It was the biggest fight of his career so far, and he won.
Graham Spencer of Nanaimo Impact MMA earned a unanimous decision over Shane Nelson in the semi-main event of Maximum Fighting Championship 35: Explosive Encounter on Friday in Edmonton.
Spencer (9-1) dominated all three rounds of the mixed martial arts bout against the UFC-tested veteran Nelson (15-7).
“There wasn’t any second of the fight that Graham lost…” said John Punt, Impact MMA trainer. “He forced the fight and that’s how Graham does his best. That’s his style. I wouldn’t want to see him ever veer away from that style.”
The featherweight (145-pound) match was the MFC debut for Spencer, who signed a three-fight contract with the promotion this year.
“He said, ‘I’m going to give it everything I’ve got for these three fights. This is going to be the make-or-break three fights,'” said Punt.
In the past, Spencer said MMA had sort of been a hobby.
“I was kind of getting frustrated that I didn’t really have the time to get the training I needed,” he said. “And I’m getting older. I’ve got to make a run for it now if I’m ever going to do it.”
The 28-year-old quit his job as an electrician to train full-time, and spent six weeks in Sacramento training with Urijah Faber’s Team Alpha Male.
Most pre-fight predictions favoured Nelson, but Spencer said that’s probably because people tend to go with the guy they know. Still, the hype around Nelson added stress, said Punt, and Spencer said he was more nervous for fight night than usual.
“But once the first round got started, I got a takedown right away and as soon as I got that takedown, I knew it was going to be a good night for me,” he said.
Spencer’s strength and conditioning proved superior and he maintained a positional advantage throughout the three rounds.
“It went a lot easier than what I was expecting,” he said. “I thought it was going to be one of those bloody battle of wills, but it was pretty much me forcing my will on him for pretty much the whole fight.”
Spencer always fights at 145 and didn’t even need to hit the sauna to make weight, whereas Nelson had to drop pounds.
“I think he thought he was coming down in weight so he was going to be stronger than me, but I’m a pretty strong featherweight and that ended up being probably my main advantage in the fight,” Spencer said.
There might have been opportunities for the Nanaimo fighter to go for a finish, but he knew he was winning and didn’t want to make a costly mistake.
“Graham’s not the kind of a guy that’s going to take chances,” said Punt. “He’s a conservative, smart, intellectual fighter – he’s exciting because he’s aggressive.”
More excitement lies ahead. MFC is Canada’s top promotion, said Punt, and wins there matter. The event was televised live in the United States, so Spencer’s training partners in California were able to get together and watch. Other family and friends were in attendance at Edmonton’s Mayfield Trade Centre on Friday to see Spencer’s MMA career take a turning point.
Now, the fighter and his trainer can talk realistically about the UFC.
“You never really know how to compare yourself with people unless you get in there with them, and I surprised myself a little bit,” Spencer said. “If I can do that to Shane and maybe do it to one or two more guys, I think I’ll be right there.”
FIGHT FACTS … In other Impact MMA news, Nanaimo’s Andrew Buckland (15-10) will be fighting Hamilton, Ont.’s Joel Powell (4-3) at the Aggression Fighting Championship show Friday (Nov. 2) in Calgary.