With all the excitement and electricity in the air surrounding the Tillamook County Fairgrounds on June 1, some would have thought the rodeo or fair came early this year, but neither of those events were underway. The atmosphere of anticipation was for something entirely different. With the help of Tillamook Wrestling, the Mook Mat Club, Knucklehead Promotions and a multitude of generous sponsors, the fairgrounds were transformed into the venue for Tillamook’s second ever “Cage Fights in Tillamook” mixed martial arts event.
With the help of new fight promoter in Knucklehead Promotions, the venue was packed the evening was filled with one intense fight after another for the crowd to enjoy.
Another added bonus at this year’s event was the fact that because of the location and having such a strong wrestling program and great coaching in Tillamook, nine of the 13 fights on the card featured a hometown fighter, which added more emotion and excitement to the event. The crowd was on its feet time and time again screaming and cheering for their fighters, whether it be a son, brother, wife, best friend or just a kid from class. There was no doubt Tillamook County came through in a huge way to support their fighters, and the local fighters didn’t disappoint.
The first match up of the night, featured Tillamook local, Jeremy Coon. Coon was 0-1 in his MMA career going into the fight and admitted nerves got the better of him in his first loss, but he was ready this time.
Coon’s opponent was James Croghan from Union, Ore, who was making his fighting debut and Coon didn’t waste much time welcoming him to the stage. Coon got to Croghan’s back and Croghan was in trouble. Coon got in a rear naked choke and Croghan tapped at 1:21 in the first round.
“I knew what I was in for this time and I focused and stayed calm,” Coon said after the fight. “The only thing I would have changed is I wish it would have lasted longer. He got carried away with his boxing and I caught him with a stiff jab. Then he came in with a couple hooks and I went under it and took him down.”
The next Tillamook fighter to step into the cage was first time fighter, Dylan Hayes. Hayes graduated from Tillamook last year and he looked focused and ready when he stepped into the ring. Hayes was fighting a first time fighter Ryan Stauffer from Willamina and it looked to be a fairly well matched fight. But, Hayes used some good wrestling to get into position and tapped out Stauffer with a rear naked choke only 1:27 into the fight, putting Tillamook fightsers 2-0 in the first two bouts.
“I’m very excited about my fight,” Hayes said after his win. “I didn’t get to do a lot of what I wanted to do, but I still got the job done and the win in the first round so I feel very good about it.”
Hayes mentioned in the past that his mom and sister weren’t overly fond of the idea of him fighting, but after a big win in his debut fight, he’s already looking forward to the next one.
“Hopefully my next one will be one in a couple of months,” Hayes said. “Rex (Metcalfe) says there’s another fight coming up in September, but I might try and sneak one in before that.”
Tillamook’s third fighter of the evening was Theo Stellflug, who was 0-1 career coming into the fight. He was facing off against Shawn Ebensteiner from Willamina, who was in his first fight, but looked to be considerably older than Stellflug.
The fight was a grueling battle that lasted all three rounds and eventually went to the judge’s cards. Stellflug got the win by split decision, although he looked to have fairly well controlled most of the fight.
Tillamook’s fourth fighter of the night also graduated from high school in 2012. Tad “Not So” Lovely came into the cage and ended up getting a very tough match-up in Hadi Al-Awadh from Salem. Al-Awadh was 1-1 in his MMA career going into the fight and his experience showed. He managed to keep Lovely, who’s a wrestling specialist, on his feet and kept Lovely at a distance with long-range kicks and punches until the referee stopped the fight in the second round.
One of the most explosive and fastest fights of the night came when Tillamook native Adam “Trunk Monkey” Smith stepped into the cage to take on Kyle Adams from Springfield, Ore.
Smith admittedly has only been training for MMA for two months, whereas most fighters have been training much longer, but you could have fooled Adams. Smith came out in a ball of fire, throwing punches that Adams had no answer for. It didn’t take long for Smith to have Adams on the ground absorbing one fist after another until Smith earned the TKO 49-seconds into the fight.
“I didn’t know what to think when the fight was over other than “I just won this,” Smith said with a laugh after the fight. “It was my first time in there and I didn’t know what to expect. First time ever in the cage and first time I’ve actually ever been in a fight. I kinda surprised myself. I thought I’d wrestle a little more get to the ground, but I never thought it’d be a TKO.”
When asked what it was like putting on such a dominant performance in front of his home town crowd, Smith said he didn’t even realize people were watching until the fight had been over for a few seconds.
“I didn’t hear anything when I got into the cage,” Smith explained. “I totally zoned in.”
Tillamook’s next fighter was unlike any other Tillamook sent into the cage and the crowd responded with a roar louder than any others for her.
