Nate Boucher grew up in the world of amateur wrestling, where the rewards, penalties and path to winning and losing are cut-and-dried.
Takedown, two points. Escape, one point. Reversal, two points. The same clock that tells everyone how much time remains in the fight consistently informs the fighters where they stand.
In his two most recent sojourns as a mixed martial artist with New England Fights, Boucher, a native of Rumford and graduate of Mountain Valley High School, had no such compass. MMA is a more subjective science. That’s one of the many reasons an impressive winning percentage is harder to come by.
“MMA judging is one of the worst things to figure out. There’s not really a solid standard,” Boucher said. “The last two fights didn’t end the way I wanted, obviously. Part of being an amateur is it gives you a chance to learn what the judges want.”
Boucher (2-2) hopes to halt a two-fight losing skid Saturday, April 14, when he takes on Walt Shea at “NEF 33: Riptide.” The card will take place at Aura in Portland.
A solid contender at the flyweight limit of 125 pounds despite those defeats at the hands of Justin Witham and Ryan Burgess, Boucher will meet Shea in the middle at a catch weight of 130.
Staying busy is part of Boucher’s strategy to learn everything he can about the sport, even if the immediate lessons are frustrating and humbling.
The criteria for MMA judging, in order of priority, are effective striking, effective grappling, effective aggressiveness and fighting area control. Boucher learned the hard way that his style may have cost him the ‘W’ in both the title fight against Witham and the hometown showdown versus Burgess.
“Everybody just kind of goes with whoever is throwing more punches. People don’t seem to care if you’re on top the whole time or not,” Boucher said. “But, you know, I can complain, or I can adapt.”
Boucher pointed out that the two judges who saw the fight go Burgess’ way had it two rounds to one, a 29-28 margin, while the 30-27 assessment in his favor indicated that he had won every round.
Best-case scenario, of course, is to end it early, the way Boucher did with a triangle choke in his second amateur outing against former high school wrestling legend Jeremiah Barkac.
“Even though I lost the last two fights, they couldn’t have gone any better for me as far as learning the game goes,” Boucher said. “It’s kind of opened my eyes a lot more, not necessarily to anything about myself, but as far as what the judges are looking for. It’s helping me learn more about the sport.”
Even though the fight is five pounds above Boucher’s natural weight, how he performs will have a heavy impact on whether he is still considered a viable threat in the 125-pound class or takes a huge step backward.
“Nate called me about a week after his fight with Burgess and said, straight up, ‘Get me back in there in April, and I want a tough opponent,’” NEF co-owner and matchmaker Matt Peterson said. “He has a lot on the line in this one. A loss leaves him with a long climb back.”
The crossroads clash with Shea (2-1) is sure to be a learning experience. Shea, who trains of out of First Class MMA in Topsham, also lost his last fight. Fred Lear won that August battle for the vacant amateur bantamweight title on his home turf in Bangor.
No battle in the hexagon has been as daunting for Shea as his personal journey to get there. He initially followed his cousin, Nicholas, to the MMA gym as part of a fitness regimen after his weight crested at more than 270 pounds.
In other words, when he walks through the door on any given fight night, Shea is literally half the man he used to be.
“I was just going there to train a little bit in jiu-jitsu, and John (Raio) said to me, ‘Before we’re through, I’m going to get you in the cage.’ I’m thinking, ‘Yeah, right,’” Shea said. “I lost about 80 pounds right off the bat training with those guys. It got me healthy, and then it was kind of, why not take the next step?”
Shea now walks around at 155 to 160 pounds. He is making a slightly deeper weight cut this time, and fighting a natural flyweight, to find out if the title picture in that division is an attainable goal.
Win or lose, if his inspirational story helps a fan or friend make the commitment to a healthier lifestyle, Shea is all for it.
“It’s a lot better than standing on a treadmill,” Shea said of his unique path to fitness. “I tell people if you can just find one aspect of MMA that works for you – the grappling, the striking, whatever – it’s a great workout.”
