BANGOR – Tim Boetsch’s bloodied face told the story.
For the better part of eight minutes, the Ultimate Fighting Championship veteran and Lincolnville native was taking a beating Saturday in his first mixed martial arts fight in Maine.
But Boetsch didn’t get the nickname “The Barbarian” because he turns squeamish at the sight of blood – even if it was his own.
Boetsch unloaded one left hand that rocked Brad Tavares, excited the Cross Insurance Center crowd of 5,329 fans and dramatically turned around the fight.
Seconds later, Boetsch came out a TKO winner at UFC Fight Night in Bangor, finishing the scheduled three-round middleweight fight at three minutes, 18 seconds of the second round.
The fight earned Boetsch a Performance of the Night bonus check.
“I’ve had some big wins in the past but this win in Bangor is number one in my memory,” he said. “I’m glad I’m not afraid of seeing my own blood because there’s plenty of it around.”
Boetsch, now 18-7 in his MMA career and 9-6 in the UFC, had bigger concerns than the vertical gash on his forehead or the deep cut on his left cheek. He had lost three of his previous four fights and, at 33 years old, he knew a loss would almost certainly mean termination of his UFC contract.
Now he’s sure he’ll still have his night job to go with his day job as owner of a landscaping company in his new home of Sunderland, Pennsylvania.
“I know I’m going to go see the doc and get stitched up and then I’ll wait for a call from the UFC,” Boetsch said. “I’ll get another call. It will be a good call. For sure.”
That the UFC came to Maine – and Bangor in particular – was a direct result of Dana White’s connection to the state. White, the president and CEO of UFC, lived in several locations as a youth before spending his senior year of high school with his grandparents in Levant and graduating from nearby Hermon High in 1987.
“It didn’t make financial sense to come to Bangor but it was something I really wanted to do and I appreciate the whole (UFC) team’s support to be able to do this and I’m happy we were able to do it,” White said.
The nationally televised event was not a sellout – the Cross Insurance Center was configured to seat 6,000 for the show – but White was pleased with the action inside the octagon.
“The Main Card absolutely delivered,” White said. “I couldn’t ask for anything more.”
Four of the six Main Card events were knockouts; a fifth ended by submission.
The one that went the distance was the main event. No. 8 ranked light heavyweight Ryan Bader used his takedown ability to defeat No. 10 Ovicnce Saint Preux by unanimous decision. Bader scored nine takedowns in the five-round fight while avoiding most of Saint Preux’s big-swing left-hand punches.
“I just felt a little flat on my feet at the beginning and I had to rely a lot on my wrestling,” Bader said. “He’s tall and lanky and I needed to keep my distance and improvise a little bit.”
The fighters, for the most part, provided a hard-hitting show. The first two bouts on the undercard were high energy. The next two dragged to decisions victories for Sara McMann (split decision vs. former Invicata champion Lauren Murphy) and Jussier Formiga (vs. Zach Makovsky).
Boetsch looked calm and business like as he entered the arena, sporting a red Milwaukee Tools baseball cap and escorted by new trainer and old friend, former UFC fighter and Bangor resident Marcus Davis.
“I definitely had to dial it in just walking out to the cage,” Boetsch said. “The energy was just overwhelming.”
The crowd was loud and vocal for much of the night and brought it to another level when Boetsch entered the arena to Kid Rock’s bass-thumping, hard-driving song “Cowboy.”
Boetsch’s pre-fight plan was to “get in Tavares’ face” and give the former kick-boxer little room to breathe, let alone unload dangerous strikes.
In the first round that tactic seemed to backfire. When Boetsch went for takedowns, Tavares (12-4, 7-3 in the UFC) was able to counter, stay on his feet, and dished out punishment.
Blood was flowing from Boetsch’s forehead early in the first five-minute round. The frame ended with Boetsch pinned awkwardly against the cage, absorbing repeated left knees to the temple.
“I was never really hurt. It doesn’t look very good,” Boetsch said of his mug that would require post-fight stitches. “There was some blood flowing but as far as a concussion or something like that, I didn’t feel those effects.”
Boetsch clearly lost the first round. Quickly in the second round he was bleeding from both his forehead and below his left eye.
Sensing Boetsch needed some inspiration, the crowd began chanting, “Tim, Tim, Tim.”
“That was amazing,” Boetsch said. “Knowing the entire arena was behind me I definitely wanted to leave it all in the cage and I think I did that.”
Boetsch said later he also knew something else: He had the power to knock out Tavares.
“I clipped him earlier with a right hand and flashed knocked him out so I knew he was going to run into something and it was going to hurt him pretty bad,” Boetsch said.
There was not an immediate response to the crowd’s urging. Tavares was beating Boetsch at his own game, pinning the veteran against the cage and stifling anything Boetsch tried.
But when referee Kevin McDonald broke up the stalemated clinch, it was the older, to-that-point slower Boetsch who got off first. A front kick backed up Tavares slightly and then a left hook caught the 26-year-old Hawaiian on the neck and side of the head.
Tavares reeled away, putting his back to Boetsch as he stumbled toward the opposite side of the cage. While a wicked kick aimed at Tavares’ head just missed, a right hand didn’t, dropping Tavares decisively to the canvas.
“There was a sense of urgency,” Boetsch said. “The left got it started. The right finished it.”
From there it was just a few punches against the defenseless Tavares that led to the stoppage.
After the four-fight preliminary card, the crowd was re-energized by Thiago Tavares submitting Robbie Peralta with a rear naked choke late in the first round. It was the first fight at the featherweight (145 pounds) division for Tavares and improved his UFC record to 8-5-1.
In quick succession, Shawn Jordan chopped down 6-foot-8 Shawn May with a third-round knockout in a heavyweight bout. Jordan entered the third round with his right eye swollen shut and trailing on points.
Former male model Alan Jouban showed toughness and striking power in his UFC debut when his thumping left hook to the body dropped Seth Baczynski for a first round KO.
After Boetsch’s win, Englishman Ross Pearson knocked out Gray Maynard.