SEBRING — The people of Sebring have embraced the sport of mixed martial arts and it was evident Saturday night at the Highlands Today Center, as a large crowd turned out to watch Sebring Swamp Brawl II. Fight fans saw a bit of everything, including knockouts, split decisions and a state record.
Avon Park’s captured his debut fight at 155 pounds, winning a split decision over John Hubbert in a kick-boxing match. Hubbert had an early advantage, but Baldridge’s never-surrender attitude that he displayed as a member of the Red Devils’ wrestling team was evident in the third round when he came back and did enough to get the judge’s decision.
“It feels amazing,” Baldridge said. “He had good boxing skills and he caught me a few times.”
Sebring’s Justin Chin lost his kickboxing match to a tough customer in Fernando Velasquez, as Velasquez scored a second-round TKO, but he had plenty of positives for Chin after the fight.
“It feels like I just took a damn beating in the ring,” Velasquez said. “He’s a great fighter.”
Devin Paulk defeated Sebring’s Hale Kelly by decision at 180 pounds.
Several other Sebring fighters were unable to compete in their matches, as Noah Weed decided not to compete in order to let an old ankle completely heal before turning pro in 2015.
Chris Miller, whose company, Chris Miller Marine Construction sponsored the fight, saw his scheduled opponent back out with a late injury and had to play the role of spectator.
Donny Bush may hail from outside of Highlands County, but the Okeechobee fighter had plenty of supporters and they left happy after he scored a first-round stoppage of Murc Jones in the main event of the evening. It was the final amateur bout for both fighters and earned Bush the Sebring Swamp Brawl II middleweight belt.
Bush improved his amateur record to 11-3, while Jones fell to 7-3.
The other belt that was up for grabs was in the heavyweight division and Shane O’ Shea stopped Perry Hayes in the second round to take home the belt.
“I was coming off the first loss of my career and I really wanted this one,” O’ Shea said.
Heavyweight Andreas Danapas, from Greece, set a Florida state record when he scored a stoppage just four seconds into the match against Jon Taylor in the debut matches for both fighters.
Ralph Jordan captured his debut match, winning a split decision over Ammos Merriweather in a match that Jordan looked to have won with relative ease. Despite shaking his head when a split decision was announced, he was pretty happy when he was named the winner.
“It feels good,” he said. “I hope I can come back here and fight again.”
Scott Thompson defeated Ian Fews by first-round stoppage in the opening match of the evening and Jauanis Ross won his debut match with a second-round stoppage of Dalton Gant.
Junaid “the Sheik” Ahmed improved to 3-0 with an impressive victory in notching a first-round submission against Steven Cole at 170 pounds.
Emanuel Bernard scored a first-round stoppage against Duane Barker at 135 pounds.
“I’ve been training my whole life to prove to myself that I could do this,” Bernard said.
Chris Loforte scored a decision over Nhimke Burns in a solid match at 145 pounds and Stevie Warren scored a second-round victory by submission when Charles Fountain suffered an eye injury during a tie-up.