The first post-UFC event in New Mexico went down this past Saturday night as Orthrus Promotions returned to Camel Rock Casino to host the seventh Triple-A-MMA event. While the event titled “Rock Stars” failed to sellout the Camel Rock Casino Ballroom, the show was plagued by several scenarios that definitely impacted ticket sales. From injuries to no-shows, the highly anticipated fight card took some hits late in the week that should come as no fault to the promotion. Either way, the show went on and for the fans who made it out to show 10-minutes out of Santa Fe were treated to back-and-forth fights, knockouts, and submissions.
Possibly the biggest storyline stemming from “Rock Stars” was the absence of professional boxer Nohime Dennison who was billed to be the main event fighter outside of Santa Fe’s Natalie Roy. Up until June 12th, Dennison was still promoting the fight via social media and her right with Roy was definitely one of intrigue within the WMMA ranks as both women are professional boxers and incredibly gifted strikers. The fight would not happen and several fans were shocked when they saw Dennison in the crowd in street clothes instead of in the back preparing for the fight.
Dennison competed in a boxing bout in New York on May 21st where should would suffer a technical knockout loss in the sixth round. The New York Athletic Commission issued a mandatory 30-day suspension on the medical basis that she was knocked out. The June 14th date would of course fall within those 30-days and the medical suspension of any Athletic Commission is expected to be honored by all other Commissions. The boxing bout fell between the cracks it seems as very few people knew that it occurred. I wouldn’t have known personally if not for social media and the Pueblo Of Pojoaque Athletic Commission did a great job by not allowing the fight to happen.
Brain damage and head trauma is definitely the number one concern in combat sports. With studies flooding in through the ranks of National Football League (NFL) that show how dangerous it is to receive further damage to a concussed athletes, combat sports has to hold itself to a higher standard being that MMA is already under harsh scrutiny from groups of people who consider MMA to be barbaric and “human cock-fighting”.
While many, myself included wanted to see how the Dennison/Roy fight played out, I am glad that nobody’s long-term health was unnecessarily put into jeopardy at that expense.
With that being said, the show delivered several other memorable points.
- Natalie Roy fought late-replacement Brittany Horton and did exactly what she had to do in a fight that offered her very little reward and presented monumental consequence. Horton was outmatched from the time she was announced as the replacement and Roy treated her as such, delivering some brutal strikes from the clinch position. Roy pummeled Horton until she went down to a turtled position and unleashed dozens of punches until the referee saw enough. It took Roy 32-seconds to pick up her second career victory (both by TKO) and set up the highly anticipated bout with Dennison for September.
- Outside of Roy, the card felt as if it lacked a “premier” ticket seller and that is no disrespect to all the fighters on the card. Angelo Sanchez and Josh Montoya were both in the crowd and I wonder what the impact would have been if one of those hometown favorites would have been on the card. I don’t know the circumstances behind match-making but those two fighters have to be considered when throwing a fight in Northern New Mexico.
- The Lovato Total Fitness crowd was definitely the loudest in the venue and Triple-A-MMA has definitely been very favorable to that gym. Stephen Cervantes is a blooming star for the promotion, Josh Lanier has had two opportunities in the Triple-A-MMA cage and now chalk up Russell Wilson to that list.
- Russell Wilson heading into the bout was arguably the best fighter I could recall who had an upside down record. At 1-3, Wilson’s record didn’t represent his talents and he showed that in his co-main event bout against Derek Perez. Much like in his high-profile fights with Andres Quintana and Shawn Bunch in Bellator, Wilson showed that his ability to scramble and escape dangerous positions is his most impressive intangible skill. Perez had about four submissions locked in, each time the submission looked deep and each time Wilson escaped. While Wilson played the role of the defender for most of the fight, as soon as he found an opening he took it and got the win. Wilson found himself wrapped around the neck where he was able to secure a fight ending guillotine.
- There were two other professional bouts and both featured fighters who brought world-renowned striking coach Mike Winkeljohn to work their corners. The first was Clint Roberts who is a training partner to UFC top contender Carlos Condit. Roberts was looking to right the ship after a disappointing loss this past April. On Saturday night, Roberts showed his methodical approach to the striking game as he battered Randy McCarty and opened up a cut above the eye that forced the ringside doctor to stop the bout.
- After the Roberts fight it dawned upon me that a lot of these Albuquerque fighters were coming up to Santa Fe and fighting in a much higher elevation. We saw several fighters on the card fade in the later rounds and it made me wonder if elevation impacted several bouts.
- Jon Sparks rode out a workman’s decision over Aaron Perls and there is not any controversy in the scorecards. The pro-Perls crowd definitely wanted him to win but for the educated MMA judge, it was easy to see that despite Perls walking Sparks down, Sparks landed most of the significant strikes in the fight and defended about a dozen takedown attempts. Perls bull-rushed himself into the clinch and if he would have scored one takedown in any round, he would have got the judge’s nod.
