Fuentes defends title

I like a good stand up fight when I can get it. David Fuentes, a 3rd Dan Goju Ryu stylist fighting out of Jeff Bonugli’s Green Ghost Academy, certainly provided plenty of stand up action the night of 26 September 2015, in the defense of his bantamweight title against Paco Castillo during Hero FC VI  in El Paso, Texas.  Castillo is reputed to be one of the El Paso area’s favorite fighters, because of the action he brings into the cage, and he certainly came looking for war. It began during the weigh ins, when he directed some smack talk towards Fuentes.  Fuentes, who had just emerged from the sauna where he’d been for a last minute weight loss, could only smile as he leaned toward Castillo, bumping heads with him. Some were calling it a head butt, when in fact it was only a famished and weakened Fuentes having trouble holding his head up.

Once in the cage, Castillo attempted to take the fight to Fuentes, choosing to do stand up battle. This was to Fuente’s liking, as he does a good job at stand up. Although Castillo came on strong, Fuentes easily blocked or slipped the punches, while quickly countering in devastating fashion. One recalls Fuente’s battle with Jose Ceja, wherein Ceja was able to execute some pretty fair boxing skills in Fuentes direction prior to Fuentes ending the fight. This was not the case with Castillo, who in his haste to do battle, at times appeared to be windmilling, with punches which were telegraphed, and neither direct nor on target. In a “smoker” with fighters of lesser skill, Castillo is sure to provide an exciting battle.  This is not so against a fighter of Fuente’s ability, who despite the fact that a kick to his calf had produced a painful cramp, was able to hit Castillo at will.

For me this was a case of deja vu.  Some twenty five years ago, kick boxer Ismael Robles came to San Antonio to fight.  I worked Robles’ corner, and was the only person in that packed house supporting him. Then too, I could see that Robles was carrying his opponent, who came on firing both barrels. He was plenty game, but his efforts were fruitless, and at a time of his choosing, Robles knocked him out.

Like Ishmael Robles’ opponent, Paco Castillo was also plenty game, with the same results.  After watching the first round, I predicted the fight would be over early in the second round. I was correct. A powerful Fuentes uppercut to Castillo’s chin ended the fight in just 24 seconds into the second round.

Would Castillo have been better off taking the fight to the mat? That is doubtful. David Fuentes, a jiu jitsu purple belt, has a good ground game. At any rate, the stand up game we were treated to was David Fuentes at his best.

Getting It On

I had seen him a few weeks past, at a rank exam Jeff Bonugli was conducting at his Green Ghost Academy. David Fuentes was in fine fettle then, as he sparred, one after the other, the entire group  of fighters examining, to include Ray Banda (4-0-0) currently in place to fight Alexander Hernandez (5-1-0) for the 155 pound championship at Best of the Best V in April. Dee Jay evinced no trouble establishing his superiority over those examining. On the evening of January 17, just prior to his fight, I met him with a typical abrazo. I said nothing to him other than “you’ll do well,” but I was concerned because he looked somewhat under the weather. I attributed it to too rapid a weight loss in the days just prior to the fight. It was only after the fight that he explained that he had come down with a cold two days prior to the fight, and had gotten two shots for it. He had given up a day of training, and did not feel at his best leading up to the fight. His opponent, Ray “the Judge” Rodriguez, (5-3-0) on the other hand, came into the cage ready to get it on, and quickly went to work. For the first two rounds, my impression was that Dee Jay was simply working to contain him. I myself wanted more of a stand up game, because Dee Jay is exciting to watch standing up, but it was not to be. Most of the five rounds were spent on the mat. Rodriguez was able to go the distance with the Champ, but if you as the challenger are going to unthrone the man, you have to go more than the distance. What the judges saw was a Dee Jay Fuentes who, although not putting a whipping on Rodriguez, was in complete control of his opponent for the majority of the fight. In what turned out to be a unanimous decision for the champion, one judge went so far as to give the fight to Fuentes, 50-45.  A bit far fetched. The first two rounds looked to be in Rodriguez’ favor, but even then, at no time did Fuentes seem concerned. That again is what the judges saw. Rodriguez was in the fight, just not enough into it. He could not get past what the judges were seeing from ringside, that is, a seemingly unperturbed Dee Jay Fuentes, doing what champions do, controlling the fight. Afterwards, Rodriguez announced his retirement, citing a need to work to support his family. Ray Rodriguez can go out with his head high. Taking on the champion, he was game for five rounds, the entirety of the fight.

