Roughhouse fighting was back for its 11th year Friday night at Marlintini's Lounge in front of a capacity crowd, and the fight card was filled with some familiar faces.
Sitka's Selina Slack, 27, continued her dominance in the ring with a unanimous victory over first-time fighter Cheryl Skaflestad, 47, of Ketchikan.
Skaflestad attacked from the start, going on the offensive against the vastly more experienced Slack. After surviving the initial barrage in the opening round, Slack countered with several punches to her opponent's body and head that proved to be too much.
The outcome of the fight was never in question from the opening bell as Slack played great defense and countered when the opportunity presented itself. But she said it's important to be careful when entering the ring against a new fighter.
"I have to be prepared for the unexpected," she said. "I actually knew this woman, so, you know, we're trying not to hurt each other, but I wasn't going to give anything.
"You just have to be prepared," she continued. "Whether it be against someone that's experienced or not, you just have to remember the training and all the exercise and sparring."
In the evening's final MMA matchup, Ketchikan's 155-pound Tyson Duckworth took his 5-1 record into opening night against 24-year-old, 152-pound Henry Dehling, an employee of the Alaskan Brewing Company, originally from Tennessee.
Duckworth, 29, took advantage of his experience against the younger Dehling and controlled the fight from the start, taking it to the ground early in the match. Both fighters defended well through the first two rounds, but Duckworth found an opening and caught Dehling with a low knee, sending his opponent to the mat.
Dehling, trying to force the judges' decision, tried to land several crosses in the third round, but Duckworth won in unanimous fashion.
The heavyweight fight of the night featured a battle between Alaska Airlines employees, Juneau's 234-pound Chris Connally, 28, and Andy Haverkamp, 23, a 231-pounder hailing from Minnesota.
The two came out swinging hard in the first round, but neither could land a knockdown punch when it looked as if one of the fighters would connect. But Connally connected on a left cross just before the bell at the end of the opening round, and with it set the tone for the rest of the fight.
Although Haverkamp was able to stick in there with solid defense, Connally found several openings with the left hand in the second round, finding his fellow employees chin on a couple of hard shots. One final hard left cross to Haverkamp's face in the third round left the judges' decision unanimous.
"We work together, so we're friends and just trying to have fun," Connally said after the fight. "I had to find a reason to get mad at him, but he was talking a lot of crap that I was a lot older than him. I just watched his punches and countered."
With a record of 4-3 and 0-1, respectively, Charlie Gallant, 194 pounds, and Jon McGraw, 184 pounds, took the ring for the first MMA fight of the night, and the matchup went down to the wire.
After Sitka's McGraw, 36, took the fight to the ground in the early going, Gallant, hailing from Hoonah, found space with his knee and landed a shot to his opponent's midsection. McGraw doubled over, allowing Gallant to secure a headlock as the two went to the ground again in the second round.
But McGraw would control the third round much the same as he did the first and earned a unanimous decision to push his record to 1-1.
In the match prior, 163-pound Fred Grant (2-2), 28 years old from Ketchikan, wasted no time going after 18-year-old Eric Moy (2-1). But Moy, 165 pounds from Sitka, was ready.
The young fighter avoided almost all contact early in the fight, ducking away from Grant's wild punches. As Grant became more and more tired, Moy picked his spots and landed several heavy punches.
But Grant would not go down easily, and the third round turned into a flurry of offensive attacks from both sides. However, it was Moy's defense that gave him the unanimous decision to push his record to 2-2.
In earlier action, 174-pound Eric Nygren overcame what seemed to be an early disadvantage to defeat 176-pound Robbie "The Georgia Boy" Smith, 24, of Atlanta, Ga.
Smith controlled the fight early as his opponent seemed unsure of an attack strategy. But the break after the first round gave Nygren, a native of Chicago, a chance to adjust accordingly.
"He's a pretty tough guy, so I figured the first round would be the biggest obstacle. I just needed to dance a little bit and stay away, see what I could get," he said. "I kind of lost my inhibitions and didn't have much fear. He caught me a couple of times, but it didn't really slow me down.
"Once I got over that initial hump and that initial cardio that he blew out, I was safe."
Nygren came out in the second round and connected on several jabs, along with a right cross, upper-cut combination that visibly fazed his opponent. From there, Nygren said it was all about adrenaline.
"You're confidence builds every time you land a shot like that. Like I said, when you're confidence builds like that you have no more fear. You can just walk right in on him," he said. "I was head-hunting in the third round, but that guy's got a tough chin. He's a tough dude."
Nygren landed several more big shots to Smith, who was able to hang in despite absorbing some heavy hits in the final two rounds. Nygren, who trains with the Duckworth's in Ketchikan, won by unanimous decision.
Juneau's own Luis Garcia, 18, made a name for himself in one of the more hotly-contested fights of the night, taking down first-time fighter Mike Dunlevy, 22, by a 2-1 decision.
The 143-pound Garcia gave up plenty of size to the 164-pound Dunlevy, but the younger opponent weathered an early storm to come out on top. Dunlevy came out on the attack while Garcia defended well and picked his spots. With Dunlevy looking like the aggressor, Garcia landed a huge cross that knocked Dunlevy to the ground.
Garcia stood with his hands in the air knowing he had just gained control of the fight. Dunlevy, shaken by the knockdown, was no longer as aggressive as he was early in the fight, and Garcia rode the momentum to a win that pushed his record to 2-0.
The first mens' fight of the night was between two first-time fighters.
Brice Harvey, 18 years old and weighing in at 174 pounds, ended things quickly against the 163-pound Gabe Evans, 34, after an early left cross caught Evans in the face, causing him to retire due to a bloody nose in the first round.
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