HUNTER ARMY AIRFIELD, Ga. - Hunter Army Airfield hosted a night of mixed martial arts, with the Labor Day Brawl 2010 at the Tominac Fitness Center, Sept. 4. With 10 fights on the card, the audience was in for a night of all-out brawling, a title bout and Ultimate Fighting Championship guests.
The night began with Daniel St. Juste (2-1) taking on Marine Chris McPhearson (1-1). After St. Juste entered the arena with his cornermen, McPhearson entered with his - including a couple of special guests, familiar to UFC fans. Walking right behind McPhearson was Don House, UFC cornerman-extraordinnaire, and former All-Army boxer. Just behind House was Jacob Duran, better known to UFC fans as "Stitch," the UFC cutman; and UFC fighter Houston Alexander. House checked McPhearson's hand tape, put Vaseline on his face and sent him into the ring.
"We're out here to check out some of the amateur fights," Alexander said. "I grew up like this environment. I grew up fighting in shows like this over the past 10 years - it takes me back to my roots; it just energizes me."
St. Juste got the first shot in, a kick that sent McPhearson staggering. But he regained his composure, and dominated St. Juste once they got on the ground.
But in the second round, St. Juste got McPhearson with a guillotine choke, forcing the Marine to tap out.
"It's fast and furious," Alexander said. "The fighters are anxious."
In the second bout, Derreck Broxton (1-1) took on Tommy Jones (0-0) in a 190-pound fight. Jones got the win just seconds into the second round, with a technical knockout.
"At the beginning of the fight I was thinking, man he's strong," Jones said. "But I was able to get him in the end."
In the first judges' decision of the night, lightweight Sam Grosse (0-2) defeated Jason Sams (1-1) of Melbourne, Fla., 30-27.
The crowd was filled with Soldiers, Family Members and pure mixed martial arts fans. The servicemembers and their Families in the audience appreciated the event at their installation.
"I'm an MMA fan, I used to fight myself, and this is just a good time for me and my friends," said Spc. Adam Brown, 10th Transportation Company, 3rd Sustainment Brigade. "It's nice to see an event like this at Hunter Army Airfield; a lot of military guys are MMA fans, and a lot of us will order MMA fights on Fridays or Saturdays, so it's great to see a live event at our base."
In a 170-pound battle, Willie Floyd (1-0) battled Brian Hutchins (0-1), who took the fight on less than 24-hours notice after another fighter was injured.
Floyd gave the audience what they'd been waiting for all night, when he knocked out Hutchins in the second round with a solid right hook.
"I was thinking, 'I want to knock him out. I'm tired; I'm ready to win this and go home'," Floyd said. "I got a swarm of punches; I got lucky and I got him."
But the night wasn't without controversy; the lead-up fight to the title bout was ruled a no contest by the judges. Charles Relter (2-0) looked to have defeated Chris Scott (3-2) by TKO, but the judges ruled that he had held on to the cage while punching his opponent who was on the ground.
In the final fight of the evening, the Independent Southeastern Championship welterweight title holder Wesley Barnes (5-0) of Savannah took on the challenger, Hinesville's Chris Brinkley (5-0).
The title battle went the full five rounds. Though each fighter had chances to choke the other out, in the end the judge all scored each round 10-9 in favor of Barnes, and he retained his title belt.
"It is so much fun," said a visibly drained Barnes after the fight.
In other fights, heavyweight Keith Saxon (0-0) defeated Rodney Adams (1-0); Jordan Heath (0-0) defeated Bill Carpenter (0-0) at 155 pounds; and John Bullard (2-1) defeated Brian Coleman (0-0) at 155 pounds.
For the special guests of the evening, their evening spent at Hunter was preceded by a meet-and-greet at the Fort Stewart PX.
"I have a lot of fans who are Soldiers and their Families, so for me to be here with the wives and kids, when their husbands or wives are overseas, it's just nice to give them something to share with their spouse, to maybe brighten up their day a little," Alexander said.
House is best known as a trainer and the man who designed the current UFC fight glove. A fighter himself, House fought in the Army and holds a record of 74 wins, 3 loses and 40 KOs. House was destined for the 1984 Olympic Team, until an injury occurred during a military truck explosion ending his boxing career, and for which he received an honorable medical discharge from the military.
For the former Soldier, getting back to his military roots in something he enjoys doing.
"Any time I get to do something for the Soldiers, I love to do it," he said. "We all fight for a living, but (Soldiers) fight 'til the end."
Duran is also a former servicemember - his love for kick boxing began while he has stationed in Thailand with the Air Force in the 1970s, where he began training in martial arts. He never forgets how he got started in MMA.
"I started off in the Air Force, and that's how I got to be a cutman with the UFC," said the man better-known as Stitch. "To me, it's special whenever I get the call to come support the Soldiers and their Families - it's a pleasure and an honor; the Soldiers mean everything to us."
In addition to the events Saturday night, there was a public weigh-in of all of the fighters and Coca-Cola concert series at the Hunter Club, Sept. 3.