Lori “The Grim” Rieger was fighting in her first ever MMA fight, which she’s been training almost full time for months. She was matched up against Amy Croghan from Union, Ore, who was also making her MMA debut.
Rieger didn’t waste any time, immediately taking Croghan to the ground and unleashing a flurry a punches that left Croghan helpless. The referee stopped the fight and Rieger got the TKO in under a minute.
Post-fight, Rieger gave a lot of the credit for her victory to her coaches at a Mook Fight Club and Rise Above MMA for putting her through the tough workouts, which she says were the most important part of her performance.
“I’ve worked really hard at this and I’ve put a lot of effort and never skipped practice,” Rieger explained. “Everyone pushed me and I pushed myself and I knew if I was going to do this, I was going to go in there and win. Once the fight was over, I was thinking I just want another fight.”
Rieger was also motivated to fight so that young girls would see that MMA and wrestling are options for a woman, not just boys.
“I hope to inspire a few other young females in our area and hopefully get them in the wrestling program,” Rieger said. “I think it’s a really good opportunity and it keeps young girls out of trouble and gives them a focus. Nobody considers this for girls and there’s successful women who do it all over.”
A few fights after Rieger’s battle came another one of Tillamook’s favorites in John “The Rock” Garcia. Garcia is one of Tillamook’s more experienced fighters with a 7-2 record going into the bout, but Garcia was fighting an equally talented and even more experienced fighter in Ryan “Drago” Walker from Vancouver, Wash.
The two of them fought a very technical fight and while it’s well known Garcia almost always prefers to be on the ground rather than on his feet, Walker was just as comfortable on the mat. The two exchanged blows slightly but the majority of the fight was spent wrestling and much to the dismay of the crowd, Walker got the upper hand in the second round and slipped in a choke which Garcia couldn’t out of. Garcia had to tap and Walker got the win.
The next fighter out of Tillamook was 5-3 going into the fight. Allen Pucket has been training with Blend of Zen and looked like he was ready for a brawl. Unfortunately for Pucket, “Suga” Sean Soliz fighting out of Redmond, Ore was too much for Pucket to handle. Pucket looked solid in the first round and made it to the second, but had to tap due to a nasty triangle by Soliz.
When the main event rolled around, the crowd was absolutely stoked, with fans on their feet screaming like crazy for Tillamook’s own, Alex Jordan. Jordan’s fight was for the 185-pound Welterweight Title Belt and standing in his way Casey “Grinch” Lasley fighting out of Midtown MMA in Springfield, Ore.
The fight looked like a battle between two true beasts of men. The bodies and punches flew through the air faster and harder than they had all evening. It seemed as if every time there was a throw or the two went to the mat, Jordan ended up with the advantage. Lasley did all he could, but to the crowds enjoyment, Jordan ground and pounded him into submission until a Lasley couldn’t take it any more and screamed from under the punches, “I’m done!”, giving Jordan the title and the belt.
After the fight, Jordan was proudly sporting the belt and glad to have earned it in such dominant fashion.
“I was just trying to keep myself focused on what I’d been trained to do and get out there and do it,” Jordan said. “I knew he a jujitsu guy and I’d seen one video of him on YouTube to go off of so I didn’t have a whole lot of information other than he was big and strong.”
After the big win, Jordan will have added pressure to turn his amateur career into a pro career, but he’s still on the fence as to whether or not that’s the best plan for his future.
“The guy that trains me from Tualatin keeps pushing me to go pro, but it’s a big decision to make,” Jordan explained. “I’d have to move out of Tillamook. It’s something to think about and I’m not saying no, but I’m not saying yes right now.”
While the fights were a massive success for the fighters and the crowd, there were other winners on the evening. All the money taken for parking for the event is going to Tillamook Junior High Football and the admission and beer sales money from the roughly 700 people in attendance will be distributed between Knucklehead Fight Promotions, Tillamook Wrestling and Tillamook Fight Club, making the night more than just people beating each other up for fun.
“Overall the night was a huge success,”said fight organizer and Tillamook wrestling coach Rex Matcalfe. “Money was raised for youth wrestling and football in Tillamook and the success the Tillamook fighters had tonight is going to promote Tillamook Mat Club and Tillamook Wrestling in the future. If an event like this could bring out 100 more kids to wrestle in the next two years, that’d be great.
“I also want to take a second to thank all out great sponsors for the event. We couldn’t have ever put on such a great event without our great sponsered including Dr. Jim Bentley of Foundational Wellness Center for the great chiropractic work on the fighters, KTIL and Coast 105 for all the air time promoting the event, the Headlight Herald for the newspaper promotion, Bryce Smith for new fight gear, Body & Sole, Tillamook County Fairgrounds, Tillamook Country Smoker Outlet for selling tickets, Jesse Warner for singing the National Anthem and of course all the fighters for putting on a great show.”