BY EVAN HERTZOG
PHOTO CREDITS: Amanda Armstrong Trihex Photography
Paramount MMA brought their yearly fight card back to the historic venue that is, “The Paramount Theatre”, in downtown Denver Colorado this past Saturday evening. Paramount MMA VII, “The cage on the Stage”, named amply for its unique presentation to the fight game as, it is theatre seating with the cage sitting literally on the stage. Which at first, I must admit, I wasn’t sure how I felt about this, given the fact that all fights I have ever been to have had 360-degree seating and viewing options for the most part. It turns out my initial feelings were completely off base. In fact, with this type of seating arrangement, I’m not sure there was a bad seat in the house. Weather you wanted to be eye level with the cage in the lower seating, or you wanted the birds eye view down onto the canvas in the balcony seating, you were set and pretty much had your pick when it came right down to it. Accompany that with a greatly proportioned screen directly behind and above the cage, and you have a recipe for never missing any of the action.
Paramount MMA VII delivered on an action-packed card that featured 6 amateur MMA bouts, 1 professional kickboxing bout, and 4 professional MMA fights, including two title fights. One at Featherweight and the other at Light Heavyweight.
If you weren’t settled in your seats and back from the beer stand within the first 20 minutes of the night, then you missed a whirlwind of early finishes and fireworks.
The night started off with the amateur bouts. Jorge Sanchez set the bar for the night high with his dominant performance over Robin Maggs, finishing his debut by way of arm bar at 2 minutes 44 seconds of round number one. The second bout of the evening followed in the fast and furious, “don’t blink”, fashion as Nick Lancaster now (6-2) as an amateur, showed off his power and stand up savvy as he dropped and stopped Kickdown MMA Middleweight champion Jesse Ames (3-3), with a huge left hand followed by three big hammer fists at 1 minute and 14 seconds of the first round. Not to be outdone, Grant Neal, 2 time Colorado 5A state wrestling champion and national champion football player for CSU Pueblo, improved his record to (2-0), when he put Joey Chacon on his back and head repeatedly until he took Chacon’s back and sunk in a flawless rear naked choke at 1 minute and 1 second of round number 1.
Fight number four gave us our first trip to the judges’ scorecards on the night, when Miguel Perez (3-0) squared off with Jose Gomez (1-3), in what turned out to be a well-rounded fight. Perez was able to find his rhythm and range early in the first two rounds against Gomez, finishing each of the two first rounds on the back of Gomez, delivering solid ground and pound for the undefeated 125lb amateur. Gomez showed flashes of brilliance from his back and never stopped attacking, searching for submissions. The third round went fairly similar to the first two rounds and Perez was able to ride out the third and final round in a row with Gomez’s back and a flurry of ground and pound punches. At the end of the day all three judges scored the fight 30-27, giving Perez the unanimous decision victory and keeping him undefeated in his amateur career.
Jace Faiella (4-0) was able to stay unbeaten in his amateur MMA career in what was a very good back and forth fight with while it lasted with Brandon White (4-2). The first round saw a good exchange on the feet temporary followed by a back and forth ground battle, after Faiella was able to slam White to the canvas with his first successful takedown of the evening. This exchange saw Faiella work from side control, to full mount, to the back of White, followed by great hammer fist and elbow work. Only to be reversed by White who ended the round with a deep arm bar on Faiella, momentarily slowing the momentum of the young undefeated fighter. The second mimicked the first, with Faiella landing a massive takedown, working his way from the full guard of White all the way to half guard, where he (Faiella) was able to pull off a crucifix in a fashion I haven’t seen before and finished White with strikes just two minutes into the second round of their 170lb amateur bout.
The 115lb ladies of MMA wrapped up the amateur action for the night when Brittany Boone (4-2) took on Cara Greenwell (2-1). This was my fight of the night and by far the most competitive in my eyes. Boone showed to be the aggressor in the first round and looked to exploit the Oklahoma natives’ cardio at the mile-high altitude. Both fighters started to stand and exchange towards the end of round one and both were seeming to find their distance respectively. The pace slowed in the second round but the kicks of Boone were still finding a home on a consistent basis, particularly to the body of Greenwell. Just as I thought Boone was taking control of the fight though, Greenwell was able to score a takedown from the clinch and completely change the pace of the fight. She was able to work her way to the back of Boone and work effective striking from that position, until the end of the second round. The third saw an early takedown from Boone, turn the third round into and insane grappling match, with both fighters attacking at will. Triangles, armbars, heal hook attempts, you name it they were going for it. Greenwell was able to finish the third and final round on top of Boone, landing strikes, but it wasn’t enough in judges’ eyes, as Boone was granted the Split Decision victory with all three judges scoring the bout 29-28 with two of them leaning towards Boone. Great fight ladies.
