SALEM - Manchester's Brent Kinberger made a triumphant comeback from an almost four-year layoff Friday night, winning the main event of Combat Zone MMA's "All or Nothing" card by unanimous decision over Mervin Rodriguez at a packed Sports Club at Rockingham Park.
The 41-year-old Kinberger, formerly the Northeast's top-ranked fighter in his weight class, also had to overcome an 11-year age disadvantage to his opponent in addition to shaking off some ring rust. Yet the electrical engineer won every round on the judges' scorecard, using superior take-downs and stellar mat work in the lightweight battle to prevail 30-27.
"I got that ring rust off real quick," Kinberger said. "(Rodriguez) had a weird strategy. He was trying to stay away from me, but in all of his other fights he had come forward blasting, so I was ready for that. I waited, and when he came at me, I got the take-downs I wanted and pretty much dominated the fight on the ground. I don't feel like I made any mistakes. He's a really tough guy, but I came out unscathed, and I feel great."
Kinberger, who had Bellator fighter Perry Filkins working his corner as part of the Team Link crew, upped his record to 6-3. Rodriguez, who hails from Newark N.J., dropped to 5-8.
The co-main event was the most anticipated amateur match of the night, featuring unbeatens Jake Pilla of nearby Billerica, Mass., against Paulo Alves DeSousa with a title belt at stake. But it took just :43 of the first round before Pilla won, to become Combat Zone's first amateur champion, much to the delight of his raucous backers in the house.
Pilla, who had the benefit of highly regarded current UFC fighter John Howard in his corner, immediately went to the take-down and then executed a monster guillotine choke hold on his opponent, who was rendered out cold by the move.
The new champion is now 3-0 while Alves De Sousa stands at 2-1.
Cheyenne Vazquez of Lawrence, Mass., improved to 2-0 with a first-round TKO by strikes over Eddie Brito of Derry in the other professional match on the 11-fight card. Vasquez, representing Sityodong, was able to execute the take-down, and from there executed his ground-and-pound game until the referee stepped in to call the fight at 2:10 of the initial round.
Brito dropped to 3-6.
In a three-round amateur bout featuring a pair of first-timers, Salem's Michael Fagan dropped a unanimous, 30-27 decision to Josh Harvey of Youngs MMA.
Combat Zone 49 will be held at Rockingham Park on June 27.
155- Brett Kinberger (Manchester, NH) def. Mervin Rodriguez Newark, NJ)) by unanimous decision
185-Cheyenne Vazquez (Lawrence, MA) def. Eddie Brito (Derry, NH, NH) by TKO on strikes 2:10 round 1
145- Jake Pilla (Billerica, MA) def. Paulo Alves DeSousa (Malden, MA)
By guillotine choke :43 round 1
170- JT Harold (No. Andover, MA) def. Brett Trahan (Burlington, VT) by TKO on strikes 2:15 round 1
135- Carl Langston (Windham, ME) def. David Bradbury (VT) by arm bar 2:42 round 2
135-Alec Wilson (Boston, MA) def. Jordan Yantin (Methuen, MA) by guillotine choke 1:33 round 1
185- Corey Bowhall (Watertown, NY) def. Tim Loughran (Arlington, MA) by guillotine choke :50 round 1
185- John Ryan (Lowell, MA) def. Kristian Lombari (Methuen, MA) by rear naked choke 1:15 round 1
145- Danny Abad (Watertown, NY) def. Dan Lynch (Plaistow, NH) by arm bar 2:59 round 1
145- Josh Harvey (Bangor, ME) def. Michael Fagan (Salem, NH) by unanimous decision
145- Matt Tulos (Dedham, MA) def. Aaron Lacey (Bangor, ME) by unanimous decision