SHINGLE SPRINGS – Saturday’s Gladiator Challenge Mixed Martial Arts fights at the Redhawk Casino in Shingle Springs included a fine mix of fighters — some with raw talent, some with years of experience and some young fighters out for blood.
The three title fights measured up to their billing but the fight that brought the fans to their feet was the Super Heavyweight Championship bout between Rick Vardell and Dan Quinn.
Vardell, 48, of Yuba City, lost his first professional MMA fight to Quinn in 2002. Quinn, the 45-year old “Celtic Warrior” from Roseville, challenged Vardell to the duel and this time Vardell handed out the punishment. The MMA fans usually call for blood but at the end of the first round they begged for mercy.
Vardell pinned Quinn to the mat and relentlessly rained punches on his bloody face. Quinn rallied and valiantly stood up for a second round but Vardell, the tank, went at him with all his might and won by technical knockout 1:43 in the second round.
The Gladiator Challenge Middleweight and Light Heavyweight Championship unification bout between Jeff Morris, Team Mixed Breed, Sacramento, defending his title against former light heavyweight champ, Rick Randolph, Marinoble’s Elite Fighter out of Roseville, was a knock down, drag out fight that ended 2:45 into the second round. Randolph, who dropped 15 pounds to compete in this match, was the leaner, meaner fighting machine and won by TKO (strikes).
The Native American Light Heavyweight Championship bout between undefeated, Mike Gonzalez, Big Sandy Rancheria, and No. 1 contender William “Lil Bear” Johnson, began with a low blow, a kick that caused Johnson a lot of pain, but he regained his composure and gave Gonzalez a bit of a licking. Gonzalez landed a punch that dropped Lil Bear to the mat and ended the fight 3:44 into the first round.
One of the most exciting matches of the event was between Hungarian MMA fighter Robert Sarkozi and Nathan Espinoza. The Hungarian worked his way out of a triangle hold — not once but twice — and won by unanimous decision after going three rounds.
Proving that dynamite comes in small packages, Rich Blake, an independent 6-foot, 210 pound fighter went up against taller Steve Morgan, Team Mixed Breed out of Vallejo. Blake easily dominated the first round but Morgan fended off his blows. The fight went three rounds with the combatants sparring to the end. Blake won by unanimous decision.
Some of the afternoon’s bouts were short and sweet. The shortest of the day featured Drew Montgomery, Team Carnage of Rancho Cordova, and Matt Anderson, who took the fight on short notice and didn’t stand a chance. The fight was called 44 seconds into the first round with the TKO (strikes) going to Montgomery.
Another quick fight pitted Future Sports’ Jayson Jaynes, 6-foot, 150 pounds, against Curtis Lawrence, 5-8, 150 pounds, from team Allegiance. Both fighters were lightning fast but Jaynes won the bout with a guillotine choke 55 seconds into the first round. Joseph Vidales of Woodland knocked out Raymond Doxie of Sacramento 1:35 into the first round.
Aaron Dufour defeated Jesse Yager, an independent fighter from Sacramento after a doctor stopped the fight due to cuts after the first round. Johnny Goh, Team Mixed Breed, Sacramento, used an arm bar to defeat his rival Jose Quinonez and the fight ended with a verbal submission 2 :11 seconds into the first round. Justin “The Raw Deal” Baseman, won another first-round fight, going to work with fast flying fists on Kyle Bledsoe for a TKO 2:59 into the first round.
Four fights that went the distance. Team Allegiance fighter Robert Gallego and independent Jesse Stallknect of Sacramento fought equally in the first round but Gallego landed a blow to Stallknect’s head in the second round that left him loopy. Both kept punching but Gallego totally dominated the third round and landed a kick to Stallknect’s groin that knocked him to the mat where the fight continued with elbow blows. Gallego won by split decision.
Jason Haigwood, Yuba City, 6-foot-2, 185 pounds, put Jordan Beaver, 6-0, also 185 pounds, to the test in a match full of fists and knees. Haigwood won by unanimous decision at the end of the third round.
In the heavyweight division, two bruisers, Rob Jackson, 6-foot, 270 pounds, from JL Boxing in Vacaville, bumped up against Ivan Gotolai, 6-1, 265 pounds, from Marinobles in Roseville. They went the distance but Jackson was the better fighter Saturday, pinning Gotolai against the cage and punishing him with his knees to win by unanimous decision.
One of the most exciting three-round fights was between Marinobles Elite fighter Max Griffin of Sacramento and Joshua Miranda, Team Kihon, Oakhurst. It went back and forth as both traded blows and knocked each other down. Griffin won by unanimous decision.
Mixed Martial Arts fans can look forward to more fights over the next two years. Gladiator Challenge owner Tedd Williams and Redhawk Casino teamed up to stage nine more events.