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King Of The Cage “Future Legends 23”: A Sunday Perspective

King of the Cage “Future Legends 23” delivered a night full of exciting mixed martial action and the fans in attendance inside the Crowne Plaza Hotel were treated to back-and-forth battles, slick submissions, and emphatic knockouts. A fight fan couldn’t really ask for much more as the fight conclusions ranged from split decisions to unanimous decisions, first round stoppages to late round stoppages. Take a look at our “Sunday Perspective” and find out what we felt the key points were from the great night of fights.

I have personally stated in the past including the day before this event that King of the Cage has put together a string of events where there has not been a single bad fight. While the promotion may lack “marquee” names on the typically amateur filled fight cards, it is rare that the match-ups do not deliver in one way or another. King of the Cage in my opinion has the best model for fight promotions in New Mexico and they truly embrace their regional circuit status and build on that premise.

Since their “East vs. West” fight card in mid-2013, King of the Cage has rattled out seven events in an eleven month span in the Albuquerque, Las Cruces,  and Cortez, Colorado areas. It should be stated that King of the Cage has been around longer than any current show currently putting on shows in New Mexico and surrounding areas and has stood tall to the test of time. Often not receiving the appreciation it deserves, King of the Cage is a great platform for fighters to gain experience.

  • In the Main Event of the evening FIT NHB’s Charlie Williams sent the crowd home buzzing with an emphatic knockout. I had been part of a conversation earlier about how impressive Williams was in the cage as an amateur possessing impressive poise but often lacked the emphatic finishes that got people excited to keep watching him. I definitely ate crow last night.
  • Williams landed a power right hand that knocked opponent Juan Gandara’s mouthpiece right out of his mouth. It was a display of scary power from Williams who undoubtedly is one of New Mexico’s most successful amateur fighters. Williams started to implement his pace with leg kicks until he found a home for his knockout shot. Williams looks like a professional and has looked that way for several fights, it will be interesting to see whether KOTC puts him into an amateur title situation or pushes him to the pro ranks.
  • Brent James and Victor Orquiz had the makings of a great battle on paper but James apparently had a different plan when the two fighters started trading punches. James took Orquiz down and before you could blink the referee was pulling James off of an unconscious Orquiz who had been put to sleep in a Von Flue Choke.
  • The Von Flue Choke from James was impressive as it is not a very common submission. It looks like a modified arm-triangle choke except the body of the choker is opposite that of the traditional arm triangle and the choke comes very fast which is why when someone executes it, the opponent most often is left unconscious.
  • On Friday, I posted an article predicting who would win “Of The Night” awards and I selected Nicco Montano to get the nod for “Submission of the Night”. In dominant form, the Colorado fighter from Durango MA showcased top-notch grappling en route to an armbar finish. While opponent Leann Acosta was resilient, Montano showed real aggressive grappling as she hunted out the submission and went 100% to get the finish.
  • The gym out in Grants, headed by Joey Lujan, has some serious talent emerging from the J5 gym. First it was Seth Leake who was touching people and putting them to sleep and now it is Gerald Aldaco who has found himself success in numerous outings. Last night, Aldaco fought a very game Lamar Lee and was tested early and often. Aldaco absorbed some punches and kicks and arguably lost the first round. He fought back in the second by taking Lee’s back and sinking in a rear-naked choke.
  • Aldaco’s teammate Isai Bartolone gave up seven inches in height to his opponent but engaged in a flurry that made you believe no discrepancy existed. Bartolone latched onto a guillotine and transitioned into an arm bar to get the finish. The grappling showcased by the J5 crew is truthfully something to behold as the small town gym has some very high level talents.
  • Louis Papas and Joey Trevino put on quite the fight for the fans. Trevino’s toughness was put to the test by the young Papas who seemingly threw everything he could muster at the Lifer MMA fighter. In typical Trevino fashion, the experienced veteran came very close to locking up a submission late in round three. Papas was able to survive and win the fight on the judge’s scorecards.
  • Papas is one of the brightest young talents coming out of Judgement MMA. Papas caught Trevino with punches and kicks throughout the three rounds and was able to capitalize on openings he found once the fight hit the mats. It was an all around impressive display of combat talents. Maybe most impressive was the ability of Papas to sprawl and scramble when Trevino attacked with his highly respected grappling arsenal.
