The rich history of New Mexico’s MMA scene dates back to the early 2000’s when King of the Cage was in full swing in Albuquerque and Diego Sanchez was the “Nightmare” as an undefeated top prospect representing the little known Jackson-Winklejohn gym in the inaugural season of the UFC’s Ultimate Fighter reality TV show. The state has always had a storied boxing scene highlighted by the well known Johnny Tapia but when the MMA scene boomed, our state became a staple for all of combat sports.
While the state has been home to so many elite athletes and World Champions, several New Mexico venues have hosted top notch events promoted by some of the most well known MMA promotions. SWFight.com dug deep into some of our rich history to unveil what we consider to be the five best MMA shows to happen in within state lines. While there have been so many amazing events, these five stand out for their own reasons whether it is because it was show featuring fighters who would go on to become stars or because they had several classic bouts occur in the event, each show was memorable in its own right.
This list has no particular order and is a list of only some of the best events as there has been dozens of amazing, top notch fight cards thrown by top promotions like Jackson’s MMA Series, King of the Cage and so many more.
King of the Cage “Honor” – May 14th, 2010 – Inn of the Mountain Gods Casino
In the obscure area of Mescalero, New Mexico one of the best fight cards to ever hit the “505” went down in the beautiful Inn of the Mountain Gods Resort and Casino. Fighters from all over the country took part in the event as well as some of the states premier talent. In all, three King of the Cage Title bouts went down with several more featuring fighters who would go on to capture promotional gold.
Mike Kyle defeated Tony Lopez via split decision to become the new Light-Heavyweight Champion in a very entertaining back and forth bout that saw the Kyle use his technical striking to outlast the very tough Lopez. Tucamcari’s Abel Cullum defended his 135-pound title when he submitted Santa Fe’s Joshua Montoya.
In what was the “Fight of the Night” bout of the evening, FIT NHB’s Donald Sanchez defeated Santa Fe BJJ’s Angelo Sanchez to unify the 145-pound title. The fight was a split decision that was awarded to Donald after 25-minutes of non-stop action that included stand up, ground fighting and very close range clinch work from both fighters. Donald enjoyed success on the feet while Angelo pushed his strength on the ground and while the fight could have been awarded to either fighter it was Donald who came out on top. The bout was one of the best fights featuring opposing locals in New Mexico’s MMA history.
Also on the card, future UFC fighters Tim Means And Quinn Mulhern who both came out with victories and a Heavyweight fight between KOTC’s most entertaining personalities Nick “AfroZilla” Gaston and Ultimate Fighter contestant Darrill Schoonover.
MMA Fight Pit “Genesis” – August 13th, 2011 – The Pit
Many believed that the promoters of the “Genesis” event were very bold in booking the states most famous venue, “The Pit” to hold an MMA event but what unfolded was a night of fights enjoyed by all in attendance regardless of seat placement. The venue has stadium seats and had the crowd in every part of the arena glaring onto quality MMA action.
The fight card was built around the main event of two former UFC fighters, Houston Alexander and Razak Al-Hassan. While the main event failed to deliver the action it was built up to provide, the rest of the card was full of entertaining bout. Despite New Mexico fighters seeing mixed results, the card featured only two decisions in ten fights.
In what was probably the most entertaining bout of the night, Jamie Yager choked out wrestling stand out Willie Parks. Parks found success in the first round before succumbing to a choke from Yager to open the second round. Diana Rael bested Angelica Chavez via split decision in what was also one of the more entertaining fights of the night. Rael consistently countered the striking and grappling of Chavez, upsetting the hometown fighter much to the dismay of the crowd.
Jens Pulver returned to his old, successful form at the cost of an “Ox” Wheeler defeat. Pulver was too powerful and too quick for Wheeler, as the referee called a stop the fight in the second round after seven minutes of Pulver hitting and hurting the local fighter. Ultimate Fighter bad boy Junie Browning was defeated by Team Four Corner’s fighter Jacob Clark in Clark’s biggest career win. After beating him on the feet and ground, Clark overwhelmed the clearly out of shape Browning to a referee stoppage.
While the promotion was a “One and Done” event, it was one of the most memorable fight cards in perhaps the most epic of in-state venues. The card also featured local fighters Josh Montoya, Rocky Ramirez, Tyler East and Conrad Padilla.
WEC 32 “Albuquerque” – February 13th, 2008 – Santa Ana Star Center
Three major titles were on the line and while it was one day before Valentine’s Day, there was nothing romantic about the results of this event. Eight of ten fights ended by knockout or submission and the home state of New Mexico went 4-0 in their respective fights.
Headlining the show was a Welterweight Title defense for Albuquerque’s Carlos Condit as he would defeat Brazil’s Carlo Prater by guillotine choke. Miguel Torres would also win by guillotine over Chase Beebe to capture the promotions Bantamweight title and Jamie Varner would TKO Rob McCullough to become the WEC’s Lightweight Champion. Condit, Torres and Varner would all go on to become UFC fighters and Condit would become UFC Interim Welterweight Champion.
