LEWISTON — Mladin Holman had the courage to pack up his family and emigrate from war-ravaged Croatia to the United States 15 years ago.

Which makes it infinitely easier to understand why letting somebody lock the door of a mixed martial arts cage behind him at age 56 isn’t an overwhelming deal.

“He’s very emotional right now,” said Zordan Holman, a three-sport athlete at Cheverus High School, who was acting as his father’s interpreter. “He was fighting for some friends that he lost in the war. It’s been on his mind for quite some time. That’s why he was fighting out here today. He wanted to see what he has left.”

The answer: Enough to make the walls of the venerable Androscoggin Bank Colisee reverberate with cheers from the depths of a crowd’s collective soul, even if most likely were not acquainted with his complete life story.

And boos, directed at the referee who stopped Holman’s super heavyweight bout against Gravin Guillen midway through the second round, even as Holman clearly began fighting back.

“He felt very comfortable in the ring for having not been in there in 30 years,” Zordan Holman said. “He felt like the referee was just doing his job, but he wishes he had given him a little longer, because he felt like he was still in the fight. My dad felt like as the fight went on, he was stronger and stronger.”


Holman was the feel-good story of a 17-bout card also highlighted by a signature win for Dixfield’s Caleb Hall.

In a battle of past Maine high school wrestling champions, Hall (5-1) used his rapidly growing MMA repertoire to trigger a second-half barrage and score a technical knockout of Westbrook’s Dom Cofone.

The main event, a popular-demand rematch between champion Bruce Boyington of Bangor and Jesse Erickson of Auburn for the NEF lightweight title, was no contest.

Boyington (9-7) won even more convincingly than he did in his second-round stoppage in September, although it took until 3:02 of the third to seal the deal.

After keeping Erickson tied up on the mat throughout the opening round, Boyington doled out brutal ground-and-pound punishment in the next chapter.

Erickson tried stand-up in the third round, but that also played into the hands of Boyington, who fought in NEF’s initial boxing venture just over a month ago. After that clinic, he took the challenger down once again, gained control of Erickson’s left arm and shoulder and forced the submission.


Guillen, 27, of Somerville, Mass., was appearing in the cage for only the second time.

A year veteran of the United States Marine Corps, Guillen tipped the scales at 298.8 pounds. Holman weighed in at 254.8.

Each landed haymakers throughout the fight. On multiple occasions, Holman shook his head and came charging back at his younger foe, to the delight of the partisan throng.

“I give it all to him,” Guillen said. “If I’d have fought him 30 years ago at this age, he would have given me a run for my money. He got me a couple of times.”

Holman first took karate lessons at age 6 in his homeland.

He has trained in the full spectrum of disciplines that feed into MMA. He recently placed second in the world jiu-jitsu championship in the 50-and-over classification.


“He’s been a fighter his entire life. Even back home in Croatia, he was always fighting, and he wanted to do it again,” the younger Holman related. “He just wanted to show everybody that life is similar to fighting. Nothing is going to be given to you. You have to earn it. No matter how old you are, if you can move, if you can breathe, you can fight.”

Hall proclaimed the victory over Cofone, a top-10 lightweight in the northeast, as his biggest victory to date.

“I had to stop being a wrestler and become a mixed martial artist,” said Hall, who has moved to Portland and begin training at Choi Institute. “As a nine-fight veteran, (Cofone has) pretty much fought a who’s-who of the division.”

Grappling gave way to ground-and-pound, with Hall landing 20 unanswered shots to Cofone’s head before the referee waved it off.

“I’ve definitely improved my striking the most,” Hall said. “My cage confidence has increased with the fights I’ve had. I’ve been able to stay calmer in there.”

Two Lewiston fighters picked up their first pro wins in short order.


“Frosty” Brent Dillingham returned after a 20-month layoff and needed only 37 seconds to TKO Artie Mullen for his first pro heavyweight win.

Mullen, winless in 12 prior fights throughout New England, came charging out of the gate. Dillingham (1-1) dismissed the flailing punches and knocked the older opponent onto his stomach. After receiving a warning for landing punches to the back of the head, Dillingham finished it with a legal combination.

In his pro debut, Matt Denning locked in an armbar at 2:28 to defeat Derek Shorey after an intense first round.

“This next year is like a chess match for me,” the 24-year-old Denning said. “I have a four-fight contract. I’d like to rip through 135-pounders all the way up to Paul Gorman. But I’ve got to be smart. If I ever want to sign a contract with Bellator, Pride or someone like that, I can’t have a bad record.”

Dustin Veinott of Auburn notched his second consecutive victory, stopping Justin Witham by rear naked choke in the closing seconds of round one.

Holman and Mullen, 47,  were two of five fighters over the age of 40 to compete on the card. Rick Matthews, 44, of Bangor, and Heath Hanson, 41, of Augusta, also went down in defeat.

Victorious for the second time in as many fights was Camden Hills High School wrestling coach Pat Kelly, who gained the advantage with that acumen before stopping Auburn’s Steven Bang (3-2) with strikes in the third round.

It was a tough night for the Bang brethren. Sheldon Bang valiantly fought back from the brink of defeat twice in the opening round of his bout against Henry Clark before he was dispatched via triangle at 1:27 of the second.

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