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Review: ICF 24 may not have had the big stars but it still shined bright anyhow

Event only featured one pro fight yet had plenty of interesting amateur bouts

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221 Industries presented ICF 24 on Saturday in what was originally billed as the big spring event featuring several well-known area fighters. As often happens with MMA events, though, that didn’t quite happen.

We still got to see a solid fight card even if some of the stars who were first scheduled to appear — Sean O’Malley, Frank Ramsey and Tim Welch — were unable to fight. O’Malley is rehabbing an ankle injury and both Ramsay and Welch are recovering from nagging injuries that have kept them out for a while, too.

But, we did see one entertaining pro fight, Lloyd Woodard vs. Jake Roberts, and nine amateur bouts, the best arguably being Johnson Nasona defending his ICF title against Billings native Sam Guenther.

While we may never know what might have been, Cory Smith and company have to feel good about what they presented. In addition to the fights, the new raised entryway/video screens, smoke machines and colored lights added a nice touch that made it look more like a professional event, too.

With that, below are the positives I saw and the few negatives of ICF 24.

Positives

Being a Butte native, I must start by mentioning about how impressive the Mining City’s Alex Sexton looked as he whooped up on Ryan Scottfree.

For me there’s two kinds of tough, the regular kind and then Butte tough, which is on a higher level. Sexton showed that in spades on Saturday. Am I biased?  Sure. The truth of the matter, though, is that my hometown has a long history of being a place filled with strong people. Sexson very much looked the part this weekend.

While he made quick work of Scottfree, though, it was a snail’s pace compared to Chris Smyth. He knocked out Taylor Schuhen in five seconds by landing a brutal punch to his head/neck. It reminded me of the recent 13-second knockout Connor McGregor made on Jose Aldo in UFC 194 back in December. Smyth looked impressive and explosive all at once even if he was only in the ring for less than a minute.

Nasona Get the picture
Johnson Nasona celebrates after defeating Sam Guenthner on Saturday at ICF 24. Image courtesy of Get the Picture Photography

Another bright spot in the evening had to be the 170-pound fight between Ryan McCracken and Cody Reece. McCracken landed plenty of hard hits and showed why he has become a crowd favorite here before winning via submission. Afterward I found it inspiring to see McCracken’s family and friends gather around him in support of him in the audience. I know every fighter has a family, and a group of friends, but something about this display of love and gratitude gave me a tickle right in the feels.

As I mentioned above,  one of the most impressive showings was Nasona vs Guenthner. Simply because, for my money, Nasona is one of the best amateurs in the Pacific Northwest. I’ve seen him fight four times now and he’s impressed me each time. He now has an eight-fight win streak and Tapology ranks him the third highest amateur featherweight in the entire western US.

To Guenthner’s credit, he appeared to give Nasona a bit more of a challenge before ultimately getting TKO’d. He only lasted a round, but it appeared as if Nasona had a tougher time with him than some of his previous opponents.

His last fight I saw, for example, Nasona’s quickness and power was just too much to handle. His corner would advise him and he’d do it without any problem. Nasona eventually got to that point on Saturday, but Guenthner at the start appeared to prevent that from happening. He also avoided Nasona’s violent kicks I’ve seen others succumb to, also.

Smith said before the match this may be Johnson’s last amateur bout. It’ll be interesting to see if his success can carry over once he joins the pro ranks if he chooses to do so.

The last two positives I’ll mention also come with negatives, but let’s get to the bright spots first.

Connell Powers beats up on Richard Kohlman at ICF 24. Image courtesy of Get the Picture Photography
Conall Powers grounds and pounds Richard Kohlman at ICF 24. Image courtesy of Get the Picture Photography

Conall Powers, the 15-year-old son of Missoula Dogpound coach Matthew Powers, looked incredible in his debut bout against Richard Kohlman. He was quick, tenacious and scrappy. It was such a dominant showing that it makes his next bout on May 20 in Billings an absolute must-see by default. Powers still looks every bit of 15 but he’s one tough kid.

Then finally, Jake Roberts also put on a dominant display against Woodard, who lost via TKO in the second round. His hits were brutal and left Woodard reeling even as he attempted to play possum with his foe. For nearly every counter attack Woodard attempted, though, Roberts responded with a devastating blow to the head or body.

With that let’s get to the brief few down sides to the night.

Negatives

Yesterday I spoke to my friend, who I consider to be an MMA guru, about the event. He said most of the fights were solid but said he felt like there were two “subpar” matches — Powers vs. Kohlman and the amateur heavyweight bout featuring Spurr Roundstone against Germey Kennedy.

The crowd agreed as it took to booing Roundstone and Kennedy during the second and third rounds mostly because they weren’t doing much of anything. The first round at least had a little action but it fatigued both fighters to the point where the rest of the match fell flat. Kennedy ended up winning by a decision, but it wasn’t the greatest match in the world. Both fighters have fought in competitive matches beofre, so maybe this was just a one-time occurrence.

Alex Sexton is declared the winner vs. Ryan Scottfree at ICF 24. Image courtesy of Get the Picture Photography
Alex Sexton is declared the winner vs. Ryan Scottfree at ICF 24. Image courtesy of Get the Picture Photography

Now, Powers vs. Kohlman presented a different problem. Kohlman has not won an amateur match in 11 tries. Pitting him against Powers, someone who has been groomed to be a great fighter by his dad, seemed like a mismatch in the making, and indeed that’s what happened. Kohlman left the arena in a stretcher and likely suffered a concussion. As much fun as it was to see Powers dominate, it was also difficult to see Kohlman undergo the punishment that he did.

Finally, some people watching Woodard get brutalized by Roberts may have wondered why the ref didn’t call the match as soon as Woodard started showing signs that maybe he wasn’t completely there anymore.

However, in pro matches that’s not what the ref is supposed to do. Unless a fighter is blacked out or gets word from the corner that he was throwing in the towel, the ref in a pro match will keep the fight going.

Now without pointing any fingers, someone maybe could have stopped it before Woodard got lit up in the way he did. I left the ExpoPark feeling bad for Woodard and wondering if he was going to be OK. I know he’s a pro and he got paid well to be there, but that doesn’t preclude him from being a human who had to undergo a lot of pain in the process.

Woodard ultimately looked old and confused in the ring while Roberts looked sharp, focused and intense.

As strange as it may be to say it, Woodard, just 31-years-old, might be nearing the end of his career. Since March 2011, he’s lost seven matches while only winning three. Perhaps the argument could be made that he’s also faced tougher competition — five of those fights were against foes in the national Bellator promotion — but still if I were on team Woodard right now I’d still be asking some tough questions.

Maybe we’ll see him recover, maybe we won’t, only time will tell. Here’s hoping he doesn’t sustain lasting injuries from this fight, though.

And with that I’ll wrap things up and say overall I think ICF 24 was a success even if there were a few small bumps in the road. Going forward, Smith said during the event that there won’t be as many fights in 2016 as there was last year, but I believe that could be a good thing. Maybe instead of eight decent events we’ll get three or four incredible ones. No matter, though, I look forward to seeing what comes next.

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