In the main event of Fight Night 12 on Saturday night in Lethbridge, Alta., Curtis successfully defended his welterweight title for the first time, forcing the corner of Darren Smith Jr. (now 20-11) to call an end to the contest at the end of the fourth round.
Curtis used a methodical approach to pick apart Smith Jr. on the feet, landing crisp jabs and hooks with increasing volume the longer the fight went on.
Despite earning the stoppage victory, Curtis said he thinks his performance could’ve been better and said Smith Jr. is a challenging opponent to fight.
“It’s definitely not as clean as I wanted. He’s a weird guy to fight, man. He’s a very strong guy and intense. He’s not afraid to come forward, but style-wise he’s a very awkward guy. He throws from weird angles, and it’s a very hard fight to figure out,” said Curtis in an interview with MMA Empire.
“Hats off to him. He’s got good power in his hands, he’s got balls of steel, and he’s willing to fight. He surprised me a little bit; he made me work for it.”
With the win, Curtis remained the Fight Night double champ, also holding the middleweight title he won last year in an epic battle with Matt Dwyer at Fight Night 9.
As far as the future is concerned, Curtis said he’s hoping to have another crack at the PFL welterweight tournament, but also said he’s more than happy to continue defending his titles with Fight Night.
“I’m hoping the PFL stuff works out again this year. We still have to talk to them about the tournament this year; it’s going to be a really good 170-pound bracket, so I’m hoping to do that and redeem myself,” said Curtis.
“If not, I love fighting in Canada, I love fighting for Fight Night. The fans here love me, I love being here, I love Tom and Keith, so I’d be happy to be back here defending one of my belts.”
Much to the delight of the Lethbridge crowd, Lucas Neufeld (now 5-1) locked down a first round submission victory via rear-naked choke over Cleveland Bentley (now 2-4).
After being taken down early in the contest, Neufeld was able to work his way back to the feet and, after a few brief exchanges there, landed a vicious knee to the body that floored Bentley. From there, Neufeld went to work with some ground and pound, before eventually taking Bentley’s back and locking in the rear-naked choke.
“What I said before the fight was first round knockout. Everyone likes to hear that s**t, and that’s the direction I thought my skills were going to lead me, so I was actually pretty surprised to get a submission,” said Neufeld in an interview with MMA Empire.
“But still, a finish in the first round, I’m f**king on cloud nine.”
After another impressive performance, Neufeld will continue to climb the featherweight ranks, but still yet to receive his first taste of title action.
But that’s exactly what he wants next; a title shot.
“I want titles. I want something that people give a f**k about,” said Neufeld.
“I want to be a champion. I want to aim towards being a champion, and earn that. That’s where you want to be in life, so that’s where I’m headed.”
In women’s bantamweight action, Melissa Croden (now 2-0) continued her assault on the division with a second round TKO victory over Elizabeth Schroder (now 0-1).
Croden was able to use her elite and diverse striking to pick apart Schroder, eventually using a flurry of kicks and punches that forced referee Herb Dean to step in. Croden has yet to go to the judges in seven combined professional and amateur fights, with all finishes coming by knockout or TKO.
“I was a little slow to start. She was switching stances on we quite a bit, which kind of stopped my process a little bit,” said Croden in an interview with MMA Empire.
“I didn’t land as many kicks as I wanted because the stance switching made it kind of difficult to do so, but my coach was telling me I have to pull the trigger, so when I saw the opportunity I went for it and finished the fight.”
Now officially one fight into her five-fight deal with Fight Night, Croden will be looking to get back in action on the next card in April.
She said there’s no one specific she has her eye on for an opponent, but said she’s prepared for any challenge that’s presented to her.
“We’ll see what they come up with for me for April and just go from there. I’m just kind of going with the flow and seeing what comes my way,” said Croden.
“I’ve never been trying to dodge anyone or anything like that, so we’ll see what happens.”
In other action, Florin Lupu became the first Fight Night bare knuckle boxing bantamweight champion, while Cody Jerome successfully defended his kickboxing title for the first time.
Adam Zekry, Kristopher Bryan, Melanie Hansen, and Caden Boyce were also victorious in amateur MMA action.