September 17, 2006

Article and Photos by Dave Mandel – MMAWeekly.com
You know it’s a great night when not a single fight goes the distance or, for that matter, even making it to the third round. Such was the case Friday night when Valor Fighting presented “Showdown at Cache Creek II” in Brooks, CA. With nine MMA fights and less than half of those seeing a second round, you would think the energy in the room would have the entire crowd cheering at the top of their lungs, and for the most part that held true although there were some exceptions. On more than one occasion that evening the crowd turned from cheers to jeers at what I can only assume they thought were early stoppages by the referee. I can’t say that in any of the instances where the crowd went sour that I was an agreement with them. Being a referee is a thankless job and you have to make decisions in fractions of a second and from my ringside seat, both referees did a great job. A referee’s job is to insure the safety of the fighters, not play marionette to the crowd’s whim. Even though the refs may be the true targets for the smattering of boos, it’s always disheartening to watch a crowd deflate a great win for a fighter. Frank Mir winning the UFC heavyweight title is a great example of this, as was Erin Toughill’s U.S. MMA debut this Friday night.

The co-main event for the evening, and the reason I traveled 450+ miles, was a women’s bout between Erin Toughill and undefeated Jen Case. Although Toughill may already have 9 pro MMA fights under her belt this was the first time she’d be competing in an MMA event on U.S. soil. I made the trek expecting a very competitive and exciting fight and I was not let down one bit. From the opening bell both women put it on the line, Toughill being the more experienced striker (with 12 pro boxing matches) it was no surprise that she was more than comfortable in keeping the fight on their feet but Case was no one to be bullied, landing two great high kicks of her own. From the clinch neither women appeared to have the clear cut advantage both landing knee strikes but it was from this position that the fight was able to transition to the ground. Don’t let the boxing credentials fool you, Toughill has some great grappling skills and she displayed them by going for the only solid submission attempts of the fight. Case defended well and was able to escape all 3 submission attempts including an armbar that would have made Tim Sylvia tap.

The last two minutes of the fight was a great back and forth battle with each opponent mounting the other and going for the finish, the crowd loved every minute of it and had no problem verbalizing it. At 2:22 of the second round, referee George Adkins jumped in between Toughill and a mounted Jen Case when Case apparently verbally submitted from a barrage of punches, the crowd was not happy. Visions of a distraught Frank Mir entered my head as Erin Toughill stood in the center of the ring with her arm raised, winning her U.S. debut amidst a chorus of boos. Upon speaking to Toughill at the end of the night it was apparent that the crowd’s reaction had certainly gotten to her and she was visibly disappointed. Having endured the passing of a family member while training for this fight, she showed true heart and it’s unfortunate that her coming out party wasn’t able to sit better with her at the end of the night.

In the main event of the evening Ruben “Warpath” Villareal took on, Season 2 Ultimate Fighter, Mike Whitehead. Villareal threw some heavy punches right out of the gate but Whitehead was having no part of it and shot in on Warpath’s legs quickly. Whitehead had a little bit of trouble in taking him down so instead he opted to take him up, lifting him high for a huge slam ala Matt Hughes. Landing in side control Whitehead left Villareal no room to escape and immediately started working for the keylock. After a couple unsuccessful attempts at bumping Whitehead off, Villareal had no choice but to tap at just over the minute mark of the first round.

After suffering the first loss of his career last year it has been an up and down road for James Irvin winning only 3 of his last 7 fights. His last fight with Bobby Southworth was ruled a No Contest after falling through an unlocked cage door at the Strikeforce event in June and a good hometown win this weekend will do him some good. His opponent Gary LaFranchi was obviously outmatched but that didn’t stop him from being the aggressor in the opening seconds of the bout. Despite his penchant for knockouts, Irvin took LaFranchi down and took the mount position where he carefully picked his punches before settling on an armbar at only 1:47 of the first round.

Mike Whitehead def. Ruben Villareal – Keylock – Rd. 1 – 1:02
Erin Toughill def. Jen Case – TKO – Rd. 2 – 2:22
James Irvin def. Gary LaFranchi – Armbar – Rd. 1 – 1:47
Clint Blake def. John Martinez – Triangle Choke – Rd. 1 – 2:03
Travis LeBurn def. Troy Acker – KO – Rd. 2 – 1:20
Marcus Gaines def. John Pop – KO – Rd. 2 – 1:45
Rick Cayo def. Louie Moreno – TKO – Rd. 2 – 3:13
Rick Randolph def. Richard Blake – Rear Naked Choke – Rd. 1 – 1:37
Clark Bevans def. Larry Rodriguez – TKO – Rd. 1 – 2:55