In the undercard portion of the event, local fighters Leonard Garcia defeated Hiroyuki Takaya, Coty “Ox” Wheeler flying armbarred Del Hawkins and Damacio Page earned a unanimous decision victory over Scott Jorgensen. Amongst the other notables on the card, future UFC title contender Mark Hominick lost to Josh Grispi and future WEC title contender Manny Tapia defeated Antonio Banuelos.
The event would be the first time a ZUFFA owned company would visit the state and would unfortunately be the last time as well. Despite a good showing in attendance numbers, the event drew record low numbers on the Versus Channel.
Jackson’s MMA Series 6 – October 22nd, 2011 – Hard Rock Hotel and Casino
For what the other cards had in star power, the sixth installment of the Jackson’s MMA Series had a fight card with some exciting bouts. The Jackson’s Series has been around now for several years and will be featuring its eleventh show later in 2013. The show has traditionally been solid and has featured the up and coming talent from the Jackson-Winklejohn gym.
This fight card was headlined by Joey Villasenor who was making his debut as a welterweight against Chuck Parmelee. “Smokin’ Joe” put a cap on an exciting event with an emphatic left hook that grounded and finished his opponent half way through the first round. Villasenor was seeking redemption off of a losing streak by making the cut down to a new weight class and in his debut bout at 170-pounds made a loud statement finishing Parmelee in memorable fashion.
The Jackson-Winklejohn gym went 3-2 for the main card with Jiu Jitsu ace Rich Chavez losing a decision to Las Cruces based Nate Patterson. While Chavez came out on the losing end, Patterson really showed how effective low kicks could be as he landed so many kicks to the legs of Chavez that Chavez could hardly stand by the end of the final round.
Nick Urso lost a razor thin split decision to Freddie Lux, who would go on to later defeat another Jackson product in “Ox” Wheeler. Urso and Lux would both win a round before the third round came along and that round was so thin that it was hard to justify a decisive victor. Lux mixed in some takedowns in the final frame that may have sealed the fight and both fighters remain two of the most talented flyweights in the area.
Hunter Tucker and Matt Leyva came out of the evening with wins representing the host gym, with Tucker submitting a very tough Freddie Crosby of Albuquerque by guillotine choke in the second round. The well polished striker Tucker fended off some early offense from Crosby and put him away convincingly after taking over the fight from the clinch. Leyva won a unanimous decision over Federico Lopez of Team Quest. Leyva survived early adversity to set the pace with his aggressive takedowns, striking and grappling.
Evolution Combat Sports “Friday Night Fights 2” – Feb 11th, 2011 – Clovis Civic Center
The Singleterry brothers have always put on quality shows featuring some of the most well known talents around New Mexico but the Friday Night Fights 2 show had some of the best talent ever accumulated on one local card. A long night of 14-fights featured the top talent amongst the male and female divisions.
In the main event, Chavez Dojo’s Angelica Chavez choked out tough challenger Jennifer Moran. Chavez is amongst the most popular New Mexico fighters and would go on to fight for the all women Invicta FC promotion. Co-Headliner Tim Means would continue his path of destruction as he finished another opponent on his way to the UFC when he dispatched Ricky Musgrave by strikes in the third round of their bout.
Two of the states current top prospects lost bouts that evening as Tim Sosa and Andres Quintana lost Judge’s Decisions. Sosa dropped a unanimous decision to Colorado fighter Abe Alvarado while Quintana was on the wrong end of a split decision to eventual Bellator competitor Matt Hunt.
Also on the card, future Ultimate Fighter winner Diego Brandao defeated Nick Buschman by knockout and future XFC standout Joby Sanchez kept his unbeaten record safe with a TKO over Santa Fe’s Matt Madrid. Up and coming prospect Jeremiah Cullum also won a spirited unanimous decision.
The fight would be the near the end of the road for Means and Brandao in terms of fighting on the regional scene. Not too long after these fights, the two would find themselves getting the call up to the UFC.
Bellator 91 – February 28th – Santa Ana Star Center
It took nearly one hundred shows before Bellator MMA brought their show to New Mexico and for fight fans it was well worth the wait. The event was headlined by a Light-Heavyweight Title fight that saw Attila Vegh capture the title after defeated Champion Christian M’Pumbu.
The excitement however came before the main event, starting in the co-main events where David Rickels decisioned Jason Fischer and Saad Awad upset top prospect Will Brooks by knockout to punch their ticket to the Lightweight tournament finals where the winner would have a chance at a title shot and $100,000 contract.
The undercard featured Boxing World Champion Holly Holm’s earn her third MMA victory, Judgement MMA’s Adrian Cruz get a highlight submission over Jackson-Winklejohn fighter Nick Gonzales and Andres Quintana beat Lovato Total Fitness fighter Russell Wilson in what was easily the event’s “Fight of the Night”.
Unfortunately not all of the local undercard fighters came out on top as Joshua Montoya, Lenny Lovato and Josh Lanier dropped their bouts to opponents Ed West, Blas Avena and Josh Appelt. All in all, the event was exciting from start to finish as only one bout saw a Judge’s Decision and that was in the main event of the evening.
Stay tuned fight fans to SWFight.com for all of you New Mexico combat sports coverage and stay current with all of the local events coming our way as any of them could become the next event to hit the list of best events in New Mexico’s rich combat sports history.