Prior to his fight, Middleweight Champ Brandon Farran had voiced his respect for his challenger, Hayward Charles, giving him credit for his high number of submission wins, (ten out of eleven wins by submission.)  Being knocked out by Charles was not likely, he felt. As was expected, given his very aggressive fighting style,  Farran, went into the fight throwing some heavy bombs. Early on, he had stipulated that he wanted an opponent who would give him a run for his money, and he found it in Hayward Charles. He walked into what looked like a hard right hook, and at 1:05, of the first round, having thus set him up, Charles effected a submission by arm triangle choke. The irony is that Farran had intimated that with a fighter like Charles, this very thing was a possibility. But like the outstanding gentleman he is, he was quick to congratulate Charles on his win.  And then, from Hayward Charles came one of the humblest speeches you’ll ever hear from a fighter, something to the effect of “I don’t like to hurt my opponent if I can help it, so I submit him as quickly as I can, doing as little damage as possible.”  I have to admit that I had wanted to see Brandon Farran pull this off, because of his exciting style of fighting, and because I am partial to stand up fights, but after hearing Hayward Charles’ explanation, I figured the win couldn’t have gone to a nicer guy. In a humorous vein, Brandon Farran probably saw it the same way. Two real class gentlemen.

I have previously covered the fight between Jamaal Emmers and Rey Trujillo. See “Facing the Junk Yard Dog, the Aftermath,”  at Texasfighting.org. In that article, as well as another article on the same website, “Experience Matters,” I believe I caught the gist of Rey Trujillo’s feelings regarding the matchup: ““He is a great fighter with great potential and has a bright future, but he was a minnow swimming with a large mouth bass.” That uh, pretty well sums it up.



Experience Matters

One of the more exciting fights on the undercard, the night at Hero FC’s Best of the Best IV the evening of 17 January 2015, featured an up and coming fighter out of Ohana Academy in San Antonio. A Jason Yerrington protégé,  Alexander Hernandez,  took on and defeated Jacob Capelli.  Hernandez suffered a cut over the left eye in the second round, and it was feared that the doctor would stop the fight. However, the doctor, recognizing that Alex was clearly dominating the fight, allowed it to continue, and as expected, Alex was declared the winner by unanimous decision.

We will be watching Alex as he moves up, for thus far, he has been very solid, and a credit to his mentor, Jason Yerrington, with his one loss being a close and disappointing decision going to Jamaal Emmers.   A championship belt in the near future is a distinct possibility, given Jeff Bonugli’s announcement of a $50,000 contract to be awarded in the 155 pound division.  Hernandez will be challenging Ray Banda for the contract, but whether Banda or Hernandez win the contract, they do so with the understanding that the road ahead of them will be getting progressively more difficult. Holding on to a title belt will become a great educational tool, and a test of their very best skills.

Fighters around the state are beginning to see that contract money is being paid out, month after month, to enable belt holders to train. The same skills Jeff Bonugli used to propel Gillespie Ford into the number one auto dealership in San Antonio a decade and a half ago are being applied here, and Hero FC’s Best of the Best MMA event is here to stay, with the additional backing of Charlie Clark and his Nissan dealership.

Regardless of who emerges as the winner, we can expect that the new 155 pound division will be challenged by more experienced fighters.  Consider the more experienced Brandon Farran, with nineteen pro fights under his belt, stripping the less experienced Ryan Spann of the 185 pound title in 21 seconds of the first round in Best of the Best III.  Spann had only five pro fights to his credit.  Much the same occurred in the match between Jammal  Emmers and Rey Trujillo. Emmers, another tough and upcoming fighter, entered the match sporting a 7-1-0 record, versus Trujillo’s 18-13-0.  Trujillo’s thirty one pro bouts unapologetically trumped the eight bouts Emmers had under his belt.  Although Emmers had devastated most of his previous opponents, in this event Trujillo countered his every move, almost easily. It was a credit to Emmers that he lasted into the second round. Thirteen of Trujillo’s seventeen wins were by KO, and the other four by unanimous decision.  Until meeting up with Jamaal Emmers, Trujillo had never won by submission.  That changed In 1:48 of the second round in this match, with Trujillo racking up his first submission win by triangle choke over Emmers.

