On Friday, May 10, Maximum Fighting Championship hosted its 37th event, dubbed “True Grit” from the Shaw Conference Centre in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada.

In the night’s main event, the promotion hosted its first bantamweight bout as Americans Ryan Benoit and Anthony Birchak battled it out.

Also on the main card, middleweight submission artists Jason Zentgraf and Luke Harris went to war, former lightweight title challenger Mukai Maromo looked to avenge a prior loss against Kurt Southern, and UFC veterans Jay Silva and Sam Alvey collided at middleweight.

The card was slated to be headlined by a heavyweight title tilt between undefeated Canadian Smealinho Rama and American Chris Barnett, but Barnett was pulled from the fight earlier in the week due to holes in his retina that were discovered in pre-fight medicals. As a result, the Benoit-Birchak bout was elevated to the top billing.

MFC 37’s six-fight main card aired live on AXS TV beginning at 10 p.m. ET. The three-fight preliminary card streamed live on the promotion’s Facebook page starting at 8:30 p.m. ET.

Birchak edges Benoit in thrilling main event

In the first bantamweight fight in MFC history, Anthony Birchak and Ryan Benoit put on a show for the Edmonton crowd. The back-and-forth battle saw Birchak walked out of the ring with a unanimous decision win.

Birchak quickly looked for a single-leg takedown before transitioning to a double-leg and slamming Benoit to the canvas. Benoit quickly returned to the feet and managed to take Birchak’s back while standing. Birchak shrugged off Benoit and landed in his guard. Birchak moved to the mount and dropped big shots from the top position. Benoit gave up his back as Birchak continued his assault. Birchak worked hard for a rear-naked choke, but Benoit showed resolve to escape the submission. Benoit managed to reverse the position and take Birchak’s back in the final minute, but Birchak prevented a choke attempt and finished the round in the top position.

In the second frame Birchak opened aggressively, hurting Benoit on the feet. Birchak put Benoit on his back, but Benoit countered with a kneebar. Birchak escaped and again took Benoit’s back near the ropes. The Arizona fighter chained multiple submission attempts, but Benoit ended up in the top position after escaping an armbar attempt. Benoit passed to the mount and took Birchak’s back. An armbar attempt from Benoit relinquished top position as Birchak escaped. From the top Birchak looked for a mounted triangle, before rolling to his back and nearly choking Benoit unconscious as the round came to a close.

The first two rounds clearly took their toll on Benoit, who gave up a takedown and the mount to Birchak within the opening seconds of the final stanza. Benoit again showed his heart, escaping the position briefly. Surprisingly, Birchak again looked for an armbar and gave up position to Benoit as he defended the submission. Benoit attacked with a kneebar in the final 90 seconds before transitioning to Birchak’s back. Birchak stood and looked for a kimura on Benoit’s right arm as the fight came to a close.

When the judges’ tallies were revealed, the fight went the way of Birchak on all three scorecards.

Harris dominates Zentgraf

Middleweight Luke Harris bounced back from the second loss of his career to submit American Jason Zentgraf in the opening frame.

Zentgraf fired early, but he allowed Harris to tie him up and quickly score with a judo throw. Harris landed in side control and locked onto a head lock. Zentgraf recovered his half guard momentarily, but Harris passed back to side control and latched onto a deep neck crank that forced Zentgraf to tap out just two minutes into the fight.

Southern submits Maromo for a second time

Lightweight Kurt Southern prevented dangerous striker Mukai Maromo from avenging a prior loss, scoring a first-round submission win over the African fighter.

Maromo opened with his hands, but Southern wasted little time scoring with a double-leg takedown. Maromo exploded back to his feet, but Southern planted him on his back with little effort. Southern worked diligently from side control before applying a north-south choke that forced Maromo to tap midway through the frame.

Alvey overwhelms Silva in round three

Middleweight Sam Alvey bounced back from an MFC title loss to hand UFC veteran Jay Silva a third-round TKO loss.

Silva opened the fight as the aggressor, backing Alvey to the ropes. He continued to keep Alvey on his toes, throwing a variety of kicks. Alvey delivered a right hand that backed up Silva, but he quickly recovered. Alvey flurried in the final minute of the round, pushing Silva into the corner to close the round.

In round two Silva again pushed forward, but Alvey found a home for a powerful combination that rocked Silva. The veteran crashed to the mat as Alvey chased him with repeated right hands. Alvey landed in side control and rained right hands, but Silva somehow survived the onslaught. The referee brought the fighters back to the feet in the final minute of the frame and both fighters looked for heavy shots.

Silva landed early in round three, but Alvey countered with a barrage that rocked Silva. Silva crashed to the mat and Alvey smelled blood. The referee stepped in to halt Alvey’s assault just one minute into the final round.

Silva was visibly upset with the stoppage and retracted his pre-fight comments about retirement, feeling that he was still in the fight.

Neufeld cruises past Nybakken

Lightweight Peter Neufeld cruised to a clear-cut decision win over Garrett Nybakken, frustrating Nybakken on the feet throughout the contest.

Neufeld pressed forward early, forcing Nybakken to retreat. Nybakken looked for multiple takedowns, but Neufeld kept the fight upright. Neufeld frequently changed stances, allowing him to connect with right hands as the round progressed.

The second stanza was eerily similar as Neufeld continued to march forward and force Nybakken against the ropes. Neufeld patiently pressed forward, scoring throughout the frame with right hands.

Nybakken tried taunting Neufeld into a brawl in the final round, but to no avail. Neufeld’s forward march continued as Nybakken failed to mount much offense for a third consecutive frame.

Unsurprisingly, Neufeld walked away with a unanimous decision victory on the judges’ scorecards.

Hope stop Grandbois once again

Middleweights Paul Grandbois and Allen Hope kicked off the televised portion of the card with a slugfest that saw both fighters throw caution to the wind from the opening bell, with hope scoring a second-round TKO.

Both fighters swung for the fences in the opening round, with Hope connecting with cleaner shots. Grandbois battled back, but was on the receiving end of numerous right hands and clinch knees. Hope also landed multiple leg kicks, but failed to stop Grandbois’ advance.

In the second frame, Hope made sure that Grandbois would not avenge a prior knockout loss from 2011, repeatedly scoring with combinations. An overhand right sent Grandbois to the canvas and Hope followed with multiple shots that forced the referee to halt the contest.

Anthony Birchak def. Ryan Benoit by unanimous decision (30-27, 29-28, 29-28)
Luke Harris def. Jason Zentgraf by submission (neck crank). Round 1, 2:21
Kurt Southern def. Mukai Maromo by submission (north-south choke). Round 1, 2:54
Sam Alvey def. Jay Silva by TKO (strikes). Round 3, 1:05
Peter Neufeld def. Garrett Nybakken by unanimous decision (29-28 x3)
Allen Hope def. Paul Grandbois by TKO (strikes). Round 2, 1:54
Jared McComb def. Marcus Hicks by submission (rear-naked choke). Round 1, 3:09
Thomas Treadwell def. Mike Treadwell by submission (strikes). Round 2, 2:22
Maged Hammo def. Allen Munroe by submission (rear-naked choke). Round 2, 2:53

Photo: Anthony Birchak (L) throws a kick (Wilson Fox/Sherdog)