Manzanares immediately took control of the fight, using a lot of feints and fakes to set up his boxing. Manzanares landed several hard shots early, nearly sending Pantoja to the mat with an uppercut that buckled the Brazilian’s legs. He followed with several hard body shots.
Pantoja came on strong midway through the round, looking like he had turned the tide by rushing Manzanares and landing several knees to his legs. Manzanares struggled only briefly, however, before he regained control and went back to the uppercut and body hooks that he was so successful with earlier in the round.
Pantoja shifted gears in the second round, trying harder than ever to turn the fight into a brawl. Manzanares attempted to counter and bring it back to a striking game at his dictated distance, but Pantoja eventually tripped him to the mat and immediately secured the back mount.
With Manzanares flattened out, Pantoja landed a couple punches and hammerfists to open him up. He then sank in a deep rear naked choke that the champion couldn’t defend and the lights went out.
Pantoja took the RFA flyweight championship and declared, “I’m ready for every fight, UFC too.”
In the night’s co-main event, former King of the Cage champion Abel Cullum showed no signs of rust, as he stepped into the cage with UFC veteran Ulysses Gomez, this being his first fight in three years. Gomez hadn’t set foot in the cage for a year-and-a-half himself.
Gomez opened with some strong leg kicks, but Cullum rushed him with a few punches that found their mark, closed the distance, and then took him to the mat.
Gomez turned Cullum, who was sitting upright with his back against the cage as he sank in a guillotine choke, but then turned Gomez to his back for the finish.
Chidi Njokuani, brother to UFC fighter Anthony, couldn’t land the finishing blow that he was searching for, but he got back on track with a unanimous-decision victory over Steve Hanna.
Brenda Gonzales, a boxer, surprised many onlookers with an armbar submission of Heather Bassett, while Mehdi Baghdad knocked out Evan DeLong in the first frame of their fight.
And in the AXS TV opener, Justin Linn scored a TKO stoppage just 22 seconds into the first round of his fight with Adrian Cruz, when Linn checked a kick, apparently breaking both the tibia and fibula in Cruz’s left leg.
RFA 18 Results
Alexandre Pantoja def. Matt Manzanares by Sub (Rear Naked Choke) at 2:38, R2
Abel Cullum def. Ulysses Gomez by Sub (Guillotine) at 1:29, R1
Chidi Njokuani def. Steve Hanna by Unan Dec (30-26, 30-27, 30-27)
Brenda Gonzales def. Heather Bassett by Sub (Armbar) at 2:48, R1
Mehdi Baghdad def. Evan DeLong by KO (Punches) at 1:55, R1
Justin Linn def. Adrian Cruz by TKO (Injury) at 0:22, R1