Butte’s Jesse Newbreast posted a dramatic Mixed Martial Arts victory to punctuate Saturday’s Butte Brawl at the Butte Civic Center in front of a loud and appreciative crowd. Newbreast’s heavyweight main event win also helped complete a 7-0 sweep by fighters from the Streets of Butte club.
“You can’t teach heart,” Newbreast said of his training partners. “You either have it or you don’t, and these guys have heart.”
In addition to Newbreast, the Streets of Butte got wins from Shawn Smith at 155 pounds, George Streit at 160, Niklas Folke at 170, Joey Murray at 170, Justin Azure at 130 and Shaq LeCoure at 170.
Newbreast’s professional bout was the final of 13 on the card, and the result raised the screaming crowd to its feet. The Butte heavyweight brought a 4-2 record into the ring against Kyle Keeney, who carried a 14-8 pro ledger. Keeney, originally from Olympia, Wash., was fighting out of Fidelis MMA of Austin, Texas.
Keeney survived an early knee to the chin from Newbreast and utilized a grappling approach to the bout. The aptly nicknamed “Kodiak” Keeley controlled the early going of the match, but seemed to quickly tire, especially after another hard-hitting knee found his jaw.
“It was the elevation,” Newbreast opined. “I don’t think he’s used to it.”
Whatever the reason, midway through the five-minute first round, Newbreast took control of the fight. After the well-timed knee, Newbreast took Keeley to the canvas and quickly pounded Keeley into submission at the 3-minute mark.
“A lot of hard work went into this,” Newbreast said of the successful Streets of Butte showing. “And none of it would have happened without John Amtmann. Without him, MMA wouldn’t even be here.”
Amtmann is a professor at Montana Tech, and a former MMA fighter who specializes in judo and jiu-jitsu. He works closely with local mixed martial artists, and was at ringside for much of the evening Saturday.
Newbreast’s bout was a popular one with the big crowd, but it couldn’t compete noise-wise with the penultimate fight of the night – a battle between LeCoure and Butte’s Zach Anderson, fighting out of the Lion’s Pit club.
Both accomplished fighters, LeCoure and Anderson each had a very vocal group backing him. And while rival clubs can often be less than friendly, the friendship and respect between the two was obvious, even before the fight.
In the bout billed a “co-main event,” LeCoure shot out first, taking Anderson to the canvas, but was soon overturned and put in a rear choke hold. LeCoure escaped the potentially match-ending hold, and Anderson took the first round, though not by much.
Anderson opened the second four-minute round with a sharp right jab that scored, but LeCoure came back with another takedown. Again, Anderson reversed the flow of events and endangered LeCoure with a figure-4 leg lock that he rolled on top of to get a clear path for his punches. LeCoure again fought out of the hold and soon after flipped his legs back over Anderson and took control.
Dozens of short-range punches were delivered by LeCoure, who drew a stop from the referee with 33 seconds remaining in the second round, as Anderson was no longer able to defend himself. The call sent the building into a storm of cheers for both fighters, following one of the best fights of the night.
In the previous bout, Helena’s Andy Petek, a former high school heavyweight wrestling champion for Helena High, as well as a standout linebacker for the Montana Grizzlies, made short work of his competition, Matt Miller from Williston, N.D.
A focused Petek wasted no time in going after Miller, and a crushing left hook from the Helenan turned Miller’s legs to noodles, and the fight ended 26 seconds after the opening bell via knockout.
The last few bouts were good, but by no means the only quality fights of the night. The first MMA bout of the evening showcased plenty of action, and the first of 11 total Butte fighters picked up a victory.
Fighting at 155 pounds, Butte’s Shawn Smith absorbed a few solid rights from Helena’s Michael Williams before Smith picked up his opponent and slammed him to the canvas. Smith worked his way to the top and let loose with a flurry of blows to Williams’ head before his corner threw in the towel.
The second fight of the evening featured three 90-second kickboxing rounds between Anaconda’s Jered Lunceford and Zach Cross of Bozeman, though the second two weren’t necessary. Lunceford ended the fight late in the first round after his third knockdown of Cross. Lunceford was the aggressor throughout the fight, and left Cross dazed against the chain links following the final knockdown.
