Drew Fickett, who around 2005 was considered one of the best welterweights in the world, entered the limelight for the first time in years and submitted three opponents Friday night to win the inaugural Shine Fights Lightweight Grand Prix tournament at the First Council Casino in Newkirk, Okla.
The evening was a significant turnaround for Fickett, who entered the pay-per-view event losing five of his last six and eight of his last 11. And Fickett took full advantage of his opportunity to impress, finishing quickly in his trio of tourney bouts.
In his first fight, Fickett submitted Charles "Krazy Horse" Bennett with a standing guillotine choke and then in the semifinals, tapped out Dennis Bermudez with a rear-naked choke.
Fickett was fresh, needing only five minutes and 36 seconds of ring time to dispatch of Bennett and Bermudez to advance to the finals against Carlo Prater. However, it was a completely different story for Prater, who went the distance in two fights for a total of 23 minutes of action.
In a rematch from 2004, which coincidentally was also part of a one-night tournament, Fickett advanced through a basic progression by scoring a takedown and softening up Prater from mount to set up the tapout-inducing rear-naked choke.
"He gave up his back and I'm really good with back," Fickett said. "So once you give up your back, you might as well tap out before something bad happens."
Since Fickett won his semifinals bout in just 122 seconds, Prater had even less time to recover from his two previous fights. No additional bouts were scheduled for what could have been a rest period, only a short drum act inside the ring. Despite entering the fight at a disadvantage, Prater kept his post-fight interview positive.
"Drew is a true champion," Prater expressed, emotionally after the fight. "He's extremely strong."
While Prater advanced to the finals, he didn't do so in the manner he intended. Prater lost in his opening round bout by split decision to Rich Crunkilton, but was given another chance in the semifinals when Crunkilton could not continue due to a rib injury.
Actually, both quarterfinal winners Crunkilton and Kyle Baker were forced out of the tournament. No reason was provided for Baker's absence but was most likely due to a nasty cut above his left eye from his grueling quarterfinal win over James Warfield. Alternate winner Charlie Brown, coached by WEC lightweight champion Ben Henderson, stepped in and lost to Prater by majority decision in a very close fight.
Tournaments are generally an effective way to showcase UFC/WEC castoffs as well as up-and-comers and the big winner Friday night was also the same person who needed it the most.
Fickett, a man who holds a win over current UFC welterweight No. 1 contender Josh Koscheck, has battled alcohol problems for years, hitting bottom last year when he lost all five of his fights -- and that doesn't include a fight that was canceled when Fickett showed up inebriated on fight night.
So at the end of the night, having just extended his win streak to four, Fickett stood inside the ring with the Shine Fights GP trophy and enjoyed at least one more moment in the spotlight.
"I'm back," Fickett said. "155-pounders look out!"
1. Drew Fickett def. Charles Bennett via submission (guillotine) - Round 1, 3:34
2. Dennis Bermudez def. Shannon Gugerty via unanimous decision after two rounds
3. Kyle Baker def. James Warfield via split decision after three rounds (OT)
4. Rich Crunkilton def. Carlo Prater via split decision after three rounds (OT)
5. Drew Fickett def. Dennis Bermudez via submission (rear-naked choke) - Round 1,
6. Carlo Prater def. Charlie Brown via majority decision after two rounds
7. Drew Fickett def. Carlo Prater via submission (rear-naked choke) - Round 1, 2:02