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Smith, Howe engage in battle for the ages Print E-mail
Written by Ben Pherson   
Sunday, 27 April 2014 22:48

It may go down as the best fight in the history of Driller Promotions.

Saturday night's main event at Muse Event Center looked good on paper. And it was even better in the cage.

Nate Howe and Ben Smith are both headed for bigger promotions, but Saturday they clashed in a battle of two of the state's most promising welterweights during Mecca IV.

Smith, who trains at the Minnesota Martial Arts Academy, entered as a clear favorite in the wrestling department. Howe, who trains at the Cove, had the clear edge in jiu-jitsu. The standup advantage going in was a mystery.

Early in the fight, it looked as though Smith's wrestling, strength and striking might lead to an early finish.

Smith dominated the opening two rounds, both on the feet and with ground and pound. He did a fantastic job of avoiding Howe's submission attempts, pulling out of several armbars and keeping in fantastic position any time it hit the ground.

Smith also busted Howe's nose early in the fight with an elbow in close quarters.

Despite the vicious ground and pound and some solid striking on the feet, Howe did not quit. And in the third and fourth rounds, he started making his move.

Howe controlled those rounds with submission attempts, sinking in one armbar that clearly had Smith thinking about tapping. But just as Howe showed his warrior spirit in the first two rounds, Smith showed his by refusing to tap.

Howe had Smith in bad spots in both rounds, but Smith didn't go away. Howe even had top position a few times, looking for kimuras and dishing out ground and pound himself.

In the fifth and final round, the fight appeared to be tied. Both fighters looked fresh, considering they'd already fought for 20 minutes in an all-out war.

But Smith was able to set up and finish a takedown and control the bulk of the round. He continued with his ground-and-pound assault, finishing the round strong.

Both fighters were bloodied and bruised after the final bell sounded. But Smith's final round was enough.

All three judges scored it in his favor, 48-47, 48-47 and 49-46.

"That was the best fight we'll ever put on," Driller's Jeremy Bjornberg said.

It's tough to argue against that. It was an instant classic, and Waller-Strandlien suddenly has competition for fight of the year.

The four other pro fights on Saturday's card all ended in the opening round.

Nick Compton made quick work of Jordan Neer in the Minnesota Martial Arts Academy standout's most impressive performance to date.

Neer immediately shot for an finished a double-leg takedown. He put Compton on the mat, but the Minnesotan threw up an armbar almost immediately.

Neer was able to shake free, though. He quickly went back to work on the ground. But again, he fell right into the armbar. This time it was tight, and Compton got the finish just 2:51 into the opening round.

With another impressive victory, it appears Compton is headed for a bigger promotion.

Roland Larson put one in the win column Saturday with a speedy win over Starr Roberts.

Larson showed off some improved standup, and that had Roberts shooting for the takedown. On the ground, Larson had the clear advantage and it didn't take long for him to lock up the heel hook and force the tap at 2:45.

Mikey Zimmer also scored a quick win over Rick Jackson. Zimmer turned in his most impressive performance as a pro, putting Jackson on the ground and then dishing out some heavy hands, forcing Jackson to offer up his back.

Zimmer quickly sunk in the rear-naked choke and got the finish 3:58 into the first.

Ben Neumann had no trouble with Jeremy Castro. Again, Neumann had a clear advantage on the ground, but Castro decided to play with fire. He fought off a few attempts, but eventually Neumann sunk in the rear-naked choke and forced the submission 2:00 into the first.

Cameron Gilliam retained his 155-pound Driller amateur title, holding off the always exciting Alex Wiggs Jr.

Gilliam's strength and wrestling were on another level, but Wiggs was game. Gilliam finished a couple of takedowns in the first, but he was never able to hold Wiggs down for long.

In the second, Wiggs hit a nice sweep. But that put him in Gilliam's guard, and that's a dangerous spot. Gilliam immediately threw up the triangle. It was tight, and Wiggs was forced to submit just :54 into the round.

The other featured fight on the amateur portion of the card was a showdown between Ash Majek and Nick Palmer. The war of words between the two camps boiled over several times leading up to the fight.

But there was nothing but respect between the two competitors.

Palmer looked much improved on his feet and on the ground. After a couple of early exchanges, Majek took the fight to the ground.

On the ground he landed some powerful left hands that appeared to hurt Palmer. He offered his back, and Majek sunk in the rear-naked choke. But Palmer was saved by the bell.

Palmer landed some heavy shots in the second round, including a nice body kick. Majek managed to take all the punches and kicks, though, and he landed a couple of nice combinations of his own.

The fight would go the distance. Majek clearly won two of the rounds, though, and was awarded the unanimous-decision win (30-27, 29-28, 29-28).

Both competitors looked much improved from their last fights and certainly put on a show for the Minneapolis crowd.

Charlies Anozie started off the night with an impressive KO win over Dion Kriz. The knockout came on the ground, with Anozie landing a punch somewhere on the ground that put Kriz out cold 2:40 into the opening round.

Ed Albrecht scored a second-round win over Dale Walters, who went for broke in the opening round as usual. Walters got off some big punches, but he never was able to land the heavy one to finish the fight.

In the second, Albrecht knocked Walters down and took his back after some ground and pound, finishing the fight with a rear-naked choke at :29.

Marc Gomez won by TKO over Khaled Afara, who never was able to find a groove with his unique striking.

Gomez took Afara to the ground and started raining down punches. He kept at it until the ref finally stopped the fight at the 2:29 mark.

Michael Jokondo of the Academy also showed off an improved all-around game. Newcomer Drew Breckling of Wisconsin showed off his wrestling skills throughout the first two rounds. But he never was able to do anything with his top position on the ground.

In the third, Jokondo finally caught Breckling in a triangle and got the finish at the :57 mark.

Driller returns to action May 31 at Mystic Lake Casino.


FIGHT OF THE NIGHT: Ben Smith vs. Nate Howe.






Minneapolis * 4-26-14


170 -- Ben Smith def. Nate Howe by unanimous decision (48-47, 48-47, 49-46).

145 -- Nick Compton def. Jordan Neer by submission due to armbar at 2:51 of first round.

155 -- Roland Larson def. Starr Roberts by sub due to heel hook at 2:45 of first round.

155 -- Mikey Zimmer def. Rick Jackson by submission due to rear-naked choke at 3:58 of first round.

165 -- Ben Neumann def. Jeremy Castro by submission due to rear-naked choke at 2:00 of first round.


155 -- Cameron Gilliam def. Alex Wiggs by submission due to triangle choke at :54 of second round.

150 -- Ash Majek def. Nick Palmer by unanimous decision (30-27, 29-28, 29-28).

125 -- Michael Jokondo def. Drew Breckling by submission due to triangle choke at :57 of third round.

125 -- Marc Gomez def. Khaled Afara by TKO at 2:29 of first round.

145 -- Ed Albrecht def. Dale Walters by submission due to rear-naked choke at :29 of second round.

170 -- Charlie Anozie def. Dion Kriz by KO at 2:40 of first round.