This past Friday night, Legacy Fighting Alliance (LFA) rocked the Route 66 Casino with their debut card in the State of New Mexico. SWFight’s supreme media connoisseur, Jorge Hernandez, joined photographer Minh Quan took the helm live on Friday night as they trickled results and photos throughout all of our social media pages. The team had a third member of the team in attendance, though not working in a media capacity, enjoying the show along with the attending audience.
Though it was billed as the first show in New Mexico for LFA, the shows that merged to become the successful company both visited New Mexico in the past. Resurrection Fighting Alliance (RFA) came in September of 2014 and put on a show inside downtown Albuquerque’s convention center and Legacy FC actually came back in April of the same year, and actually brought their show to the Route 66 Casino.
Both shows featured many locals on their respective fight cards, though RFA 18 was headlined by a Flyweight Title fight between two top non-local prospects and Legacy FC 30 billed Holly Holm competing for their promotion’s title. Covering both events, I found RFA to be an exciting show that saw most of our local talents come out with victories and Legacy had ups-and-downs that had more of a split results in regards to the locals.
The two shows had so many similarities, which makes sense given both shows happened in the same calendar year. One of New Mexico’s top draws during that time, Adrian Cruz, fought on both cards though he saw misfortune going 0-1-1, suffering a brutal leg break and drawing with standout Enrique Briones. FIT NHB had great success at both shows, Ray Borg punched his card to the UFC defeating Nick Urso for Legacy FC and at RFA 18, eventual UFC Champion Nicco Montano, Brenda Gonzales, and Tim Sosa all notched victories.
Also notable about the shows, Legacy FC featured Kamaru Usman, the current top contender in the UFC and RFA would feature Alexandre Pantoja, who would eventually go on to become a top Flyweight for the UFC.
Friday night’s show, LFA 58 will probably have their own dosage of future success stories as the fight card was full of prospects, up-and-comers, and regional veterans. So with that, let me share some of my thoughts from Friday night.
LFA 58’s headlining act was the fighter from Clovis, Harvey “Fightbot” Park. He has been rising up the prospect ladder since submitted his first professional foe back in 2014. Friday night, Park showed a technical superiority over his opponent Jaleel Willis. Improving to 11-2 after finishing Willis in the first round, Park could be the next on the list of New Mexicans to get called to the UFC. If that isn’t the case, there are two options – the first I will get to next, but the final option could be a rematch against Austin Hubbard, the current LFA Champion, and an opponent Park met up with last year. Park vs. Hubbard was a fire fight and many actually scored the fight in Park’s favor.
- The other option is a rematch with Jaleel Willis. Park fans probably don’t want to hear this but the truth is, Park landed an illegal knee on Friday night during the ending sequence that led to the TKO. Let me also say this, I don’t think the knee actually impacted the ending and I don’t believe the knee landed with significant power to cause the stoppage. Park landed a powerful left in a flurry that badly hurt Willis and ultimately it was the ground strikes that led to the TKO. Park alluded to his willingness to run it back and depending on whether Willis protests the fight to the athletic commission, a rematch could be an easy resolution to this issue.
- With that being stated, the knee landed and Park’s first instinct to look back at the referee acknowledges that at the very least, Park knew a foul could have been committed. He did the right thing after though and finished the fight. Because of this though, Park’s performance takes a backseat to the controversial ending.
Unfortunately, referee Joe Coca didn’t have the best angle when the knee was thrown and landed. Coca is considered by many, including my colleague Jorge Hernandez as well as in my own opinion, to be the best referee in this area, period. The former standout fighter, Coca is renowned in the community as both an athlete and more importantly, a referee. Still, the fight is marred due to the controversial finish and it took away from the main event that should have been a great closeout to the show.
- I think the standout from the entire event has to be Fernando Padilla who beat hometown fighter, local favorite, and regional veteran Donald Sanchez in decisive fashion. Sanchez has the reputation for being as tough as they come and game to throw down with anyone put in front of him and Padilla matched that and more with an offensive onslaught that led to a second round stoppage.
