Crilly returns, Lopez retains title as KOTC
sails into Lake Elsinore
Redemption was the theme for the three headlining matches at King of the
Cage’s debut show, “Storm,” which took place on Saturday the 16th at The
Diamond, home to minor league baseball team the Lake Elsinore Storm.
In an explosive war of attrition for the KOTC Light Heavyweight title,
Fernando “The Manifee Maniac” Gonzales gave champion Tony “Kryptonite” Lopez
his toughest challenge to date, pushing the champ to the fifth round before
Lopez was finally able to catch his opponent in a rear naked choke. The
fight was in fact a rematch from their original meeting in October 2008,
when Lopez won the then-vacant title via rear naked choke. And while this
second victory insures Lopez’ continued title reign, for Gonzales, his
stalwart performance was a big moral victory and vindication over their
“After the first fight, I didn’t like how he ended off with the tapping of
his face, showboating, basically. I think it was real disrespectful, so I
wanted this fight, and more just to earn his respect. And I think I did that
in this fight. I earned a lot of people’s respect,” explained Gonzalez in a
Lopez acknowledged the threat that Gonzalez posed in this rematch, noting
“it was pretty close. . . [Gonzalez} was landing some heavy hits at the
beginning of the fight. Towards the end, I had to finish. I couldn’t let it
go to decision, because it could have gone either way.”
Fan favorites Rick Legere and Joe Crilly returned to their winning ways with
decisive finishes that both needed to turn their career momentum around.
Legere, having lost his past two matches, the only losses of his pro MMA
career, emerged victorious after a second round knockout. His excitement
level was so high that, immediately following the referee’s stoppage, Legere
leaped over the cage fence and ran into the crowd to his girlfriend. Legere
quickly returned to the cage for the victory announcement, and then made his
girlfriend his fiancée, proposing to her in his post-fight interview.
“She’s got my little girl, so I was hoping she would say yes,” Legere joked,
referring to their newborn daughter.
Not one to be outdone, hometown hero Joe Crilly had the shortest, but
perhaps the most electrifying, match on the card, scoring a KO over Ruben
Tagle in 11 seconds of the first round. Crilly, who had the most fan support
of any fighter that night, has been hampered with injuries and personal
complications since his last fight, in 2004. For Crilly, this match
represented not just a highlight reel victory in front of friends and
family, but also a long-overdue rebirth into the fight game.
“Five years in the waiting. . . I’m 27 and it feels like tonight was the
first time I’ve ever fought. Those other fights feel like they never
happened. Tonight was my first fight, and I’m gonna build off that,” he
declared at the afterparty.
The card, originally slated for 11 matches, lost two bouts the previous day
at weigh-ins. Bantamweight Chad Walters was forced to withdraw from his
match against Reuben Duran due to injury, while weight complications
sabotaged a lightweight fight between George Sanchez and David Gomez.
According to matchmaker Shingo Kashiwagi, after Gomez weighed in almost
three pounds over the 156-pound limit (155 pounds with one pound leeway), it
was proposed that Gomez weigh-in at noon the next day at 163 pounds,
Sanchez’ typical walkaround weight. Sanchez would accept a second weigh-in,
but Gomez, wanting to rehydrate and replenish, declined it, at which point
negotiations fell apart and the match was scrapped.
Other KOTC action that night included:
Lightweight (155 lbs.) – Bryan “The Badger” Colebrook (Griffin MMA / Real
Deal Boxing with Ed Mendiville) vs. Victor “El Valiente” Rodarte (The
Rodarte, a Muay Thai specialist, employed low kicks and knees from the
clinch to work over Colebrook, who didn’t shy away from the “dirty boxing”
action, firing off overhand rights of his own. There was lots of back and
forth action, with Colebrook pushing an offense with combinations, while
Rodarte fired back with low kicks. Rodarte finally scored a takedown towards
the end of the round. He scored another takedown early in round two, working
an arm triangle from the top position. Referee Jason Herzog ordered a
stand-up, but Rodarte got another takedown, getting full mount. The two
slugged it out in the third round before Rodarte forced a third takedown.
Both lit up and threw combinations in the waning seconds of the match.
Judges award Victor Rodarte the match by unanimous decision.
