CEDAR RAPIDS — A showdown between Cedar Rapids rivals, Cliff Wright Jr. and Derek Loffer, lived up to the hype — and then some. In the end, it was Wright from Hard Drive Mixed Martial Arts that scored the victory in front of a raucous hometown crowd at the US Cellular Center on Friday night.
Wright scored early with a front kick landing square in the gut of Loffer and sending him to the canvas. Loffer proved himself a worthy adversary, taking Wright down but not doing much damage, and let him up pretty quickly, but stayed in the pocket for the remainder of the round and managed to land good counters and a couple of lead jabs. Wright himself landed some pretty solid shots in the opening round as well.
In round 2, Loffer put the pressure on Wright, pressing the pace, as they traded some good combos, and then 2 minutes in Loffer telegraphed spinning kick, which allowed Wright to take his back and finally put him on the ground. Loffer managed to reverse the position on Wright after a bit. Very comfortable off his back, Wright tried a bevy of submissions before finally latching onto Loffer’s arm and secured the win via a nasty arm-bar tap-out at 4:20 of the second round.
Cedar Rapids native Jared Downing faced Rob Emerson, a UFC vet, and traded leg kicks. Downing looked to take the fight to the ground and did secure a takedown; however, Emerson was able to secure a leg from Downing, and turned it into a heel hook. It looked like Downing would use his jiu-jitsu expertise to escape. But as Downing tried to roll out, Emerson was able to put his hooks in a little deeper and twist Downing’s knee enough to make him tap-out at 1:44 in the first round.
In the last preliminary fight, former University of Iowa NCAA All-American Paul Bradley defeated Karl Amoussou in a fight that went the full 3 rounds. Bradley was able to survive a nasty cut he sustained in the first round, and utilized a great top ground game to grind his way to a victory.
In the feature bout, Iowa City native Joe Vedepo took on Ultimate Fighter Season 5 winner Kendall Grove. After securing a takedown in the first round, Vedepo looked to be in a little bit of trouble because Grove’s lanky 6’5’ frame makes him very comfortable off his back. Keeping it on the ground, Vedepo worked out of trouble in the first to end up on top to finish the round, but Grove was able to do a lot of damage from the bottom.
Vedepo continued to use his wrestling and ground game to keep the dangerous Grove at bay in the 2nd. Grove was able to land a couple jabs before getting double-legged takedown by Vedepo. Again, using his length, Grove was able to ward off any submission attempts Vedepo tried to land. It ended with Vedepo up on top with position on Grove again.
Grove took to doing the damage to begin the 3rd and final round, using some knees in the clinch to take control. Landing some huge blows and looking like he was almost finished off, the hometown crowd gave Vedepo a “Let’s Go Joe!!!” chant, which he parlayed into another takedown, showing true warrior spirit when it looked pretty dim. Vedepo was able to land a couple of blows before time ran out. It went to the judge’s scorecards who scored the fight 29-28, 30-27, 30-27, for a unanimous decision in favor of Kendall Grove, who landed the more effective strikes and did far more damage, even though he spent the majority of the 15 minutes on his back.