Niagara Gazette — NORTH TONAWANDA — After one round Saturday night Frankie Scalzo had been taken down twice and, by his own analysis, was down on the scorecards.
Fighting for Victory MMA's first-ever title belt (T-NT Fight Series Lightweight Championship), the Niagara Falls native knew he had to avoid Dylan Freedman's take downs the rest of the way and go on the offensive. He did just that and finished off his opponent with a guillotine choke early in the third round to become the first Niagara Falls MMA fighter to win two amateur title belts.
"In the first round I knew he was going to go for the take down and I saw it, but I just honestly couldn't stop it," Scalzo said. "The dude is a beast. He got that power double on me and got my body horizontal and took my legs from underneath me. I knew that first round was close, so going into the second round I went in like I was down a round."
Scalzo came out and stuffed a take down attempt by Freedman almost immediately. That small victory seemed to energize Scalzo after a difficult first round spent mostly on his back.
Swooping in after another failed take down by Freedman, Scalzo rocked the Rochester-based fighter with a solid left hook. Freedman immediately shot for another double leg takedown, and landed it, but Scalzo went for a guillotine and had it in pretty deep.
Scalzo cranked on Freedman's neck for about two minutes, but couldn't lock his legs in time to sustain the choke. The round ended shortly after the failed choke attempt but Scalzo knew he found a weakness in Freedman's game.
"I was clipping him with shots and he then he dove in for that double (in the third round)," Scalzo said. "As soon as he shot the double with his head out I'm thinking, 'Man I got him.' So i cinched in that guillotine, got it tight before I locked my legs in and started pulling up on it. Then I knew he wasn't going anywhere."
Saturday night's win was Scalzo's second fight of 2013. He beat Dickie White in Binghamton on Jan. 25 to win the North East 155-pound belt. White was also a big wrestler and Scalzo also finished him with a guillotine choke, a maneuver that's quickly becoming his trademark.
"I knew coming in that it would be a similar game plan to fighting Dickie," Scalzo said. " History likes to repeat itself — I got a big strong wrestler again so I worked my hands and ended up tagging him with some shots. I was trying to set up the guillotine because that's the money maker right there."
Victory MMA promoter Don Lilly said Scalzo fought a great fight and the win marks a great amateur career for the champ.
"It's a great accomplishment for Frankie to have a four-fight win streak," he said. "His pro debut is calling and now he starts at the bottom. With continued effort and training I'm sure Frankie has many more big fights in his future."
Scalzo is looking to jump to the professional ranks later this year and said fighting in front of family and friends again Saturday night made the victory so much sweeter.
Wherever his career takes him, Scalzo will always be proud of where he is from and hopes to be able to give back to the city he loves.
"It's definitely great to represent Niagara Falls," he said. "It's a great city with a bad reputation. From here I think we can just try and make the city better one step at a time."
NOTES: Niagara Falls' Jermaine Sneed lost by rear-naked choke to Tonawanda's Scott McGregor. It was Sneed's first MMA fight and he is currently fighting as an independent. Victory MMA's Valerie Aspaas won by rear-naked choke in the first round of the co-main event of the evening against Binghamton's Angie Reinhardt fighting out of Power of 1 MMA. The female contest was only the second of its kind in the history of MMA in New York state.Contact Tonawanda News sports editor Matt Parrino at 693-1000 ext. 4117 or on Twitter @MattParrino.