Held at the Outdoor Amphitheatre at Sunset Station in Henderson, Nev., Lion Fight 22 was loaded with entertaining battles throughout the entire main card. But the two featured bouts, both for vacant championships, saw one-sided clubbings that proved that both new champs are at the top of their respective games.
In the main event, Atlanta-based Thai fighter ‘Smokin’ Jo Nattawut almost scored a sensational knockout in the opening round against England’s Salah Khalifa. After being dropped twice and nearly being put on ice, Khalifa somehow survived the murderous salvos, eventually cleared his head and stuck around until the final bell.
During an exchange about a minute into the fight, a right knee and punch rocked Khalifa, who immediately retreated to regroup. Nattawut wouldn’t allow it, though, and chased him down with an elbow and glancing kick to the head. Khalifa was soon down and wondering what happened, and when veteran referee Steve Mazzagatti allowed him to continue, Nattawut instantly dropped him with an explosive left push kick to the face.
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Again, the Brit found himself looking up at the lights but he unbelievably climbed back to his feet. About to go out at any second, Khalifa miraculously withstood several more strikes from the hard-charging Thai and avoided just enough punishment to not only stay afloat, but to somehow survive the round.
Khalifa (35-6-1) had his moments late in the fight, but none of his attacks were damaging enough to turn the tides in his favor and when it was all over, Khalifa lost every round. Nattawut was fantastic with a plethora of punches and kicks from all angles, preventing his foe from ever finding a rhythm.
In the end, Nattawut was awarded the unanimous decision via tallies of 50-43 (thrice) to improve to 54-5-2 and walk away with the Lion Fight super welterweight championship around his waist.
In the co-feature, popular women’s fighter Tiffany Van Soest tore into England’s Bernise Alldis for four rounds, rocking her with elbows to the face and crushing left hooks to the body in each period. It didn’t aid Alldis, either, when a perfect elbow sliced her right cheek like cheese. Van Soest also busted up her foe’s nose during the skirmish, further diminishing Alldis’ chances of survival.
Van Soest was flawless inside the ring as not only did she pick her opponent apart from the outside, she also beat Alldis in the clinch, which was somewhat unexpected. As the fight wore on, Alldis slowed down as she began to take a ton of punishment to the head and body. She continuously tried in vain to try and wrest control from the San Diego fighter, but Van Soest was a woman possessed, hell bent on regaining the Lion Fight featherweight title she lost to Caley Reece last February (Reece has since vacated the title).
Van Soest poured on the attacks in the fourth round, crippling Alldis’ chances of getting back into the fight. Eventually ‘Time Bomb’ detonated a left elbow on the Brit’s face, buckling her knees. The follow-up bombardment increased the destruction to Alldis’ face and once they separated after a clinch, Alldis’ corner waived in the towel, prompting referee Chris Tognoni to mercifully stop it. The official time of the TKO came at 1:44 of the fourth, allowing Van Soest (12-2-1) to recapture the featherweight title. For all of her bravery, Alldis dipped to 35-4.
Local featherweights Jason Andrada and Anthony Castrejon fought a tactical affair, but the rematch between the two wound up not being as exciting as their initial encounter when they were amateurs. Castrejon didn’t get to end the fight with another head kick knockout, but he was awarded a split decision after five rounds. Castrejon (6-2) was given the nod via scores of 48-47 (twice) and 47-48 in a fight that could have gone to either man. Andrada fell to 6-3.
The junior welterweight scrum between Californian Gaston Bolanos and Damien Earley was a torrid one. Bolanos scored a knockdown in the second thanks to a hard right hand at the end of a flurry. Earley, from Tempe, Ariz., was able to beat the count and continue to wage war with his rival, but it would end prematurely.
Between rounds four and five, Earley said he no longer could see and the fight was immediately stopped, ending what was clearly the best bout of the night. Bolanos improved to 4-0 with the win; Earley dipped to 4-2.
In other action, local fighter Christine Ferea won her pro debut by taking out fellow debutant Calie Cutler via punches and a kick 49 seconds into the fourth round. In the first bout on the main card, Brian Del Rosario won a unanimous five round decision over Tom Morales to win for the first time as a pro. De Rosario, now 1-2, scored a knockdown in the first and was awarded the verdict thanks to scores of 50-44 on all three judges’ cards. The contest was Morales’ pro debut.
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