by Ken Pishna (Photos by April Pishna)
(From top to bottom, left to right: Takahiro Kamikozono heel hooks Ali Abdelaziz, Mike Nickels striking down on Noah Inerhof, Alvin Robinson after defeating Alonzo Martinez to earn a title shot, and Carlos Condit working from the mount on Chilo Gonzalez.)
Although Saturday night’s Ring of Fire 19: Showdown card didn’t feature a bevy of “name” fighters, Andre Walker and Aaron Brink were the biggest names and were featured in a K-1 rules bout for the main event, what the show lacked in hype, it more than made up for in substance.
Ring of Fire has long set the standard for mixed martial arts in the Rocky Mountain Region thanks in no small part to the premier matchmaking of the show’s promoter, Sven “Boogie” Bean. Even without a high profile roster, Bean managed to put together the most exciting fight card in the show’s long history.
On a regional show such as the Ring of Fire, we are often treated to great fights. Regardless of their experience level, if fighters are matched up right, they can often be entertaining; but it is not often that you see a fighter that makes you think, “Wow, this kid is headed somewhere.” At Showdown, there was not one fighter that turned heads, but four: Alvin Robinson, Takahiro Kamikozono, Carlos Condit, and Mike Nickels.
In a bout that would see the winner move on to face Luke Caudillo for the lightweight championship on Ring of Fire’s December mega-show, Alvin Robinson and Alonzo Martinez put on a fight worthy of being aired on a UFC pay-per-view. With Martinez getting the better of the exchanges on the feet, he couldn’t stop Robinson from bringing this fight down to the ground. While both fighters have a strong background in jiujitsu, Royce Gracie fighter Alvin Robinson is at a level that is difficult to match.
With the fight going back and forth throughout the first round, it was Robinson, in only his third mixed martial arts bout, that set the tone for the second round and quickly worked Martinez to the mat where he cinched on a rear naked choke for the win.
While local favorite Ali Abdelaziz got the crowd going by donning an Egyptian headdress and a live Python for his ring entrance, it was his opponent Takahiro Kamikozono that impressed in the ring. The fight started quick with a solid exchange on the feet. Abdelaziz ended up down on his back with Kamikozono looking to punch down from standing in the guard. As Abdelaziz defended by kicking up, the Guy Mezger trained and cornered Kamikozono snaked around Abdelaziz’s leg and locked on a fight ending heel hook, all in the blink of an eye.
Kamikozono reportedly is pretty high on K-1’s list, whom promoter Sven Bean is the USA Director of Fighter Development for. K-1 would be smart to lock him up now, as Kamikozono is that impressive both physically and technically.
At 11-1, with his only loss being to Carlo Prater, it would seem that Carlos Condit is overdue for getting a shot at one of the big shows. On Saturday night, Condit seemingly had a tough task in front of him facing the ever-aggressive Chilo Gonzalez, who cut down to 170 pounds for this fight from his normal weight of 185. You’d never know it, the way that Condit handled the fight.
After a brief skirmish on the feet, the fight quickly went to the ground. Without hesitation, Condit moved to mount and then applied a tight arm bar as Gonzalez tried to escape. And just like that, the fight was over. With a smirk on his face, Condit tends to come off a bit cocky at times, but the fact is, he gets the job done and with a record that is now 12-1, he’s earned the right to be a bit cocky.
Twisted Sol Tattoo shop owner Mike Nickels was one of the late round finalists for the second season of The Ultimate Fighter, but apparently didn’t make the cut because, at 215 pounds, they felt he was a little small for the heavyweight division. Against Noah Inerhof, Nickels made his debut at light heavyweight and if his performance on Saturday was any indication of what’s to come from him as a 205-pound fighter, the powers that be would be smart to give him high consideration for the next round of light heavyweights which is reportedly on tap for The Ultimate Fighter Season Three.
Inerhof didn’t lie down for Nickels; in fact, it was a hard fought battle which saw Nickels in trouble more than once as the fight went late into the second round. But a hard fought battle like this can really build a fighters confidence and push him to the next level. Working from his back for much of the fight, Nickels mounted Inerhof towards the end of round two and rained down blows until Inerhof turned in an attempt to defend. At this point, Nickels locked on a tight rear naked choke and wrapped him up like an Anaconda forcing the tapout.
There are plenty of skilled fighters making the rounds in today’s world of MMA, but not many have that special something, that intangible quality that makes a great fighter. Alvin Robinson, Takahiro Kamikozono, Carlos Condit, and Mike Nickels all appear to have that quality, that something special that separates them from their counterparts. Only time will tell, but keep your eyes on the lookout for these four.
In the main event, Denver favorite Andre Walker marked his return to the ring in a K-1 rules kickboxing bout against MMA journeyman Aaron Brink. Walker is a longtime kickboxing veteran having defeated fighters like fellow K-1 veteran Carter Williams. This was Brink’s first bout under kickboxing rules and it showed. He was game enough, coming out fast and furious, but he was no match for the skill and experience of Walker, who dispatched of Brink in the first round with several hard kicks to the body.
With an unprecedented five mixed martial arts shows in six weeks canvassing the Denver area, it is the originator, the Ring of Fire, that went first and they set the bar high. With a full-house estimated to be in the neighborhood of 3,000-plus in attendance and one of the most exciting fight cards this region has witnessed, everyone else has got a hard act to follow.
And as promoter, what does Bean do for a follow up? Easy, he puts on his most high profile card to date. Ring of Fire will return on December 10th with a stellar fight card that is set to feature Duane “Bang” Ludwig, Pete Spratt, Jay Jack, Amanda Buckner, and Chrisanne Roselip, among others.
MAIN EVENT (K-1 RULES)
Andre Walker def. Aaron Brink by TKO at 2:41 of Round 1
MIXED MARTIAL ARTS:
Alvin Robinson def. Alonzo Martinez by Rear Naked Choke at 1:14 of Round 2
Takahiro Kamikozono def. Ali Abdelaziz by Heel Hook at 1:11 of Round 1
Carlos Condit def. Chilo Gonzalez by Arm Bar at 1:06 of Round 1
Mike Nickels def. Noah Inerhof by Rear Naked Choke at 4:10 of Round 2
Aaron Romero def. Paul Willman by Submission to Strikes at 2:59 of Round 1
Toby Johnson def. Darrel Murphy by Triangle Choke at 0:33 of Round 1
Brian Truelson def. Ryan Fotheringhom by Triangle Choke at 2:49 of Round 3
Alfredo Corona def. David Favela by Guillotine Choke at 1:31 of Round 1
Ricardo Ponce def. Rocky Johnson by Unanimous Decision, 3 Rounds