LEWISTON, Maine — Six professional fights — headlined by former UFC contender Marcus “The Irish Hand Grenade” Davis — and 11 amateur contests will comprise the state’s first mixed martial arts card of new year as announced recently by the New England Fights promotion.

Davis (22-10) will battle “The” Ryan Sanders (5-4) of Brewer in the main event of NEF XII, scheduled for 7 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 8, at the Androscoggin Bank Colisee.

That bout is what New England Fights officials describe as a welterweight grudge match of sorts, as Sanders once trained at Davis’ Team Irish MMA Fitness Academy in Brewer before switching his base of operations in 2011 to rival Young’s MMA of Bangor.

Also scheduled is the return to the cage of Rumford native Jesse Peterson, who in his first bout in nearly a year will defend his NEF Maine middleweight championship against “Ruthless” Mike Zichelle of Worcester, Mass. Peterson is 7-4 in his professional career while Zichelle is 6-3.

Another pro bout has Young’s MMA fighter Bruce “Pretty Boy” Boyington against John “First Class” Raio in a battle of NEF featherweight fan favorites.

Boyington (5-6) has won three of his last four bouts, most recently a three-round unanimous decision over highly regarded Devin Powell last month in Derry, N.H.

Raio, a postal worker and gym owner who lives in Topsham, is 1-4 but is coming off his first pro victory, a first-round stoppage of Asa Zorn late last year.

Another pro bout to be contested at 160 pounds matches Dave Claroni (0-1), an officer with the Eastport Police Department as well as a personal trainer at Olympia Health and Fitness Center in Calais, against 1-2 Ryan Cowette, the owner and head coach of MMA Athletix in Bath.

Veterans Jarod “Last Minute” Lawton (3-1) of Augusta and John Ortolani (7-8) of Billerica, Mass., will square off at 170 pounds, while Jesse Erickson (1-2) will face Tollison Lewis (0-0) at 155 pounds.

The NEF XII amateur card is highlighted by bouts involving brothers Jeremy and Jarrod Tyler of Winterport, both fighting out of Team Irish in Brewer.

Jeremy Tyler (3-1), named the 2013 NEF MMA Rookie of the Year, will seek his fourth straight victory when he challenges 2-1 Corey Hinkley of the Lewiston-Auburn area in a 155-pound matchup, while Jarrod Tyler (1-1) is after his second straight win when he takes on New Hampshire’s Wayne Ahlquist, who is 3-5 but in his last bout knocked C.J. Ewer from the unbeaten ranks.

Other Team Irish fighters on the card include 2-0 Charlie Stambach against Carl Langston (0-2) at 145 pounds; Caleb Costello (1-2) against Matt Denning, also at 145; Ryan Dickey (0-1) against John Crafts (0-0) at 135; and Stephen Desjardins (2-3) against Jason Bell (0-1) in a 125-pound bout.

Kevin Smith (2-1) of Young’s MMA will battle Deron Newell (0-0) of the Sipayik Boxing Club in a 285-pound battle, while other bouts match Brandon Gibbs (1-0) against Crowsneck Boutin (3-6) at 200 pounds, Dan Connaughton (2-0) against Mike Vangelist (1-0) at 185, Trevor Hebert (1-2) against Dustin Venoit (0-2) at 125 and Nate Thayer (0-0) against Jay Charpentier (0-0) at 120.

Former champ Brown to appear at NEF XII

Former World Extreme Cagefighting featherweight champion “MTB” Mike Thomas Brown, a native of Standish, will be in attendance at NEF XII.

Brown, who is still active in the UFC and sports an overall 26-9 professional record, will conduct a free hourlong meet-and-greet with fans prior to the first bout.

“I’m excited to return to Maine to be a part of NEF MMA’s twelfth event,” said Brown in a press release. “I was there for NEF’s first event and I’m proud to be there for their two-year anniversary. I’ve attended mixed martial arts shows around the country and around the world and NEF puts on one of the best shows I’ve ever seen at the regional level.”

Brown won a state wrestling championship in 1992 while at Bonny Eagle High School in Standish, then continued his athletic career at Norwich (Vt.) University.

After college, Brown returned to Maine and began training and competing in MMA, establishing himself as a top regional prospect before relocating to Coconut Creek, Fla., to join one of the world’s top MMA programs at American Top Team.

Brown went on to capture the WEC featherweight title in November 2008 with a first-round technical knockout of Urijah Faber, then top-ranked 145-pounder in the world and still prominent on the UFC scene.

Brown made two successful title defenses, including a unanimous decision in his rematch with Faber, before falling after a year as champion to current UFC featherweight title holder Jose Aldo.

In late 2010, the WEC was absorbed into UFC, where Brown continues to compete.

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Ernie Clark

Ernie Clark is a veteran sportswriter who has worked with the Bangor Daily News for more than a decade. A four-time Maine Sportswriter of the Year as selected by the National Sportscasters and Sportswriters...