Being a fan of mixed martial arts since the first days of the Ultimate Fighting Championship a couple decades ago, this writer has seen his fair share of ho-hum bouts over the years. Occasionally, those forgettable clashes end up snowballing and going down on the same fight night. Nobody wants to be a part of those outcomes, whether it is the promoters, the fighters or the fans. It’s rather fitting that so many of these get-togethers happen underneath the bright lights at a casino, because it’s a gamble as to how good, great or bad the night is going to be.
In the case of the recent CageSport 47 at the Emerald Queen Casino, it’s fair to say that every roll of the dice came up as some sort of winner for the fight fans in attendance.
With eight matchups on the fight card, there was certainly some room for a groaner or two to sneak its way inside the cage. Fans of mixed martial arts know all about these bouts. Two men enter the field of battle and then three to five rounds later, a couple of thousand yawns are being stifled in the crowd.
It wasn’t in the cards on Saturday, Oct. 14. In fact, the flow of the night and the fights went in the opposite direction. Instead of long, drawn-out contests with minimal action, the speed at which fighters were dispatching their opponents began to make this writer think we were going to be wrapping up the fight night in record time. Sure, a little more action would have been great, but how can one argue with seven consecutive contests being wrapped up with either a knockout or a submission? It worked for me, and it worked for the crowd.
As if it was right on cue, the main event then rolled out and the EQC Showroom crowd was rewarded with a five-round CageSport welterweight championship bout that not only went the distance, but ended with a dominating upset by a relative newcomer to the sport.
The first fight of the night began with what felt like a thunderclap that caused much of the crowd to gasp, and I’m certain that quite a few men in attendance suddenly lost sensation in their fingers and toes. When the opening bell rang, Terrance McKinney, making his professional debut, went in for the attack against Armando Best, prepared to make a big, first impression.
McKinney’s first salvo of the match was a swift kick that caught Best square in the crotch, buckling his knees a bit and causing a brief pause in the bout.
After catching his breath and gathering his wits together, Best informed the referee that he was ready to get back in the fight. While McKinney surely felt bad about nailing Best in the privates, it appeared to have no effect on his desire to win. In a matter of seconds, McKinney had Best on the mat and began dishing out a little ground and pound. For a couple of heartbeats, it looked as though Best may have an arm-bar in play, but instead, he was quickly flipped around, and McKinney had applied a rear naked choke hold that had Best tapping out in no time.
Up next was a 206-pound contest between Robert Burgess (0-3-0) and Justin Milani (2-8-0). The crowd was easily drawn to Puyallup’s Burgess at the beginning of the bout, while offering very little love to Oregon’s Milani. The first round was strong for both fighters, with each bruiser delivering some punishment. When the fight went to the mat, Burgess worked his way back to his feet and waited for Milani to get back up and take the fight standing up.
Both fighters had a good look to garner a victory in the second round. Burgess ate a big shot early that sent him to the canvas. The big man was then able to flip the script on Milani for a short time, delivering some big shots on his foe and drawing blood. However, it wouldn’t last for Burgess, as Milani gained control and began pummeling Burgess with knees and fists. As the rain of pain continued, the referee had seen enough and stopped the fight. Milani’s victory exacted a bit of a charge from the crowd, who gave the fighter a strong round of applause for his hard work.
The third fight of the night was a 145-pound contest between Stephen “Bumblebee” Wing (1-1-0) versus Tyrone “Anaconda” Henderson (2-2-1). To be honest, if you’re looking at a matchup between a bumblebee and an anaconda, it’s not going to take a rocket scientist to figure out how it’s going to go down. Henderson latched on to Wing’s arm and wrenched back like a man possessed. Wing tried to spin and roll out of it, but the “Anaconda” wasn’t going to be letting go. “Bumblebee” tapped out and would require a sling applied to his arm before exiting the ring.
The fourth fight of the night was a 181-pound affair between Dominique Smith (0-1-0) and Stephen Vasquez (0-1-0). In Vasquez’s last fight at the EQC, his debut went sideways with what appeared to be a broken nose, followed by a startling knockout. He wouldn’t fare much better against Smith, who looked sharp and on the hunt. Smith was able to get Vasquez into a head and arm lock between his legs and it was going to be trouble for the kid from Omak. A couple of spins on the mat and Smith had Vasquez trapped on his back with nothing to shield his face from the blows that began dropping on him. It took no time for the referee to gauge the dire situation and the fight was stopped.
A new, crowd favorite entered the cage for the fifth fight. Port Orchard’s Chris Stone (2-1-0) had a strong contingent of well wishers in attendance and the grappler would reward them for their journey down from the Kitsap Peninsula. After some early good looks from his opponent, Wyatt Gonzalez (1-2-0), Stone found his opening and slapped a choke hold on him. No matter what Gonzalez tried to do, Stone wasn’t letting go. It wouldn’t take long for Gonzalez to finally tap out and the local crowd went wild.
The sixth fight of the night was an abbreviated contest. Zach “Ex-Con” Conn (6-7-0) would face Lee “American Bulldog” Morrison (14-8-0) in a 173-pound affair. The height difference between the two fighters may have been the largest I’ve witnessed at the EQC. Conn towered over Morrison by what appeared to be nearly a foot.
Morrison was able to get Conn to the mat and began dropping big bombs on his opponent. Fists and forearms opened up a sizeable cut over Conn’s right eye and there was some serious blood pouring everywhere by the end of the round. In between the first and second round, the ring doctor found the gash to be too much to continue safely and the fight was stopped for a Morrison victory.
Up next was one of the quickest fights I have ever seen in person. Elijah Ross (1-1-0) would face Brett Malone (2-0-0) in a 156-pound affair. Before the crowd could barely blink a few times, Malone had ended the bout with a rear naked choke hold. In all, the “semi main event” took just 37 seconds to finish.
CageSport 47 ended with a big surprise in the main event. Newcomer Austin Vanderford (2-0-0) would face a mixed martial arts veteran in Ben Fodor (8-2-1). Most fans know Fodor as the “Seattle Superhero” Phoenix Jones. The last time Fodor fought at the EQC he had captured the CageSport welterweight title. He would then move on to the World Series of Fighting promotion, and the title would go vacant.
Vanderford is easily one of the more well-built fighters I have ever seen in person. He is built like a tank, and when he picked Fodor up midway through the first round and rag-dolled him to the canvas, it was clear that the muscles weren’t just for show.
Fodor found himself on the mat, absorbing punishment in each of the five rounds. The performance by Vanderford was absolutely dominating. Fodor was unable to gain any momentum in the bout, and by the end of the third round, he remained on the mat for a short spell, trying to regain some energy or possibly find his whereabouts.
The fourth and fifth rounds continued the trend for Vanderford. When the bell rang to end the fight, there was no doubt in the room about who was going to be leaving the cage with the CageSport welterweight championship belt. Vanderford would capture the title with a unanimous decision from the judges and the final numbers were startling. The three judges scored the fight 50-44, 50-41 and 50-40.
I can’t wait to see this kid fight again. As for the night, it was another entertaining success delivered by Brian Halquist Productions. CageSport 48 returns to the EQC on Saturday, Dec. 16, with a 7 p.m. start time. Tickets are available at the EQC box office and through Ticketmaster.