Controversial upstart mixed martial arts promotion Shine Fights was at it again tonight when it went ahead with it's one-night, eight-man lightweight grand prix tournament from the First Council Casino in Newkirk, Oklahoma, despite disapproval from the Oklahoma State Athletic Commission.
Drew "Knight Rider" Fickett, Carlo Prater, "Alley Cat" Kyle Baker, Charles "Krazy Horse" Bennett, Rich "Cleat" Crunkilton, Shannon Gugerty, James Warfield, and Dennis "The Menace" Bermudez were the eight fighters with balls big enough to not only defy the athletic commission, but also face the possibility of having three fights in one night.
Perhaps the least surprising two names on that list, Fickett and Bennett, led off the telecast with the first of the opening round bouts. "Krazy Horse" pulled off a beautiful sweep from the ground on the Brazilian jiu-jitsu black belt in the early going and appeared to be in top form, but Fickett kept working for submissions and eventually locked in a fight ending guillotine choke from a standing position with just under a minute and a half remaining in the first round.
In the second opening round bout, Dennis Bermudez used a lot of clinching and a couple of timely takedowns to secure a unanimous decision over short notice fill-in Shannon Gugerty. There wasn't much action in the fight, but there was one "Oh shit!" moment at the end of the first round when Bermudez scored on a trip takedown that sent both fighters tumbling through the ropes and onto the ringside floor.
Thankfully, both fighters escaped injury after the fall.
Warfield and Baker were next up and they were the first set of fighters to make it to the overtime third round. Warfield jumped out to an early lead with some entertaining striking, but Baker battled hard to win the second round with a takedown and some hard ground and pound.
The third round was more of the same from Baker as he took a top position on the ground and pounded his way to a come from behind decision victory. He used up a ton of energy during the fight, though, and also sustained a pretty nasty cut just above his left eye that would come back into play later on in the night when he was unable to get clearance to come back out for the semifinal fight.
Former WEC number one contender Rich Crunkilton would eventually suffer a similar fate.
"Cleat" squared off against MMA journeyman Carlo Prater in the final opening round fight, and they also battled hard for three very close rounds before Crunkilton was able to pull out the split decision. Crunkilton fell behind early, but scored with several takedowns and punching combinations to steal the second round and the third overtime frame.
However, he appeared to be very tired afterward, and it was later announced that he suffered a rib injury and would also be unable to continue in the tournament. Prater and alternate match winner Charlie "Hollywood" Brown would fill in as their replacements in the semifinals.
Fickett and Bermudez met in the first semifinal battle, and Fickett wasted no time scoring another quick submission victory to secure his spot in the final. Bermudez made the mistake of following Fickett to the mat after a slip, and Fickett immediately took his back and sunk in an impressive rear naked choke finish.
He was fired up afterward and looked to be full of energy with one more fight remaining.
Prater would go on to score a two round unanimous decision victory over Brown in the second semifinal bout after having to retape his hands when he found out he would be getting a second chance to fight. The first round was very close, but Prater dominated the second stanza with two takedowns and a lot of top control.
Brown was solid with his striking in the first frame, but the judges awarded the fight unanimously to Prater without needing to see an overtime round.
In the championship final, a fresh Drew Fickett took advantage of the fact that Prater had fought over 17 more minutes than he did in the previous two rounds. He dominated for the third time on the night en route to the tournament title.
In the past Fickett has been accused of being his own worst enemy, but he looked more focused than ever tonight, fighting for the first time as a lightweight. He warned any and all 155-pound fighters afterward to watch their back, and as long as he stays on the path he's on, I see no reason why he can't continue to be as impressive as he was tonight.
The talent is definitely there.
It is Drew Fickett, though, so we'll have to take a wait and see approach on that. But for now things are looking up for "Knight Rider."
That's a wrap from "The Sooner State" on what proved to be a fun night of fights from Shine.