Tony Lopez retained the KOTC heavyweight title with a second win over Esteves Jones. | Photo: Dave Mandel
HIGHLAND, Calif. -- In what had to feel like a case of terrible déjà vu, Esteves Jones found himself under assault by Tony Lopez for the second time in three months, as Lopez retained his King of the Cage heavyweight title at KOTC’s “Magnaflow” on Thursday at the San Manuel Indian Bingo and Casino.
Sierra Vista, Ariz.’s Jones came out like a man with something to prove, rushing Lopez with a salvo of punches to the head and body in the opening round. However, Lopez managed to eventually find his range and kept Jones off balance with a variety of kicks; he even took Jones’ back standing to end the round. Lopez found Jones’ back again in the second and third rounds, constantly threatening with chokes and a steady stream of punches to the former champion, who made his last stand with a barrage of punches that failed to fell Lopez at the beginning of the third frame.
Lopez took Jones’ back standing in the fourth round and eventually toppled Jones with uppercuts from behind before finishing his foe with follow-up ground-and-pound that forced referee Herb Dean to step in at 4:04 of the fourth round, giving Lopez the stoppage victory.
The 38-year-old Lopez moves his record to 27-8 with his second win over Jones.
In what was labeled as his retirement fight, California fighting fixture Brian Warren overwhelmed John De La O in the welterweight co-feature, garnering the TKO win at 1:47 of the first round.
Warren and de la O started tentatively, with Warren stalking and looking to land his signature spinning back kick. Instead, Warren eventually came forward and scored a takedown, following up with a ground-and-pound barrage that left de la O turning and flattening face down on the mat until referee Mike Beltran called a stop to the action.
Despite the fight’s label as a farewell bout, the 37-year-old Warren was noncommittal about his plans to retire, hinting at a return to action in 2012.
Elsewhere, former King of the Cage welterweight champion David Gomez outlasted a game Tom Gallicchio in a fight punctuated by curious refereeing and judging.
After a close, position-based first round, Gallicchio largely dominated the second, securing a body triangle on Gomez and repeatedly threatening with rear-naked choke attempts. However, with less than a minute to go in the round, referee Dean stood up the fighters despite Gallicchio still being firmly locked onto Gomez’s back. Gomez looked to capitalize on the call, rushing Gallicchio in the frame’s final seconds.
The third frame saw an utterly exhausted Gallicchio picked apart by Gomez, who landed a variety of strikes as the former M-1 Challenge U.S. Selections winner was reduced to desperate shot attempts and even bear crawling towards Gomez. Despite Gallicchio’s apparent dominance, only judge Ron McCarthy saw the second round for him in his 29-28 Gomez scorecard; judges Stephen Davis and Cecil Peoples saw the fight as a shutout for Gomez, 30-26 and 30-27 in awarding Gomez the unanimous decision.
Marvin Garcia bounced back from the first loss of his career, an unsuccessful bid at Jared Papazian’s 135-pound title in September, and earned a split decision over against Lubbock, Texas’ Zach Haney.
Garcia displayed his usual brand of reckless aggression in the opening round, swinging punches at Haney with such force that he twice found himself on the mat after losing his footing despite winning the round. However, Garcia’s aggression was nearly his undoing in the second, as Haney snatched both a near-armbar and back control off of an overextended Garcia, who spent the majority of the round fending off rear-naked choke attempts before escaping the position.
In the third, the two clearly fatigued combatants were unable to produce much meaningful offense, with Garcia trying to throw strikes from the top while Haney searched for submissions. Garcia’s aggression was enough to sway judges McCarthy and Davis, who both scored the bout 29-28 for Garcia; judge Peoples turned in a dissenting 29-28 card for Haney, giving Garcia the split decision.
Garcia, now 7-1, was announced as the next challenger for the King of the Cage bantamweight title, but his opponent is less certain, given the aforementioned Papazian’s announcement that he is seeking to drop to 125 pounds.
At 145 pounds, Millenia MMA’s Chris Culley fought a nip-tuck battle against the Bodyshop Fitness Team’s Vince Ortiz, pulling out a close unanimous nod.
After an extremely close opening stanza, Culley won the fight’s most decisive round in the second, landing left kicks to the legs, body and head of Ortiz, including a high kick and follow-up left knee that knocked Ortiz to the mat in the period’s waning seconds. The third was another closely contested round, but judges McCarthy, Davis and Peoples all saw the bout 29-28 for Culley, as he avenged his previous decision loss to Ortiz and extended his current win streak to three.
Joker’s MMA’s Johnny Cisneros quickly dispatched a terribly overmatched James Cooper, sending his middleweight opponent backpedaling with the first strikes he threw. Cisneros followed it up with uppercuts, body kicks and even standing hammerfists before finishing with a salvo that included double hammerfists. Beltran mercifully stopped the action just 40 seconds into the opening frame.
In the night’s opening bout, Joe Stevenson 205-pound pupil Jason Walraven utilized a withering top game to grind out a unanimous decision over American Top Team representative Lucas Taber. After nine minutes of action, all three judges saw the fight a 30-27 shutout for Walraven, improving his record to 3-1.