VALPARAISO | Early in the card at Hoosier Fight Club 19, co-owner and matchmaker Paul Vale realized he would step foot inside his own cage during an event for the first time.
What Vale didn't yet know was that he'd be compelled to go inside twice.
Vale knew he'd carry the promotion's first title belt into the cage to put it around the winner's waist at the end of the amateur card. But after the main event on the pro portion of Saturday's show, Vale left his cageside seat to make an announcement to the fans who braved the weather to head to Porter County Expo Center.
"By far, this is the best fight I've ever witnessed (in HFC)," Vale said. "Both fighters showed a ton of heart. And I'm proud to have had this on our card."
If there was any question whether HFC made the right call putting a pair of fighters with a combined record of 6-0 ahead of a pair of UFC veterans with 40 combined fights, Team Colon's Tom Shoaff and Austin Tweedy spent 15 minutes giving the answer.
In a bout that featured a little bit of everything, and more than its fair share of blood spilled, Shoaff (4-0) threw everything he had at Tweedy (3-1), but couldn't finish him. Instead, he settled for a unanimous decision win. Tweedy survived multiple barrages of Shoaff punches, kicks and knees, but never stopped swinging himself.
"I've never hit somebody that many times before in my life," Shoaff said after the fight. "My hat is off to Austin. He's a phenomenal competitor. He never stopped moving forward, even when I hurt him. Did you see that guy? He took his shirt off at the weigh-ins and I was like, 'We're fighting at 155 (pounds).' He's a warrior. An animal. And maybe we'll do it again in the future."
In the co-main event, one-time "Ultimate Fighter" hopeful Kevin Nowaczyk (14-3) won for the fifth time in six fights with a unanimous decision win over UFC, Bellator and Strikeforce veteran Shamar Bailey (15-10).
Nowaczyk was able to outstrike Bailey on the feet, but the name of the game for him was controlling the fight on the ground. Several takedowns for Nowacyzk were the undoing of the Indianapolis-based Bailey. With the UFC rumored to be paying close attention to the result of the fight, Nowaczyk said he'll keep grinding till he gets another shot with the promotion.
"I'm just going to do what I do until I get that call (from the UFC)," he said.
Also on the main card, Duneland Vale Tudo product Matt Hemry got back on track at flyweight with a first-round D'Arce choke win over Zach Harvey to move to 4-1.
In the featured bout on the preliminary card, Anne Malinoff survived a rough first-round armbar against Elane Santiago, of Michigan, to take a unanimous decision and HFC's amateur atomweight title. But she may not hold the belt for long. The Team Colon product said turning pro is in her future.
"I'm feeling really good," Malinoff said. "Hopefully I'll go pro soon — right around the corner."