LINCOLN --- When Keith Jeffrey woke up last Friday morning, he had his sights set on producing an impressive performance later that night in the co-feature of Classic Entertainment & Sports, Inc.’s “Proving Grounds” card at the Twin River Event Center.
Turns out that Jeffrey was successful in accomplishing that, but he ended up doing so in the main event, the first time in his career that he stepped into the limelight for the night’s grand finale.
And Jeffrey did the local fans and his Pawtucket Tri-Force MMA compound proud by using a strong guillotine choke to claim a second-round submission triumph over Harley Beekman of Amsterdam, N.Y.
The submission was the sixth for the Pawtucket fighter, who improved to 8-2-1 and picked up the win over a strong opponent in Beekman (4-2, 2 KOs), a chiseled fighter with quality standup skills.
The opening round was a competitive affair, with Jeffrey landing a couple of strong righthanded punches to get the best of Beekman, but two minutes into the second round, Beekman used his strength to pin Jeffrey against the cage and then try to bring him down to the mat.
That’s when the fighter best known as “Sonic Boom” made his move.
“He was even stronger than I thought he was going to be,” admitted Jeffrey. “When he went for the takedown, he dropped his head just enough, and I was able to get a good angle on him, lock up the choke, and finish him.”
Beekman was coming off a unanimous-decision loss on April 13 to Jeffrey’s Tri-Force MMA stablemate, Brennan Ward, a former All-American wrestler at Johnson & Wales University who put away Beekman with his grappling skills and a high number of takedowns.
Jeffrey, who also fought on April 13 and earned a split decision victory over Chip Moraza-Pollard, caught a little of that fight and knew that his wrestling and Jiu-Jitsu skills would be the keys to a hard-fought victory.
“I’m comfortable on the ground, so I let him hold me a little bit (against the fence) and use a little bit of steam before I took him down,” offered Jeffrey. “Again, he was very, very strong, but I figured I would win by submission.”
While Jeffrey figured he would be successful, he didn’t find out he would be fighting in his first main event until earlier in the afternoon, but he was more than happy to take center stage and deliver a crowd-pleasing victory.
“This was great,” he said, “but the worst part was waiting. I was sitting back here for hours, just waiting to go. You want to get out there and you want to do your thing, but like Tom Petty said, ‘The waiting’s the hardest part.’ ”
Another thing that somewhat caught Jeffrey off-guard was the weight he had to attain in order to take on Beekman. It was at a catch weight of 180 pounds that saw Jeffrey, who is normally a 170-pound welterweight, put on an extra 10 pounds, and Beekman, a 185-pound middleweight, drop five.
But Jeffrey, who is the No. 8 ranked welterweight in the region, didn’t need to hit any buffet tables or eat any extra meals to reach the weight.
“I walk around at about 190 (pounds), so fighting at 170 is a stretch,” added Jeffrey, who along with Beekman, checked in at 179 pounds at Thursday’s weigh-in. “But (getting to) 180 was easy for me. I only took 10 pounds off and there were no ill effects from the weight cut. It was convenient.
“I was supposed to fight 170 against Mike Winters. He was the No. 6 ranked at 170, but he got an injury and he dropped out, so it was either a 180 catch weight fight or no fight and wait to fight again later in the year, and I wanted to get another one in now.”
The victory was also the third in the last eight months for Jeffrey, who noted that he plans to take the rest of the summer off from fighting and hopes to be back in action late in the fall, preferably in a five-round match and hopefully for a welterweight championship.
“I’m going to take a little break,” reported Jeffrey. “I fought on back-to-back cards, and I have a lot of stuff going on this summer. I’m going to enjoy the summer a little bit, and come back before the end of the year and get another fight in.”