This Week in Face Punching: The Unlikely Case of the Unconscious Winner

(1/11/17 – 1/17/17)

Enjoy a whole week of MMA highlights in one place!  This Week In Face Punching features a star making performance from one Invicta competitor plus one of the weirdest finishes you’ll ever see, news and highlights from across the globe, and plenty of bonecrunching highlights from the worlds of MMA and Muay Thai. 

 

Invicta FC (Missouri) 

Australian knockout queen Megan Anderson (8-2) was among the brightest stars in the MMA universe this week, both for her performance in the cage and for her words on the mic after smashing Charmaine Tweet (9-6) for the Invicta interim featherweight title. Things looked a bit dicey for Anderson in the first round, as her head movement and footwork slowed immediately upon getting touched by a few solid shots from Tweet. Yet despite getting tagged with frequent counters Anderson continued to press forward, mixing power punches with nasty high kicks that slipped though the Canadian’s defenses. Anderson picked up the pace and really went for the finish in round two; as soon as Tweet began to fade from the Aussie’s reckless attack, Anderson pressed her with a series of overhand bombs and dead-on high kicks that forced the referee to stop the match against the cage (See GIF!).  The high octane victory earned Anderson a facsimile of the 145 pound Invicta belt still owned by Cris Cyborg, and after the fight Anderson confidently called out the winner of the Holly Holm-Germaine de Randamie featherweight title match that headlines UFC 208. This was just the exciting performance that Anderson needed to propel herself toward a big pay per view match like that, although she may find herself in deeper waters than she can handle unless she can work on the defensive issues that plagued her in this match.

While the main event featured Anderson’s star building performance, the undercard was also memorable for featuring one of the strangest fight finishes and officiating decisions that you’ll ever see in this sport. For most of their undercard strawweight bout Amy Montenegro (8-2) controlled the action against Celine Haga (10-14), even managing to elicit a disallowed tapout due to armbar just after the bell tolled to end round one. With just 20 seconds to go Montenegro appeared to be cruising to a win on the judges’ scorecards, but Haga burst forth suddenly with all of her remaining energy, sunk in a rear naked choke, and put Montenegro completely to sleep with about two seconds remaining in the final round. Unfortunately referee Greg Franklin failed to realize that Montenegro was out and didn’t wave off the fight, and when the final bell rang he found himself staring at a totally unconscious competitor as Haga celebrated along the cage. Yet even at that point things didn’t compute for Ref Franklin, nor for the ringside commission representatives who decided to send the fight to the scorecards despite the fact that one of the contestants was asleep for the final bell and for about ten seconds afterward. To compound matters the judges ruled in Montenegro’s favor, and thus she became the first competitor in MMA history to finish a fight unconscious via legal means and yet be awarded a victory by decision. This had to be heartbreaking for Haga, whose mediocre record hides the fact that she came into this one on a 9-2 run of form. At this point the battle has shifted from the cage to the legal floor, and we’ll see whether the embattled Missouri commission once again admits its error and reverses the decision as it did for the botched Invicta 21 title fight between Yana Kunitskaya and Tonya Evinger.

Controversy aside, there were plenty of other quality performances on the Invicta 21 card. The co-main event featured an upset on paper, as Raquel Pa’aluhi (6-5) showed off a sharply-honed ground game in dominating former 135 pound title challenger Pannie Kianzad (8-2) via RNC just 3:45 into their bout. Pa’aluhi’s vast improvements are the outcome of a full year spent competing on the competitive jiu-jitsu circuit alongside black belt husband Renato Canuto, and with her new skillset she looks to be a darkhorse threat in Invicta’s bantamweight ranks. The owner of one of the most non sequitur nicknames in the game, Andrea “KGB” Lee (5-2), also impressed in her return from suspension with a vicious 74 second drubbing of Jenny Liou (6-5). Lee is already scheduled for her next bout on February 17th when she vies for the LFA flyweight title against Heather Bassett. Other impressive young talents to win on this card included Leah Letson (4-1), who stepped up on short notice and nearly decapitated UFC vet Liz Phillips (5-5) with a crushing left head kick; top 135 prospect Aspen Ladd (5-0), who faced a stiff grappling test from Sijara Eubanks (2-2) but showed off a newly developed striking game en route to a unanimous decision win; and Muay Thai stylist Christine “Misfit” Ferea (1-0), who made a successful pro debut by battering Rachael Ostovich (3-3) via third round TKO.

