Villa submitted Benitez with a heel hook |Photo: Will Fox/Sherdog.com
ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. -- While the Jackson’s MMA Series has established a reputation for developing prospects from the renowned gym of the same name, the promotion’s 11th installment took that concept in a distinctly South of the Border direction on Saturday night.
The Jackson’s MMA Series 11 featured three fighters -- Gabriel Benitez, Augusto Montano and Daniel Salas -- from Mexico and another -- Guido Martin Cannetti -- from Argentina. Collectively, the group arrived in Albuquerque to begin training with Greg Jackson’s team approximately four months ago.
With UFC matchmaker Sean Shelby looking on from a cageside seat, the quartet performed with mixed results at the Tingley Coliseum, accumulating a 2-2 record where resounding finishes were counteracted by head-scratching defeats. While the Latin American market remains a lucrative one for the UFC, and for mixed martial arts in general, Saturday proved what Jackson himself already knew: Developing these fighters is still very much a work-in-progress.
“There was a lot of pressure on them. It was their first step up into the next big show,” Jackson told Sherdog.com. “I think they did well. I felt there’s improvements that we need to make and things that we need to work on. Overall, I was really proud of them. I thought they all fought very hard, they showed a lot of heart and some good technique.”
Perhaps the most surprising result of the night came at the expense of the highly-touted Benitez, who succumbed to a heel-hook against Richard Villa 52 seconds into the evening’s headliner. Those close to the Jackson’s camp had lauded the 25-year-old “Moggly” for his skill leading up to the fight, and according to JMMAS promoter Ricky Kottenstette, Benitez's bout was moved from co-main event to top billing at the last minute due to a high demand for the card's pay-per-view stream in Latin America. All hype aside, it was Villa who ultimately had the last word.
Benitez started quickly, attacking his opponent with a punches at close range before tossing Villa to the canvas and landing in mount. Villa quickly escaped but Benitez moved to the New Mexican’s back before slamming him down again. During the ensuing scramble, however, “Moggly” left his leg exposed, allowing Villa to secure the fight-ending heel hook. While a jubilant Villa celebrated, Benitez punched and headbutted the padding of the cage in frustration.
Despite the setback, Jackson remains a believer in Benitez’s potential.
“I think Moggly has ‘it.’ He just ran into a little bit of a speed bump tonight,” the trainer said. “Moggly isn’t super familiar with leg lock defense yet. I think he’s going to be a champion down the road.”
While Benitez faltered, Montano imposed his will against Jason Clayton, forcing the Grand Junction, Colo., native to submit to strikes 4:24 into the opening frame of their middleweight clash. The bout began somewhat tentatively, with both fighters engaging in a feeling-out process.
After a slip by Montano, Clayton took his foe’s back and briefly attempted to secure a rear-naked choke. However, “Dodger” returned to his feet and unloaded with a series of knees and uppercuts that forced the American to turtle up on the mat. Montano continued to drop punches until Clayton was forced to tap to strikes at the 4:24 mark of round one.
In a back-and-forth affair, Argentina native Cannetti made a successful stateside debut, submitting Eliazar Rodriguez with a rear-naked choke 4:29 into the opening stanza of their bantamweight encounter.
Cannetti came out of the gates throwing wild strikes, launching power punches and heavy kicks but not connecting with anything of significance. Rodriguez eventually took Cannetti’s back before sliding off and transitioning to an armbar attempt. From there, the Argentinean known as “Ninja” took over: First he slammed his adversary to the canvas to escape the submission and landed a series of strikes that ultimately allowed him to sink in the fight-ending rear-naked choke. Rodriguez asked out of the fight 4:29 into round one.
Daniel Salas, the first Mexican prospect to appear on the card, saw his night end in a mere 61 seconds against Grand Junction, Colo., native Jason Brenton.
Salas was the aggressor early, changing levels with his kicks before driving Brenton into the cage and landing knees in the clinch. But just when it seemed that Salas was asserting himself, Brenton connected with a big right hand that dropped his opponent instantly. A series of follow-up strikes on the ground forced referee Joe Coca to intervene on Salas’ behalf.
While Jackson was pleased with the overall progress of his new charges, he isn’t ready to send them off to deeper waters just yet.
“This is just a step,” he said. “To me this is almost like an amateur fight. I need to see what they do and don’t do, how they react to pressure and how they mentally handle a lot of things. There’s a lot of that stuff that I’m learning (about them).”
Elsewhere, after what appeared to be a solid opening round in his co-main event showdown against Conrad Padilla, Nick Rhoads’ corner could be heard offering him a sound piece of advice:
“Don’t leave it in the hands of the judges. You’re not at home,” a member of Rhoads’ Arizona-based team said.
As it turned out, Rhoads did just fine in going the distance, as he took a unanimous decision against the Jackson’s MMA-trained Padilla. Judge Levi Martinez scored it 30-27 for Rhoads, while Mark Sanchez and Chris Telles saw it 29-28 in favor of the Apex MMA representative.
Rhoads was able to use his length and standup skill to keep Padilla out of rhythm for the majority of the featherweight bout. A steady diet of leg kicks allowed Rhoads to control distance, and when Padilla attempted to draw his man into a close-quarters firefight, the Arizonan countered effectively.
Padilla had his moment in the third stanza, temporarily rocking his adversary with a couple of solid shots, but Rhoads quickly regained his bearings and responded with a takedown to seal the victory.
In the first professional bout on the card, Nick Urso made short work of Ronnie White, winning via technical knockout 1:53 into the opening frame. White, the third replacement opponent for Urso, proved willing to exchange with the Jackson’s MMA product – and paid the price.
Clearly the quicker fighter, Urso mixed knees, kicks and punches well as he stalked White in the opening frame. A combination to the head and body appeared to hurt White, and Urso clinched the victory by dropping his foe with a knee. At that point, Coca stepped in to halt the flyweight contest, despite mild protests from White.
Six amateur bouts began the evening’s action: Andrew Tenneson used a guillotine choke to elicit a tapout from Bushido product Jerry Sano 2:00 into round two at 155 pounds; Bushido product Eddie Gamboa submitted Jackson MMA’s Brandon Jones with a rear-naked choke 19 seconds into the first stanza at 170; Eric Dodson, the younger brother of UFC flyweight contender John Dodson, improved to 3-0 as an amateur, laying waste to Perez Fighting Systems representative Thomas Mills via TKO in 39 seconds at bantamweight; four-time New Mexico state champion wrestler Vince Varela tapped out Socorro, N.M., native Ray Vaiza via rear-naked choke 1:19 into round one at 145; Jackson MMA’s Eric Griego submitted Pueblo, Colo.’s Robert Fratterelli with a rear-naked choke 1:04 into the opening frame at 125 pounds; and David Binder took a unanimous verdict (29-28, 29-28, 29-28) against Henry Barahona at lightweight.