HANCOCK - The first match of the Ho-Town Throwdown cagefighting competition at the Houghton County Arena set a definitive tone Saturday - this was a night for knockouts.
At the flyweight division, Jon Anderson (Marquette) chose the wrong time to lower his guard and stepped straight into a resounding cross from Kevin Lobermeire (Lac Du Flambeau, Wis.) that kept Anderson laying on the mat dazed for a full three minutes.
It was the first punch of the match.
Houghton county resident and heavyweight Brandon Mukavetz earns a knockout Saturday at the Ho-Town Showdown in Houghton County Arena in Hancock. (DMG photo by Meagan Stilp)
In all, five of the 11 matches hosted by Copper Country Cagefighting ended with a knockout, while tap-outs and chokeholds accounted for the rest of the decisions.
"This was so much fun," heavyweight winner and Houghton County resident Brandon Mukavetz said after improving his career record to 2-0. "This is something I always wanted to try when I was younger, but they never had it up here back then. So tonight was great. I wanted to get a few fights underneath my belt just to say I did it."
Mukavetz, along with main-event and light-heavyweight champ Mike Verbeke (4-0), came away as the only two local winners of the five local participants.
Mukavetz had the crowd on their feet with an aesthetically pleasing match against Erik Delongchamp (Ishpeming) that saw both fighters on the (proverbial) ropes at times, before Mukavetz managed to earn a knockout with repeated blows to the head in the second round.
The victory, the second of Mukavetz's career after a knockout last September, proved to be a test of the heavyweight's raw fighting abilities as Mukavetz participated in no formal training leading up to the fight.
"I didn't do any training or nothing for this fight," Mukavetz said. "I just wanted to see what I could do. Since my last fight, not one bit (of training). I work out and hit the bag a bit at home, but I haven't actually gone to the MMA gym.
"I just wanted to see if I could win on my own."
The lack of training almost proved disastrous, as Mukavetz got taken down midway through the first round and was forced to fight off a rear-naked choke hold from Delongchamp.
"Those rear-naked chokes, I suck at getting out of them," Mukavetz said. "So I don't know what happened tonight. I guess it was the crowd or something. Because when he got me, I was thinking 'Oh (darn). But I got out of it, because I was like 'tonight, I ain't tapping out.'"
Mukavetz responded with controlled fury in the second round, earning a position on top of Delonchamp and raining blows on his opponent's head.
"He was one tough (opponent)," Mukavetz said. "I was so tired, he took so many (punches). I just kept laying on top of him, because I needed (a breath)."
Verbeke then capped the night off with a strong technical display in the main event.
A former state-qualified wrestler in high school, Verbeke traded blows with opponent Cody Biehl (Edmore, Mich.) for the first 30 seconds or so, before Biehl forced the match to the mat.
It was a mistake.
Verbeke quickly maneuvered himself on top, and when Biehl made the error of lifting his arm in an escape attempt, Verbeke seized it and rolled into an arm bar, forcing a submission less than one minute into the match.
"When he started pushing up into me I was able to grasp under his arm and I knew I could go straight for the arm bar," Verbeke, a student at Michigan Tech, said. "I went slow, and when we rolled I made sure I didn't (break) it there because I didn't know if he could tap-out very well. I'm too nice in the cage sometimes."
The submission improved Verbeke's amateur record to 4-0 on his quest to become a professional mixed martial arts fighter.
"This is a dream of mine," Verbeke said. "I have been dreaming it ever since I was in high school wrestling and I found out what UFC was. As I have come up here I have found some friends to help me realize this dream. So I want a couple more fights this summer, and go pro hopefully next summer, if I am ready."