ONTARIO, CALIF.-Southern California fight fans got their first dose of World Series of Fighting as kickboxing stars Tyrone Spong and Ray Sefo tested the world of mixed martial arts on Saturday with very mixed results.
A very evenly matched fight card saw Spong (2-0) battle Angel DeAnda (11-3) in a light heavyweight MMA main event at the Citizens Business Bank Arena. More than 6,000 fans showed up to see WSOF 4 and determine what brand of fighting the Las Vegas-based organization can stage. NBC Sports Network televised the event.
Behind some powerful kicks to the legs, Spong battered Northern California's rugged but smallish power puncher DeAnda over three rounds. Despite the pounding to the legs the smaller fighter refused to quit and showed guts.
The "Bo Jackson of combat sports" as some call Spong, enjoyed a height, arm span and speed advantage that resulted in pounding kicks to DeAnda's legs. Despite the pounding, the smaller DeAnda had some success especially during exchange of punches. But overall it was one-sided in Spong's favor.
"Deanda is a strong guy. He surprised me with how much punishment he was able to take," said Spong, who had a who's who of trainers in MMA expert Rashad Evans and Cuban boxing coach Pedro Diaz. "I went in with no expectations and I wanted to feel him out and see what he was made of."
The first two rounds saw Spong seldom in danger. But in the third round during fierce exchanges DeAnda landed some potent uppercuts that slowed the kickboxing champion. But it was too late to change the outcome. Spong won by decision.
"My left inner leg definitely hurts from his leg kicks, but overall I thought I fought a great fight," said DeAnda. "There is no consolation in going the distance. We're both good strikers."
Brazil's Marlon Moraes (11-4-1) bloodied Brandon Hempleman (9-2) early then seemed to break or seriously injure his leg in the second round to dominate their bantamweight fight at the Citizens Business Bank Area on Saturday.
Hempleman couldn't catch a break. Repeated kicks to the injured left leg really brought winces from the crowd. After two rounds of punishment, an almost bloodless Hempleman had a decent third round but was unable to overcome the handicaps and lost by unanimous decision 30-27 on all three cards.
In a spectacular heavyweight fight Dave "Bad Man" Huckaba (21-5) out-slugged kickboxing legend Ray Sefo (2-2) in the second round of their MMA clash. After a good first round by Sefo and a strong opening for the second round behind some terrific kicks to the leg and jabs to the head, things turned around quickly. Huckaba caught Sefo with a perfect right that stunned the Hall of Fame fighter and continued with 26 unanswered blows. The fight was stopped at 4:37 of round two for a technical knockout win for an elated Huckaba.
"Right now, I am on top of the word. I can't even describe what I am feeling. Nobody except my team thought I could win this fight. I mean, I was fighting a legend, right? This is such a dream come true. Can you believe this? I got my chance and made the most of it," said Huckaba.
Sefo, who has more than 100 wins as a prizefighter, was gracious in defeat.
"I knew he was a hard hitter, I didn't want an easy fight. We were swinging for the fences, and whoever threw the best punch was gonna get it," said Sefo, who is the president of WSOF but stepped down from the position to fight. "He landed that shot, and that's just the way it was."
Nick Newell (10-0) forced a tap out from Keon Caldwell (9-2) at 2:07 of the first round in a lightning quick fight between two very quick MMA fighters. Both showed speed and dexterity but it was Newell's extraordinary ability to take down Caldwell when the taller fighter attacked. I knew I was going to catch him coming in," said Newell, who has one good arm and three quarters of his left arm. It didn't matter. Once Newell took down Caldwell he forced a submission with a rear naked choke in their lightweight fight.
Brazil's JZ Cavalcante (18-7-1) stopped Tyson Griffin (16-7) at 1:47 of round three in a back-and-forth lightweight tussle. Griffin started quickly and seemed able to land his power combinations, but Cavalcante rebounded with a take down and ground and pound attack that prompted the referee to halt the fight. The crowd was angry. It was the first fight of the televised portion.
"I thought the first round was close, but that I definitely won the second. I wasn't surprised the ref stopped it. He gave three warnings, but Griffin never did anything to improve his position. I'm not saying he couldn't continue, but he did nothing to improve his position," Cavalcante said.
Gerald "Ghost Dog" Harris (22-5) won the battle of veteran welterweights by unanimous decision over Brazil's Jorge Santiago (25-12) especially after a point was deducted for hanging onto the top of the cage in the first round. Harris was in the midst of dropping Santiago on his back when the Brazilian grabbed the fence and wouldn't let go. That caused him to lose the
round by two points and ultimately the fight. All three judges scored it 29-27 for Harris who survived the third round to win. "He caught me with something," said Harris who slowed down but won.
Lewis Gonzalez (9-0) nearly suffered a loss when he elbowed veteran Antonio McKee (28-6-2) in the back of the head causing temporary blindness in the third round. It was ruled accidental and the fight went to the scorecards where all three judges scored it in Gonzalez's favor 29-28.
Jarez Papazian (16-10) needed a bust on the chops before igniting the fire inside and overcoming the speedy John Robles (7-2) in their lightweight bout. Papazian was stronger and more accurate with his punching and convinced all three judges for a unanimous decision win after three rounds.
After a slow start Covina's Victor Valenzuela (13-6-2) out-lasted the younger but tiring Isaac Gutierrez (6-4) to inflict a pummeling and finish off the Downey fighter with a rear naked choke at 2:41 of the second round in a featherweight fight.