Paulson Scratches Seven-Year Itch with Victory

By Greg Savage and Jeff Sherwood Oct 14, 2007
DALLAS, Oct. 13 -- Former Shooto Champion Erik Paulson made his return to fighting a smashing success with a quick armbar victory over Jeff Ford at the inaugural HDNet Fights event Saturday before an estimated 3,000 fans at the American Airlines Center.

Paulson, known for his groundwork, stood with Ford to start the headline bout and paid for it as the kickboxer dug to his body and landed his jab at will. The 41-year-old Paulson landed a solid right hand of his own, but he knew he could not afford to keep playing with fire.

"Jeff's got heavy hands, and he did catch me with some hard shots, and I didn't want to go toe-to-toe with him, and I was happy to know that there was grappling in that fight," Paulson explained at the post-fight news conference. "If it was a kickboxing match, I wouldn't have won."

Knowing he needed to change the landscape of the bout, Paulson shot in for a double-leg takedown before switching to an ankle pick that deposited Ford to his back. In just mere seconds, Paulson shifted his attack to Ford's right arm, cinching a tight armbar that drew a tapout at 1:44 of the first frame.

"I went over that move like 50 times in my head before I fought," said Paulson, who was forced to fight at heavyweight when Ford failed to come close to the 205-pound weight limit, "and I knew as soon as I got him down, I was going to try to transition and finish him."

Paulson also talked to the media about his long absence from active participation. The trainer of some of the top fighters in the sport, including Josh Barnett (Pictures), he alluded to how hard it was for him to find a place to make his comeback.

"It's been seven years and it's been very emotional to come back," Paulson declared. "It's been inside me to come back, but it's hard to find a good deal."

Two Texans, Freddie Espiricueta (Pictures) and Jason House (Pictures), put on a show for the Dallas fans in the co-main event. It was all House early, but Espiricueta was the one who had the last laugh, garnering a unanimous decision after three rounds.

The fighters exchanged low kicks, with House scoring the better blows. House then elevated and delivered a booming kick to the body of Espiricueta that immediately colored his midsection a bright red.

House landed a high kick next, which caught his opponent off balance but put him to the canvas nonetheless. Following him down, House went to work in the guard, but the pace soon slowed, and referee Henry Evans stood the fighters back up. House closed out the round in fine fashion, landing a big knee that crumpled Espiricueta to the mat, where he tried in vain to get a takedown as the round closed.

The second round was close but lacked the explosiveness of the first. House began to show signs of fatigue, though he kept slugging and opened a cut above Espiricueta's right eye in an exchange of punches. Espiricueta came on strong later in the frame with combinations of kicks and punches that found their mark on the fading House.

The final round was all Espiricueta. House's tank was on E, and although the will was there, his body could not answer the call. Espiricueta, still relatively fresh, had his way in the third, opening cuts first under House's left eye then his right while scoring at will with kick and punch combinations that kept House in constant retreat.

The judges came to a unanimous decision, awarding Freddie Espiricueta (Pictures) the win by scores of 29-28, 29-28 and 29-27.

Drew Fickett (Pictures) was an overwhelming favorite in his welterweight bout with Anthony Lapsley, but someone forgot to tell Lapsley. Fickett waded through a barrage of punches in the opening seconds only to find himself on his back courtesy of a Lapsley slam.

That may have been the wakeup call "The Master" needed. He responded by getting back to his feet and scoring a takedown of his own. Some nice elbows soon followed before Lapsley made it back to his feet.

Fickett then caught a missed kick and promptly put Lapsley back on the canvas. Landing in side-control, Fickett snaked his way onto his opponent's back and rolled him over. It was only a matter of seconds before he applied the rear-naked choke. Lapsley did everything he could to escape before finally succumbing to the submission at 3:55 of the initial round.

Justin Eilers (Pictures) won a unanimous decision over a game Matt Thompson (Pictures) by controlling him from the clinch and taking him to the mat over and over again. Thompson had his best chance to win the fight slip away when Eilers defended a kneebar attempt in the opening frame.

The second and third periods were carbon copies of each other, with Eilers taking his adversary down from the clinch and working from the top position. Thompson was game and tried to land strikes while he was on his feet, but Eilers would not give him the distance to throw.

In the end, the judges agreed that Eilers pitched a shutout, giving him the decision 30-27 on all three cards.

Pete Spratt (Pictures) scored a devastating knockout victory over TJ Waldburger at the 1:29 mark of their scheduled three-round affair. It was a rematch, Waldburger having finished "The Secret Weapon" with a triangle choke just a month prior.

There would be no repeat performance as Spratt unloaded a flurry of strikes right from the opening bell, dropping Waldburger twice in the process.

The end came off a scramble. Spratt made it back to his feet after a failed takedown attempt and avoided a low kick from Waldburger, who was on his back. After leaping over the kick, Spratt came down with a thunderous right hand that stunned his foe. Three more crushing right hands followed, the second of which looked to have relieved Waldburger of his faculties.

Waldburger lay prone on the canvas breathing shallowly as rescue personnel and ringside physicians sprang into the ring to attend to him. After lying unconscious for nearly three minutes, Waldburger came too and eventually walked out of the cage under his own power.

In other action:

Chris Bowles escaped an early guillotine choke attempt to notch a rear-naked choke victory over David Roberts of Tishomingo, Okla. at 3:06 of the first stanza. Bowles was patient, securing his hooks and flattening out Roberts before locking up the fight-ending submission.

CB Dollaway (Pictures) stuffed a takedown before landing a knee that stunned Hans Marrero shortly after the opening bell. Dollaway pounced and finished Marrero with a volley of strikes that forced referee Armstrong to intervene at 1:07 of the first round.

Justin Howard outpointed Jay McCown after a hard-fought, three-round heavyweight affair. Howard scored early and often with hard kicks to the legs and body, earning the victory on all three judges' scorecards by tallies of 30-27, 30-27 and 29-28.

Liam McCarty needed just 2:35 to stop David Morris by submission. McCarty locked up an oma plata on Morris' right arm before locking up his left with his free hands, essentially crucifying his opponent. With no hope for escape, Morris tapped out.

Joel Traves defeated Cory Salter by verbal submission at 5:00 of the first period. Salter dominated the bout, taking Traves down and mounting him for most of the frame.

However, as the round closed, referee Evans interceded to deduct a point when Salter delivered an illegal elbow to the head of Traves. While the referee was admonishing Salter, the fighter kept pointing to his left hand. Evans then waived off the bout after Salter informed him he could not continue.
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