LEWISTON — Veterans of UFC, Bellator, WEC, NFL, Navy, Army and the Marine Corps. Oh, and an athlete who has actually been on the other side of the operating table.

Diversity of life skill and fighting persuasion, complete with a pervasive local flavor, makes New England Fights XVI one of the mixed martial arts organization’s most anticipated cards to date.

As of Friday afternoon, five professional bouts and 21 amateur scraps are on Saturday’s docket at Androscoggin Bank Colisee. Opening bell is scheduled for 6:30 p.m.

NEF officially launches its fourth year of operation with two title fights atop the card.

Ray “All Business” Wood (5-0), a native of Bucksport now living in South Carolina, puts his featherweight belt on the line for the second time against well-traveled veteran Anthony “Cheesesteak” Morrison (16-9). In the heavyweight division, second-generation pro football player Tyler King (7-2) defends against Terry Blackburn (5-2).

“I’m excited for this fight. I have absolutely nothing to lose,” Wood, who won the title at Darling’s Waterfront Pavilion in Bangor in July 2013, said in a press release. “Anthony Morrison has fought some of the best fighters in the world, and I have an opportunity to make a statement with this fight. I have respect for Anthony and where he’s been in this sport, and I am honored to have the opportunity to fight him.”


King is the son of Steve King, who spent nine years with the New England Patriots from 1973 to 1981. Tyler played at the University of Connecticut before stints with the San Diego Chargers and St. Louis Rams. He beat Travis Bartlett by submission to win the title in his first and only previous NEF appearance in May 2013.

Blackburn, of Winter Park, Fla., is trained by Windham native and fellow NEF contender Jamie Harrison.

“Every fighter dreams of this opportunity in his career, and Tyler King is my opposition to try and stop me from fulfilling that dream that NEF has so graciously afforded me,” Blackburn said. “It will not be a wasted opportunity.”

Philadelphia’s Nah-Shon Burrell (11-4), last seen taking a decision loss from Michael “Venom” Page at Bellator 128, takes on Ryan Hodge (6-9) in a crossroads pro middleweight bout.

Burrell also was victorious in the UFC cage only two years ago.

“I’m excited to fight for the first time in Maine. It wasn’t too long ago that I was considered a top prospect in MMA,” Burrell said. “I’ve fought all over the country for the biggest promotions in the sport, and I’m thankful to NEF for giving me the chance to reclaim my spot. Hodge is a tough bull. I promise we’ll put on a show.”


The other two professional bouts feature tri-county combatants.

Mike Hansen (1-1), one of three past wrestling state champions from Mountain Valley High School in Rumford on Saturday’s card, takes on venerable Artie Mullen (1-13) in a heavyweight throw-down.

“Rumford-Mexico, and Dixfield, we’re all a proud, hardworking breed of people,” Hansen, who graduated from the school in 2004, said. “It is my responsibility and others’ to go out and show what we are capable of, be true to our region. We are an athletic community and always have been.”

Auburn’s Matt Denning (1-0) takes on Jovan White (1-6) at 135 pounds.

After an amateur career in which he tested himelf against the likes of Dom Cofone and Jeremy Tyler, Denning made a successful pro debut in September, stopping Derek Shorey via armbar.

“This fight is going to be exciting. I’m bringing everything I have,” Denning said. “I see the fight ending in the first by either TKO or submission. I’ll show how powerful I am.”


Hansen’s fellow MVHS products Kris Welch (2001) and Ryan Glover (2011) will make their amateur debuts.

Welch takes on Jimmy Jackson of Bangor-based Young’s MMA at 145 pounds, while heavyweight Glover, a former Sun Journal high school football player of the year who also races stock cars locally, faces fellow newcomer Jason Field.

“I’m hoping it opens some eyes and brings more fighters to the area to train with us,” Glover said. “My wrestling background has helped me with my ground game and left me more time to brush up on my boxing.”

Two other notable locals, Caleb Hall (5-1) of Dixfield and 2014 NEF rookie of the year Johnny Crafts (2-0) of Lisbon, look to continue their winning ways.

Hall, billed as part of NEF’s “new blood” in its poster for the event, squares off against Josh Harvey at 145, while Crafts locks up with Mike Crespo (also 2-0) at 135.

“One of us will be walking away with their first loss, and I am confident it will not be me,” Crafts said.


Three members of Auburn’s Bang family — Steve Sr., Steve Jr., and Sheldon — are on the card.

Steve Bang Sr. will get the most attention for his non-traditional journey to the cage. A 46-year-old bariatric surgeon, Bang makes his MMA debut against Matthew Hanning.

Sheldon Bang (1-1) is scheduled to open the card against Carl Langston, while Steve Bang Jr. (3-2) is paired with Jason Lachance.

Farmington’s Caleb Farrington (1-0) will face Brandon Russell at 180 pounds. In the heavyweight ranks, Billy Leahy (1-1) of South Paris confronts Brandon Lessard. Dustin Veinott (2-3), a Central Maine Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu stablemate of Denning and the Bangs, battles Dave Brown at 125.

Tickets remain available starting at $25. Go to www.thecolisee.com or call 783-2009 ext. 525.


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