NEWPORT — On Saturday, Feb.1, Dan Stewart, also known as the “Newport Nightmare,” made his long-awaited return to mixed martial arts in the King of the Cage: Pure Vengeance event at Chinook Winds Casino Resort.
The former Taft high school wrestler channeled his roots, defeating Gibran Alvarez in a unanimous decision in a light-heavyweight bout.
The two fighters traded blows during their three-round fight, but it was the Newport Nightmare who stood tallest.
“You know, I just felt good, man. I was getting on top a lot, and I just needed to capitalize on that,” Stewart said on his performance. “I got something to work off of, and I thought I had a great performance."
Stewart endured nine other fights before he took center stage in the main event of the night.
It didn’t matter if he’s been out almost a decade, the Newport Nightmare overcame some rust and put on a show for the hundreds in attendance, rooting on the local. Backed and sponsored by the Newport Cafe, Stewart’s shorts and shirt were decked out with the café’s decals.
But Stewart wasn’t the only local to take part in the fight.
Lincoln City native David “Kryptonite” Converse fought in the King of the Cage Jr. Flyweight World Championship but was unable to pull out the victory at 125 pounds.
Converse mixed up his strikes well during the five round, five-minute fight, and he showed his ability on the ground, but his opponent, Chris Quiroga, finished the fight with a TKO (technical knockout).
Regardless of the outcome, Converse (3-1) fought well in front of his home fans and will no doubt be in the cage again soon.
But for Stewart, the win Saturday night sets him up for another contest, and this time he’ll be in better shape, and he will have his timing back.
Fabiano Scherner, Stewart’s coach and legendary Brazilian black belt in Jiu Jitsu, was proud of his fighter’s performance, especially after a long layoff.
“I think he had an outstanding performance, especially after all those years,” Scherner said. “He did what we expected him to do. He did exactly what we planned on. Maybe the submission could’ve come, but I think he was controlling the fight well.”
Coming into the last fight of the night, the crowd expected a striking frenzy. Both fighters weighing in at 205 pounds, this was the main event.
Of course, someone is going to get knocked out, but Stewart showcased his all-around repertoire.
The Newport Nightmare came out of the gates and immediately put his wrestling background to the test.
Alvarez seemed lethargic and unwilling to go to the ground, but Stewart wasn’t asking.
The former Taft wrestler took his opponent down, seemingly with every other exchange.
It was clear the Newport Nightmare was going to utilize his strength on the ground, and it paid off.
Partly because his opponent wasn’t a strong wrestler and partly because after almost 10 years out of the cage, Stewart’s striking wasn’t back to his normal skill level.
“When you go for striking after all these years out of the game, you feel kind of rusty,” Scherner said. “But his wrestling and ground game is there, it stays there. You can do better on the ground after years. The striking, you need to get that timing down.
“It gets harder after all those years not fighting, so I think that kind of happened. But he rocked that guy a couple times. He was right there where we were expecting him to be.”
In the second round, Stewart was confident and energized. And that resulted in brutal shots to the head of Alvarez.
Stewart stunned his opponent and continued to walk him back to the cage. For Alvarez, he was unable to get into a rhythm. The constant takedowns were tiring him, opening him up to shots to the upper body.
“I’m older now and more calm, but I could’ve probably pounced on him. But I didn’t want to get knocked out by this guy,” Stewart joked. “I didn’t want to do so well and then get knocked out, so I had to be smart about it, and kind of pick my shots when they were open. I’m just cautious.”
In the final round, Stewart looked strong, and it wasn’t much of a surprise when he was announced as the winner.
The Newport Nightmare dominated the fight from the opening bell to the final in round three. Whether it was working on the ground, in the clinch or on his feet, the Newport Nightmare proved age is just a number and that there are a lot more fights in Stewart’s future.
“It was awesome to fight, and to do it in front of all this support was really great,” Stewart said.
While the Newport Nightmare was the main event, there were nine other fights at Chinook Winds. From 105 pounds to 205, there were fights for everyone to enjoy.
The night got started with a bang as Justin Rosenberry and Devoreaux Craigen faced off in an opening three-round bout.
Craigen and Rosenberry traded blows early, but the fight ended in the first round after Craigen landed a crushing right-footed kick to the head.
Rosenberry was knocked unconscious from the blow, bringing the entire building to its feet.
Next up, Hayden Maggard and Brandon Miller faced each other in a 135-pound bout. It was the first of the night to go all the way as Maggard fought his way back to earn a unanimous decision.
Maggard’s toughness was on full display as he took a beating on the ground but overcame and walked away victorious.
In the third-round bout, Roberto Hernandez matched up with American Top Team Portland’s Jordan Anderson. American Top Team was on full display as Scherner and many fighters from the professional gym were in attendance, including Paige Vanzant and her husband, Austin Vanderford, who is also a well-known fighter.
Anderson looked to be in control of the fight early, but Hernandez shocked the crowd as he endured ferocious strikes to earn a unanimous decision.
Hernandez showcased an unflinching fearlessness. He went after Anderson at every opportunity, forcing the Top Team fighter to fight out of character.
Anderson was visibly frustrated with his performance, but he graciously congratulated his opponent after the bout.
Aaron Bowles (Pumpkin Head), also out of American Top Team, faired more favorably than his teammate, Anderson. Bowles secured a TKO as he stopped opponent Matt Russo.
Arnold Jimenez followed that with a win over Tristan Lindi at 135 pounds, before Leon Klee won his bout at 205 pounds over American Top Team fighter Fernando Alvarado.
Unfortunately, Alvarado was unable to continue as he dislocated his left shoulder during the fight.
In fight seven, Lincoln City native Converse took to the cage for the night’s longest fight — five rounds, five minutes for the Flyweight World Championship.
The crowd cheered the hometown fighter, but the cheers quickly turned to boos as Converse was never able to get going in the cage.
His opponent, Quiroga, was short and quick, causing Converse issues throughout the fight. It wasn’t his striking, but his wrestling as he kept the fight close to the ground for a majority of the night.
Converse had his moments. He connected with strong right-footed kicks and connected squarely with Quiroga’s nose, opening a small cut, but for the most part Quiroga was on the offensive.
Quiroga finished the fight early with a TKO.
After Converse, Christopher Gates and American Top Team’s Brandon Nunn put on what might’ve been the fight of the night. Both Gates and Nunn came in at 185 pounds, but their presence felt like a heavyweight fight.
The two traded punches, kicks and went toe-to-toe on the ground.
Nunn was able to take the fight, but after he took a beating.
Nunn thanked his wife and family after a tough week. His family had dealt with a loss early, but he credited his family and friends for keeping him focused on the ultimate goal — beating Gates and winning his bout. He did just that.
Nunn’s victory set up the last fight of the night before the main event, the Newport Nightmare. It was also the only women’s fight on the card, as well: Grace Cleveland and Angela Danzig at 105 pounds. Cleveland dominated the bout, earning a unanimous decision.