Welterweight (170 lbs.) – Nikko Medina (San Jacinto Grappling) vs. Marcos
“The Reaper” Gonzalez (The Shark Tank)
Both men started out slow and very cautious to strike. Medina, who somewhat
resembles WWE’s Batista, looks explosive. Medina attacked, but got caught in
a front headlock, taking it to the ground briefly. Gonzalez kept his sprawl
until being forced against the cage, at which point referee Herb Dean broke
them apart. Gonzalez connected with a nice combination, but Medina also
rocked himwith an overhand right. Medina had Gonzalez up against the cage as
the round ended. In round two, Gonzalez charged on Medina with combos,
getting another front headlock. Medina tried to take Gonzalez down, but was
blocked for his efforts. Gonzalez later scored another takedown, trapping
Medina’s hand in half-guard. After some ground-and-pound, Gonzalez dropped
back for an ankle lock. Medina briefly claimed a front headlock, but
Gonzalez eventually regained side mount and top position, dropping bombs
from half mount. The third round opened up with very cautious footwork,
which then exploded into a heavy trade of leather. Gonzalez once again took
Medina down, transitioning positions and dropping big bombs on him. The two
hugged and spoke at length at the end of the match.
Judges awarded the match to Marcos Gonzalez via unanimous decision.
Bantamweight (135 lbs.) – “Smooth” Greg Guzman (San Jacinto Grappling)
vs. Kiko Lopez (Team Quest / Bob Chaney Muay Thai)
Guzman and Lopez wasted no time, trading fast shots. Guzman quickly claimed
a takedown, eventually getting Lopez’ back, where he would stay for most of
the rest of the match. Lopez got to his feet, but couldn’t shake Guzman, who
kept his hooks in and fired shots from behind for the next several minutes.
To his credit, Lopez fired back. He finally fell to all fours by the end of
the round, but staved off the choke in an ongoing theme for the match. Lopez
shot for a takedown early in round two, but Guzman used his high guard to
sweep and take the back, locking in a body triangle. Lopez continued to roll
over to lose Guzman, but to no avail. Lopez opened the third round by
charging and clinching Guzman against the cage, but Guzman took Lopez’ leg
and scored a takedown. After standing, both men traded kicks for combos,
with Lopez landing a left hook. Lopez also landed a solid Muay Thai knee,
allowing him to get a front headlock, but Guzman picked Lopez up and slammed
him to break the hold. Lopez kept Guzman in high guard, but Guzman was able
to stand up. Lopez scored a takedown in the waning seconds of the match.
Judges award the match to Greg Guzman by unanimous decision.
“I knew for sure that I was going to go in there and have a war, because he
was 4-0. I’d done all my research on him, and he was dropping everybody in
the first minute and thirty seconds. Three of his fights were unanimous
decision. . . I knew that I had to not let him capitalize on any little
mistakes and to stay on him,” Guzman reflected.
Flyweight (125 lbs.) – Thomas “El Chihuahua” Casarez (Riverside
Submission / Joe Camacho MMA) vs. Javi Alanis (Quence Jiu-Jitsu)
Alanis set things off with a running flying kick, failing to nail it on the
button. Casarez jumped on the opening and slapped on a guillotine choke, but
Alanis calmly carried him back to Alanis’ corner and slammed him hard.
Casarez kept the choke, and then transitioned to an armbar, getting the
submission at 0:51 of the first round. Casarez was elated, doing a cartwheel
and throwing his T-shirt into the crowd. Judge Cecil People’s noted Casarez
won his previous match, just two weeks prior, in the same fashion.
Featherweight (145 lbs.) – Junior Kling (San Jacinto Grappling) vs. Aaron
“The Blood Spiller” Miller (Blood Bank MMA / Sparta MMA / OC Boxing)
Miller and Kling were both chomping at the bit to attack, and the action
didn’t belie their demeanors at all. In the first round, Miller and Kling
imposed their will on each other against the cage with knees and combos
before Miller slipped in a trip takedown. Miller threw body shots from the
mount until Kling swept him, at which point Miller tried to set up a
triangle from bottom. Back to standing, Kling almost got an armbar off
Miller’s clinch, but they went to the ground and traded top position once
more before the end of the round. In the second stanza, Kling slipped on a
high kick, but was able to recover and work for an ankle lock. Miller
eventually twisted out of it and the two exchanged sweeps on the ground,
scrambling like pit bulls for the upper hand. At one point, Miller had a
body clinch from behind on Kling, who used his momentum and position to slip
in a kimura, driving Miller to the ground. They scrapped more against the
cage, tradition positions before the end of the round. Kling’s face between
the second and third round was a crimson mask, reinforcing Miller’s claim as
“the Blood Spiller.” Going into the final round, the two trade kicks for
combos. Kling escaped a first takedown, but Miller forced another, and then
dropped elbows from side control. Miller jumped on Kling standing and
slapped on a rear naked choke, but Kling escaped out the back door and tried
to work a kimura from side mount. Standing, Miller landed a high knee to
Kling’s face against the cage. Kling fired a head kick. Miller invited more,
to which Kling responded with several more kicks and a combination as the
Judges award the match to Aaron Miller by unanimous decision.
