As I sat in the audience Saturday night during the Jackson’s MMA Series show at the Buffalo Thunder Resort & Casino, I couldn’t help but feel bad for the blue corner as they were matched up with the host gym’s fighters. I may get the heat for saying it but I have never been afraid to speak out on an opinion of which many are not willing to speak out in fear of possible repercussions. As I left the arena, I wasn’t the most thrilled fight fan and I withheld from posting this article yesterday so that I could think with a cooler head and be as fair as possible.
This isn’t a direct knock on the Jackson’s MMA gym but as a general observation, if you as a fighter accept a bout against an opponent representing the host gym, you automatically stack the odds against yourself from the moment you sign the contract.
The Jackson’s MMA gym didn’t go undefeated on the night despite my opinion, in fact they barely broke the .500 mark on the night going 4-3. Gym affiliations aside, the event provided exciting bouts and made for an entertaining night for fight fans in attendance.
I had two major issues in conclusion of the event and they both are Athletic Commission based. As the posting of this article, I sent emails to both the Pojoaque Athletic Commission as well as the NMAC asking for clarification on my issues. My first issue is that scorecards were read aloud for only a couple of bouts and the second issue is that it seemed as if the ringside doctor was little more than a fight fan as he didn’t step up in critical moments where a doctor could have made a difference.
- I am going to get split reactions from this statement. I will get positive feedback from the Montoya supporters and negative from the Urso supporters but the truth is that MMA in general did a injustice to Montoya Saturday night. With the exception of Bas Rutten and Kevin Randleman in an UFC bout more than a decade ago, MMA judge’s are too afraid of controversy to come out and say a fighter won a round from his back. Due to that precedent, the correct scorecard was read last night but it wasn’t the scorecard that best describes what happened.
When a fight goes three rounds and the bout happens to be close and competitive, it only brings on clouds of grey area when the judge’s decisions are only read to the audience as unanimous or split in favor of the announced winner. I scored the bout in favor of Montoya even though I knew I would be in the minority in doing so. Our fellow media colleague Mika of Caged Minds gave me a great observation in that he scored rounds one and three as 10-10 which I could support and get behind. The truth is, judge’s are very plain and the consequence of that is that the complexity of mixed martial arts competition will never have a solid scoring criteria to complement the intricacy of the action happening inside the cage. The lack of reading scorecards is a problem for a fight that was as close as this one was. I have heard that some judge’s had the fight a clean sweep for Urso which is borderline laughable that not one judge saw Montoya land the hardest shots and more accurate strikes in the first round to compliment the big takedown Montoya hit on Urso.
- In the third and final round of the Urso/Montoya bout, Urso would claim top position just as he did in round two (a round he won convincingly). This time around, Urso mounted zero offense from top position and never made a significant attempt to pass the guard or strike his way to attempt to finish the fight. In fact, if a judge was looking to score for significant strikes and the fighter who was looking to finish the fight, that score would be awarded to Montoya who elbowed, punched, hammerfisted, and threated with submissions (Urso was very slippery and that was perfect against Montoya who is well-known for his triangle chokes) from his back as Urso was content to cruise from top control. It was unfortunate to see that a judge didn’t have the competence to take away the control aspect of MMA scoring when the fighter in “control” was never able to mount any type of offense.
- Again, it was the right scorecard but it wasn’t the scorecard that does the most justice for actually MMA competition. Much like the fight between Clay Guida and Hatsu Hioki in the UFC, fans will point to the fact that if a fighter is beat up from top control then there is no reason he should win the round.
- I left the venue last night unsatisfied with the main event results. Montoya controlled the bout early with accurate strikes and a takedown and Urso would regain momentum by dominating round two. As a proclaimed UFC prospect, I was more impressed with Urso in his last outing vs. Ray Bog despite losing then I was last night with Urso seemingly cruising to a decision win over Montoya. Montoya, seemingly exhausted in round three gave Urso an opportunity to make a statement and stamp his readiness for the UFC Flyweights. Now I have been called an idiot by the promoter before so I am not a stranger to unpopular opinions but at the end of the day I will admit my bias leans towards Montoya but at the same time I wanted Urso to really hunt for that finish to prove once and for all that he was at the level of Ray Borg and teammate Joby Sanchez, fighters who have now found success at the highest level.