Boucher said he has nothing but high esteem for Shea’s circuitous route to success in the sport. Admittedly, without a title up for grabs or a so-called grudge match in his sights, motivation could be more elusive.
The former Falcon, who trains out of Central Maine Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu in Lewiston, insisted that won’t be a problem.
“That’s an impressive accomplishment. I’m very respectful of that. Not just anybody can start out where Walt did and get in the cage for a fight at 125, 130 pounds,” Boucher said. “Unfortunately when you’re talking MMA, not every ending is like a fairy tale. I’m going in there to win the fight, to end it early and leave no doubt, not leave it in the hands of the judges this time.”
New England Fights (NEF) returns to Aura in Portland on April 14, 2018 with the fight promotion’s next mixed-martial-arts event, “NEF 33: Riptide.” Earlier today, NEF announced the addition of an amateur middleweight bout to the card. Mark “Pockets” Gardner (1-0) will meet Brandon Schwink (0-0) at a fight weight of 185-pounds.
Mark Gardner impressed many in attendance at his debut fight last November in Portland. Gardner took on top middleweight prospect Carlton Charles (2-1) at Aura. He absorbed everything Charles threw at him in the first round, eventually scoring a technical knockout victory in the second. Gardner is a member of The Academy of Mixed Martial Arts based in Westbrook, Maine where he trains under early MMA pioneer Jay Jack. Gardner will return to the cage after a setback earlier this year when an opponent pulled out on him prior to a scheduled bout at “NEF 32.”
“I’m pumped to get back into the cage in April for this next fight,” said Gardner. “I’ve been training hard, and I can’t wait. It should be a really fun fight.”
Gardner’s opponent, Brandon Schwinck, is a 43-year-old, lifelong martial artist from Windham, Maine. He has been a regular contestant in grappling, karate and kickboxing tournaments across the state over the years. Schwinck has trained with several different gyms, including The Academy where he worked with Gardner on the mats. The bout on April 14 will be his first regulated MMA fight, a moment that Schwinck says he has waited years to realize.
“I’m familiar with the MMA fighter and grappler, Mark Gardner,” said Schwinck when reached for comment. “We used to train together at the Academy of MMA a few years ago. I respect Mr. Gardner’s strengths and abilities on the ground, and he has an amazing team to prepare him for this fight. I recall me and Mark being fairly well-matched on the ground. We’ve submitted each other on the mats. However, he’s a tough, hungry, young buck with lots of weapons at his disposal, so I won’t take him lightly. I know Mark’s surely stepped-up his striking game and stand-up over the last few years, but I’ve been a fighter all my life and feel the bout will be competitive. I believe my NEF debut will be far from a cake walk, though I’m always prepared to put up an exciting fight in any venue I enter. I have no intentions of letting Mark walk over me and I’ll do my best to stop him. Neither of us will achieve a victory easily. I’m looking forward to competing against this dangerous, talented fighter, be it on the ground or standing. I think it will be a great match-up. I’m totally psyched about being part of NEF 33, and in the end, may the best man win.”
THOMPSON RETURNS FOR ONE LAST FIGHT AGAINST UNDEFEATED ARNOLD
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: Portland, Maine (February 26, 2018) – New England Fights (NEF) returns to Aura in Portland on April 14, 2018 with the fight promotion’s next mixed-martial-arts event, “NEF 33: Riptide.” Earlier today, NEF announced the addition of an amateur catchweight bout to the card. David Thompson (1-2) will face Kam Arnold (2-0) at a fight weight of 140-pounds.
David Thompson will be appearing in what he says will be his last fight at “NEF 33.” A member of the Shatterproof Combat Club, Thompson has appeared three times in the NEF cage since his debut in the fall of 2015. He scored a first-round technical knockout victory over Richmond Pierce Wiegman (1-1) in his second amateur bout. The fight with Arnold will be Thompson’s first since a loss to Caleb Costello (3-4) in early 2016.