Miller was another victorious fighter who echoed the redemption theme,
commenting “my last King of the Cage showing was pretty poor and I just had
a really bad attitude since then. I wanted to change up my habits and be
more in attack-mode and keep going. I train with some of the best guys
around and I just said “I’m not gonna stop until this fight’s over. One of
us is going to be knocked out, bloody, tap out. It doesn’t matter how it’s
gonna end. It’s just gonna end with my hand raised.”
But Miller’s road to redemption is not quite over, as he looked to the past
for a fight in the future: “I want Casey Olsen back. That’s Chuck Liddell’s
guy. We fought in Fresno. Bring him down to King of the Cage. . . because I
have some built-up frustration from that fight. I’d love to see him again.”
Light Heavyweight (205 lbs.) – “Tall” Paul Karski (American Jiu-Jitsu)
vs. Dave Cryer (Millennia MMA)
Karski weighed-in heavy the day before, and was unable to make weight after
a second attempt. As such, the match was allowed to occur, and Karski had to
forfeit 10% of his purse to Cryer.
Most of the match was fought in the clinch against the cage, as both men
used knees, including to the face, to gain control. Cryer pushed Karski to
the ground off a knee, proceeding with side mount and an assault off lefts
and rights as Karski held on. Karski trapped Cryer’s left leg, but it was
Cryer who continued with rights to Karski’s head and body. After Cryer steps
back, referee Herzog forced Karski to stand up. Both men fired shots, with
Cryer’s left hook dropping Karski. Cryer pounced and fired off
ground-and-pound until referee Herzog called for an end to the match. Cryer
takes the KO victory at 4:17 of the first round.
190 lb. catch weight – Rubin Tagle vs. Joe Crilly (Lake Elsinore Fight
Crew / United Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu)
Both men typically fight at 185 lbs., but with Crilly coming off a five-year
hiatus, both sides agreed to fight at 190 lbs. Crilly was the clear cut big
draw, as the crowd erupted for his walk-out. Tagle was cornered by KOTC
Superheavyweight champion Neil Cooke of Pinnacle Jiu-Jitsu. Crilly wasted no
time in overpowering Tagle with a barrage of lefts and rights. After several
combinations against the cage, Tagle went down. Crilly fired off several
more rights on a prone Tagle before referee Herb Dean could pull him off.
Crilly was awarded the KO at 0:11 of the first round. The crowd was going
nuts for several minutes after the fight.
Looking forward, Crilly said he was hungry for more competition: ““What I
want next is to stay in shape. It’s been five years out of shape. . . I want
a fight lined up in the next month, two months. And then I want another one
after that, and then I want a title.”
Welterweight (170 lbs.) – Eric “E-Train” Meaders (Ring of Fire Monrovia)
vs. Rick “I.E. Bad Boy” Legere (Team Wildman)
Legere might have been a fan of Bret Hart as a kid, as he sports the
Hitman’s trademark pink-and-black colors as his own. Legere kept the center
of the cage and held Meaders at bay with low kicks as Meaders circled around
the outside, changing levels sporadically. Meaders got Legere to the ground
with a textbook double-leg takedown, but Legere transitioned to an uma plata.
Meaders escaped to his back as Legere stood up, but Legere eventually passed
guard, took the back, and tenderized Meaders with left hooks. Meaders
actually stood up and carried Legere piggyback, using hand control to ward
off the rear naked choke, to the end of the round. Meaders put together more
combos in round two, but Legere dropped him with a low kick. Meaders tried
to transition for a takedown, but Legere took side mount, trapping Meaders’
arm. Meaders freed his arm and worked for a kimura as Legere stood up.
Legere connected with three hard rights, causing Meaders to turn his back.
Legere pounced on Meaders and threw rights until referee Jason Herzog
stopped the action at 2:20 of the second round.
When asked about what made the difference tonight from his previous two
matches, Legere explained “I learned a lot. Definitely want to keep your
hands up all the time, because it only takes one punch. And don’t go out
there rushing things. Relax, stay calm. You’ve got three five-minute rounds.
. . If you need to use your 15 minutes, use your 15 minutes.”
KOTC Light Heavyweight Championship (205 lbs.) “The Menifee Maniac”
Fernando Gonzales (Team Quest) / Bob Chaney’s Muay Thai) vs. Tony
“Kryptonite” Lopez (Team Oyama)
While being a former Gladiator Challenge Light Heavyweight champion,
Gonzales has more recently fought at middleweight (185 lbs.). He was also a
last-minute replacement for Tony Valarde, who had to bow out due to injury.
Gonzales initiated the offense in the first round, charging Lopez into the
cage with a clinch. From southpaw stance, he dropped Lopez with an overhand
left, but wasn’t able to capitalize before the champ recovered. This seemed
to give Gonzales confidence for the rest of the match, because he continued
to land the punch throughout. Lopez mixed up some combos with his trademark
head kicks and a back kicks, including firing three head kicks in a row
(which Gonzales took with seemingly little effect). Gonzales forced a
takedown and shot lefts to the head as the bell rang.
