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Week In Reflection: Bellator 91 & UFC On Fuel 8 Recap

The dust has settled from a very interesting past week of MMA action significant to New Mexico. Last Thursday, Rio Rancho hosted Bellator MMA inside the Santa Ana Star Center for the Bellator 91 event. Then days later, the UFC hosted a show in Japan that featured some fighters who train out of Albuquerque’s Jackson-Winklejohn gym. SWFight.com is here to catch fight fans up with what all went down.

On Thursday night, Santa Ana Star Center had a jam packed arena ready and anticipating the first Bellator show to come to New Mexico. Fight fans would not be disappointed in the local showings as the undercard was full of finished and exciting back and forth battles. With that, we share some thoughts and analysis from Thursday night.

• Several media sources have reported that Bellator 91 was a huge success in the television ratings, the 901,000 viewers were the second highest of the season. The success rate shows that the promotion is very apt with marketing and I would hope the local New Mexicans all had their televisions tuned in to make the difference needed to persuade Bellator to return to this area.
• The attendance and sound level from the crowd was impressive and it was mentioned by Bellator CEO Bjorn Rebney at the post fight press conference. That sort of acknowledgment only benefits locals as the country wide promotion will keep the Albuquerque and Rio Rancho area on the list of places to return, even as early as middle or late 2013.
• Judgement MMA’s Adrian Cruz may have put on the best performance of any local fighter on the card. He was matched with fellow local Nick Gonzales and Cruz controlled the pace throughout the two rounds before getting to side control early in the second frame. From that position Cruz would lock up a very rare submission in MMA as the powerful fighter submitted Gonzales with a Scarf Hold Armlock.
• The win took Cruz to perfect 4-0 for his professional career and should propel his name into conversation as one of our states best MMA fighters and prospects. The powerful wrestling, grappling and striking acumen of Cruz and the ability to over come adversity makes him a “must watch” type of fighter going forward.
• Also impressive on the under card was Andres Quintana who was also the last person to be added to the card after the injury bug squashed a match up between Russell Wilson and Felipe Chavez. Quintana showed up in shape and while Wilson was game throughout, Quintana unleashed some nasty knees to spell disaster for his opponent, earning a TKO victory in the third round.
• In defeat, Wilson showed loads of potential. From his wrestling pedigree to his arm bar escape, Wilson’s fighter IQ was obvious and that is an intangible some athletes just do not possess.
• Crowd favorite Holly Holm brought the Albuquerque crowd to an absolute deafening roar. She would then proceed to show why world class boxing is dangerous in MMA as Holm would throw her powerful strikes in four ounce gloves visibly stunning her opponent often.
• While many clamored for more of Holm in MMA, she announced days after she would be returning to boxing to defend her title. While she had an awesome showing, much will be left to be desired as it doesn’t appear climbing the Woman MMA ranks is top priority for the world champion boxer.
• Lovato Total Fitness fighters Lenny Lovato Jr. and Josh Lanier were unable to pick up wins in their Bellator debuts. Both fighters were returning from very long layoffs and we hope to see both in action soon, returning to a more active fight schedule. Lanier showed his Jiu Jitsu prowess early before succumbing to hard shots from his heavyweight opponent.
• Santa Fe’s Josh Montoya would unfortunately find himself on the wrong end of a very vicious knockout loss to Bellator veteran Ed West. Montoya would find his spots throughout the first seven minutes of the fight but just could not overcome the high volume striking of West, taking a solid kick to the chin and hitting the mat unable to continue. The set back is a tough one for Montoya, but at 23 years old he still has a bright future ahead.

On Saturday, UFC would invade Saitame Super Arena in Japan for the UFC on Fuel show featuring Brian Stann vs. Wanderlei Silva. While the main event delivered one of the UFC’s most epic slugfests, the under card was also boasting of famous New Mexico trained talent.

• Brian Stann spends time with the Jackson-Winklejohn camp and his tough nosed style showed up once again in the Octagon. While he was on the wrong side of a knockout loss to Silva, Stann dropped the “Axe Murderer” multiple times in what was a crazy, all-out war between the two fighters.
• Diego Sanchez returned to the lightweight division although he missed weight showing up about two pounds over the 156-pound limit. The return was much anticipated after an up and down showing at Welterweight. Sanchez would draw Japanese fan favorite Takanori Gomi.
• The fight itself was one heavily discussed as Sanchez came away with a split decision victory in a fight that many scored in favor of Gomi. The first round saw Diego earn two takedowns while Gomi found success countering. In the second frame, Gomi punished the body of Sanchez while “The Dream” kept his distance trying to dictate his pace for the fight.
• The final round may have been the controversial round if any as many saw the third frame as a toss up between the two. Body kicks landed plenty for Sanchez as he pushed the pace, his jab played a big role throughout and he caught Gomi flush as time expired.
• Many were critical of the game plan of Sanchez as he wasn’t his normal high pace, aggressive self. He never really forced the issue and remained hesitant throughout, however he went in and really established his jab and kicks to the body and came out with a split decision win.

Also of note, Chavez Dojo and Gracie Barra representative Rafael “Barata” de Freitas fought veteran Antonio Banuelos to a Split Draw under the Legacy FC banner in Houston, Texas this past Friday, March 1st. While de Freitas will remain unbeaten, the draw does little for the Flyweight prospects hype and another quick turn around bout or even a rematch should be on the horizon.

That was the weekend round up for the last days of February and first days of March, stay tuned to SWFight.com for more fight coverage and event analysis as March is another solid month for New Mexico fighters.

About Phillip Lujan

Phillip Lujan is one of the lead contributors and a featured writer for SWFight.com. Specializing in MMA breakdowns and analysis, Phillip is considered the MMA aficionado on staff. With nearly ten years of experience in combat sports, gazing through the eyes perceptively as a fan and a cornerman and from fight manager to analyst. He can be reached on twitter at @KingStark24 or through email at marcello.lujan@gmail.com.