By ADAM SHINDER
In his first mixed martial arts bout in nearly nine months, Harley Beekman wanted to make a statement. In doing just that, the Amsterdam native set himself up for the biggest chance of his fighting career.
Last Friday night at the Twin River Casino in Lincoln, R.I., Beekman returned to the cage for the first time since Nov. 15, 2013, when he took on Chip Moraza-Pollard on the undercard of Classic Entertainment and Sports' CES MMA 25 event. When all was said and done, Beekman had pulled out a three-round split decision victory in the middleweight bout, which puts him in position to challenge for the CES MMA title at 185 pounds.
"Just to have this fight, it was good to have," Beekman said. "It was another top-ranked guy, and I got another win against a top-ranked guy."
Beekman (5-2) had been idle since his unanimous decision win last November against Tom Egan. Moraza-Pollard (8-7) was also coming off a win against Egan in March, and Beekman knew he had a difficult challenge ahead of him against the veteran from Plymouth, Mass., who fought for Bellator MMA -- the second-biggest MMA promotion in the United States -- last year.
While Moraza-Pollard, who has four knockouts among his eight professional wins, hoped to keep the fight as a striking contest, Beekman opted to throw every facet of his game at his opponent.
"Chip is a standup fighter, and I think he thought it was kind of going to be just a standup fight," Beekman said. "I went in and mixed it up a little bit. Little bit of everything."
With Beekman's takedowns negating Moraza-Pollard's ability on his feet, the Amsterdam native toughed out a split decision victory, winning 29-28 on two scorecards, while the third judge scored the bout 29-28 in Moraza-Pollard's favor.
"It was definitely a grinder," Beekman said. "I'm not sure if it was definitely split, or if it should've been unanimous, but when you leave things in the hands of judges, that's the way it goes. It could've gone either way. I've got to learn from this experience."
The win will push Beekman near the top of the middleweight ranks in the Northeast and puts him in line for a shot at the CES MMA middleweight title. That championship is currently held by John Howard, who hasn't defended it since June 2013 and has since had three fights with the Ultimate Fighting Championship.
"I'm not sure when that fight's gonna be," Beekman said. "Maybe in November, but we're not really sure. We're just trying to get things into motion."
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