AF fighter cruises to MMA championship

A Sembach Annex security forces staff sergeant takes the Air Force’s “fit-to-fight” mantra to another level when he climbs into a cage to compete in the fast-paced, grueling sport of mixed martial arts.

Anthony Durnell, assigned to the 786th Security Forces Squadron as an instructor at the Regional Training Center, ran his unbeaten record to 7-0 as a professional fighter after pummeling Cedric “Crazy Eyes” Jouvet of France to win the God’s of War Lightweight Championship belt July 11.

Durnell entered the cage to chants of “U-S-A” from the roughly 500 in attendance at the event hall in Baumholder and proceeded to dismantle the Frenchman with his wrestling and punching power. The fight was stopped by the referee at two minutes and 49 seconds of the first round due to a technical knockout.

The beaten Jouvet didn’t seem to have an answer for Durnell’s non-stop pressure, but did attempt a leg-lock submission from his back after being taken down to start the fight.

“I studied him a lot before the fight, and knew he was a very accomplished grappler,” Durnell said. “He had my leg locked good and I heard my ankle pop, but I wasn’t going to stop for anything.”

Jouvet also thought he had the submission locked in good, but gave his opponent a lot of respect for getting out of it and finishing the fight.

“I thought it was tight, but (Durnell) stayed in good position and didn’t panic,” Jouvet said. “Then he hit me with a good elbow to my head and dazed me. It was all over after that.”

The end came quicker than most expected, including Durnell.

“I thought it would go longer. Maybe two or three rounds,” he said. “We always train for five five-minute rounds with a big emphasis on cardio. You don’t ever want to be the guy on the bottom with nothing left in the gas tank during a fight. To prepare for the fights, Durnell said he trains with the best in the KMC.

“There’s nothing we’ll see in the cage that we haven’t seen in practice, so that allows us to go into the fight fully prepared, both physically and mentally,” he said.

That preparation is something Durnell has been building on since he was 7 years old and studying Shotokan karate. He later added wrestling and a little judo to his arsenal while growing up. After entering the Air Force, he also learned to box, and carries the confidence he’s gained from training and competing to his job as a security forces instructor.

“The training and competing really helps build confidence in your abilities,” he said. “Not just your abilities in the ring, but in performing as a non-commissioned officer. I feel that if I can get in a cage and fight, I can be a confident NCO and leader.”

Durnell uses that confidence to help teach and train others too.

“It’s contagious,” he said. “We have a lot of people come out and train with us just for fun and as another way to help their PT scores.

Durnell’s Team Catacomb also had two other fighters compete on the card that night, both also assigned to the 786th Security Forces Squadron and making their professional debut.

Brandon Kilfoyle entered the cage to fight Benjamin Cigliutto, also from France, and after getting the better of a brief exchange on their feet, Kilfoyle took the Frenchman down. Kilfoyle looked for a couple of submissions and used his ground-and-pound to force Cigliutto to give up his back.

After taking more than a dozen unanswered punches, the referee stepped in to stop the fight at three minutes and 19 seconds of round one.

The other first-time fighter was Bryan Onderdonk, who, unlike Durnell and Kilfoyle, had no idea he’d be fighting when he arrived with the other members of Team Catacomb. Another fighter didn’t show up, so the promoter asked Onderdonk if he wanted the fight.

“I was nervous at first, but when you’re offered an opportunity like that, you have to take it,” he said. “Fortunately, I was prepared and have been training with a great team.”

Onderdonk’s opponent, Igor Montes of Germany, came out throwing some strong strikes, but Onderdonk quickly scooped him up, slammed him to canvas and unleashed a brutal ground-and-pound that left the German bloodied, but still determined.

Montes made it back to his feet only to be slammed once again and after a few more punches, the referee was forced to stop the fight via technical knockout.

 In total, Team Catacomb walked away with three wins, zero defeats and a championship belt.