BY EVAN HERTZOG
Sparta Combat League put on yet another successful event Saturday evening, when they produced SCL59 “Rampage”, live from the “Crowne Plaza Convention Center”, in Denver. There were 12 fights total on the evening. Three muay thai, six amateur MMA and three pro MMA bouts were scheduled in all. Four of those fights were title fights. Three amateur and one pro title were up for grabs on the night and three of those four fights delivered on the hype surrounding a title fight, with one being draped in controversy and just not what we expected.
A day and a half removed from SCL59, I have had time to really think about what took place in the jam packed “CPCC”. So much happened on the evening. Some expected and some not at all. The upsets and the predictability. There was so much to take in at the end of the night and I have struggled with how I would like to cover it going forward, so I have decided to narrow the nights events down. The following are my five takeaways from SCL59 “Rampage”.
1. MUAY THAI IS ALIVE AND THRIVING IN DENVER COLORADO
The evening started with three straight muay thai fights inside of the SCL cage. Tim Gooden and Jamal Shaw set the bar high in the first fight of the night as far as what type of pace and action the crowd should expect going forward.
Anthony Pinedo must have gotten the message as the young muay thai fighter came out with all his tools on full display. He dismantled a very tough and strong hearted Chris Johnson in the second round of their fight and really put a buzz in the crowd and a real “want”, to see the next muay thai fight in his young career.
Alix Fisher and Brandon White put on the best muay thai fight of the evening. Fisher, a “Bang” muay thai student lost a close decision to the debuting White but really impressed me after being taken to task in the clinch of White in the first round.
I suggest Colorado fight fans keep a close eye on the muay thai scene here in Denver going forward because there is an abundance of young talent participating and some great instruction coming out of the state as well.
2. JUST KEEP FIGHTING
You hear fighters talk about never stopping or giving up in a fight, no matter how dark the situation is. You hear fighters say things like, “it’s never over until it’s over” or “I’m never out of the fight until I’m out of the fight for good”. Well let me tell you, it’s one thing to hear it and it’s a whole other thing to see it come in to action in front of your own eyes.
On two occasions, we saw fighters hurt in the first round of their fights at SCL59, just to come back and steal the victory in one fashion or the other.
The first of those two comeback performances was completed by the iron hearted Joaquin Garcia. After being dropped multiple times in the first round, including a vicious head kick knockdown delivered by his opponent Austin Stubaus, Garcia was able to survive the round and actually start to change the momentum by the time they made their way back to their corners between the first and second rounds. Garcia would then completely turn the tides just thirty seconds into the second round and completed his full circle comeback as he stopped Stubaus with strikes early in the second round.
The second fight wasn’t as dramatic as the Garcia and Stubaus fight but it showed exactly what must be done in a three-round bout after losing the first round convincingly.
Justin Parker was the author of this particular story as he bounced back in rounds two and three and really put on an all-around MMA performance against Chris Carrol Saturday night to win the SCL amateur 125lb MMA championship.
The first round saw a hungry Carrol come out and really dominate Parker on the feet and in the grappling exchanges but Parker would answer the next bell a changed fighter and won most of every exchange going forward in the last two rounds of the amateur title fight. He said himself that he was doubting his ability as he made his way to his corner after round one but at some point, that adage came into play and Parker, “just kept fighting”. This time it earned him a title belt.
3. POSSIBLE “FIGHT OF THE NIGHT” TURNS INTO “EYE POKES ALL NIGHT”
Undefeated amateur stars Grant Neal, now (3-0) and Ktaro Cade (3-1) took to the cage in what was many fight fans and critics pre-show “fight of the night candidate”, with the SCL amateur 205lb title up for grabs. What happened on fight night though was draped in frustration and controversy.
I personally struggled on deciding how to go about covering this. On one hand, I wanted to focus on what was going on in the fighters’ head who caused the controversy. On the other hand, I feel as though that wasn’t the deserving rout to take the coverage. Instead, I will focus on the man that was at the receiving end of some of the most blatant eye pokes I have ever witnessed in a fight in all my years watching them.
