Cage Fury Fighting Championships 19 – Sullivan, Santella Retain Belts, Hope for UFC Call
By Harold E. Kemp
George Sullivan and Sean Santella did more than enough to defend their Cage Fury
Fighting Championships belts Saturday night.
Whether they did enough to earn admission to the UFC remains to be seen.
Sullivan battered previously unbeaten and former “The Ultimate Fighter” contestant
Julian Lane en route to a second-round TKO in the welterweight championship bout,
and Santella outlasted veteran Anthony Figueroa to earn a five-round unanimous
decision victory in the flyweight title tilt at CFFC 19 at the Borgata Hotel and Casino
in Atlantic City.
Both fighters hope a call from MMA’s top organization is next.
“This feels great, the best feeling in the world,” Sullivan said after improving his
record to 12-3 with a second title defense. “Now it’s either Cage Fury or I go up to
the UFC. I don’t know what’s going to happen.”
After being tagged by Lane’s looping punches in the first round, Sullivan began
finding his range in the second. Punishing overhand rights and a jab backed the
challenger against the cage, where a series of left hooks forced Dan Miragliotta to
intervene at the 2:30 mark.
“It was throwing me off how fast (Lane) was,” said Sullivan, who credited new coach
Mike Skowronski with improving his standup skills. “Once I rocked him with the jab,
I saw him wheeze. It was the jab that really hurt him.”
The knockout was the second in three fights and eighth overall for the champion,
a Kurt Pellegrino protégé fighting out of Belmar, NJ. Lane, from Mansfield, Ohio,
fought without the distinctive Mohawk that he wore on TUF 16 and saw his record
fall to 4-1.
Santella predicted an early submission win against Figueroa but couldn’t quite finish
the cautious Californian. After a slow start, Santella worked Figueroa into a triangle
in the third round and later took his back, only to run out of time.
Known as “Shorty Rock,” the champion took Figueroa down in the fourth round and
nearly secured an arm bar. The judges scored the fight 49-46, 49-46, 48-47.
“I knew that when I got him to the ground I could finish him, but I just didn’t have
enough time,” Santella said. “It’s just something I have to work on. If I have a guy
like that who won’t initiate or engage, I have to get him in a clinch. You take away
something from a win or a loss and that’s what going to make you come back
Santella, who is coached by Mike Constantino of AMA Fight Club in Whippany,
improved his record to 12-3-1. Figueroa, who went 3-2 in Strikeforce, fell to 6-7-1.
While pleased to defend his belt, Santella – a submission specialist with eight wins
on the ground — said he has more work to do to break into the UFC’s new flyweight
“With the UFC I need to have more confidence,” he said. “It’s not even working
on my standup as much as it’s the confidence. Each fight I’m getting a little more
confident. Once I get past that I think I’m going to be a whole different fighter.”
In a third championship fight of the evening, Artur “The Albanian Nightmare” Rofi
(6-0) stayed unbeaten and claimed the vacant CFFC featherweight crown by choking
out Lester Caslow (8-7) in the second round.
The show of mutual contempt between the fighters started at the weigh-in and
continued throughout the bout. However, Rofi worked his way into a full mount
early in the second and, after a scramble, locked up a head and arm choke to force
the tap at 2:47.
In his post-fight comments, Rofi dedicated the fight to his grandmother who is
battling cancer in Albania.
The other three fights on the main card ended in stoppages.
Late replacement Dervin Lopez tapped Michael Wilcox with a second-round triangle
choke; Jared “Flash” Gordon landed a perfect right hand to the cheek of Robert
Fabrizi to earn the second-round KO; and Jordan Stiner defeated Kenny Rivera by
unanswered strikes in the third.
The undercard fights included Andy Main’s rear-naked choke victory against Sylvain
Bynam. It was the first fight in nearly two years for Main (6-1).
Brian Collins also earned a hard fought decision against Alfred Alo, and in a women’s
bout, Jamie Lowe stopped Sumie Sakai in the third.