The first two professional MMA fights of the night must have heard about how the amateurs kicked the show off, with both ending in quick and spectacular fashion. First you had Yomi Heredia (3-2) defeat Nicholi Navarro (4-4) in what started as a very close fight on the feet but ended rather quickly once it went to the canvas. Heredia was able to get control of Navarro’s back after waring him out for a couple of minutes in the clinch and on the ground. Once he was able to secure his back, Heredia unleashed a barrage of strikes, somewhere between 20 and 30 strikes unanswered, forcing the referee to jump in and stop the action at 4 minutes and 32 seconds of round 1, giving Heredia the TKO victory.
At this point I thought we couldn’t possibly see another first round finish and we were definitely not going to see anything quicker than the amateur finish of the night, when Grant Neal choked out Joey Chacon in just 61 seconds, but as the pattern of the night shows, I was wrong once again. Derek Brenon (4-0) dodged two kicks from Jesse O’Rullian (1-1) and then immediately took him down and proceeded to sink in the quickest and most effective guillotine choke I have seen in a professional MMA fight in quite some time. O’Rullian tapped out to the choke at just 24 seconds of round 1, giving Brenon his fourth straight win out of four tries since turning pro.
The Co Main Event of the evening was for the PMMA Featherweight championship between Jarred Mercado (14-4) and Nick Rhoads (9-3). This ending up being a very solid fight in my eyes. With a great mix of standup, clinch, and grappling. These two put on the professional fight of the night. The first round saw Mercado winning on the feet. The early exchanges and the distance they were being thrown at were dictated by Mercado. Rhoads looked to be trying to feel out Mercado for most of the first, not quite being able to close the distance that he wanted to effectively. The high head kick was there for Mercado off and on but was countered later in the round with a great two-piece combination by Rhoads. The second round provided a much loser and active Rhoads than in the first. He was the first to strike early in the round and countered a smooth fireman’s carry takedown by Mercado, to end up in his full guard. From this point in the second round, Rhoads did significant damage with his ground and pound, followed by a deep head and arm choke attempt. The tables were seeming to turn at this point but Mercado was able to get back to his feet just to be hit in the cheek with a high kick thrown by Rhoads in the final 15 seconds of the round. I think it was well understood in the theatre that this would be the deciding round in this fight. With both clearly winning their own respected rounds in the first two, it would come down to this. The majority of the final five minutes was fought standing, after Rhoads was able to stuff the initial takedown attempt of Mercado in the opening minute of the third. Halfway through the round Mercado mustered up another beautiful fireman’s carry takedown but like the first, he ended up in worse position than when he started. There was a quick guillotine choke attempt by Mercado but it was short lived as Rhoads worked his way to the back of Mercado. Rhoads finished in the fight in that same position, while constantly trying to land strikes and open Mercado up for a rear naked choke. This was enough in the judges’ eyes to swing the decision in Rhoads favor as he won the PMMA Featherweight championship belt by unanimous decision victory 29-28.
The Main Event of the evening took place at 205lbs and was for the PMMA Light Heavyweight Championship belt, between Bellator MMA veteran Brain Rogers and Canaan Grigsby. Rogers came out trying to make a statement in the first part of the first round and was doing just that to be honest. Throwing devastating leg kicks repeatedly in the first thirty seconds and then really opening things up with back to back flying knees, that both landed to some degree. Canaan was able to land a few left hands but the power just wasn’t there early like it was for Rogers. Rogers got Grigsby up against the cage and into the plum clinch where he proceeded to land huge knees and elbows in multiples until he decided to take Grigsby to the canvas to end the first round. The second round started with a great exchange inside of the pocket and lead to a change of momentum for Grigsby at the start of the round. He landed three or four of his best shots up to that point, within the first minute. Forty seconds later Rogers answers with a huge takedown in the slam variety. At this point, Rogers was able to calm the waters that began to ripple after Grigsby got the best of him at the start of the round. Grigsby threatened a kamura but never was in a good enough spot to really do any damage with it. Rogers rode out the remaining minutes of round two in a dominant top position. The third round kicked off with Grigsby showing his most aggressive offense of the contest as he lunged forward looking for the big over hand right, landing twice but then swinging into a double leg takedown immediately after. Grigsby was able to make his way back to his feet with just under two minutes remaining in the fight and in the last minute really took it to the gassed-out Rogers. Rogers would later explain that he had an adrenaline dump early in the first round and couldn’t recover from it going forward despite his dominating grappling performance. Both men stood and threw right down to the final bell and then simultaneously fell to the canvas in exhaustion. Rogers proved to do enough in the judges minds to earn him the PMMA Light Heavyweight Championship by unanimous decision 29-28.
This was a great card and was well worth the price of admission. I look forward to seeing Paramount MMA grow in the future with hopefully more than just the one show per year, but only time will tell. Until then check back here constantly to stay updated with all things boxing and MMA in Colorado and the surrounding region.