Njokuani Decisions ‘TUF 17’ Vet Smith at RFA 22, Welterweight Title Still Vacant

By Tristen Critchfield Jan 9, 2015
Chidi Njokuani dominated Gilbert Smith at RFA 22. | Jeff Sherwood/Sherdog.com

Chidi Njokuani methodically dissected Gilbert Smith in the Resurrection Fighting Alliance 22 headliner, but it was something of a bittersweet triumph for 26-year-old Las Vegas resident.

While “Chidi Bang Bang” captured a unanimous verdict (49-46, 49-46, 49-46) over Smith at the Broadmoor World Arena in Colorado Springs, Colo., on Friday night, he will not be taking the promotion’s welterweight strap home with him. Njokuani missed weight on Thursday, and as a result, only Smith was eligible for the vacant title.

“The Ultimate Fighter 17” cast member’s championship hopes lasted for all of a round. After landing a pair of takedowns and maintaining top control in the opening stanza, Smith found it increasingly difficult to impose his will as the bout progressed.

Buoyed a stiff jab and a variety of crisp kicks, Njokuani (12-4) gradually built an insurmountable advantage the judges’ scorecards over the final 20 minutes. By the time the fifth round arrived, Smith (10-4) was exhausted from trying – mostly unsuccessfully – to wrestle his adversary to the canvas. It was all he could do to survive Njokuani’s final assault as time expired.

“I knew Gilbert was gonna come out strong, so I knew I was gonna have to weather the storm at first, and just bring a good fight,” Njokuani said. “I was just hoping that he would slow down.”

Mark Dickman came in well over the featherweight limit for his co-main event showdown with Donald Sanchez, but that scale mishap did little to affect his in-cage performance. Dickman, who checked in at 155.6 pounds at Thursday’s weigh-ins, made short work of Sanchez, forcing a tapout from his opponent via kimura 1:37 into round one.

“Tricky” wasted little time slamming Sanchez to the canvas and transitioning to side control. As he attempted to secure his foe’s left arm, Dickman was able to trap Sanchez’s head with a triangle. The Las Vegas resident diligently went to work wrenching Sanchez’s arm, eventually turning it and earning the submission.

“I just felt like as soon as I grabbed a hold of him he wasn’t very strong,” Dickman said. “I just had to take him where I thought it was going to be easier.”

Elsewhere, Ricky Musgrave survived a number of precarious positions before rallying to put away four-time UFC veteran Alvin Robinson with punches from back mount in the opening round of a 145-pound tilt. The end came 3:55 into the stanza when referee Don Thais determined that Robinson wasn’t doing enough to defend himself.

Early on, it appeared that Robinson was well on the way to earning his 14th career submission triumph. “The Kid” took Musgrave (14-4) down within the bout’s first 15 seconds and then began a series of guard passes and scrambles while constantly hunting for chokes. Momentum shifted once Robinson muffed an armbar attempt, as Musgrave was able to take his man’s back and attack with punches. Musgrave then landed a pair of vicious knees to the face, took Robinson’s back and teed off with punches to earn the stoppage.

Josh Huber bloodied Prentice Ingram with a forceful elbow on the mat, then submitted his foe with a rear-naked choke 1:55 into the second round of a featherweight scrap.

While Ingram (7-5) attempted to maintain distance with his kicks, Huber was able to assert himself through relentless forward pressure. The Littleton, Colo., native consistently walked forward and attacked with punching combinations, giving Ingram minimal space with which to work. In round two, Huber (15-7) stunned Ingram with a superman punch and capitalized by landing a takedown. Moments later, Huber landed the tide-turning elbow, forcing Ingram to surrender his back and setting up the fight-ending choke.

Dominic Montoya captured a split decision against David Yomi Heredia in a lightweight affair. All three judges submitted 29-28 scorecards, with two seeing the fight in favor of Montoya (4-0).

Montoya likely swayed the fight in his favor on the strength of takedowns and occasional moments of back control. Meanwhile, it was Heredia (1-1) who authored the bout’s most emphatic moment, nearly finishing a staggering Montoya with a flurry of punches and knees in the second stanza. Heredia’s overall output was not consistent enough to get the victory, however.

In the evening’s opening main card bout, former power lifter Kevin Gray submitted Joey Eisenbraun with a guillotine choke 3:49 into the opening frame of their flyweight matchup.

Much of the bout was contested in the clinch, with Gray landing knees and fighting for takedowns against the fence. “Pocket Hercules” set the stage for the finish by landing a knee to the body with Eisenberg trapped against the cage. The Colorado Fight Factory product grimaced in pain and tapped almost immediately once Gray transitioned to the guillotine.


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