- Sparks showed brilliant defensive wrestling and extremely effective counter punches as he smartly refrained from too many kicks and picked his shots over the course of 15-minutes. It was a grueling fight that saw the right man get his hand raised. Sparks will now move forward with a big win against a tough opponent and for Perls, a lesson early on in his professional career may spark a fire for an already very talented fighter.
- Ernesto Salvidrez was definitely the highlight of the undercard personally as the youth movement continues to show itself in every promotion all over the state. This time around, the young Salvidrez shot a technically sound single leg on opponent AJ Garza and worked his way to the three-quarter stack wrestling position. For MMA fans or grappling enthusiasts, the position is essentially the D’arce Choke and it didn’t take Salvidrez to get the submission victory. It should come as little surprise that Salvidrez would be able to get the takedown and the submission from a wrestling position as he was a standout high school wrestler in New Mexico with some serious credentials.
- Young fighters like Salvidrez and fellow Triple-A-MMA fighters Stephen Cervantes and Jerome Rivera are the future of MMA. Whether these fighters chose to make a career out of MMA or not, fighters with their athleticism and youth are quickly taking over the MMA scene. For further proof, Ray Borg will be fighting in his second UFC fight in two weeks and he hasn’t hit his 21st birthday.
- Matt Gurule put on a show in the night’s opening bout. The amateur out of Lovato Total Fitness fought valiantly for two rounds despite not being able to really find his range. The shorter Gurule seemed inches short on his strikes and Danny Grado appeared to be on his way to a decision win with two rounds possibly in his back pocket. In the third round, Gurule scored a takedown and found his way to the back to secure a fight ending choke. Gurule slapped the choke on so fast and with such force that Garza wasn’t able to tap and was put to sleep.
- Three fights were scratched late during fight week (four if we count Dennison being pulled). Wink’s Gym Hunter Tower saw his fight scratched late and a fight between Steven Gonzales and Henry Barahona was scrapped at weigh-ins. Barahona came in to weigh-ins heavy and the fight was scrapped. While there are some people out there who think fighters should just take the fight when an opponent misses weight, I am not one of them. Fighters work hard to cut weight and fighters have two jobs every time they sign up to fight. They have to make-weight and show up to fight.
- Mark Lujan no-showed weigh-ins for his fight against Maurice Jackson and the promotion had no choice but to scrap the fight. Since the bout was to be professional, I would think the commission will come down hard on Lujan and issue a fine. I would also be inclined to believe that he will have a hard time getting licensed in New Mexico for another combat bout. According to Lujan’s Facebook page, he declared retirement mid-week but if the promotion listed him as a no-show it is apparent that he did not communicate with the promoter that he wouldn’t be participating.
- Maurice Jackson of Lutrell’s MMA has an interesting story. Stay tuned for an article on Jackson, who has two victories and one loss to his record but also has three No Contests on the resume as well. Two of those came against UFC fighters Kyle Kingsbury and Chase Gormely, a Light-Heavyweight and Heavyweight respectively.
- As mentioned before, the show had a lot left to be desired but it is attributed to some very unfortunate circumstances. Triple-A-MMA has a solid card upcoming called “Rivals” which features a main event between Jackson-Winklejohn fighter Conrad Padilla and FIT NHB’s Isaiah Reyes. Joby Sanchez will also be featured on the card and WMMA standout Lindsay Jones will look to defend her undefeated record as a professional.
- The Camel Rock venue is solid because there is not a bad view from anywhere in the ballroom. From the higher priced seats to the furthest seats in the venue, the action is easy to see and the large projected live video displayed is large enough for most of the crowd to see.
Triple-A-MMA “Rock Stars” Results:
115: Natalie Roy defeated Brittany Horton via TKO (Punches) Round 1
135: Russell Wilson defeated Derek Perez via Submission (Guillotine Choke) Round 1
155: Jon Sparks defeated Aaron Perls via Decision (Split)
170: Mark Lujan (Santa Fe) vs. Maurice Jackson (Rio Rancho) (Lujan did not show up to weigh-ins)
180: Clint Roberts defeated Randy McCarty via TKO (Doctor Stoppage) Round 2
155: Ernesto Salvidrez defeated AJ Garza via Submission (D’Arce Choke) Round 1
135: Steven Gonzales (Santa Fe) vs. Henry Barahona (ABQ) (Barahona missed weight)
205: Elias Price (ABQ)defeated Tuua Pleasant via TKO (Strikes) Round 1
220: Matt Gurule defeated Danny Grado via Submission (Rear-Naked Choke) Round Three
155: Preston Rowley (Taos) vs. Hunter Tower (ABQ) (Canceled)