Tristan Connelly is popular.

Tristan Connelly is popular.

AFC fight night returns to the Bear

Locals highlight undercard matches at AFC 18: Mayhem, Saturday at Bear Mountain Arena

A pair of Ultimate Fighting Championship veterans will co-headline AFC 18: Mayhem as mixed martial arts returns to Bear Mountain Arena on Saturday.

Kalib Starnes, of Surrey, enters the Aggression Fighting Championship cage for the fifth time to fight David Perron, out of Vancouver, in one of AFC 18’s co-headliners.

Kelowna’s Michael Hill is in the other co-headliner. The Kelowa native was a contestant in season 16 of UFC’s reality show The Ultimate Fighter. He faces a strong opponent in Joel Powell, a Canadian top-10 ranked welterweight out of Hamilton.

“Both headliners have the chance to be the fight of the night,” said AFC co-owner and matchmaker Darren Owen.

“Perron and Starnes have very good jiujitsu but Starne’s is coming off losing a potential fight-of-the-year, when he stood and threw strikes with Joe Doerksen at AFC 11, so you never know,” Owen said.

“Hill and Powell both stand up and will trade strikes to try to and knock each other out.”

Local talent is the foundation of the AFC and few fighters are as popular as Victoria’s Tristan Connelly from Island MMA, who will fight Jonathan Dubois from the Mainland.

“Connelly has a lot of experience now and a high skill level, he’s tested himself against some good fighters, winning and losing,” Owen said.

Making his pro debut is Victoria’s Dillon Brown (Island MMA) against Taylor Parker from Washington.

Parker is an example of the budding MMA scene out of the North West states and, of the international demand from athletes looking to compete in the AFC.

“A lot of Washington MMA clubs are contacting us and really, it’s everyone. Russia, Brazil, New Zealand, Egypt, you name it, fighters wall over the world are trying to reach out and we’re on that list,” Owen said.

The former football player turned MMA entrepreneur has taken on the role of matchmaker in a greater capacity with the AFC, which is steadily streamlining its resources. Two years ago Owen and partner Jason Heit merged their Armageddon Fighting Championship with outfits from Calgary and Edmonton and are now billing themselves as the largest MMA organization in Canada.

All that’s missing is a national TV deal, something that’s on the way Owen said.

“We’re really trying to take everyone’s strength and run this as one company. With fighters, we’re trying to do get the best guys in the country in our organization and then the best of the best guys fight each other.”

Saturday is likely the final amateur fight for Mount Douglas secondary grad and up-and-coming MMA sensation Alexi Argyriou, who will face Thomas Prope from White Rock.

Argyriou is an extremely well-rounded MMA athlete, one who Owen expects to be an AFC headliner within a few four or five fights.

“He’s the complete package.”

Fellow Mount Doug grad Ty Daggis (Canada’s Best Karate), “a freak athlete” and former football player, will also fight on Saturday.

sports@vicnews.com

Red Corner                Blue CornerMichael Hill        5-0    vs    Joel Powell        6-3    170David Perron        5-1    vs    Kalib Starnes    12-8    185Tristan Connelly    3-4    vs    Jonathon Dubois    1-4    180Miles Anstead    2-0    vs    Ash Mashreghi    0-2    170Dillon Brown        0-0    vs    Taylor Parker    0-0    145

AmateurAlexi Argyriou    2-0    vs    Thomas Prope    2-1    160Shane Jung        2-1    vs    Guy Gauthier    2-2    145Ty Daggis        2-2    vs    JR Cuevas        0-0    145Jason Driese        0-0    vs    Marcos da Silva    0-0    148Tyler Lynk        0-1    vs    Cole Smith        0-0    145