Last Saturday, MMA Gospel was in attendance for Xtreme Fighting Organization’s (XFO) most recent effort in XFO 38, which featured the highly anticipated return to the cage for former UFC Lightweight Champion “Lil’ Evil” Jens Pulver (23-14-1) as well as 23 other mixed martial arts contests. In addition to the 20 amateur bouts featuring fighters from local camps large and small, the XFO gave fans four professional offerings featuring some of the area’s favorite young pros and the professional debut of two men eager to turn their amateur success into thriving MMA careers. The Woodstock Harley Davidson was packed with eager MMA fans who showed the level of respect for fighters that one finds at only the local level and they were not disappointed with the show.
First up on the professional card was the pro debut of Chicagoland amateur superstar “Ill” Will Brooks (1-0) who faced off against perennial jobber JR Hines (1-12). Brooks, who went 10-0 as an amateur prior to stepping into the XFO cage, brought a well rounded game backed with natural athleticism that was more than Hines could handle. “Ill” Will came out easy with a few cautious jabs to size his opponent up before shooting a quick double to the half guard. Ten seconds later, Brooks had pounded his way to mount where Hines gave up his back and withered under the punishment before the referee mercifully stopped the contest, giving Will Brooks a TKO win in his first professional bout.
Next on the slate, Team Curran bantamweight project “The Real Deal” Joey Diehl (1-0) made his debut against Dexter Wright (1-1), a previously undefeated young fighter out of the south Chicago suburbs. Diehl came into the match off of a 6-0 amateur career that saw him submit every opponent he faced in the first round, but Wright gave him a good challenge on the ground. After a pair of striking exchanges that favored Wright, Diehl took it to the mat with a double leg to side control. From there, Wright easily regained his guard and thwarted every attempt Diehl made to pass with a barrage of base crushing sweep and escape attempts. He eventually moved to the butterfly guard and attempted an elevator sweep, but the attempt failed and Diehl passed to the mount and then quickly to back control. The end of the entertaining ground battle came at 2:53 of the first stanza with a Rear Naked Choke submission sealing the win for Joey Diehl.
The co-main event of the evening brought on one of the area’s most experienced featherweights, “The Train” Tom Ahrens (10-10) to face International Fight League (IFL) and King of the Cage veteran Michael Corey (9-2) in a lightweight contest. The men fought a three round battle that saw Michael Corey control the majority of the match with superior wrestling. In the first, Corey immediately established his dominance on the ground with a hard double leg to half guard and spent the remainder of the round moving between every conceivable top position, including the rarely seen quarter mount, while blasting “The Train” with knees and heel kicks. In the second, Ahrens forced a double leg of his own and even managed to take Corey’s back briefly before Corey managed to fight back to his feet. The men exchanged leather as they broke the clinch, but a well timed head kick from Corey shifted the momentum back in his favor. Corey then shot another double leg and repeated the first round’s control and ground-and-pound till the end of the second. The third stanza saw Ahrens shift gears and attack with several well timed and hard hitting leg kicks that began to tell on Corey almost instantly. Things began to look up for Ahrens until Corey blitzed him halfway through the round with a barrage of knees from the Thai Plumb that carried on until the end of the final round, leaving Corey the clear winner by Unanimous Decision.
The main event of the evening was a featherweight contest between the former and original UFC Lightweight Champion, “Lil’ Evil” Jens Pulver, and the man billed as the #5 featherweight in Illinois, “The Assassin” Mike Lindquist (19-22-1). The former UFC champ walked to the cage to a song that posed the question “Am I done?” referring to the cries from many of his fans for his retirement, and looked more prepared to fight mentally than he has in years. The bout was brief and furious. Both men came out of their corners swinging with obvious bad intentions and both men took heavy shots to the head and body, but Jens’ were clearly the more telling as Lindquist dropped to the mat. Three brief scrambles, made all the more frantic by the slick quality of the mats, finally ended with Pulver seizing the Thai Plumb and blasting away with knees until “The Assassin” collapsed and presented his neck to “Lil’ Evil” for a quick Rear Naked Choke victory. The match lasted only 49 seconds, but held enough action for three full rounds twice over as the obviously emotional Jens Pulver broke a three-year, six fight losing streak with a dominant performance. Click here for the video of Pulver vs. Lindquist.