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Gaithersburg-based 170-pound welterweight Josh Jackson raised his stock a level on April 6, winning a clash of 27-year-olds over Maik Ferrante by round 2 stoppage for a sensational finish to his second appearance at Shogun Fights No. 21 at Royal Farms Arena.
Coached by Montgomery Blair graduate and former MMA fighter, Zach Davis out of The Evolve Academy in Gaithersburg, Jackson took one round to figure out Ferrante before pinning him against the cage. Once there, Jackson bounced his crouched-over rival’s head with several knee kicks to the face, forcing the referee to his rescue following an assortment of elbow strikes to the head.
The end came at the 2:56 mark as a dazed Ferrante, of Forest Hills, Maryland, laid on the ground after being pounded into submission.
“Overall, I felt like it was a good performance. My wrestling and footwork looked good and so did the striking once I got it going the way I wanted to,” said Jackson, who went 5-1 as an amateur, improved to 2-1 as a pro. Ferrante’s record dropped to 4-4.
“I felt like I came out a little flat, allowing him to hit me a couple of times with a couple of straight (right hands). But once I got his timing down, I got rolling, and it was downhill for him from there.”
Davis considered Saturday’s performance an improvement over a match in October. That’s when Jackson scored a brutal knockout of Andrew Johnson, ending the competitive matchup with several unanswered blows on a defenseless opponent whose hands were down and back against the cage as the referee stepped in to end their bout midway through the third round.
“This was a great performance against Ferrante, and I do think it was a big improvement over the previous one,” said Davis, a 189-pound fourth-place county finishing wrestler who graduated from Blair in 2002.
“There were some exchanges, however, that required us to do a little more work than we had wanted to do, and with Josh, we’re trying to take him to the next level. So in order to do that, he’s got to pick it up in the areas where some of the better opponents might be able to take advantage.”
Davis knows what he speaks of, having narrowly missed the cut for “The Ultimate Fighter 7” MMA reality television series in late 2007 before qualifying for the 2011 version of “The Ultimate Fighter 13” cast of 14 in 2011.
“We were expecting Ferrante to come in with an overhand right trying to close (the) distance and trying to grapple with Josh,” said Davis, a former swimmer and cross-country runner who graduated from the University of Maryland in 2006 .
“But instead, he came out throwing three straight right hands straight down the middle,” Davis added. “There wasn’t too much power on them, but it took Josh a little bit to make that adjustment. Once Josh began to read it, he was able to slip and parry the straight right hands as opposed to covering and countering the overhand rights.”
On the same October card, Jackson’s demolition of Johnson was preceded by Frederick-based 170-pound teammate Matthew Semelsberger suffering an upset stoppage loss to debuting Jerome Featherstone of Baltimore.
Jackson followed Featherstone yet again on Saturday as the latter knocked out Imani Smith of Virginia Beach. Matchmaker Bryan Hamper said pairing both fighters together would be a “great potential welterweight match.”
“It would put the winner in line for a potential welterweight title fight,” said Hamper, a former two-time state wrestling champion and four-time state place-winning wrestler at South Carroll of Carroll County.
Hamper said Jackson could “possibly” appear on a card slated for July 13 at The MGM Grand Arena in Oxon Hill, marking the second time Shogun will have appeared at the gambling venue.
“I’ll fight anybody, but I’ll leave my next move up to the discretion of my coaches a far as what fights are best for the progression of my career,” said Jackson. “They have all of the experience, so whatever they feel that I need to do, and whatever they say, that’s what I’m going to do.”
Some 200-or-so of Jackson’s supporters darted the arena on Saturday night wearing blue T-shirts adorned by his name in white letters. In the wake of his victory, the amiable Jackson made his way into the stands and hallways where he alternately posed for selfies and photos with adults and children.
“The bulk of my fans are from Frederick, which has really gotten behind me,” said Jackson. “A lot of my sponsors are in Frederick, and they all want to buy tickets and come out to support me, and I love them to death.”
Jackson graduated in 2009 from Frederick High School, where he was a second-team All-Frederick County running back in football and a center fielder on the Cadets’ Class 3A state championship baseball team. He ran sprints in indoor track, including a 6.75-second personal best in the 55-meters.
At Frostburg University, Jackson played football and baseball and earned a degree in sociology, graduating in 2014.
Jackson’s first mixed martial arts experience resulted from partnering with a friend, Brent Walter, who recruited him for sparring. That led Jackson to Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu and ultimately to Davis at the Frederick-based Fort MMA facility.
“It’s going to be a team effort deciding on Josh’s next opponent, so we’ll talk as coaches,” said Davis. “We wanna start climbing the ladder, finding an opponent who will test Josh a little bit more each time. I think we’re looking at fighting at the MGM Grand this summer.”