Dominating performances by Dundalk natives Adam Rabuck and Sean Kelly topped a big Saturday night for the local mixed-martial arts school, Practical MMA. The pair claimed "Submission of the night" and "Knockout of the night" honors, respectively, at Stellar Fights V in Harrington, DE.
Kelly got things rolling for Practical MMA in the second fight of the night against Joey Lilly, of Twin Impact MA, at 183 pounds. As soon as the bell rang, Kelly used his height advantage to land several leg and body kicks against Lilly.
The kicks gave Kelly confidence to open up with a barrage of punches that quickly had Lilly on the run.
“At the beginning of the fight I just wanted to feel him out,” Kelly said. “He caught me with a good leg kick, but I was able to check it. Then I just started throwing my hands, he didn't seem to have an answer for that.”
The stalked his opponent around the cage until he cornered him again, peppering him with three- and four-punch combinations. Frustrated, Lilly was unable to land a single punch in the contest and spent most of the bout in a defensive posture as far from Kelly as he could get.
“He kept covering up,” Kelly said. “I was going to try to stick and move, but he wasn't throwing any punches so I just kept attacking with my hands. I wish I could have thrown head kicks [not allowed in amateur bouts]. When he was covering up, he was definitely in range for for the head kick.”
Finally, after a devastating uppercut, Kelly landed a right hook that dropped Lilly to the canvas. Kelly, who saw that his opponent was knocked out, displayed sportsmanship by not following Lilly to the mat and punishing him more. When Lilly had trouble regaining his feet, the referee called the match, a one-minute TKO, earning Kelly, "Knockout of the Night" honors.
“We are all here to be safe,” Kelly said. “When you're in that cage, you get really angry and want to fight your opponent, but at the end of the day we are just two guys doing something most people would never do. Once I saw he was out I saw no reason to follow it up with more shots.”
Chris Clark, a Practical MMA instructor who teaches mixed martial arts at two nights a week, fought Bruce Baker in the fourth fight of the evening at 154 pounds.
Stellar Fights V, which was held in tribute to the memory of 9/11 and sponsored by the U.S. Marine Corps, held special significance for Baker, who served two tours of duty in Iraq as a Marine.
“I was a senior in high school when I watched the towers come down,” Baker said. “That motivated me to join the Marine Corps. I specifically volunteered for the infantry to serve in Iraq.”
Both fighters showed good defensive stand-up skills to start the fight, slipping the offensive attacks of the other fighter. Baker decided to take the fight to the ground with a quick double-leg takedown. Unfazed, Clark regrouped and swept Baker to take the dominate position.
Baker saw an opening and was able to catch Clark in a leg triangle, smothering the Dundalk fighter. While Clark was defending the triangle lock, Baker transitioned to an arm bar forcing Clark to tap out.
“From the video footage I've seen of him I was expecting some wide swinging hooks. I was not expecting him to shoot,” Clark said. “I threw a lazy kick and he took me down. When he had me in the triangle I tried to stack him up and get out of it, but he transitioned beautifully to an arm bar. This fight got the rust off my game, and I'm ready to get back in there.”
Rabuck fought in the first bout—a brief one at that—following intermission against Ryan Long, of Olympia Fight Club, at 200 pounds. The two combatants circled each other before Long threw a looping left hook that Rabuck ducked, and then using his momentum, slammed Long to the mat.
Long grabbed Rabuck's head and tried to turn him in a headlock, exposing his own back in the process. Rabuck wasted no time in slapping a rear, naked choke on his opponent.
Long fought desperately to breathe with Rabuck's arms wrapped around his neck, but he refused to tap out, finally losing consciousness and ending the fight. That gave Rabuck a 25-second submission, a Stellar Fights record and the award for Submission of the Night.
“I took him to the ground, got his neck and tried to choke the life out of him,” Rabuck said. “I didn't think I had the choke applied right because he wasn't tapping. The next thing I knew he was unconscious. I have to hand it to him for not tapping. He is a warrior."
The Practical MMA team trains at Norwood Elementary Tuesdays and Thursdays from 8–10 p.m., and new students are always welcome, the fighters said. Meanwhile, Rabuck, Clark and Kelly are all looking to take another amateur fight as soon as possible.
Method MMA, in Forest Hill, was the only other Maryland school to participate in the contest. Maik Ferrante, who grew up in the neighborhood of Dundalk, but now lives in northern Harford County, submitted Trevor Howard with a rear naked choke in Ferrante's MMA debut, which came at 167 pounds.
“Maik stuck with the game plan tonight,” Method MMA coach Eddie Abney said. “With his high school wrestling background and the Brazilian Ju-Jitsu training he can go far.”
In the co-main event, Method MMA fighter Kevin Baughman submitted Branden Hudson with a hammerlock in the first period at 175 pounds. Hudson knocked Baughman to the mat with a solid hook, but was unable to finish him.
“Kevin has hands of cement,” Abney said. “But we weren't looking to stand and trade with him. No one has a ground game that can compare to ours. I knew all he needed was one takedown and the fight would be over.”