BY ZAKKARIAH ROLFE
New York wrestlers from Section Four appeared on the Art of Combat Four card five times on Friday at the Broome County Arena, ending the night with four wins and only one loss.
The first fight on the preliminary card featured Tyler Bayer, a two-time Section Four champion out of Union Endicott. Bayer made quick work of his opponent Jon Ferguson, getting a very quick takedown before transitioning to full mount and raining punches down on his opponent for a TKO in the first round.
Next was another Section Four champion, Andrew Canale of Tioga Central, who got in the cage with John O’Brien. Canale started the fight with a takedown and got some punches in before surrendering a reversal. Things weren’t looking too good for Canale until he caught his opponent in an arm bar and forced the tap out to win by submission in the first round.
Another Section Four finalist, Jon Conklin of Union Endicott, took on Dave Lust Jr in one of the best fights of the night. In round one, Conklin and Lust stayed on their feet, exchanging strikes until Conklin got in deep on a double with about three seconds to go and slammed Lust to the mat to secure the round.
In the second, things didn’t go as planned for Conklin as he was knocked down twice. However, after that, something seemed to click for Conklin and he came out looking for blood. He secured three takedowns and unloaded with punches from the top position on multiple occasions.
“After the second round I asked my coaches if I won,” Conklin said. “They said ‘just go out and win the third round.’ So all I had on my mind was really decisively winning the third round.”
He did just that, coming out with a unanimous decision victory.
In another contest decided by decision, Matthew Kurey from Chenango Valley matched up against Tyrone Tilson at 185 pounds. The clash started slow, with the fighters feeling each other out. Kurey seemed to win the first when he capitalized on a throw attempt by Tilson with a takedown at the end of the round.
In the second, the competitors battled for good position and Tilson threw knees and a few punches to win the round. The third was decided when Tilson slammed Kurey to the mat and kept him there, throwing punches and knees to the body. When the winner was announced, it was Tilson.
Perhaps the most well-known wrestler on the card, Derak Heyman, was also the most dominant. He began the fight with Jon Lopez in a three-point stance as if in a wrestling match.
“It was a part of the plan because he’s a kickboxer and you can’t kick an opponent with three points on the ground, and I wanted to get in his head,” Heyman said.
The two-time New York state champion came out looking for a takedown early with a low ankle pick attempt that was easily stuffed by Lopez. From then on, whenever Lopez kicked, Heyman caught the leg and ended it with a takedown. He had three in the first round alone.
Entering the second, Heyman picked up another takedown before transitioning to full mount, locking up a merachonda hold and getting the submission victory.
Both Conklin and Heyman said afterward that they want to go professional in mixed martial arts eventually. Both said, however, that they need a bit more amateur experience before taking that big step.
“I want about five more fights before October, and then take eight or nine months just to train. After that get two more fights, see how I feel and then decide if I want to go pro,” Heyman said.
The Section Four alumni weren’t the only New York wrestlers in action. A pair of former grapplers from New Hartford also competed. Marc Giordano lost by submission in the first round to Paul McDonough at 170 while Mike Karam won a decision over TJ Duran at 135.
Overall, Friday was a great night for the wrestlers turned MMA fighters. For the Section Four competitors it was five fights and four wins. More Art of Combat action is coming soon to the area in Elmira on June 8.
Full results from this weekend’s action can be found at this link.