“I’m thankful to get back in there,” stated Thompson. “Kam is an exciting fighter, and I will be ready to leave everything in the cage, one last time.”
Undefeated Kam Arnold has emerged as one of the most-promising new prospects on the NEF roster over the last several months. He started his amateur career with a fast finish of Glenn Kasabian (1-3) last June, and followed up that performance with a first-round technical knockout of Kyle Kenney (0-1) earlier this month at “NEF 32.” A native of Casco, Maine, Arnold is a product of Central Maine Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu (CMBJJ) in Lewiston. A win over Thompson would position Arnold closer to a shot at the coveted bantamweight championship.
“I’m pretty stoked to get back in the cage against an NEF veteran like David Thompson,” said Arnold. “This should be a fun fight not only for me, but for the fans too. When all is said and done, I will be 3-0. 2018 is going to be my year. The 135-pound strap will be mine before the end of the year – mark my words! Until that day, I will continue to put in work at the gym and take it one fight at a time. David, I hope you’re ready for a war.”
“Kam Arnold has a unique focus and vision for his career,” said NEF co-owner and matchmaker Matt Peterson. “He understands his potential to make an impact in the sport. David Thompson didn’t hesitate to accept this bout – he’s excited to have the opportunity to face a rising talent in his final fight. Both guys have promised to bring it – and when that happens, we all win.”
New England Fights (NEF) returns to Aura in Portland on April 14, 2018 with the fight promotion’s next mixed-martial-arts event, “NEF 33: Riptide.” Earlier today, NEF announced the addition of a professional lightweight bout to the card. Bill Jones (12-10) is scheduled to meet Matt Denning (5-7) at a fight weight of 155-pounds.
Having begun competing in MMA back in 2007, Bill Jones is one of the longest-active fighters on the New England regional scene. His list of opponents over the years reads like a “who’s who” of local featherweights and lightweights. He holds wins over some of the best the region has to offer like UFC veteran Tateki Matsuda (13-8) and current UFC competitor Matt Bessette (22-8). Most recently, Jones competed on the national stage at World Series of Fighting (WSOF) 35 last spring in New York. Jones is currently a member of Nostos MMA based in Somersworth, New Hampshire. “NEF 33″ will be Jones’ long-awaited first appearance in the NEF cage.
“I’m excited to finally make my NEF debut and face Matt Denning, a fight I’ve been looking forward to for a long time,” said Jones. “My health is at a new level since I stopped smoking. I feel refreshed and ready to put on my best performance to date against an opponent that I’m looking to dismantle in impressive fashion. Everyone knows not to sleep on me. I made my mark in the regional scene a long time age – and April 14th will be the next chapter in that story. Let’s get after it!”
Including his amateur career, Matt “Ken Doll” Denning is a fifteen-fight veteran of the NEF cage. He is on a two-fight win-streak in that cage with first-round submission victories over Josh Parker (6-10) at “NEF 28” and Dom Jones (1-1) at “NEF 29.” Like Jones, Denning is a veteran of the WSOF cage, having competed for the national promotion at Madison Square Garden in New York City. Most recently, Denning fought for national promotion Bellator in Connecticut. He is a member of Central Maine Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu (CMBJJ) based in Lewiston, Maine.
“I’m excited to fight for NEF again,” said Denning. “The last two times I fought for them, I had first round submission wins. Bill is a veteran and someone that I’ve tried to fight for a while. After this fight, I don’t expect to be as active as I have been in the past. I want to focus on my job, Hollie and Becca. I look forward to a great showing and seeing all my fans.”
New England Fights (NEF) returns to Aura in Portland on April 14, 2018 with the fight promotion’s next mixed-martial-arts event, “NEF 33: Riptide.” Earlier today, NEF announced the addition of an amateur catchweight bout to the card. Nate Boucher (2-2) will face Walt Shea (2-1) at a fight weight of 130-pounds.
