Jimmie Rivera (top) bested a tough Jared Papazian to retain KOTC gold. | Dave Mandel/Sherdog.com
HIGHLAND, Calif. -- Fresh off his exciting upset of Abel Cullum, expectations were high for Jimmie Rivera's first 135-pound KOTC title defense. Thursday night at KOTC's "Empire" at the San Manuel Indian Casino, the Brooklyn, N.Y. bantamweight successfully defended his title, earning a unanimous decision over a tougher-than-expected Jared Papazian.
Surviving a first-round knockdown, the Glendale, Calif. native Papazian would make every round thereafter contentious, relying on a powerful right uppercut and a keen ability to regain his footing to keep the Tiger Schulmann-trained champion from truly putting his stamp on the fight.
However, Rivera scored plentiful takedowns and landed his own strikes standing to retain his title with a unanimous decision, taking scorecards of 49-46, 49-46, and 48-47. If the crowd was restless at the methodical pace of the bout, they were downright surly over the judges’ decision, as Papazian’s crackling, fifth-round uppercuts being the most notable images in the fight’s closing frame. Sherdog.com scored the bout 49-47 for the champion, Rivera. With his seventh straight win, "El Terror" moves to 8-1 as a pro.
Though he told Sherdog.com he felt he had done enough to take the title, Papazian admitted he was hesitant to let his hands go with more frequency, this having been his first five-round bout.
Conversely, the champion felt the performance was quite indicative of his style.
“I’m not a knockout fighter. I’m looking to tear the kid apart, round by round," Rivera told Sherdog.com after the bout. "That’s why I have such great cardio.”
“I don’t think [Dominick Cruz] is really a knockout fighter, but he’s a great point fighter. And that’s why I think he’s one of the best," added Rivera, drawing parallels between himself and Cruz, as well as UFC lightweight champ Frankie Edgar.
Though many in attendance felt that Papazian deserved a rematch, if not the win, KOTC boss Terry Trebilcock indicated to Sherdog.com a rematch between Rivera and former champ Abel Cullum was likely next on tap, though no date has been named. Rivera upset Cullum via split decision last September to take the KOTC 135-pound title.
The night’s super heavyweight title contest was a quick and torrid affair as challenger Esteves Jones took just 15 seconds to dethrone champion Neil Cooke.
Both men came out swinging early, but it was Sierra Vista, Ariz.'s Jones whose shots landed repeatedly, culminating in a right hand that put Cooke on the mat, where the challenger followed up with more rights, prompting referee Mike Beltran into action in just a quarter of a minute.
Jones moves to 6-1 with the win, while handing Cooke his first loss in seven bouts.
In a KOTC middleweight title eliminator, Kenny McCorkell raised eyebrows with an emphatic stoppage of Jonathan Brandon.
Quickly asserting his dominance standing, McCorkell soon found himself defending a chain of takedown attempts from the “All-American,” culminating in an impressive and successful fireman’s carry. Brandon found little success on top before McCorkell regained his footing and began unloading a series of knees and punches that would send his opponent wobbling across the across the cage. "The Krusher" followed in quick pursuit, leveling the wrestler with a final barrage of punches crumpled Brandon at 2:26 of the opening round.
With the win, McCorkell secured his shot at Brandon Hunt's 185-pound title on April 21, when KOTC returns to the San Manuel Indian Casino. When asked for comment following the bout, McCorkell concisely replied, "Come get some."
Despite enjoying a 10-pound weight advantage and raucous support from a hometown crowd, Chris Camacho found a tough and dangerous opponent in Erin Beach. After dropping the opening round by opting to strike with the rangier Beach, Camacho switched to his ground skills in the final two rounds. However, Beach would not go quietly, repeatedly threatening with submissions, including a tight armbar early in the third stanza. However, a suicide escape by Camacho seemed to drain Beach of any remaining energy, as Camacho attained mount shortly thereafter, and dropped punches until referee Herb Dean called a stop to the fight at 2:09 of the final round.
In an entertaining 145-pound tilt, Michael Parker and Kana Hyatt traded heavy blows and knockdowns, though it was Hyatt who looked worse for wear, his nose bleeding steadily as a result of a Parker right hand in the first round. In the second round, another Parker right hand dropped the Hawaiian, letting Parker set up a guillotine choke to elicit the tap at 1:22.
After an aggressive opening blitz, middleweight Daniel Mancha had no answer for the wrestling and ground control of opponent Joe Williams. Williams mounted a fading Mancha midway through the second round, and punched his way to a stoppage at 2:06 of the frame.
A middleweight contest between Paul Arras and Demetrice Woods lasted just 50 seconds. After being hurt by a low kick, Woods took a hard Arras punch to the neck that forced him to quit, claiming injury.
In the night’s opening bout, 6-foot-3 lightweight Kris Armbrister was deducted a point by referee Herb Dean for elbowing Andrew Pena's spine as he defended his foe's takedowns.
However, it was ultimately legal elbows that rocked Pena enough to convince Dean to call an end to the fight at 1:30 of round two, giving Armbrister the win.