  • Speaking of young talents from Judgement MMA, is Carlo Rodriguez the real deal or is it to soon to tell? The teenage Rodriguez looks like a professional in the cage. showcasing poise and a methodical approach to striking that amateurs of his experience level rarely ever show. In his amateur debut, Rodriguez landed a one punch KO and in his sophomore appearance, Rodriguez fought off a grappling heavy approach from opponent Mike Silva to eventually find a home for a jaw dropping head kick knockout.
  • Rodriguez has excellent delivery in his combination striking and proved to overwhelm Silva from the moment Silva kicked Rodriguez during the glove tap. The head kick was as clean as one can be, landing on the neck/chin area and separating Silva from consciousness. Carlo Rodriguez should be on the radar in amateur MMA and if his knockouts aren’t scary enough, he isn’t even close to being twenty years of age yet.
  • FIT NHB’s George Clynes is one of the toughest fighters an amateur will ever encounter n the regional circuit and he showed that not only does his strength include an iron chin but it comes in the form of powerful punches. Once Clynes moved to the mount in his fight with Hosay Batts, he bounced the head of Batts off of the mat several times forcing the referee stoppage.
  • Clynes was in line to win the award for best nickname of the night as he was announced as “The Magnificent Bastard”. He beat out “The Sheepdog” for that right until Nicco Montano was announced as “The Ovarian Barbarian”. That was a classic nickname that I don’t think I have ever heard before.
  • In one of the most entertaining fights of the night, Santa Fe’s Luis Castillo and Rio Rancho’s Jesse Sandoval had themselves a very solid fight that went back and forth for all 9-minutes.  Castillo’s wrestling definitely made the difference on the scorecards but the surprise of the fight was how active Sandoval’s full guard was both offensively and defensively. Sandoval took the fight on short notice and attacked Castillo’s much talked about grappling talents for three rounds.
  • Sandoval’s gas tank is impressive as he has shown the durability to go into deep waters regardless if he is losing or winning two rounds, whether the fight is fought at a high pace or whether he absorbs punishment or not. Sandoval wore out Castillo as he allowed Castillo to wrestle himself out and attacked with an omoplata, gogoplata and triangle choke late in the fight.
  • For Castillo’s first amateur bout he looked every bit the talented grappler he was touted to be. His takedowns were technically sound and even when it seemed as if he slowed, his technique prevailed. Even though he couldn’t pass Sandoval’s guard with any consistency, he showed why transitionally grappling, wrestling to Jiu Jitsu is so important despite being underrated.
  • Durango MA is slowly becoming a well-known gym name in New Mexico as they constantly produce success in our area. This time, Ryan Wirth complimented the win of Nicco Montano to go home 2-0 on the night. Wirth was an animal from the opening bell to the fight ending rear-naked choke. After a huge slam from a single leg, Wirth wasted no time in taking his opponent’s back, it was dominant and impressive.
  • I never like to bash a fighter, because I fully understand how hard these guys and girls train but when someone ignores a glove touch at the beginning of a fight and instead attacks an opponent who is clearly trying to show his sportsmanship, that comes in poor taste and it is hard to root for the individual going forward. Robert Taylor blatantly ignored opponent Shannon Curlee’s gesture of a glove tap and swarmed him. Taylor was met with immediate karma as the Jiu Jitsu ace Curlee took his back and threatened to choke him out for the remainder of the round. Though Taylor earned the victory in the second round, I couldn’t find any satisfaction in the triumph.
  • There was a few questionable scorecards in the few fights that went the distance. FIT NHB’s Tim Sosa pointed out to me on Twitter that Judge Marc Sanchez turned in two very questionable scorecards. Sanchez scored the Castillo/Sandoval fight 29-28 in favor of Sandoval and 29-28 and the Abraham Loya/Sherwin Price fight in favor of Loya. Luckily for the rightful winners of each fight they got the nod but those two scorecards were the only real gripes for a really well run show. If that is all the complaints coming out of the show, than I believe it was a pretty solid night for King of the Cage and the New Mexico Athletic Commission.
  • In all, every fight seemed to have at least one moment that got the crowd buzzing and that is an easy way to gauge success in terms of entertainment value.  As much as people consider MMA purely a sport, the truth is that MMA is sports entertainment and I would award “Future Legends 23” a solid rating in that context. In a time where money is tight and people aren’t spending, those who bought tickets last night could not have gone home unhappy due to lack of excitement.

Stay tuned to Southwest Fight News early in the week as we will be naming our “Of The Night” awards for King of the Cage “Future Legends 23”

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.