The main card of CFFC 119 served up a feast of finishes in Florida as Gregg “The Greatest” Ellis fought through the pain barrier to dethrone Donovan Beard to capture the CFFC middleweight title in Tampa.

Early in the fight Ellis broke his right hand, meaning he had to change his approach as he defeated Beard on the scorecards after four rounds at the Seminole Hard Rock Hotel and Casino.

Ellis found a home for his right hand early as he briefly rocked the champion and sent him down to one knee. But rather than empty the gas tank early in search of the swift finish, Ellis stayed composed and continued to exert controlled pressure as he dominated the early exchanges.

Ellis continued to force Beard backward as he dominated the center of the cage, firing off powerful leg kicks and solid right hands to keep the champion on the back foot. A flying knee partially connected for the challenger, forcing Beard to shoot for a takedown to halt the attack, but Ellis easily stuffed the attempt. The challenger then swept the champion to the mat with another thumping leg kick that sent Beard to the canvas as he rounded out a hugely impressive opening round for “The Greatest.”

Beard upped the intensity and came out much more aggressively at the start of Round 2. The champ connected with a big right hand, but saw a takedown attempt stuffed as Ellis showed smart defense to first prevent the takedown, then move into Beard’s guard.

The action continued on the mat as the pair looked to gain superiority on the mat, but it was Ellis who held the positional advantage, using his size and strength to maintain in a dominant position as he held the upper hand on the mat throughout the round.

The mat scrambles continued in Round 3, with Ellis again dominating top position, but Beard looking much more dangerous off his back. The champion threatened to lock up a triangle choke on multiple occasions, but Ellis remained diligent as he avoided any serious submission trouble against the champion.

It meant that, heading into the fourth round, Beard needed something huge to turn the bout in his favor, and with a finish essential to his hopes of retaining his title, he finally secured his first takedown of the fight early in the round.

With Ellis starting to look tired for the first time in the fight, Beard went to work on the mat and moved to the challenger’s back with just one minute remaining. Beard then looked to stretch out Ellis in a bid to lock up a rear-naked choke, but Ellis desperately defended and eventually reversed position in the closing seconds to survive the predicament and seal the victory.

With the fifth round in CFFC title fights only used in the event of a tie after four rounds, the bout went to the scorecards, and there was no doubt that Ellis had done enough to capture the title. The judges were all in agreement, too, as they all scored the bout 39-37 to Ellis, who claimed the 185-pound title.

After his victory, an emotional Ellis revealed his injury to CM Punk in his post-fight interview.

“Man, I’m not even supposed to be here,” he said.

“I’m sorry to all my fans. I broke my hand in about the first round so I had to turn to my wrestling. But Donovan is a tough guy, man. I appreciate you guys.

“Man, I’m here to heal up. I’ll defend it, anytime. You guys call me, I’m ready to defend it. Just give me some time to heal. Or the Contender Series. Hey, Dana White. You know the number, get at me!”

The co-main event looked every inch a title eliminator as Hugh Pulley edged Collin Lubberts on the scorecards after the pair went toe to toe in a bid to earn a shot at newly-crowned welterweight champion Charles Radtke.

With belt-holder “Chuck Buffalo” watching closely from cageside, both men traded big shots in a tight, well-contested matchup that saw the pair battle all the way to the judges’ scorecards after three hard-fought rounds.

In the end, it was Pulley who got the nod after a stronger final round as he earned the split decision, with the scorecards reading 29-28, 28-29, 29-28.

Pulley’s win may well have put him next in line for a shot at the CFFC welterweight title, but rather than make a direct statement to champion Radtke, Pulley instead said he’d be a tough proposition for whoever steps in with him next.

“What’s next is the next person, man,” he told CM Punk after his victory.

“I’m gonna train like I trained for this fight. I left no stone unturned. I went in, I prayed and I fought, and I got the victory, man. I don’t care who they put next to me, man. I’ll be in here putting the same dog in, every fight!”

Also on the main card, flyweight Shamel Findley showed his finishing power with a huge one-punch finish of Will Spann III to announce himself as a legitimate title contender at 125 pounds, while Brandon Lopez produced a slick submission to finish Jomal Rodriguez with a first-round ninja choke.

The main card kicked off with another finish, as Will Rentz finished Tyler Keating via punches in just over half a round.

During the event, CFFC CEO Rob Haydak confirmed the promotion would return to Florida later this year, with an event planned for Tampa on July 6.

CFFC 119: Official results

  • Gregg Ellis def. Donovan Beard via unanimous decision (39-37, 39-37, 39-37)
  • Hugh Pulley def. Collin Lubberts via split decision (29-28, 28-29, 29-28)
  • Shamel Findley def. Will Spann III via TKO (punches) Round 1, 4:37
  • Brandon Lopez def. Jomal Rodriguez via submission (ninja choke) – Round 1, 1:37
  • Will Rentz def. Tyler Keating via TKO (punches) – Round 1, 2:35

Photo: CFFC