Monday, March 26, 2007

Battle at the Barn 19 draws huge crowd

By Ben Pherson

Saturday's Battle at the Barn 19: Best of the Best at Graham Arena is believed to have been the most attended mixed martial arts event ever in the state of Minnesota.

More than 2,000 fans paid between $25 and $300 (floor table) to watch 17 bouts on a card sponsored by Jami Klair's Ultimate Combat Sports (UCS) and Mickey's Irish Saloon. Add fighters, corner men and other personnel to that total, and Klair said more than 2,200 were at Graham Arena to watch the event, which was highlighted by four title fights.

"You kind of just get a sense of victory," Klair said after the event. "With all the stuff we've been through with this sport from the beginning, it feels like we've really done it. Rochester has just been so supportive. And I'm very thankful for that."

Rochester's Aaron Vold and Lake City's Jeremy Lafferty were named fighters of the night and presented with trophies.

Vold moved up a weight class to meet Lafferty in a welterweight clash. Vold previously was fighting at 155 pounds but said he feels more comfortable at 170.

"I was starving myself to stay at 155; I wasn't healthy," said Vold, a converted boxer.

Vold and Lafferty squared off and traded punches early, before heading to the ground and engaging in a submission exhibition.

After both fighters had failed choke attempts, Vold eventually caught Lafferty in a high heel hook, and Lafferty was forced to tap out (submit).

"It was a heel hook, but it really focuses more on the knee," Vold said. "It's really been one of my signature holds for the last year or so.

"I wanted this one really bad. I knew if Jami (Klair) was ever going to give me another title shot, I needed to beat Jeremy. But Jeremy's a great fighter. He hits hard."

At 31 years old, Vold isn't exactly a spring chicken. But he hopes to continue in mixed martial arts as long as he can.

"I wouldn't say I'm at the end of my career; I have plenty of time left. But there are some injuries, and those take a while to heal now," he said. "But I'm going to keep working at it and see what happens."

In the night's first title fight, Pine Island's Justin Fogal made quick work of Joey Fingalson, taking him down and forcing a tapout due to strikes just 1:17 into the first round.

The victory gave Fogal, who had lost a previous title fight last year, the UCS light heavyweight title.

"It feels good to just finally get (the belt)," Fogal said.

In a middleweight title fight, Paul Georgieff of St. Paul won due to injury over Brian Green of Des Moines, Iowa. Georgieff took Green down early in the first round, and Green landed awkwardly on his right shoulder. Green was unable to continue after the injury, and the fight was stopped in under a minute.

The UCS lightweight title fight didn't last much longer. Austin Judge of Savage, Minn., caught Nick Boulware with a solid right hand and several up-kicks during the first round. Judge also had a triangle choke locked in, but Boulware escaped, only to be taken down by Judge's hard right.

On the ground, Judge passed Boulware's guard and landed countless strikes before Boulware finally tapped out.

Though Judge is the title holder, the belt was not on the line Saturday as Boulware failed to make weight prior to the fight.

The night's main event featured Elgin's Tom Speer fighting Andy Normington of Madison, Wis., for the UCS welterweight title.

"I knew (Normington) was tall, and that he was going to have a big reach advantage," Speer said. "I knew his stand-up was OK."

Speer, a fan favorite, was caught with a Superman punch early in the first round, though he said it didn't hurt him.

"He hit me hard, but it was in the top of the head," Speer said.

Speer decided to take the fight to the ground, putting down Normington with a punishing slam. It took only seconds for Speer to pass Normington's guard. After that, he unloaded a flurry of punches, eventually forcing referee Nick Gamst to stop the fight due to TKO (Normington was unable to defend himself).

It could be the last fight in Rochester for Speer, who has signed with manager Monte Cox. Speer won't get much of a break -- he fights again this Saturday in Sioux City, Iowa.

"Monte said maybe in the middle of May I'll be ready to fight out in (Las) Vegas in the (World Extreme Cagefighting organization)," Speer said. "Nothing is signed yet or anything, but that's the plan. Vegas is where everyone wants to fight, so it's exciting."


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