In round two, Gonzales continued with his stick-and-move circling around the
cage, which clearly frustrated the champ. Lopez continued to switch stances
throughout, but Gonzales was able to catch some kicks and land strikes over
the top, including a hard left body kick that was audible in the bleachers.
Round three saw Gonzales catch a left low kick and force a trip takedown,
pushing Lopez into the cage. Gonzales had Lopez’ left arm trapped behind his
own back, working a kimura, while keeping the clinch from the side. Lopez
climbed to his feet and escaped. By this point, the crowd was at a fever
pitch. Lopez continued to chase Gonzales around the cage, firing kicks at
In the “Holy Shit!” moment of the match, Gonzales had Lopez in a body lock
clinch on the cage, and as Lopez tried to break the hold to set up for an
armbar, Gonzales actually German-suplexed him over his head, following up by
passing guard and throwing a knee to the back (which got a warning from
referee Herb Dean). Lopez was able to escape out the back door to standing
position, but Gonzales, perhaps smelling blood, charged with lefts and
rights. Lopez landed a high knee and sunk in a rear naked choke that almost
ended the match, but Gonzales managed to survive. Lopez was in full mount
and fired rights on Gonzales’ face as the round ended. Going into the fourth
round, Gonzales was clearly hurt, but he had a big smile on his face. The
two traded kicks and left fists as loud “Fernando” chants emanated from the
crowd. Gonzales continued to charge in with overhand lefts and combinations
to Lopez’ body. Lopez worked to clinch Gonzales up against the cage, and
perhaps smelling blood, chased after him with a series of low kicks, but
Gonzales fired back with another left body kick. Both men were visibly spent
by this point. Lopez dropped Gonzales with a harsh right knee and fired
shots as the bell ended round four.
By the last round, the crowd was bonkers for these two combatants. Between
rounds, Gonzales had a look on his face that suggested he wasn’t going to
come out, but he did, and after the bell rang, his face changed to say “this
one’s for all the marbles and I know it.” He charged with an overhand left
and shot in for a single-leg. Lopez was able to turn it around and mount
Gonzales on the ground, setting up a rear naked choke once Gonzales went to
all fours. As Lopez stood up and kneed the ribs, Gonzales actually grabbed
Lopez leg and dragged him to the ground again. But Lopez had the composure
to wrap his arms around for the rear naked choke and roll back, until
referee Dean finally stopped the fight at 1:48 of the fifth and final round.
Although Lopez retained his Light Heavyweight title, Gonzales spoke
positively about his performance, saying “I’m not down on myself at all. I
gave everything I could in that fight. I just wasn’t ready for a five-round
fight yet. . . I got heart, and I just tried to push as much as I could. I
almost didn’t come out that fifth round, I was so done. . . .My stand-up
coach told me ‘look, you don’t come out, you’re never gonna let yourself
live this down.’ And he’s right. I would have been down on myself a lot
worse if I didn’t come out. I’m happy that I did.”
As for future prospects, Gonzales announced “I’m going back down to 185.
Trying to work my way down to 170 if I can. . . Everybody knows I should be
fighting at a lower weight class. [But] I wanted this rematch. . . so I
stuck around the weight. I got what I wanted. . . but now it’s time for me
to move down and start working at those lower weight classes.”
After the match, Lopez admitted to underestimating his opponent: “Last time
that I fought him, I was sick. And I came out with the win early in the
fight. So this time I came in like ‘okay, you know what? I’m just gonna have
my way with him and stuff and that’s it.’ Well, he didn’t think the same
thing. . . I gotta go back to my old way of thinking: that everybody’s a
pro, and I can’t take no fight lightly. That’s where I’m at right now,” said
Also worthy of note was the announced return of former KOTC lightweight
champion Chris "The Westside Strangler" Brennan, an MMA pioneer who returns
to action on June 11th at the San Manuel Indian Bingo & Casino in Highland,
CA. Brennan's fight career dates back to 1996, and had already consisted of
a 6-3-1 record before the very first KOTC event in 1999. During the in-ring
interview with ring announcer Big Poppa Schnake, Brennan discussed his plans
to move up to welterweight and win the KOTC title from reigning champion
Mike "Joker" Guymon. Ironically enough, Guymon is a former student of
King of the Cage’s next event in the Southern California area will be June
6th, at the Quechan Casino & Resort in Winterhaven, CA, as well as June 11th
in Highland. No official announcement has been made for King of the Cage’s
return to Lake Elsinore, but updates and news on events, matches, and
fighters can be found at
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