Ricky Dexter of Bangor and Ryan Glover of Rumford, each defeated in a previous push for one of the sanctioning body’s entry-level belts, took advantage of their second opportunities in a different weight class.

Lisbon’s Johnny Crafts, sidelined for six months due to knee surgery and then further stymied by September and November opponents who withdrew at the last minute, stayed undefeated and now has the bling to back it up.

Their persistence paid dividends before an appreciative crowd of more than 2,000 at Androscoggin Bank Colisee, which witnessed a diverse sampling of combat sports for the second consecutive NEF card. Three professional boxing matches, six pro cage fights and 17 amateur MMA battles provided the punch.

It was all upstaged by what was, defying all arguments, the definitive fight in NEF’s four-year history. In what was billed as “The Battle of Bangor,” Bruce Boyington (13-8) of Young’s MMA successfully defended his NEF pro lightweight title via split decision over Jon Lemke (5-4) of Team Irish.

All three judges scored the classic 48-47, two of them for Boyington, who told the crowd he injured both hands in what was a hellacious, stand-up first round for both combatants.

“Lemke fought his heart out, and that could have gone either way,” Boyington said. “It just as easily could be me watching them put the belt around his waist. I’m ready too do it again, so whatever.”

The challenger’s best chance to end the fight came in the final minute of the fourth round. but Boyington countered with a flurry at the bell that brought both sides of the bipartisan throng to its feet.

“I felt like I hit him with some good shots,” Lemke said. “Sometimes it goes your way and sometimes it doesn’t.”

In the boxing main event, Brandon “The Cannon” Berry (11-1) of West Forks took out Tollison Lewis (2-1) by technical knockout at 1:51 of the second round. It was scheduled for eight.

Berry’s entourage of several hundred supporters from the Upper Kennebec River Valley had a happy ride home.

Lewis wasn’t shy about pushing the issue against the vastly more experienced Berry, but he left himself wide open for what was a 40-punch finale.

“Tollison deserves as much applause as I got,” Berry said. “That’s the biggest crowd I’ve ever had for a fight.”

Dexter (5-2) bulked up to carve out his triumph by technical knockout at 2:20 of the first round over Caleb Farrington (3-1) of Farmington at the 170-pound welterweight threshold. He previously fell victim to Josh Harvey’s opening-round arm bar in a crack at the lightweight belt.

“It means so much. I had a mental breakdown the first time I fought for a title. I just lost my head,” Dexter said. “It was a big fight for me so early in my career. I wasn’t ready for it. Now, everything has slowed down. Everything I thought in my mind that I was going to do, I did. It all came together.”

He was wary of Farrington’s power, since the higher weight was a traditional domain for the former Mt. Blue High School football player and wrestler. It was Dexter, however, who knocked Farrington to his knees with a barrage of overhand rights, punctuated by a left hook.

Farrington courageously fought to his feet and threw a few token shots in retaliation, but Dexter kept up the assault and forced the stoppage.

“I was feeling it. I could hear it connecting,” Dexter said. “He didn’t want to go down. He went down once. I thought I’d finished him.”

Although he isn’t certain he will stay at 170, Dexter is convinced that he learned the necessary lessons from the back-to-back losses in his rearview mirror.

“It wasn’t that I got beat skill-wise. I got beat mentally. I just wasn’t ready for that caliber of fight. That comes with experience inside the cage,” he said. “I got my mental game together, put it all together, and it came out beautifully.”

Glover had a similar epiphany in his June 2015 bid for the NEF amateur heavyweight title. Against the wishes of his Berserkers MMA camp, he elected to slug it out and lost a close decision to the much taller Billy Leahy.

After dispatching his autumn comeback opponent with ease, Glover dropped more than 30 pounds, evidence of a commitment to training that paid dividends with Saturday’s second-round finish of Mike Williams.

“Originally I took the fight at 210, and then Matt (Peterson, NEF co-owner and matchmaker) offered us a title shot at 205. I said, ‘I’ll try. It’s going to be a stretch.’ I definitely had to work way harder for that extra five pounds,” Glover said. “When I sat down on the stool, I recovered a lot better than I usually do. It helped us get a little better game plan for the next round.”

Glover nearly stopped Williams, fighting out of Central Maine Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu in Lewiston, with a fusillade of strikes at the end of round one.

He locked in an arm bar and earned the tap at 1:12 of the second.

“I didn’t really want to go to the ground with him. I don’t know why I’m always skeptical of my ground game. I have a wrestling background, and I’m still skeptical, but it paid off tonight,” Glover said. “I popped him a few times when his head was on the mat. He definitely paid for taking me down.”

Crafts collected the 135-pound bantamweight belt with a relentless, ground-and-pound attack for two rounds, capped by a stand-up combination to finish Henry Clark at 37 seconds of the third.

“It kind of puts a target on me,” Crafts said of the victory. “I have an excuse to fight the best guys. It kind of puts me in a spot to (advance in) my amateur career and fight the better guys.”

He was thrilled to be in the cage for the first time in 364 days. Most of that layoff was the result of a torn meniscus in Crafts’ left knee.

“It really gave me time to focus on myself and my technique again. My striking was lacking,” Crafts said. “I think jiu-jitsu won me the match. I think the striking I’ve done in the past year really helped my confidence.”

In other MMA highlights, Erin Lamonte (6-0) needed only 1:24 to back up her previous victory over Randi Beth Boyington (1-3) via rear naked choke; Zach Elkins used a guillotine choke to deny Mike Hansen of Rumford at 3:12 of the first round in a pro bout at 185 pounds; and Rafael Velado edged Mike Peitersen by split decision in a back-and-forth opener.

Crowsneck Boutin of Lubec and Joel Bishop of Clinton scrapped to a four-round draw in a light heavyweight clash on the boxing undercard. It was the second draw in as many fights for Bishop and the boxing debut for Boutin, who made his mark in NEF as its MMA fighter of the year in 2014.

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