Nate Boucher will be looking to bounce back from back-to-back losses in the NEF cage. The former wrestler from Mountain Valley High School in Rumford, Maine lost very close split decisions at both “NEF 31” and “NEF 32″ recently. The first was an amateur flyweight title fight against Justin Witham (4-4) in Portland. Last weekend, Boucher dropped his second split decision in as many events to Ryan Burgess (3-2) in a number-one-contender’s fight. Prior to those two losses, Boucher had been undefeated in the NEF cage. He currently trains with Central Maine Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu (CMBJJ) in Lewiston, Maine.
“I’m coming off of two close back-to-back losses, but I’m still committed to my goal of one day winning the NEF championship belt,” said Boucher. “Rather than sit on the sidelines, I’m getting right back in there in April. Walt Shea is coming off of his title fight loss to Fred Lear last August, so I know he will be motivated to get back in the win column too. Two motivated guys that are hungry to get back to their winning ways are the ingredients for an awesome battle. I can’t wait!”
Like Boucher, Walt Shea was undefeated prior to his last loss in the NEF cage. Shea had defeated Joel Downing (0-1) at “NEF 25” and then Alan Bustamante (0-1) at “NEF 27.” Both victories came by way of unanimous decision. Shea earned himself a shot at the NEF amateur bantamweight strap, but lost to Fred Lear (6-2) by TKO in the second round at “NEF 30” last summer. Shea is a member of First Class MMA in Brunswick, Maine .
“I’m excited to be finally making my return to the cage at ‘NEF 33,'” said Shea. “I was live for my opponent Nate’s last two fights – both razor close decisions that could have gone his way, but didn’t. I’m expecting a technical battle with a chance for some exciting grappling exchanges. I’m hoping to put on a show for the fans.”
New England Fights (NEF) returns to Aura in Portland on April 14, 2018 with the fight promotion’s next mixed-martial-arts event, “NEF 33: Riptide.” Earlier today, NEF announced the addition of an amateur featherweight title bout to the card. Taylor Costantino (3-3) will meet Shawn Lunghi (4-0) for the vacant 145-pound championship.
Taylor Costantino is a native of Long Island, New York where he began his MMA career in 2011 after being crowned a USA and Pan American Sambo champion. After moving to Maine, Costantino continued training and made his NEF debut in early 2016 with a 25-second TKO victory over Frank Johanson (2-2). Currently, he is a member of Evolution Athletix based in Saco.
“I’m very excited to fight in Portland against a tough opponent,” said Costantino. “I’ve never taken an easy opponent, and this fight is no different. I have a lot to prove to my coaches, my teammates and myself – and a man with something to prove is a dangerous man.”
Undefeated Shawn Lunghi has been dominant in two previous NEF cage appearances. The Florida native first traveled north in the fall of 2016, scoring a second round submission of Alex Clark (4-2). Last weekend, Lunghi returned to take on Devin Corson (1-1). It took just over a minute for Lunghi to pull out another submission win on Maine soil. He will have little time to rest after the upcoming battle at “NEF 33.” In late April, Lunghi will leave for Fort Bliss, and from there will travel to Afghanistan in May as part of his service in the Army National Guard.
“I couldn’t be more excited to return to the NEF cage for NEF 33 and take a shot at the featherweight title,” said Lunghi. “Taylor is an experienced, game opponent and I expect he will be ready for a war. This will be my last fight for awhile as I will be deploying with the Army National Guard for the next year, but I can’t think of a better send off then to win the 145-pound title and celebrate with my RMNU team in Portland, Maine.”
New England Fights (NEF) returns to Aura in Portland on April 14, 2018 with the fight promotion’s next mixed-martial-arts event, “NEF 33: Riptide.” Earlier today, NEF announced the addition of a professional lightweight bout to the card. John Ortolani (8-11) will meet Caleb Hall (0-0) at a fight weight of 155-pounds.
