Jared Papazian retained his KOTC 135-pound title at 'First Defense' Thursday night. | Photo: Dave Mandel
HIGHLAND, Calif. -- A raucous and very partisan crowd made for a highly charged atmosphere, as local unbeaten Marvin Garcia challenged King of the Cage 135-pound champion Jared Papazian at KOTC’s aptly titled “First Defense” on Thursday at the San Manuel Indian Bingo and Casino. However, the Highland faithful could not will their fighter to a win.
Riverside’s Garcia set the tone of the fight early, rushing Papazian with wild punching combinations and dogged takedown attempts. For his part, Papazian avoided much of the incoming fire and landed accurately, if sporadically, in return. Garcia’s blitzkrieg approach found more success in the second and third rounds, scoring takedowns, searching for submissions and sneaking strikes through, as the Alberto Crane pupil seemed increasingly unable to cope with the challenger’s aggression.
The fourth round saw a return to form for the champion, as the United Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu fighter’s frantic pace finally began to slow, allowing Papazian to once more poke holes in his defense with counter punches and takedowns. The final stanza saw several reversals in momentum, as Papazian’s striking combinations were met with a Garcia takedown, which led Papazian to search for a heel hook.
The champion scored a late takedown and peppered Garcia from the clinch with strikes in the fight’s waning moments, as the crowd attempted to will a fresh burst of energy into the sapped challenger. It was not to be, however, as judges Mike Beltran and Ron McCarthy saw the fight 48-47 Papazian; judge Luis Cobian saw it a much wider 50-45, giving Papazian the unanimous decision victory.
The decision was met with loud disapproval from the crowd, which extended its disdain to the champion himself. Papazian managed little more than a few thanks towards his opponent and sponsors before exiting the cage in haste with his title to avoid the frothing crowd.
Garcia, in turn, relished in chants of “Marvin!” as he took to the microphone, thanking everyone for their support and making known his desire for a rematch with an emphatic, “I’m coming for that title.”
With the victory, the 23-year-old Papazian has won eight of his last nine bouts, moving to 14-6. Garcia falls to 6-1.
Looking to rebound from his first career loss at the hands of Chris Culley in June, 6-foot-4 lightweight Kris Armbrister moved up five pounds to take on Culley’s Millennia MMA teammate, Jesus Morales, at a 160-pound catchweight and found quick success.
Armbrister almost immediately scored the takedown, slamming down Morales with authority via a high crotch lift. Armbrister worked over Morales from side control until an ill-fated attempt to stand exposed Morales’ back. Armbrister seized the opening, dragging his prey back to the mat before locking in a rear-naked choke for the submission just 97 seconds into the bout.
“[The loss to Culley] affected me a lot. I actually switched over to two new teams; I don’t like to lose,” Armbrister told Sherdog.com. “If I get a loss, I train as hard as possible to make sure it doesn’t happen again. My home is at 155 ... I’m just trying to get a title shot at the end of the day.”
A mainstay of the California MMA scene for more than a decade, Brian Warren brought his usual brand of flash to the cage against welterweight Boyko Ranchev. He attacked the Las Vegas-based Throwdown Elite Training Center fighter with repeated spinning back kicks, as well as Superman punches and winging hooks, eventually clipping the Bulgarian transplant and dropping him late in the first round.
Judges Beltran and McCarthy saw the bout 29-28 for Warren, while judge Cobian scored the bout 30-27 for “Mr. Unbreakable,” giving Warren the unanimous decision victory.
Former International Fight League welterweight Gabe Rivas made quick work of a hapless Alex Rickards, crowding him with punches before taking him down and working ground-and-pound from side control. A merciful Larry Landless called a stop to the action at 2:57 of the first round.
Jimmy Stormo came out aggressively in the early moments of his 210-pound catchweight tilt, throwing punch combinations and clinching opponent Lucas Taber before scoring the takedown. The tide turned quickly, as Taber, a muay Thai stylist, rolled through for a surprisingly slick armbar from his full guard, eliciting the tap just 42 seconds into the fight.
The show opened with a wild, sloppy brawl between Team Quest Temecula’s “Sergeant” Manny Murillo and Ronald LeBreton Jr. at a 190-pound catchweight. The fighters showered one another with power shots from the opening bell. Murillo quickly gained top position from the front headlock position, where unanswered hammerfists prompted referee Landless to call the bout with only a second left in the first frame.
The original opener, a super heavyweight bout between Danny Lockhart and Travis Tarabino, was cancelled shortly after the commencement of the event due to an injury suffered backstage. Meanwhile, a lightweight contest between John Medina and Jon Gorton was nixed just before show time for undisclosed reasons.