The third fight of the night pitted a pair of local 160-pound fighters against each other in an MMA battle. George Streit, originally from Saco, and Jared McCourt, who came to Butte from Philadelphia, tested each other on their feet for the first minute.
Streit went on the offensive, and slammed McCourt to the canvas, punching with whichever hand was free. Streit thumped him mercilessly from the top position before McCourt raised to his hands and knees and Streit ended the match quickly with a rear naked choke submission 2:46 into the first round.
The fourth bout saw Bozeman’s Cole Gebhardt match up with Tyler Wheeler of Polson in a 170-pound MMA contest. Wheeler enjoyed a significant reach advantage, but was quickly dropped by a solid right to the jaw from Gebhardt. Stunned, Wheeler regained his feet and got a few licks in of his own.
Gebhardt took the advantage with a well-placed combination, sending Wheeler into the cage, and the Bozeman fighter pounced. Wheeler tapped out at the 2:35 mark due to a firmly applied rear naked choke hold.
The first fight of the evening to reach the second round saw Butte’s Niklas Folke battle with Bryant “Hitman” Hansen, also of the Mining City. The 170-pound MMA bout matched a technically sound Folke against Hansen, who was just plain tough.
Hansen took the fight to the mat midway through the first round, but Folke worked well from the bottom guard and worked his way to a rear choke. Hansen fought out of the potential submission hold, only to find himself in a figure-4 leg lock around his head and arm, from which he also fought free. Hansen delivered some damaging punches to Folke’s ribs before the first round ended, and the pair regrouped for a second go.
The second bell saw Hansen go for the takedown again, but Folke quickly worked his figure-4 triangle around Hansen’s neck and arm. Folke rolled the hold over the top of his opponent and managed to control Hansen’s arms, giving him free access to the right temple. The referee stopped the bout after a pair of unchecked blows was landed on a defenseless Hansen 50 seconds into the round.
The first fight after the first intermission saw the biggest comeback of the night. Helena’s Louie “El Loco” Lopez came right out of the gates with a spectacular roundhouse kick that dropped Butte’s Joey Murray. Lopez then lived up to his nickname with a furious barrage of punches to his stunned opponent. Murray rallied, however, and once he took control it was a matter of time until the TKO due to strikes.
The sixth fight of the night saw Rocky Boy’s Nolen Snell land a big left and then grab a takedown, but Townsend’s Caylob Wilverding patiently withstood the opening attack before quickly beating Snell into a TKO at 1:10 of the first round.
The first battle of the big guys of the night saw Townsend’s Austin Schwope get past Mike Pollard of Butte’s Lions Pit in the third round. Pollard took the early advantage in the slower moving bout, and landed some punches in the first round. Neither fighter was prepared for a second round, let alone a third, but after a few landed punches by Pollard in the final minutes, Schwope managed a takedown and stopped the bout in the third round tap-out due to strikes with 49 seconds left in the fight.
In the closest fight of the night, Butte’s Justin “Badger” Azure won a hotly contested split decision over Helena’s Anthony “Hitman” Shurts in a 130-pound MMA bout. Fighting from the Streets of Butte camp, Azure was quick with his fists, snapping punches before ducking high kicks from Shurts, who appeared to vomit between rounds.
“Be the badger,” hollered Amtmann from Azure’s corner.
Azure hurt Shurts at the end of the first round, snapping a couple of sharp punches, followed by a solid kick to the head. Azure at times worked Shurts over against the cage, utilizing inside knee kicks in both the first and second rounds, which he appeared to win.
Shurts kept steady pressure through the final round, and though Azure landed a few punches, the Helena fighter poured on the steam, landing effective kicks to a visibly tired Azure. Shurts won on one card, 29-28, while Azure won 29-28 and 29-26 on the other two.
The first fight of the third session saw Bozeman’s Joe Boerschig end his bout with Bobby Bradford of Rocky Boy 30 seconds into the match thanks to a sharp knee to the midsection. Bradford tapped out after the blow.