John Ortolani, a native New Englander now residing in Florida, is one of the most popular athletes to ever step into the NEF cage. Ortolani has made his mark both in MMA and on the lacrosse field where he has played for several teams in the Major League Lacrosse circuit over the years. Having competed regionally in MMA since 2009, Ortolani made his NEF debut in the fall of 2012 with a submission win over Bruce Boyington (14-11). The upcoming fight with Hall will be Ortolani’s fifth trip to the NEF cage, not counting one further appearance in the NEF boxing ring. He currently trains with Robson Moura Nations United (RMNU) in Tampa, Florida.
“I’m excited for the fight with Caleb,” said Ortolani. “He’s had a great amateur career and has a lot of experience. I can’t wait to perform in front of the NEF fans again and welcome Caleb to the pro ranks the hard way!”
Caleb Hall has had a prolific amateur MMA career with an impressive record of 8-3. Prior to entering the MMA ranks, he was a two-time Maine state champion wrestling for Dirigo High School in Dixfield. Hall later wrestled for both Plymouth State University (PSU) in New Hampshire and the University of Southern Maine (USM). He captured the NEF Amateur Featherweight Title in the spring of 2016 with a submission of Erik Nelson (2-3). He later successfully defended that title against Johnny Crafts (4-1) at “NEF 25” in the fall of that year. Hall is a member of the Choi Institute in Portland, Maine.
“Every fighter’s goal is to get to the UFC,” said Hall. “To get there, you have to beat the toughest guys you can find on the regional circuit. Beating Ortolani, a 20-fight pro veteran, is a step towards my goal of where I want to go in this sport.”
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: Portland, Maine (February 6, 2018) – New England Fights (NEF) returns to Aura in Portland on April 14, 2018 with the fight promotion’s next mixed-martial-arts event, “NEF 33: Riptide.” Earlier today, NEF announced the addition of a professional bantamweight bout to the card. Carl Langston (0-0) is scheduled to make his professional debut against Ernesto Ornelas (2-7) at a fight weight of 135-pounds.
Carl Langston is one of the longest-active members of the NEF roster, having made his debut with the promotion as an amateur in the fall of 2013. Langston brought an extensive background in Taekwondo with him to the cage, resulting in many exciting striking battles over the years. Langston finished his amateur career with a record of 7-9 and a win over Ornelas’ Choi Institute teammate Henry Clark (3-4) at “NEF 31″ in Portland last fall. Langston is currently a member of Young’s MMA in Bangor, Maine.
“I couldn’t be more pumped to be making my pro debut in the city of Portland where I grew up,” said Langston when reached for comment. “I’ve been waiting four years for this moment, and I’m going to capitalize on it by finishing this guy, beating him just like I beat his teammate.”
There are very few MMA competitors with hands as fast as Ernesto Ornelas. Now residing in Portland, Ornelas was a multi-time Golden Gloves champion during his amateur boxing days in his home state of California. He is currently 1-1 as a professional boxer. Ornelas will return to the cage after more than a year-and-a-half absence from MMA competition.
“I’m excited to be fighting in Portland, especially under the NEF banner this time,” said Ornelas. “I’ve lived in Portland for about six years and have adopted the city, working and training out of the Portland downtown. I’ve come to know everyone and the city so well, and I’m excited to give Portland a show and show them what’s brewing in downtown at the Portland Choi Institute. As for welcoming Carl into the pro ranks, I know it’s going to an exciting fight. I’ve coached against Carl three times and seen the opportunities he presents stylistically. That being said, I’ll be two steps ahead of Carl on this one. It’s going to be some thunder and lightning in Portland that night, but everyone knows lightning strikes first and thunder just makes noise. And April 14 lightning is going to strike—and I’m the one bringing the lighting.”