 

ACB 51 (California)

Jared Torgeson after fighting Thiago Silva
Jared Torgeson after fighting Thiago Silva

Russia’s ACB made their U.S. debut with a stellar fight card that saw Thiago Silva (19-5) makes his return to American soil after a 2-fight stint in the Brazilian regionals. Silva fought patiently in the main event light heavyweight title fight, pummeling Jared Torgeson’s (17-15) left leg with a barrage of kicks that made the underdog’s inner thigh turn medium-rare.  Silva also scored damage with an unending series of sharp jabs that kept his opponent out of offensive range and helped him ease his way to a relatively leisurely shutout victory. Other big winners included Luis Palomino (25-13) via KO over top Russian featherweight Musa Khamanaev (17-5), lightweight Christos Giagos (14-5) via well-earned unanimous decision over BJJ black belt Alexandre Pimentel (15-2), and Leandro “Buscape” Silva (20-5) via eye-poke-assisted TKO over Pat Healy (30-23). Click RIGHT HERE for CombatDocket’s review of the full ACB 51 card, including embedded video of all 11 of the evening’s fights.

 

LFA 1 (Texas)

The Bomb Factory in Dallas was full of explosive in-cage action at LFA 1, featuring a ripsnorter of a main event that capped a quality card top-to-bottom. Pat Miletich rates Leandro Higo (17-2) as the best prospect in the entire LFA promotion, and it was easy to see why he’s earned that distinction in his bantamweight title bout versus Steven “Ocho” Peterson (14-5). Higo’s muay thai attack is lightning fast and precise, as Peterson found out nearly every time he pressed the assault on the previous RFA title holder. The fact that this bout went the entire 25 minutes is much more a testament to Peterson’s iron chin than an indictment of Higo’s power, as the Brazilian utterly blasted Peterson with a full five rounds of shots that would have laid out nearly any lesser man. While Peterson’s continued pressure in the face of return fire was admirable, he was never able to land the type of offense necessary for shifting matters in his favor. In the end Higo picked up his fourth straight win since a brief run on TUF Brazil season 4 and added the inaugural LFA bantamweight belt to his collection. He also added a very strange highlight to that collection by headbanging his way through the final seconds of the bout as Peterson watched on from below. Now that Tom Duquesnoy has signed with the UFC there isn’t a prospect out there more likely to be called up in 2017 than the multitalented Higo, who is just 27 years old and is riding an eight fight win streak against top shelf U.S. and Brazilian regional opponents.

As usual, the finishes came fast and furious at this LFA show. The co-main event proved to be a rough stylistic mismatch for Charles Cheeks III (11-6), who simply didn’t possess the wrestling and jiu-jitsu skills to shake featherweight foe Damon “The Leech” Jackson (11-1-1). Jackson managed to secure the rear naked choke just over a minute into the second round; be sure to add the Dallas native’s name to your list of talent who deserves a big show callup in the near future.  Full-time hairdresser Eli Tamez (10-0) also looked impressive, outworking Ulyses Aguila (6-2) thoroughly at all ranges and showing off a much better striking game than he had in previous outings. The fact that Tamez only earned a split decision had absolutely nothing to do with the in-cage proceedings – it’s the kind of scorecard that makes you think that maybe a judge got the fighters’ names confused. Other big winners on the undercard included strawweight prospect Cynthia Calvillio (3-0), who showed heavy hands in punching out Montana Stewart (6-4) in the third round of their bout, and Cameron Miller (3-0) who slipped to Oscar Ramirez’s (3-1) back and elicited a tap via RNC just 29 seconds into their 130 pound catchweight contest.

 

ONE: Quest for Power (China)

Aung La Nsang (19-10) played the hero of the day for ONE Championship, stepping in on very short notice to fight for Vitaly Bigdash’s (9-0) middleweight title after originally scheduled challenger Marcin Prachnio pulled out with a late injury. “The Burmese Python” managed to hang around for the entire 25 minutes of the contest, but had relatively little to offer for Bigdash beyond being a game opponent. Bigdash enjoyed a strength edge through, bullying the fight into the clinch whenever he wanted to and showing off measured and effective striking in the pocket. La Nsang’s best potential weapon appeared to be his kicking game, but that threat was largely nullified by Bigdash’s clinch activity and prolific takedowns in the later rounds. This was a tough outing for La Nsang, who took a bit of a beating and saw his ONE winning streak stopped at four straight. For the 32 years old Bigdash this was another clinical, technical performance that reasserted his position as an elite fighter in the ONE ranks but fell short of really capturing the fans’ imagination.

