Josh Sampo retained his flyweight title at CFA 12. | Andy Hemingway/Sherdog.com
CFA 12 brought a full slate of title action to the Bank United Center in Coral Gables, Fla., on Saturday night, as four promotional belts were up for grabs.
The evening’s main event saw CFA flyweight champion Josh Sampo overcome adversity to retain his crown against Sam Thao. The challenger opened up strong, putting a diverse arsenal of kicks on “The Gremlin” in high volume. Once the Missouri native completed a takedown however, he seemed a new man.
While Thao found success on the feet, he struggled to handle his opponent on the ground. Sampo was able to complete takedowns and advance position seemingly at will. Thao, refusing to go quietly, landed a decent volume of offense from his back. It was all for naught, as the positional dominance of the reigning champion proved to be too much to conquer. After 25 minutes of fighting, all judges rendered a 49-46 scorecard in favor of the St. Charles MMA product.
It proved to be a rather dull affair when Luis Palomino and Efrain Escudero went the distance in the evening’s co-main event. While Palomino looked to be the aggressor, the lightweight “Ultimate Fighter 8” winner avoided any serious damage but lacked any meaningful offense of his own. In the end, the defensive chops of Escudero seemed to be enough, as judges rendered a unanimous decision (29-28, 29-28, 29-28) in his favor.
Ashlee Evans-Smith proved to be the roadblock no one expected for Fallon Fox, but it wasn’t without a touch of calamity that CFA crowned its first women’s champion.
MMA’s first transgendered athlete seemed to be a fish out of water against the positional grappling of the Subfighter MMA product, but it was in the second round where things took a turn for the strange. Evans-Smith drew mount with seconds left, hammering on Fox until well after bell, prompting a celebration as referee James Warring intervened. After some confusion, the bout was continued.
It didn’t take long into the third stanza for the Lake Forest featherweight to once again take advantage of Fox’s flat hips, switching between dominant positions until mount was regained. Smith rained down shots until the bout was halted at 3:15 of the third period.
A new CFA welterweight champion was crowned when Valdir Araujo forced Romario Manoel da Silva to tap in their title tilt. After some positional exchanges, the second stanza saw “Junior Killer,” donning a crimson mask courtesy of a “Monster” elbow, ensnared in a tight guillotine. Unable to escape, the Brazilian had no recourse but to call it a night at 4:09 of the second round.
Yosdenis Cedeno filled the CFA lightweight championship vacancy by taking a narrow verdict over Torrance Taylor. “The Pink Panther” was able to dictate the pace of a well-contested bout in the early going, but Taylor continually nipped at his heels. It was in the third stanza where the Cuban seemed to pull ahead with a few well-timed takedowns.
However, “The Tyrant” would regain control in the penultimate round. At the final bell, the judges were split, handing in scores of 48-47, 48-47, and 47-48, with Cedeno getting the nod and the belt.
In earlier action, Hayder Hassan stopped Jason Jackson late in their welterweight clash. For the majority of the bout, the fighter out of American Top Team found success landing over Jackson’s looping punches. It wasn’t until the final stanza, however, that the 30-year-old connected well enough to damage Jackson. Hassan quickly swarmed, getting referee Jorge Ortiz to call the bout at 3:52.
Michael Trujillo met a violent end at the hands of Sabah Homasi. The American Top Team welterweight found his range early, establishing himself with strikes. “The Problem” connected flush with a left high kick, felling “Dragonhulk.” Sabah would follow his opponent to the ground with strikes, forcing referee James Warring to intervene at 4:25 of the opening frame.
Colby Covington was able to grind out a unanimous decision over Jose Caceres in a fairly lopsided affair. The American Top Team welterweight held a decided wrestling advantage, taking “The Fresh Prince” down at will throughout their bout. At the final bell, Covington would have his hand raised behind a unanimous 30-27 from the judges.
There was a firefight when Leo Valdivia came to blows with Felix Penalvers. The Miami native was able to control distance, but the Popopvitch protégé was able to make things dirty, getting inside with cleaner, heavier punches. Despite the bout largely taking place on the feet, grappling proved to be the difference. The Miami-based welterweight was able to secure a takedown in the final round despite having his bell rung, and he managed to control the majority of the period. The judges rendered a unanimous decision for Valdivia (29-28, 29-28, 29-28).
Elsewhere, Lee Bentley Syler took a unanimous decision (30-27, 30-27, 29-28) victory over Wascar Cruz at flyweight, while Diego Peclat outpointed (30-27, 30-27, 30-27) Rico Farrington at welterweight.