The dust has settled on AFC 23 and after 18 months of inactivity the Australian Fighting Championship triumphantly returned and delivered an action packed card from start to finish. By the end of the night, a new Lightweight champion was crowned and the reigning Welterweight champion well and truly entrenched himself as the best Welterweight in the Country.
So, let’s work our way through the card:
Jack Lyons vs. James McBride
XFC Australian Top Team protégé Jack Lyons made his long awaited professional debut against James McBride who gallantly took the fight on just 48 hours’ notice. The first round was entertaining with both martial artists’ willingly trading strikes in the centre of the AFC cage. Jack threw the crisper strikes however James’s aggressive approach and frequent power shots had him right in the fight. Early in the second however Jack was able to back James up against the cage and unleash a flurry of elbows and knees leaving the referee no choice but to wave this one off.
Jack Lyons defeated James McBride by TKO in Round 2.
Jeff Bowers vs. Patrick Szalay
A physically intimidating figure, Jeff Bowers made an impactful pro debut at AFC 23. Taking on a Karate Black Belt in Patrick Szalay, Jeff completely dominated the fight utilising effective wrestling and smothering ground and pound. Through 2 ¾ rounds Jeff effectively controlled Patrick on the ground following numerous technically perfect takedowns. A barrage of left hands would follow and any time Patrick was able to get to his feet he was dumped straight back to the canvas. Patrick showed extreme heart however late in the third round the referee had seen enough and brought an end to this one. With that the AFC Welterweight division has a new terrifying contender.
Jeff Bowers defeated Patrick Szalay by TKO in Round 3.
Darcy Balhas vs. Sebastian Szalay
The first fight on UFC Fight Pass saw XFC Australian Top Team standout Darcy Balhas take on Soa Palelei’s protégé Sebastian Szalay.
In what would quickly become a striking battle, both Darcy and Sebastian enjoyed moments of control. Sebastian effectively used his karate pedigree and threw a range of kicks to keep Darcy at range. Darcy delivered a number of power punches with both the right and left hand however was unable to find his range for the entirety of the fight. Although the fight felt close, after 3 rounds the judges rendered a Unanimous Decision victory for Sebastian and with that the professional lightweight journey of this talented martial artist has officially begun.
Sebastian Szalay defeated Darcy Balhas by Unanimous Decision
Dane Beeby vs. Dimps Gillies
Dimps Gillies made the journey down from Queensland to take on hometown favourite Dane Beeby in what turned out to be a Welterweight classic. These two warriors tore each other apart for 3 intriguing rounds much to the delight of an adoring AFC crowd.
Dane utilised his high calibre karate pedigree to punish Dimps with kicks. Dane threw numerous head kicks that Dimps managed to block; he also attacked Dimps’ legs with a barrage of kicks over the course of 3 rounds. Dimps on the other hand used a diversity of punches to break Dane down; the most successful being the left rip to the body. Dimps landed multiple body shots; in the second round Dimps landed a perfect left hook to the body the dropped Dane however Dane was able to survive.
The third round saw both fighter enjoy moments of control; Dane continued with the kicks and Dimps continued to attack the body. When it was all said and done, Dimps was awarded a much deserved Split Decision victory and although there can only be one winner both of these warriors won a lot of new fans and earned a heap of respect.
Dimps Gillies defeated Dane Beeby by Split Decision.
Luke Howard vs. Lyle Karam
Welterweight standouts Luke Howard and Lyle Karam locked horns to potentially determine the next in line for a shot at the Welterweight Title.
Coming into the fight after a difficult weight cut, Lyle implemented a technically perfect game plan that negated Luke’s strengths and left him lying on his back for a majority of the fight. Over the course of almost 3 rounds, Lyle executed a number of takedowns and reigned down vicious ground and pound on his experienced opponent. Luke tried to improve position and throw up submission attempts however Lyle was able to control position and continually pepper Luke with strikes.
In the third round, it was business as usual for Lyle and after gaining mount, Luke gave up his back and Lyle unleashed some big punches forcing the referee to wave this one off. With the win, Lyle improves to 6-0 and stakes his claim for a shot at the Welterweight strap next year.
Lyle Karam defeated Luke Howard by TKO in Round 3.
Rob Wilkinson vs. Dylan Andrews
UFC alumni Rob Wilkinson and Dylan Andrews stepped into the AFC cage to determine who is the premier light heavyweight in the Country.
A fan of Dylan during the early stages of his career, Rob showed absolutely no mercy at AFC 23 as he picked Dylan apart prior to submitting him in round 1.
Rob started the fight throwing leg kicks; at least 10 landed early in round 1 marking up Dylan in the process. Dylan reacted with a takedown and although successful, Rob was able to lock in a guillotine choke and soon after Dylan tapped brining an early end to this one.
Rob looked super impressive and will no doubt make waves in the domestic and international mixed martial arts scene over the next 12 months. One can only hope the great Sokoudjou and a battle for the AFC Light Heavyweight title forms one of those waves.
Rob Wilkinson defeated Dylan Andrews by Submission in Round 1
Blake Donnelly vs. David Martinez
AFC Lightweight Title Fight
With Issac Hardman relinquishing the AFC Lightweight Title, Blake Donnelly and David Martinez would battle it out to determine whom would now sit on the Lightweight throne.
In what was expected to be a striker v wrestler battle, it was anything but as Blake used the jab and perfect takedown defence to legitimately cut David up over 3 brutal rounds.
Blake enforced the jab early in round 1 and used it to dictate the entire fight. Well over 50 jab were thrown, many of which landed and gradually cut and closed the eye of a game David Martinez. David elected to strike for a majority of the fight and when he turned to his wrestling roots, he was unable to get Blake to the ground and on the single occasion that he did, Blake easily got back to his feet and re-established his jab.
In the 3rd, the cut was prevalent and David’s eye started to close. The doctor was called in and with the fighter’s safety in mind, the fight was stopped and Blake was crowned the new AFC Lightweight Champion. In his post-fight speech, Blake encouraged any lightweight out there to step up and challenge him for his title; he also confirmed he’d welcome Issac back to the cage to try and reclaim what was once his.
Blake Donnelly defeated David Martinez via Doctors Stoppage in Round 3 to win the AFC Lightweight
Theo Christakos (c) vs. Andrew Mills
AFC Welterweight Title Fight
It was dubbed the rematch, and for Theo it was déjà vu as he submitted Andrew Mills with a RNC to successfully defend his Welterweight Title.
The first round was competitive; after exchanging strikes, Andrew successfully shot for the takedown and peppered Theo with strikes well and truly gaining the attention of the champion. In the second however, a somewhat mistimed takedown attempt exposed Andrew and like the predator he is, Theo immediately struck and locked in the RNC forcing a game Andrew Mills to tap and thus ensuring the Welterweight strap remains around the waist of Theo.
Post-fight Theo was animated and called for his shot on UFC Auckland. Former AFC fighter Luke Jumeau is in his sights so time with tell if Theo gets his rightful shot. If not, Theo welcomed the challenge of Lyle Karam so a blockbuster AFC Welterweight Title fight might be on the cards next year.
Theo Christakos defeated Andrew Mills by Submission in Round 2 to retain the AFC Welterweight
Make no mistake, the AFC is back and in 2020 the DNA of MMA will continue to be changed!
Article by Josh Warner.