by Corey Snow for MMAWeekly.com
SAN FRANCISCO – Friday night’s “Gladiator Challenge: Battleground” returned the franchise to Golden Gate Park’s historic Kezar Stadium, just steps away from the entrance to the famous Haight Street hippie haven from the sixties. Seeking a little more violence than the local peaceniks from back then, the mostly Northern California crowd was enthused for another packed night of fights. Soldiers from mainly California and the West Coast came to engage in a thrilling night of throwing down on the battleground of the Gladiator Challenge cage.
Title Fight Productions did another solid job of assembling 10 fights that were exciting from bottom to top. Local heroes Ralph Gracie, Luke Stewart, Caesar Gracie, Jake Shields and others were all in attendance to cheer on their teammates and students. The nearly-packed century-old auditorium rumbled with delight for every fight, and the educated audience must have left satisfied. It appears that the success of the Kezar Pavilion events will mean that the Gladiator Challenge series will return regularly to San Francisco in September and December this year.
135 lbs. – Sam Stevens-Milo vs. Joey Barang
San Francisco’s mohawked Joey Barang wasted no time in drilling through his opponent, taking Sacramento’s Sam Stevens-Milo down, throwing him into a cradle, and then working a few subs. Barang took the mount, then took his back, and it was only a few seconds later that he would sink it in tight enough for Stevens-Milo to tap his opponent.
–Joey Barang wins by rear-naked choke at 1:15 of the 1st round.
205 lbs. – Luiz Sanchez vs. Mike Fonseca
Luiz Sanchez gave Tracy, Calif. fighter Mike Fonseca a tough time in the first round, aggressively going for the takedown and tossing grenades. Sanchez dominated the first few minutes with malicious ground shots and solid control. Fonseca reversed and the match flip-flopped until Sanchez tired in the last minute. Fonseca stole the round in the last 10 seconds when he nearly finished Sanchez while riding mount. In the second, Sanchez seems to have lost his gas, and taking advantage of this, Fonseca took the rear-naked choke for the win.
–Mike Fonseca wins by rear-naked choke of the 2nd round.
185 lbs. – Kurt Osiander vs. Jeff Morris
Hometown favorite and Ralph Gracie Jiu-Jitsu-San Francisco head-instructor Kurt Osiander mowed down Jeff Morris in Rhino-like fashion, outworking him in the clinch, and finally driving him down to the mat. After a scramble to the feet, Kurt reined him in and took his back. Following solid rear strikes on the ground, Osiander used his black belt in BJJ to sink in the rear-naked choke and finish Morris half-way through the first round. Ralph Gracie joined Osiander in the ring to congratulate his top instructor on his win. According to the crowd, Kurt “the Rhino” Osiander is one of the most popular fighters on the card.
–Kurt Osiander wins by rear-naked choke at 2:40 of the 1st round.
HW – John Devine vs. Chase Gormley
Local fighter John Devine looked like he had early control of Chase Gormley, but lost it toward the end of fight. Despite looking like a Greco-Roman wrestling match at times, the heavyweight fight had its exciting moments. Both fighters moved surprisingly well for men-of-size, but it was Gormley who seemed to be able to weather the storm well-enough to submit San Francisco’s Devine in front of his hometown crowd with a technique that is rarely seen in heavyweight fights. While in Devine’s guard, Gormley fell back for a straight leg lock, switched to a heel hook and submitted Devine by heel-hook to win by tap-out in the 3rd.
–Chase Gormley wins by heel hook at 1:10 of the 3rd round.
145 lbs. – Kyle Rideau vs. Ricardo Moreira
San Francisco’s Kyle Rideau took out Daly City’s Ricardo Moreira in 15 seconds with a knockout that clearly had some power behind. This was no flash knockout; Moreira was out for a good minute or three.
–Kyle Rideau wins by KO at :15 of the 1st round.
155lbs. – Zack Yngojo vs. Bobby Stack
Zack Yngojo and Bobby Stack put on an exciting fight that had the different camps loudly cheering their teammates on, reverberating Kezar’s 19th century acoustics. Stack largely dominated the first round, but Zack had his moments. Into the second round, Stack took the prevailing role as he dominated Yngojo with strikes from the top position. Yngojo, taking strikes to the back and sides of his head, went to his side. It was at that point when the ref decided that curling up in a ball is not exactly “intelligently defending one’s self”, and he stopped the fight at two minutes into the 2nd round.
–Bobby Stack wins by TKO at 2:17 of the 2nd round.
170 lbs. – Pat Minihan vs. Zak Bucia
American Kickboxing Academy fighter and San Mateo resident Pat Minihan (5-0) took control early, and never let go in his fight against Zak Bucia. Minhan’s dominant wrestling seemed to be a major factor in the win, as his forceful style left Bucia with little room to maneuver. Between dropping bombs and staying top dominant, Minihan kept Bucia’s flexible jiu-jitsu at bay. Even though Bucia had impressive sub attempts from the rubber guard, like when he actually attempted a gogoplata, his submission never materialized. Bucia’s highlight was in the last 30 seconds of the fight when he took advantage of a gassed Minihan and got top control and tried to rain down some elbows. But it was too little, too late, and Minihan won the clear unanimous decision.
–Pat Minihan wins a Unanimous Decision.
185 lbs. – Eric Lawson vs. Chris Werner
Eric Lawson had all of Concord, Calif. in the audience and undefeated Chris Werner was there to challenge him in front of Lawson’s local fan base. First-rate aggression by both men led the fighters to exchange in the pocket when Eric Lawson rapid-fired off three or four uppercuts that knocked Werner out cold. What was most impressive about Lawson’s knockout was that the first upper cut actually knocked Werner out and lifted him up, but Lawson was able to slip in at least two more upper cuts with the same hand before Werner was actually on the ground. Lawson appropriately celebrated by jumping up on the fence to pump his supporters.
–Eric Lawson wins by upper cut KO at :45 of the 1st round.
155 lbs. – Alexander Crispim vs. Lance Wips
Ralph Gracie black belt Alexander Crispim from San Francisco via Brazil took on Reno’s Lance Wips, who trains at Ken Shamrock’s Reno-based Lion’s Den gym. Clearly the hometown favorite, Crispim took control of the fight and kept it until he finished Wips midway through the 1st round. Although squirrelly and strong with decent counter-techniques, Wips was never able to gain a prevailing position over Crispim. After a few early exchanges, Crispim got top control and after a scramble ended up holding Wips in a tight arm-in Guillotine. Wips tapped out at 2:55 and the local crowd went crazy for Crispim’s triumph.
–Alexander Crispim wins by arm-in Guillotine at 2:55 of the 1st round.
185 lbs. – Nik Theotikos vs. Raul Castillo (Main Event)
In the main fight, undefeated Nik Theotikos (4-0) took on fellow undefeated fighter Raul Castillo (2-0). Although some in the audience thought the tough Theotikos would plow through Castillo, largely due to Nik’s recent solid performances in Gladiator Challenge and Strikeforce XC, that prediction fell short of coming true. Theotikos secured a beautiful slam early on, but Castillo reversed it and put Theotikos against the fence. Soon Castillo took his back, then mount, then back, never letting Theotikos breath or get out from under his dominant riding. Castillo flattened his opponent out multiple times, and despite trying to stay in the game, Theotikos wasn’t able to reverse his position or mount any type of offense. Total domination of Theotikos by Raul Castillo and the fight ended by TKO at 3:43 of the 1st. Theotikos, quite frankly, didn’t seem to be ready for what Castillo brought to the table. Raul Castillo convincingly won his third MMA fight.
–Raul Castillo wins by TKO at 3:43 of the 1st round.