- The fight card from last night’s event was very uninspiring on paper as it lacked notable fighters that the neutral crowd could recognize but the fights throughout the night would entertain the crowd in what ended up being a great night of fights.
- I am a ticket sales enthusiast as of late and don’t buy into the hype of promoter talk or individuals trying to play up the show, every few months I get the most updated financial reports for events and New Mexico rarely gets packed venues. The venue was empty at the 7 PM start time which may be the reason why the show started nearly half hour later than advertised. Once the fights got started however, the ballroom at Buffalo Thunder began to fill-up. Come the end of the night, it looked as if the event got about 65-75% of the seats filled. There were plenty of empty rows and sporadic series of seats available and I won’t know how many “comp” tickets were handed out. The event did draw some big names as ringside guests included Alistair Overeem, John Dodson, and Diego Sanchez.
The crowd despite not being to capacity actually was audibly impressive and the one thing that sets the Jackson’s MMA Series apart is that their production value is second to none in this state. They have the lights above the cage that give the feel that this was a big-time show and four televisions and a projected screen helped fans throughout the venue catch all the action.
- I loved what the promoter of the show did prior to the main event. Before Montoya walked out, a video was shown on the big screen of which was pulled from Montoya’s Facebook page. It was interesting, it was solid trash talk and it got the audience buzzing. Local MMA needs more of this type of hype and it would have been even better if the promotion would have used that video with the Urso hype video as a commercial to entice people to make it out to the show.
- Let me use this as a transition into my second issue that concerns the cage side doctor (or lack thereof). Montoya suffered a nasty cut that was never closely inspected but maybe worse than that was the fight between Jon Sparks and Yomi Heredia. Sparks hit Heredia with three extremely hard leg kicks of which the last one put Heredia to the canvas. Even though Heredia made it to the bell, a doctor never inspected Heredia and his possible head injury.
- Many will argue that Heredia marched back to the get the victory but that doesn’t stop the concern that Heredia could have possible sustained a concussion or any type of head trauma and walked into round two at risk of taking on more damage. Hindsight is always 20/20 and I will always be on the side of precaution as I do not want to see a local suffer from long term and potentially permanent brain damage.
- With that being said, Heredia is one tough competitor. After taking a beating in round one, Heredia let instincts kick in as he exploited the ground game of Sparks to get an improbable come-from-behind victory.
I was thoroughly entertained by the amateur featured bout that also happened to be the lone WMMA match-up on the fight listing. The amateur debutante Cynthia Arceo was dominant over a very game Randee Morales but the height advantage for Arceo was too much as she used her length as if she was an experienced veteran.
- The best fight of the night from my (free) seat in the audience was the fight between Jose Cueto and Saalim Nance. I think the Luttrell’s MMA and Jackson’s MMA in-cage rivalry is going to be a fun one for fight fans and I cannot wait for more of these amateur or beginner level professionals from each gym to get paired on fight cards.
- Cueto showed why conditioning is one of the most important aspects of the fight game despite it being one of the most overlooked. Nance may have had some crisp technique as well as Greg Jackson in his corner but what happens when a fighter tires? Cueto showed exactly what happens by out-working Nance to a solid decision victory.
- Even though my colleague Jorge Hernandez awarded our “Submission of the Night” to Heredia’s slick kimura, I thought the north-south choke from Ray Martinez was equally as impressive. The choke in itself is often hard to execute but the speed in which Martinez locked it in was impressive stuff.
- Fighter pay was an issue atop this fight card so look out for an in-depth breakdown on that in the near future.
- Last thoughts………. Jordan Espinosa vs. Nick Urso anyone? Urso just beat Espinosa’s teammate and Espinosa beat Urso’s teammate in late-2014. Espinosa handed Rafael “Barata” de Freitas his first career loss in a close fight that can be compared to the close fight “Barata” earned over Montoya years ago. It can all come full circle to Espinosa vs. Urso where a win punches Urso’s UFC ticket and a win for Espinosa gets him two marquee victories to add to a résumé that the young fighter can use to inch closer to this own UFC bout.