Rolando Velasco saw his opportunity and took it.
Velasco submitted the previously unbeaten Josh San Diego with a third-round arm-triangle choke to capture the vacant Tachi Palace Fights bantamweight championship in the TPF 24 “Summer Brawl” headliner on Thursday at the Tachi Palace Hotel and Casino in Lemoore, Calif. Velasco (12-3-1) brought it to a close 2:17 into round three, winning for the seventh time in eight appearances.
San Diego (5-1) enjoyed a solid first round -- he operated behind a stiff jab and connected with knees to the head and body -- but quickly faded. Velasco closed the distance, executed takedowns and methodically chipped away at his fellow Californian. The 28-year-old Last Stand Fight Team representative grounded San Diego in the third round, climbed into position for the choke and finished it.
In the co-main event, Tachi Palace Fights flyweight champion Alex Perez recorded his 10th consecutive victory with a unanimous decision against Martin Sandoval. The non-title affair was contested at a 127-pound catchweight, as Perez (13-2) replaced the injured Ulysses Gomez on short notice. Scores were not announced.
Sandoval (9-5) was never much of a factor. Perez leaned on takedowns, an oppressive top game and busy ground-and-pound throughout their 15-minute engagement. The 23-year-old champion put Sandoval on his back in the first, second and third rounds, grinding away with short punches, elbows and forearm strikes from guard and half guard.
Meanwhile, Rose City Fight Club export Ricky Simon remained undefeated as a professional with a split decision over Jeremiah Labiano in a three-round bantamweight match. No scores were announced.
Simon (6-0) invested in leg kicks, punched his way into repeated clinches and struck for takedowns in all three rounds. The promising 22-year-old kept Labiano (8-3) at bay with sneaky counters and effective forward pressure. Labiano got the Oregonian’s attention with an overhand right late in the third round but succumbed to two more takedowns, nullifying his momentum.
A West Coast Fighting Championship titleholder, Labiano has lost two of his last three bouts.
Elsewhere, journeyman Tony Llamas submitted Jeff Carson with a first-round rear-naked choke in a lightweight showcase. A last-minute replacement for Team Alpha Male’s Mario Soto, Carson conceded defeat 90 seconds into round one.
Llamas (15-15) rattled his adversary with a head kick, threatened with a standing guillotine and followed a pair of knees to the head with a takedown. From there, “Nuno” settled in side control and then scrambled to the back. Before long, he flattened out Carson (2-5), cinched the choke and drew the tapout.
The 37-year-old Llamas has rattled off four straight wins, three of them finishes.
In other action, unbeaten Dethrone Base Camp prospect Jonathan Contrestano (6-0) tapped Ryan Reneau (4-4-1) with a rear-naked choke 3:53 into round two of their 158-pound catchweight affair; Drake Boen (4-2) left Team Xplode MMA’s Merwyn Rivera (5-3) unconscious with a rear-naked choke 79 seconds into the first round of their featherweight clash; Kyle Reyes (8-3) submitted Bellator MMA alum Jordan Bailey (5-3) with a first-round guillotine choke in their lightweight tilt; Team Oyama’s Richard Alarcon (2-0) took a unanimous decision from Aaron Cohea (0-1) in a three-round flyweight battle; and Evan Solorio (1-1) tapped Edgar Javier Loza (1-1) with a guillotine choke in their pairing at 155 pounds.