In terms of action the abbreviated co-main event slightly exceeded the slow-paced marquee fight, as featherweight Martin Nguyen (8-1) of Australia tangled with 38 year old Japanese talent Kazunori Yokota (25-7-3). Yokota was dealt a killer opponent in his first ONE outing, falling to current champion Marat Gafurov in the second round of a 145 pound title challenge, and he found the sledding no easier on this occasion. After an Anderson Silva-esque first three minutes that saw both men feint but fail to engage, Nguyen landed one of the very first meaningful right hands that he threw, driving his fist directly into Yokota’s temple and following up with an assault of ground strikes to his off-balanced opponent. Yokota never looked out of the fight – the referee stoppage probably came early – but nonetheless this was a significant highlight moment for the 27 year old Nguyen, who has now finished four straight foes following a 2015 title fight loss of his own to Gafurov and now counts Yokota as the most distinguished victim of his young career.

 

Around the World in 8 Shows

“Thug Nasty” Mitchell

V3 Fights (Tennessee; broadcast on GFL.tv) – Despite two impressive appearances in the WSOF cage, Arkansas native Bryce “Thug Nasty” Mitchell (8-0) has to be one of the best young talents in the game who very few people talk about – yet. The young jiu-jitsu practitioner has pulled off submission finishes in every fight of his young career, with only fellow featherweight prospect Brandon Phillips managing to last until the first round bell. Mitchell was up to his same tricks this past weekend, choking out Isaac Ware (4-2) just a minute-and-a-half into their V3 Fights main event contest. Don’t call the jiu-jitsu master a one-trick pony, though, as Mitchell displays an educated striking style on the feet despite his 100% submission rate. If I were Dana White (and I was Looking for a Fight), I would schedule my next reality show to take place whenever and wherever Thug Nasty next takes the cage.

 

Shamrock FC 282 (Missouri) – Shamrock FC puts on shows like clockwork, and the latest edition from Kansas City featured a particularly notable main prospect in the main event. Light heavyweight Kelvin Tiller (8-1) is a man who has battled with injuries and bad luck; he managed to amass a 3-0 record on the Bellator prelims from 2011-2012, but after pulling out of three proposed Bellator bouts found himself back in the free agent pool. Tiller then signed a multi-fight deal with WSOF and appeared once in the organization, losing a 2014 decision to Elvis Mutapcic, but had two more high-profile fights cancelled before his contract expired in 2015. In the main event of Shamrock FC 282, Tiller finally returned for his first match in 20 months opposite husky 5’11, 253 pound heavyweight Kevin Sears (6-2). Sears’ resume is filled with iffy local competition and the barely-heavweight Tiller (who weighed in at 207 pounds) made light work of his opponent, scoring a knockout just 2:17 into the bout. Tiller is still just 26 years old and possesses a resume including quality regional names Dan Spohn and Marcus Sursa, so with more activity and a few more wins the Topeka native may yet prove that there’s diesel remaining in the tank of his once-full hype train.

 

TKO 37 (Quebec) – First off, if you have UFC Fight Pass and haven’t seen this card please do yourself a favor and watch it – it was that good. TKO has focused on signing and matching up many of the very best early career prospects in Canada, and at TKO 37 the result was a series of high-octane bouts between talented and hungry competitors. The top stars of the show were 19 year old featherweight T.J. Laramie (5-1) who engaged in a competitive contest Maxime Dubois (5-3) before felling him with a wicked knee and follow-up punches, and ultra-slick featherweight Charles Jourdain (3-0) who dominated Michael Cyr (2-2) before finishing him off with an RNC earliy in the second round of their co-main event contest.  Other names to remember include Jeremie Capony (5-0), who looked spectacular in taking down and finishing kickboxer Remy Bussieres (3-2) 81 seconds into their match; Belgian strawweight Griet Eeckhout (3-0-1), who shocked the partisan crowd by overpowering and choking out hometown favorite Lindsay Garbatt (4-2) three minutes into the first round;  Tony Laramie (1-0, and brother of aforementioned T.J.), who showed off a patient and polished striking game in decisioning fellow talented debutant Keith Lee (0-1, and brother of UFC lightweight Kevin); and Adam “Kung Fu Panda” Dyczka (4-0), who ran his KO streak to 4 with a five-knee strike combo finish of Jared Henderson (3-3).  On the other hand, the proceedings were very slightly marred by a ridiculous main event performance by Strahinja Gavrilovic (5-4) that saw the big man knock out opponent Jo Vallee (6-1) cold and then continue to reign down thunderous ground and pound as the ref desperately tried to peel him off his fallen foe. Gavrilovic earned himself a DQ loss for his brainless effort.

