a partisan crown with a devastating knockout that left opponent Carpaccio Owens stumbling around the cage searching for his senses.

Hailing from Denver, Colo., and operating the popular Twisted Sol tattoo shop there, Nickels has long been a crowd favorite. A win was no surprise, but known more for his ground game, Nickels did raise some eyebrows with a heavy right hand – instilled by striking coach Oscar Martinez – that dropped Owens in the opening moments. He followed the active soldier, a member of the Army’s 82nd Airborne Division, to the mat in a flurry that halted to the fight in just 7 seconds.

Owens is being deployed to Iraq and received a standing ovation from the crowd and Nickels. Despite his personal anti-war sentiments, Nickels voiced his support for Owens and his comrades, “Stepping into the cage takes a lot of nuts. But stepping into battle or a combat zone, that’s a whole nother level. That’s something that most people in America will never have to experience thanks to people like Carpaccio. I have a lot of respect for him. He has a lot of class.”

With the win over Owens, it sounds as if Nickels may soon be making a return to the UFC. Nickels confirmed speculation that there is interest in having him fight Stephan Bonnar on a UFC Fight Night show in June.

The main event of the evening featured a couple of up-and-comers battle it out for the first ever Ring of Fire Light Heavyweight Championship. Marcus Sursa immediately took the fight to Eliot Marshall, but it was Marshall who was able to take and maintain control of the majority of the offensive action in the fight. After weathering Sursa’s initial storm and showing some decent stand-up skills courtesy of Duane Ludwig, he started taking Sursa down at will and kept him defensive with various submission attacks. A Black Belt and highly accomplished in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu competitions, Marshall was able to lock on a title-winning rear naked choke at 4:59 of the second round.

Christian Allen defended his 145-pound Ring of Fire title by quickly establishing his dominance in the stand-up game with Ryan Hass. Unable to provide much by way of offense, a game Hass was picked apart by Allen’s superior striking skills. Allen finished him with a devastating right hook for the knockout at the end of the first round.

In a tremendous stand-up battle, Anthony Njokuani rocked Donald “Cowboy” Cerrone and put him on his butt for the first time in his mixed martial arts career. Cerrone, however, maintained his composure, fought back to his feet and then took Njokuani down. Once on the mat, Cerrone was all over Njokuani. He worked for a rear naked choke, transitioned to an armbar, and following a desperate slam by Njokuani, secured a triangle choke for the win.

Having gone 22-0-1 in his prior specialty as a kickboxer, Cerrone has morphed his game as he moves to a career in mixed martial arts, where he is 6-0… all by way of submission.

Other highlights of the night included a back and forth battle between lightweights Dennis Davis and Luke Caudillo. At the end of the three rounds of action, Caudillo was able to do more damage and earned a split decision victory. Former Ring of Fire Young Guns Champion Tyler Toner was controlled and battered over the course of his three round fight with Scott Jorgensen. In unanimous fashion, Jorgensen scored the decision and took home Toner’s belt.

Ring of Fire 29 Results
Broomfield, Colo.
April 28, 2007

Eliot Marshall def. Marcus Sursa by Rear Naked Choke at 4:59, R2
Mike Nickels def. Carpaccio Owens by KO at 0:07, R1
Christian Allen def. Ryan Hass by KO at 4:52, R1
Donald Cerrone def. Anthony Njokuani by Triangle Choke at 4:30, R1
Luke Caudillo def. Dennis Davis by Split Decision, 3 Rounds
Scott Jorgensen def. Tyler Toner by Unanimous Decision, 3 Rounds
Isaac Diamondes def. Cody Donovan by Knockout at 0:08, R1
Jesse Henley def. PJ Sierra by Rear Naked Choke at 0:47, R2
Brandon Thatch def. Josh Kirby by Rear Naked Choke at 1:26, R1
Sean Logsden def. Adam Johnson by Armbar at 0:24, R1
Sean Doherty def. Leonard Snow by Armbar at 0:34, R2