The character of still undefeated and now 205lb SCL amateur MMA champion, Grant Neal, was on full display Saturday night, right alongside his true toughness and grit. As the first round came to a close in the contest, it was already becoming evident that the grappling and wrestling in general from the highly decorated Neal, was going to be too much for his opponent, as he looked to frustrate him with his sheer strength advantage. Holding him down and controlling him for the final minute of round one, it appeared that it would be no more than a tough ground battle for the remainder of the title fight and the bigger and more decorated wrestler would most likely go on to win handedly. Which he did, but what he had to endure throughout the next six minutes to do so, was gut wrenching and brutal.
Shortly after the second round started, Neal took his opponents’ back down to the canvas. What transpired for the remainder of the round and the following round was mind blowing to me. To see my live reaction, go checkout my instant breakdown of the fight in the previous articles. Neal withstood the most blatant eye gouging/poking/raking, I have ever seen in MMA, on any level, anywhere. Cade was docked a point finally, towards the end of the second round but he clearly had no respect for referee Curtis Thrasher or his opponents’ well-being because he ignored every plea and warning from him for the rest of the fight.
At one point in the third and final round referee Thrasher physically removed Cade’s hands from the face of Neal.
Neal kept his composure brilliantly the whole time. Avoiding the gouging where he could, and raining legal blows down the entire time, proving just what type of champion we are dealing with in Grant Neal. He finally had seen enough and unloaded an absolute beat down in the final twenty seconds of the final round.
Neal will have a great future in SCL and MMA in general but I would be greatly surprised to see Cade back with the promotion, which is a real shame because he is a young talent with a ton of potential but with the lack of respect shown for MMA and his opponent in general on Saturday night, I wouldn’t blame the promotion at all.
4. JACE FAIELLA IS A FORCE ON THE AMATEUR MMA SCENE AND COULD TURN PRO SOON
Jace Faiella came into Saturday night undefeated with the biggest challenge of his career in front of him in then SCL 170lb amateur champion Steve Stickler, who would be competing in his final amateur bout before turning pro in the near future. Needless to say, those that have never seen Jace fight, thought this would be a celebration type of fight night for Stickler, regardless of the stellar record of Faiella. That was very evident in the silence that plagued the “CPCC”, in Denver, after Faiella stopped Stickler with strikes after taking his back in the second round. The most impressive thing about the entire fight though, was what happened during the fight before it was stopped.
Faiella either stuffed or reversed every takedown attempt by Stickler who is a great grappler and then proceeded to dominate the action at every turn and every position after the first takedown attempt of Stickler in the first ten seconds of the fight. Faiella stunned the crowd but I was not completely shocked at his performance after watching him earlier this year at the “Paramount Theatre” at “Cage on the Stage” for PMMA. That fight too ended with a Faiella finish.
I look forward to seeing what is next for the new SCL amateur 170lb champion. One question that comes to mind is this. Will that amateur label be there long enough for him to defend that belt multiple times? If you ask me I say no. Those talents should be paid.
5. AUSTIN HUBBARD IS TROUBLE FOR ANYONE IN THE REGION AT 155LBS GOING FORWARD
The main event of the evening looked to be an absolute battle between one undefeated prospect in Kris Nieto and the only once blemished Austin Hubbard. That is why we get them inside the cage. It was a great matchup on paper for the SCL 155lb pro belt but once the cage doors closed it was 5 rounds of brilliant domination by Austin Hubbard.
He showed us his great boxing and head movement, while putting on the grappling performance of the night. Kris Nieto proved to be all heart and as tough as we already knew he was but the shine belongs to Hubbard. He won every round on my scorecard and swept the unanimous decision at the end of the fight. At no point did Hubbard look worried or flustered against the then undefeated Nieto. To be honest he looked poised to make a run to the next level in my opinion.
Austin Hubbard has all the tools to dominate Colorado and the surrounding states for a long time to come at 155 pounds. The entire weight class is on notice and for good reason now. Austin Hubbard is the real deal.
Until next time fight fans!