Frank Baca retained his KOTC crown against Marvin Garcia Thursday in Highland, Calif. | Photo: Dave Mandel
Though it seems the event’s name could easily be a tribute to his style, Marvin Garcia’s “Go! Go! Go!” M.O. proved of little use in the face of Frank Baca’s superior technique in their 135-pound title fight at King of the Cage “Reckless Abandon” Thursday night from the San Manuel Indian Casino & Bingo in Highland, Calif.
From the onset of the bout, Baca showed an extraordinary ability to counter Garcia’s normally unwavering aggression, as the Fit NHB fighter struck expertly through the lulls in Garcia’s offense and stifled him on the mat. Baca quickly established the fight’s cadence in the opening frame, as he timed punches through Garcia’s wild windmilling, countered his bull charges with knees to the head, and utilized switches to counter Garcia’s takedown attempts and gain dominant position -- including back control on the United BJJ representative.
Garcia entered the second round sporting a mouse under his right eye, and was quickly put back on the defensive, as Baca continued to assail him with knees, both of the flying variety and from the front headlock, where Garcia’s spark plug frame almost prevented him from dropping a hand to the mat in defense of Baca’s otherwise legal blows.
The third and fourth rounds saw Garcia able to offer up little more than ineffective attempts at single leg takedowns, which were sprawled on, switched and at one point ready to be countered by a seemingly open opportunity for an inverted triangle choke.
The fifth round was arguably Garcia’s best, as a slowing Baca was unable to parry and counter Garcia as effectively as he had earlier, with the two trading takedowns and heavy blows in the final frame.
Ultimately, all three judges saw the fight for Baca, with Herb Dean, Nelson Hamilton and John Newburg all submitting 49-46 tallies, capping a night of unusual consensus on the scorecards. It was the second King of the Cage title bout for each fighter, with Baca having previously vied for the vacant 125-pound championship against Mamoru Yamaguchi, and Garcia only one fight removed from an unsuccessful bout against previous 135-pound champion Jared Papazian, who vacated the belt en route to a UFC appearance.
It could be said that Tony Lopez’s defense of his 265-pound title went exactly as planned, if only because it seems that Lopez’s plan is to soak up as much damage as possible in his bouts. Indeed, challenger Rob Jackson would drop Lopez within the first minute of the fight, courtesy of an overhand right that sent Lopez crashing toward the cage. Jackson could not finish with his follow-up offense, but would send Lopez to the floor again with a looping left hook later in the round. Not even accounting for Jackson’s haymakers, Lopez found early success to be elusive, as he was unable to land his usual myriad of kicks, and his numerous attempts at the Thai plum were stifled with ease.
The second round saw Jackson drop Lopez with another overhand right, and a completely unexpected flying knee follow-up from the rotund challenger parried by a Lopez front kick. Lopez would take the center of the cage and, in a move reeking of hubris, Lopez taunted his dominant foe, daring Jackson to hit him again.
Jackson never got the chance.
Lopez released an innocuous, almost lilting high kick at Jackson’s head, catching the larger man clean and sending him falling to the mat at half speed. Lopez would follow up with several punches to seal the deal, as referee Luis Cobian stepped in to save Jackson at 2:30 of the second round, giving Lopez the KO victory. With the win, Lopez earned his fifth straight win in as many months, all via stoppage.
Former King of the Cage 170-pound champion David Gomez defeated Las Vegas-based Bulgarian Boyko Ranchev in a welterweight bout that alternated between rambunctious action and uneventful clinching.
Ranchev would spend much of opening round flicking a variety of kicks at Gomez, whose normal attack of straight right-left hook combinations had trouble finding their mark. Gomez’s pressure would pay off, though, as Ranchev indulged Gomez in slugging exchanges throughout the bout, with Gomez’s superior power showing through and bloodying Ranchev’s nose midway through the bout.
The fusillades were interspersed with much jockeying for position against the cage, which saw neither man able to make much headway with strikes or takedowns. The third round would be Ranchev’s best, as his punches would find his opponent with more regularity, coinciding with a drop-off in output from a tiring Gomez. It was too little, too late, however, as all three judges saw the bout as a 30-27 shutout for the Shark Tank fighter.
Though a UFC veteran and one of the sport’s most well-tenured figures, Shonie Carter found himself out of his depth against former All-American wrestler Brandon Halsey in a light heavyweight bout. Fighting two weight classes above his former welterweight home and looking every bit of his 39 years, Carter was muscled around the cage by the much larger Halsey, who scored easy takedowns and threatened with submissions throughout the bout’s first two rounds.
Meanwhile, Carter could offer up only a footlock attempt when his novice opponent crossed his legs from back control in the second round. Halsey made it no easier for the Mr. International in the final frame, repeatedly kneeing Carter’s ribs from back side control. Carter's only reprieve was a brief period in top position off of a Halsey position flub. All three judges saw the bout a 30-27 shutout in favor of the Huntington Beach debutant, while Carter fell to 2-9 in his last 11 fights.
In a battle of decade-plus MMA veterans, longtime California fighting staple Shad Smith spoiled the MMA return of Del Hawkins via submission at 3:07 of the opening stanza of their featherweight tilt.
Hawkins, absent from the cage for over 3 years, had no answers for the Smith’s aggression, who kept the WEC veteran on the defensive as he took his foe to the ground, attacked with strikes as he advanced position, and finally put The Filipino Delight away with a rear naked choke, snapping a four-fight losing streak in the process.
At 160 pounds, Chad Freeman gave Joe Condon a good early scare, threatening with a guillotine choke for the majority of the three-minute opening round. Condon would keep his composure, escaping late in the round and going for a rear naked choke as the round came to a close. The Joe Stevenson Cobra Kai representative scored a quick takedown in the second, snatching Freeman’s back as he tried to scramble up, simultaneously attacking with another rear naked choke. Freeman would not survive the second time around, submitting at 1:27 of the second round, giving Condon his second win in just less than three weeks.
Mike Guymon-trained middleweight Johnny Cisneros improved his unbeaten mark to 5-0 with a first round TKO of Ronald LeBreton Jr. LeBreton took Cisneros down early, but soon found himself defending surprising triangle and armbar attempts from the notorious brawler. Cisneros eventually returned to his feet and searched for a takedown of his own, but with much more devastating results: Cisneros lifted LeBreton high into the air with a double leg and dumped him unceremoniously on his head, leaving LeBreton unable to defend the follow-up barrage of punches that forced referee John McCarthy to halt the action at 2:08 of the first round.
In the night’s opening bout, welterweight Tim Humphrey survived a dubious stand-up from referee Luis Cobian and subsequent late rally from Gabriel Godly to secure a unanimous decision on the back of consummate ground control and repeated elbows from top position, earning scores of 29-28 across the board.