by Marco Antico – MMAWeekly.com
SANTA CRUZ, Aruba – TKO 33 took place Friday night in beautiful Santa Cruz, Aruba. The fight card showcased many of the promotion’s usual Quebecois fighters against local Arubans making their professional debuts. Most of the Arubans, however, did have several amateur fights under their belt.
This was the first professional event ever to be held in Aruba, which was reflected by the electricity in the air among the 2,000 in attendance. In fact, to appease the local boxing commission, which was admittedly unfamiliar with mixed martial arts, TKO flew in its commissioners from Montreal. Fighters, judges, referees and cornermen were treated to an all expenses paid week at a Five-Star, All Inclusive Aruban resort.
There were two big questions surrounding this event: Would the lavish treatment negatively affect the TKO fighters? Was the bite from these Aruban fighters going to be as big as their bark? The answers to both were favorable.
The TKO fighters looked ready and focused while the Aruban fighters brought their A games. In the end, nearly all of the victorious fighters were those that utilized superior grappling skills to ground and pound their way to victory.
It wasn’t on par with some of TKO’s past events with regards to exciting fights. But, the atmosphere of the boisterous, appreciative Aruban crowd certainly made it an enjoyable night of fights.
-GREGORY OEHLERS DEF. IGNAR BARENO NACHO BY TKO, R2
Gregory Oehlers out grappled Ignar Bareno to win a lackluster fight with strikes from side mount.
-CHRISTOPHER HULME DEF. JAMIEL WERLEMAN BY TKO, R1
Jamiel Wereleman began the fight by landing a powerful low kick. Unfortunately for Wereleman that was the last offensive strike he would land. Christopher Hulme capitalized on Wereleman’s forward aggression with a double-leg takedown. Hulme passed guard and landed numerous strikes from mount for minutes before the referee had decided that he had seen enough.
-YVES LEMELIN DEF. JOHNRICK FLANEGIN BY TKO, R2
Yves Lemelin proved to be the superior striker as he pressed the action for most of the fight. Flanegin seemed hesitant throughout as he back-peddled and countered in spurts with non-effective punches. Nearing the end of round two, Flanegin switched his strategy and decided to shoot for a takedown, only to be reversed. Flanegin signaled to his corner that he had enough as the bell sounded for the end of round two and did not return for the third.
-SAMUEL GUILLET DEF. IGNAR BARENO BY REAR NAKED CHOKE, R2
Guillet and Bareno entertained the Aruban crowd with a back and forth grappler’s duel. Bareno trains with the Gracie family and Guillet trains under Fabio Holanda (Georges St. Pierre’s BJJ coach). Bareno delighted the crowd with his sweeps and ground and pound. For the most part, however, it was Guillet who maintained top position. After sweeping Bareno for the fourth time, Guillet quickly took his back, sunk in his hooks and finished the fight by rear naked choke.
-GREGORY MILLIARD DEF. SCOTT WRIGHT BY TKO, R1
Milliard may remind MMA fans of a young Kevin Randleman. He’s extremely animated and has the persona of a caged animal. He made quite the scene at the weigh-ins the day before, jumping and screaming around to the delight of his friends and teammates in attendance. But come fight time, he seemed to restrain his loud antics and looked focus for the task at hand.
Milliard opened the fight by landing a right hook, which wobbled the legs of Wright. Instinctively, Wright went for a single-leg takedown. Milliard used his leverage to fall into Wright’s guard. It didn’t take long for Milliard to pass into side position and reign down with heavy right hands until the referee stepped in to call a halt to the bout early in round one. The partisan Aruban crowd exploded in cheers.
-MARTIN GRANDMONT DEF. HYRAM RODRIGUEZ BY UNANIMOUS DECISION
Before the fight began, Rodriguez said he hoped “Grandmont wouldn’t use any of that jiu-jitsu (expletive).” He said that he thought a real fight was when two men stood toe-to-toe and banged it out until one dropped. The phrase “careful what you wish for” immediately comes to mind.
Grandmont was the more aggressive striker who showed a more diverse arsenal of striking weapons. He landed several leg kicks and a couple left hook, right cross combinations. Rodriguez was able to catch Grandmont with a few overhand right hands, obviously following the formula used by Sam Stout in Grandmont’s recent loss. But Grandmont seemed unphased and continued with relentless pressure throughout. It was of little surprised when the judges announced a unanimous decision victory.
-JAMES RICHARDSON DEF. RICHARD WILLIAMS BY TKO, R1
This was a battle of local Aruban fighters with contrasting styles. Williams is a lightning quick striker and it didn’t take Richardson long to conclude that he’d be better off taking the fight to the mat. Williams seemed unable to shake Richardson off despite numerous tries, eventually succumbing to strikes as round one neared an end.
-GUIDO CARLO DEF. BEN GALLANT BY TKO, R1
This was a much anticipated showdown between two heavyweights with tremendous potential. Ben Gallant is an amateur kickboxing champion with good ground skills. Carlo has competed on the world Judo stage and also trained Muay Thai in Holland. Gallant was undefeated as a professional in two bouts. Carlo was making his professional debut, after a perfect 6-0 amateur record.
Carlo didn’t waste much time before he took the fight to where he was most comfortable. He pressed Gallant against the fence and rain down with punches from side position until the referee called a halt to the bout. The crowd once again exploded in delight.
Look for Carlo to fight on TKO’s June 7 card in Montreal, possibly against former champion Icho Larenas.
-DANNY MARTINEZ DEF. JOHAN CROES BY TKO, R3
Croes and Martinez traded punches for the first minute of the bout, as the crowd went into a frenzy. Martinez stepped into his punches and did not look to be any worse for the wear in the exchanges. Croes showed lightning quick punches, but was unable to dent the granite chin of Martinez. Martinez pushed Croes back into the cage and secured the first takedown of the fight. He retained top position for the majority of the first round.
Round two began and excitement was renewed amongst the crowd. Martinez intelligently secured a Muay Thai clinch and landed effective knees as Croes tried to counter with overhand and uppercut punches. Martinez dropped down from the clinch to a double-leg takedown and spent nearly the entire second round on top position.
Croes looked bloodied and tired as round three began. Not having his cardio behind him, he was unable to move laterally as Martinez once again backed him up into the cage and took him town with a double-leg. You could feel the energy seep out of the crowd as they watched the third takedown in three rounds. Pressed up against the cage, Croes was unable to continue intelligently defending himself against Martinez’s barrage of punches and elbows. The referee had decided that he had seen enough nearing the fourth minute of the third round.