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Despite a few non-fights, ICF 16 to go down as a success

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Jared Toregson, left, takes on Leo "Bushido" Bercier at ICF 16 in Great Falls.
Jared Toregson, left, takes on Leo “Bushido” Bercier at ICF 16 in Great Falls.

With ICF 16, 221 Industries’ held a collection of fights that kept viewers on the edge of their seats on Friday night at the Pacific Steel and Recycling Four Seasons Arena, with a few exceptions.

It helps when you had what could maybe be described as one of the greatest fights we’ve ever seen at Four Seasons Arena. At least in the top five. At least.

It was a fight that saw Leo Bercier going the distance with ICF belt holder Jared Torgeson before losing in a judge’s decision. Bercier lost, but he left his heart and soul in the ring.

Firstly, though, I need to quickly mention one problem with what went down that could have affected the ability to do my job.

I preface this by saying I know it has no consequence on 99 percent of the people in the sell-out crowd who attended the show, however, it needs to be said.

221 Industries needs to do a better job at getting people the proper access once inside the venue.

When I got to the arena, I was left waiting and wondering for a good 20 minutes whether I would get into the press section.

The security guards said I didn’t have a wrist-band. I saw other members of the press inside without wristbands. Confused, I was finally able to get inside once a friend of mine who helps out with 221 Industries, who guided me in.

Once the action started to heat up, however, I quickly forgot about my troubles getting into the arena and had a great time.

Leo Bercier at ICF 16
Leo Bercier at ICF 16

The undercard, it could be argued, overall had better fights than the main card, with one huge exception in the main title fight. A battle, as I said earlier, will easily go down as the fight of the night and, perhaps the year.

But, before that we had some talented, brave and entertaining amateurs going toe-to-toe with one another.

Instead of going through each fight blow-by-blow, because, let’s be honest, if you wanted to know everything about each fight you would’ve probably gone to the show, I’ll sum up what stuck out to me with the undercard.

The upset of the night had to go to Jesse Cummins, who defeated John Spottleagle of Polson. It appeared as if Spottleagle had an easy victory after throwing down what I would consider the suplex of the night on Cummins, and then getting him right where he wanted him in a submission move. Cummins, however, instead escaped the submission and was able to earn a TKO against his large foe.

It was a thrilling fight with a nice finish.

Another fight that may have seemed like a bit of an upset was Daniel Augure defeating crowd favorite Cody Vukasin via submission.

Whereas Vukasin had the momentum early on, Augure dug in and didn’t give up after getting taken down by Vukasin in the second round.

In the final round, Augure appeared to hurt Vukasin, as he begun holding his head. He soon got him in a submission move and won via tap-out. Both fighters did a nice job at doing damage to the other fighter. I, while not an MMA expert by any means, had no idea who was going to win until the very end.

With the last big amateur match of the night, here’s where I’ll get into my first real bit of critique.

Firstly, though, Sean “Sugar” O’Malley, is a beast. And only 19 years old. He’s fast, he’s strong and he’s got guts.

If you hadn’t heard, the fighter he faced on Friday, Brandon Caldwell of Helena, agreed to step up and face him 10 hours before the fight was scheduled to take place.

Just so we’re clear, I had no problem with the fight.

Two of O’Malley’s previous opponents backed out due to injury, and a fill-in was found at the last minute in Caldwell, who has to be the bravest guy in Montana at this point.

During the match, however, O’Malley’s body language made it hard for me to root for him.

It probably didn’t help O’Malley that after hearing what Caldwell did, I wanted to see him win, too, because he was such a big underdog. That, together with his almost “know-it-allish” mannerisms, made O’Malley come across a little too much like Ivan Drago to me.

That might be over-exaggerating a bit, but, O’Malley’s body language during the fight didn’t show any kind respect.

Which is fine, but he had to know that the dude he was facing didn’t have to be there. He was doing him a favor, one in which Caldwell was sacrificing his own body for the sake of the show.

I don’t know, obviously, the relationship the two fighters have, and perhaps I was misreading O’Malley, but I’m sticking to my critique.

It was, however, a classy move after the fight when Cory Smith got on the microphone and called Caldwell back into the ring to invite the crowd to give him an applause while explaining that he agreed to face O’Malley on such short notice after two of his opponents went down with an injury, the last one almost at the last possible minute.

On his Facebook post, Smith said of it all,

“Brandon Caldwell is a legend for what he did tonight. Taking a fight against a phenom like Sean O’Malley on 10 hours notice and going to the 2nd.”