 

WXC 66 (Michigan) – After enjoying some early-career success and facing his fair share of adversity in the Bellator cage, Jason Fischer (12-3) has rebounded from a 2015 return to the regionals with a six fight win streak against quality lightweight competition. The 31 year old Michigander added regional mainstay Dequan Townsend’s (15-6) name to his resume with a five round decision win in the WXC 66 welterweight championship main event.

 

Elite1 MMA (New Brunswick, Canada) – A number of notable Eastern Canadian prospects were showcased on this one, including middleweight slugger Christien Savoie (4-0) who picked up a decision win over James Kouame (3-8); 27 year old lightweight prospect Shawn Wallace (7-1), who rebounded from the first loss of his career by knocking out Nova Scotia-baed journeyman Jeremy Henry (5-6); and Alex Paul (4-0), who scored his fourth consecutive finish with a first round guillotine choke of Gary Brown (1-3).

 

FEN 15 (Poland) – The next member of a recent wave of Italian MMA talents, Riccardo Nosiglia (5-0) is a sizeable light heavyweight who packs considerable punch and shows a penchant for precisely timed takedowns. He figured to face a tough test against rugged Polish veteran Marcin Zontek (16-11), but the 27-year old showed remarkable poise in dominating his opponent across all facets of the game.  Ultimately the Italian managed to attain a dominant position on the mat and pound Zontek out late in round 1. At first glance the powerful Nosiglia looks like the kind of talent who might run straight through the Euro regional ranks and into the upper divisions of the sport. The other top performance belonged to Polish welterweight Kamil Gniadek (11-4), who torqued a strong heel hook on Vincent del Guerra (24-18) that forced the Frenchman to tap just three minutes into their bout. And reigning PLMMA middleweight champion Marcin Naruszczka (18-5-1) earned a title shot at FEN 16 by taking out previously undefeated Filip Tomczak (4-1). Naruszczka runs his win streak to six, including a decision over Matt Horwich in his last outing.

 

Angel’s Fighting 2 (South Korea) – Truth be told, there isn’t much of note to report about on this one.  Mid-tier South Korean heavyweight Jun Soo Lim (10-8) enjoyed his fourth straight victory in his home country, knocking out debuting Brazilian Messaros Inasio (0-1) in just a minute. Four of the other contests on the card ended in finish, ensuring an enjoyable time for everyone in attendance in Seoul.  But really, there’s one reason that this show made the cut, and it’s the tremendous and explicable fight poster. Just look at that thing. Beautiful.

Glory of Heroes 6 (China) – Some Chinese fight organizations primarily focus on booking their talent in squash matches against underqualified foreign foes, and that’s largely the matchmaking tactic that was on display at Glory of Heroes 6. Top Chinese featherweight Guan Wang (17-1) has an impressive record that features a few competitive matchups, but he had easy pickings on this day against professional debutant Ghassan Muhareb (0-1). Wang earned a first round KO for his fifth straight victory since a decision loss to Bekbulat Magomedov in his one world-class level contest thus far. On the other hand, things didn’t go so quite smoothly for Chinese welterweight star Kenan Song (12-4), who looked like a strong favorite on paper but faced a surprisingly tough challenge from untested Tiger Muay Thai representative Brad Riddell (3-0); the 25 year old New Zealander sent the Shenzen, China crowd home unhappy in the main event, ending Song’s night via TKO in round 2.

 

Killer Highlights o’ the Week

Killer Highlight #1:  Powerbomb KO at Superstar Fight 7 in China

 

Killer Highlight #2: Max Muay Thai Spinning Hellbow Spares No One

 

Killer Highlight #3: Oleinik’s Crazy Good Ezekiel Choke

 

Killer Highlight #4: Gervonta by KTFO

 

Killer Highlight #5: He Thought Soccer Kicks Were Still Legal in ONE

 

There will be no break in the action this week as Bellator – Tito vs Chael, ACB, and Titan anchor a strong weekend of face punching. Thanks again to all the GIFMasters of the MMA Twitter community, including global combat sports masters @Grabaka_Hitman and @Jolassanda, and thanks to you for joining us for another edition of This Week in Face Punching.

 

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