- I have seen some media outlets calling for an early stoppage or even alluding to one but that was a perfect stoppage. Referee Joe Coca has been in the cage at both ends of the spectrum, punching and being punched, and saw Sanchez take a number of unanswered shots that landed with power.
- Padilla could be a prospect to keep an eye on as his long frame creates an interesting problem to fighters that have to deal with his length as they battle his diverse array of strikes. Padilla hits hard and hits often, and he should be at the very least an entertaining act when he hits the LFA cage again.
- The fight of the night should probably be Josh Moreno vs. Maicon Mendonca. The duo threw down for 15-minutes with both fighters finding success in each round. The power shots though came more often for Mendonca as Moreno proved to be tough-chinned and gritty to continue answering back with his own significant strikes. SWF scored all three rounds for Mendonca and despite the unanimous decision, the fight was close enough to hold your breath for as the decision was read.
- Two of the main card fights took 90-seconds combined as fans were treated to two incredible knockouts back-to-back. The first came at the hands of Flavian Pilgrim who one-shot KO’s Sherwin Price in 50-seconds.
The second KO was a devastating flying knee from Luiz Antonio Gavinho. Gavinho splits some of his training by spending time with FIT NHB, and has to be an asset to the team with his impressive striking arsenal. Gavinho timed a jumping knee perfectly, landing at 40-seconds causing an immediate walk-off stoppage.
- Javier Cepeda and Ricky Esquibel had a back-and-forth affair that came down to Cepeda applying more pressure and capitalizing when Esquibel could not. The two fought back in their amateur campaigns and Cepeda won by submission. This time it went all three rounds and saw Cepeda take a judge’s decision.
- Esquibel showed vast improvement since their last outing and since his last fight as well. Esquibel was hurt on a few occasions but recovered well enough to bounce back. He had a few big opportunities like having the back mount at one point, only to lose it to a ground savvy Cepeda.
- Cepeda showed awesome cage work which is a staple of his Head Coach Chris Luttrell. That may have been the difference maker because in the times Esquibel earned takedowns, Cepeda was up quickly and not allowing for much time on the defensive.
- Speaking of Luttrell’s, his squad had the best night of anyone as the gym went 3-0. Undercard fighters Jalin Fuller, Natan Levy, and Cepeda all brought home the wins for Luttrell/Yee MMA.
- Levy had a great performance as well as he put on a dominant performance over Henry Barahona. Levy showed smooth talents throughout the three rounds.
- Former UFC Flyweight, Joby Sanchez had a slow-paced fight with Demetrius Wilson that saw the local talent earn the judge’s nod.
Overall, the fight card was fun from the audience. It felt like the fights were entertaining but the pacing of the night at times did feel slow. That can happen when fight cards are televised but still it did feel like a long night despite not too many fights on the listing.
- I hope LFA comes back to New Mexico as I believe the promotion to be the premier promotion outside of the UFC and Bellator and as an official feeder/development league for the UFC, the more we see of LFA the more our locals have the opportunity to fast-track themselves to the big leagues.
- It seemed like though the show wasn’t a sellout, it was still an impressive turnout. Better than when RFA was in downtown Albuquerque, and comparable to what Legacy FC drew. I would wager to guess there were at least 1,000 people in attendance and more impressively the audience was already nearly at their maximum capacity very early on in the evening. Usually shows fill up during the final fights but this show was full and loud since the first fights.
- My own complaint as a fan in attendance was that I really wish we would have seen Damacio Page vs. Abel Cullum. I understand the “Subject to Change” aspect of the fight game but that fight would have been guaranteed fireworks and considering the fight prior to Page’s withdrawal was the co-main it would have made LFA 58 even better. The show’s co-main event was extremely show and the crowd never really recovered. Page and Cullum would have torn the roof down whether it was because of Page’s nasty KO power or Cullum’s slick submission chops.