HOLLYWOOD, Fla. – The New York Pitbulls completed an unbeaten season, topping the two-time defending champion Quad Cities Silverbacks, 3-2, to claim their first International Fight League World Championship, before 3,470 at Hard Rock Live at the Seminole Hard Rock in Hollywood, Fla. Delson Heleno, Deividas Taurosevicius and Andre Gusmao recorded wins for the second-seeded Pitbulls, coached by Renzo Gracie, en route to the title, with Gusmao’s dramatic first-round knockout over Mike Ciesnolevicz at light heavyweight in the decisive fifth match breaking a 2-2 tie.
The Pitbulls’ Heleno (Rio de Janeiro, Brazil) began things with a welterweight victory over Jake Ellenberger (Omaha, Neb.), who was filling in for injured Rory Markham for the Silverbacks. In an entertaining battle, Heleno and Ellenberger traded blows and submission attempts before Heleno got the last word, catching his Silverbacks opponent in an armbar to give the New Yorkers a 1-0 lead. Pitbulls lightweight Taurosevicius (New York) scored a surprise second-round submission victory, also by armbar, over Bart Palaszewski (Wonder Lake, Ill.) to double his team’s advantage to 2-0. Heavyweights Ben Rothwell (Milwaukee, Wis.) of the Silverbacks and former UFC champion Ricco Rodriguez (Staten Island, N.Y.) of the Pitbulls slugged it out for three rounds in another exciting battle, with Rothwell winning the unanimous decision to shave the Silverbacks’ deficit to 2-1. Middleweight Ryan McGivern (Bettendorf, Iowa) evened things at two wins apiece with a convincing second-round TKO over Fabio Leopoldo (Sao Paulo, Brazil), setting the stage for the winner-take-all light heavyweight bout. Gusmao (Rio de Janeiro, Brazil) came out swinging from the bell, landing a series of nearly uncontested blows against Mike Ciesnolevicz (Williamstown, Pa.) before the referee stopped the bout less than a minute into the first round.
The win was also the culmination of an amazing turnaround for the Pitbulls, who were winless in 2006 but won all five of their bouts, including three regular season wins, in 2007. The win also avenged a September 2006 defeat at the hands of the Silverbacks in Moline, Ill., in the only other meeting between the teams.
The IFL World Championship can be seen on Fox Sports Net (Sunday, 5 p.m. in most markets, check local listings) and on MyNetworkTV (Monday, 8 p.m. ET/PT; 7 p.m. CT/MT).
In the preliminary bouts which preceded the Finals, light heavyweight Jamal Patterson (Hoboken, N.J) of the Pitbulls tapped out Chris Baten (Tampa, Fla.) in the first round, as did Rolles Gracie (New York), a Jiu-Jitsu champion, also making his MMA debut with a win over Sam Holloway. The welterweight Brad Blackburn (Olympia, Wash.) and Travis Cox (Naples, Fla.) was ruled a “no-contest” when Blackburn unintentionally struck Cox’s head with his knee, and Cox was unable to continue. Popular IFL standout Ryan Schultz (North Platte, Neb.) of the Portland Wolfpack gained a decision against American Top Team’s Aaron Riley (Port St. Lucie, Fla.) in an entertaining lightweight bout in the final prelim.
The next IFL event is the 2007 World Grand Prix semifinals on Nov. 2 at the Sears Centre in Chicago. The top 20 athletes, four at each weight class, will compete for the first-ever IFL Championship belts.
International Fight League World Championship Finals Seminole Hard Rock, September 20, 2007
No. 2 Pitbulls def. No. 4 Silverbacks, 3-2
170 lb.: Delson Heleno, Pitbulls, def. Jake Ellenberger, Silverbacks, via submission (armbar) 3:45, 2nd
155 lb.: Deividas Taurosevicius, Pitbulls, def. Bart Palaszewski, Silverbacks,
via submission (armbar), 1:30, 2nd
265 lb.: Ben Rothwell, Silverbacks, def. Ricco Rodriguez, Pitbulls, via decision
(unanimous), after three rounds
185 lb.: Ryan McGivern, Silverbacks, def. Fabio Leopoldo, Pitbulls, via TKO,
205 lb: Andre Gusmao, Pitbulls, def. Mike Ciesnolevicz, Silverbacks, via
knockout, 0:53, 1st
205 lbs: Jamal Patterson (Hoboken, N.J.) def. Chris Baten (Tampa, Fla.) via
submission (choke), 0:56, 1st
265 lb.: Rolles Gracie (New York) vs. Sam Holloway via submission (rear naked
choke), 1:49, 1st
170 lb.: Travis Cox (Naples, Fla.) no contest vs. Brad Blackburn (Olympia,
Wash.) (unintentional knee to head of downed opponent), 2:32, 1st
155 lb.: Ryan Schultz (North Platte, Neb.) def. Aaron Riley (Port St. Lucie,
Fla.) via decision (unanimous), after 3 rounds