You knew, watching it, as well, that O’Malley was the favorite. He was just too good and too conditioned to give Caldwell a real shot at besting him. But, he did his best anyhow

And, I don’t think O’Malley is anything but a spectacular fighter. I’ve talked to him after ICF, and he seems like a well-adjusted young man. Plus, he really is a stud in the making.

I just wished his in-ring attitude was a little more respectful, is all.

And with that, at least with O’Malley’s fight we got to see the fighters go at it, as the next two fights weren’t really much fights at all.

Just as the announcer, the wonderful Bob Sather, who was amazingly consistent all night, finished announcing the names of Blake Green and Brandon Bailey, Green got Bailey in an armbar and the match was over — 26 seconds into the fight.

The same could be said for Welch’s match vs. Kerry Lattimer, who was clearly outmatched from the start. Welch had him tap out in an arm bar submission in 37 seconds.

Now, I can understand a little about what happened with this fight.

Smith originally had Frank Ramsey scheduled to fight, but he had to back out due to an injury. Ramsey  did, however, referee most of the undercard, which was nice to see him in the ring, at least. Here’s hoping he has a quick recovery and is back to fighting soon.

So, Welch probably agreed to take part in ICF 16, perhaps as a favor to Smith, and because, as he’s been quoted as saying in interviews, he genuinely loves coming back to Great Falls to fight in front of his hometown.

You can’t hate on a guy who comes back for that, even if he perhaps knew his opponent wasn’t in his same league. It’s all speculation on whether he did know, or not, but I’m inclined to think he knew he’d make short work of Lattimer.

Perhaps we should be thankful that we got to see him fight, but, it still wasn’t ever a contest.

That hardly mattered, however, because the main event more-than made up for it.

The main event saw Leo Bercier coming out for blood against one of his rivals, the 185-pound ICF belt holder Jared Torgeson of Washington.

Torgeson defeated Bercier in 2012 in ICF 6 and had retained the belt since then.

Both fighters gave their all for the entire five rounds of mixed martial arts fighting. They put on a hell of a show; one you don’t see every day.

Bercier would land a blow, then Torgeson would, and then Bercier would come back with another, and Torgeson would come back, all while the crowd enthusiastically chanted “Leo, Leo, Leo.”

Most of the match, except for a brief period in the fifth round, took place with both fighters on their feet. It felt like an old-school boxing match, with a few kicks and grapple attempts thrown in for good measure.

The 4th round ended just as Torgeson was going in for a blow to Bercier, which made him, perhaps instinctively yell, “One More Round!”

As the last round started, the mood in the Four Seasons Arena was electric. We were witnessing two hungry competitors going to battle one another, with only one coming out on top with the belt.

Both Bercier and Torgeson’s faces were bloodied. Both fighters were doing their best to avoid the monster blows the other was throwing.

Nearly any regular person would be knocked out cold if only one of those blows would have connected. The fact that they were able to both evade so many, and survive the ones that did connect, made it pure bliss to watch as a viewer.

Finally, with the last round coming to a close, both fighters ended the match putting their arms up, sure that they were the victors.

When it was all said and done, the judges awarded Torgeson the belt, even if Bercier did all he could to take it from him.

And while it might not have been Ali vs. Foreman, for my money it still was one for the ages.

After the fight, I ran into Terrill Bracken, the head promoter of Fusion Fight League in Billings. He agreed with me that Bercier had nothing to be ashamed of, and that he’d much rather see a fighter lose a close match to a worthy foe than be given the victory by “a can of tomatoes,” as Bracken put it.

And thus, overall, I think Smith can proudly say that they’ve again put on another successful fight card. It’s a bit concerning that they weren’t able to find another foe for O’Malley after both Jake Marshall and Jake Blaski of Seattle were scratched due to injury.

But, really that’s not a bad problem to have, in a sense. You’ve got one of the best amateur fighters in the region on your card and you can’t find anyone who’s good enough to give him a real challenge. I’d say that’s a problem a lot of promoters would love to have.

Just, as a fight fan, we always want to see the best go up against the best. It’s not always going to happen, so when we do see it, it’s all the more special.

Lastly, a part of me still dreams of the day when Montana’s best pro fighters got to face one another.

Now, don’t jump on me about it because I DO know it’s not feasible. I also know it won’t likely happen anytime soon for a whole host of reasons.

However, I can’t be the only person who thinks it’d be cool to see happen. Especially if it means we got some high-quality contests.

That’s all for now!

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