Figure this to be a sign of things to come.  Consider the following:  the 135 pound belt is currently owned by David Fuentes, with twenty one fights under his belt.  The 145 pound belt is now held by Reynaldo Trujillo, who counts thirty two fights to his credit. As of this last event, the 185 pound belt went to Hayward Charles, a veteran of eighteen fights, who took it from Farran this past Saturday night. The point is, you have to respect experience. It matters. Experienced fighters who in the past were loathe to trust Jeff Bonugli at his word, are now coming to the table.

Whichever of the two emerges in the fight for Best of the Best V’s  155 pound title, be it Alex Hernandez, currently 5-1-0, or Ray Banda, at the moment 4-0-0, he can count on being challenged by more experienced fighters, hungry for  a  paying contract. Best of the Best gets better with each event. The large crowd in attendance was drawn there by the promise of great fighting, and they were not disappointed.

Facing the Junkyard Dog, the Aftermath

It was as I predicted. The Friday prior to Hero FC’s Best of theBest IV, I reasoned that Jamaal Emmers would have his plate full the following night. Sure, we had seen a couple of brutal body slams dealt out to opponents, courtesy of Jamaal, but this night would be different. It would different, for this night, in comparison to his meetings with past opponents, he would find himself  pitted against a junk yard dog; that is, if experience were any factor.  As others will soon find out, a newly crowned champion pitting his puny 7-1-0 record against a challenger’s substantial 17-14-0 record, is an awesome hurdle to overcome, and fraught with danger. They are coming, these scarred and embattled fighters, for the word is out amongst them: Hero FC pays its dues.

Yes, experience is a factor, and the junk yard dog of whom I speak, even Rey Trujillo, has arrived to demonstrate personally the how and why of the matter. My earlier post affirmed that those of Trujillo’s ilk, fighting their hearts out for mere beans over thirty one fights, are looking for a better way, and that is what Jeff Bonugli and Hero FC are offering, in a monthly stipend for training, as well as the winner’s purse. Rey Trujillo had come to claim his prize.

But first, there was the matter of schooling the kid. It was a harsh lesson, this process of education. Jamaal’s potential for brutal body slams were not to be discounted, for they worked most effectively against novitiates such as himself. Only this was no newcomer to the game, but instead a seasoned warrior who easily countered what to him were elementary techniques. He not only stymied each technique, but reversed it. To simply demonstrate, Emmers lifts Trujillo up, in preparation for the body slam, and is slammed instead.

That isn’t working, so let’s do stand up. That is dangerous territory, as Jamaal soon finds out, for thirteen of Rey Trujillo’s seventeen wins have come by way of knockout, and the other four by decision. But wait! Not one of those wins has come by submission. Not one!

If you’re Jamaal, you figure Trujillo is going to want to stay topside. After all, he must have heard that Jamaal is a good wrestler. Been wrestling since the ninth grade. But after a bruising first round, where he gets shellacked, barely escaping becoming KO number fourteen, he figures that the better way to go is grappling.  Is there not comfort in knowing that in thirty one matches, Rey Trujillo has never submitted an opponent, not ever? Yes, grappling is the way to go.

And so it happened, that in the first half of the second round, for the first time in all his thirty one matches, under the watchful eye of center ref Jake Montalvo, Rey Trujillo claimed his first win by submission, as if trumpeting contempt through the most unexpected means. Thus came vindication of the earlier prediction that Jamaal Emmers was going up against a veritable junk yard dog in Rey Trujillo. And, as before mentioned, that junk yard dog was hungry indeed.

Facing the Junk Yard Dog

It got off to a slow start, but it has picked up speed in a big way, this dream of Jeff Bonugli’s  which is Hero FC’s “Best of the Best”. With the backing of Charlie Clark, of Charlie Clark Nissan, this train is beginning to move down the tracks fast, and tomorrow night, January 17, 2015, we’re looking forward to an exciting Best of the Best  IV.  Dee Jay Fuentes will be defending his 135 pound title against a Jason Yarrington protégé, Ray Rodriguez. Ray comes into this fight with a 5-3 record. Except for the one where he submitted his opponent in the first round, in all of his fights he’s gone the distance.  Prior to turning pro, Ray sported a 3-0 record as an amateur, winning twice by TKO in the first round, and once by submission, also in the first round.  It isn’t like David Fuentes to underestimate anyone. He takes every opponent seriously. “He’s trained under Jason Yarrington. You have to respect that.” But, he added, “I’ve trained hard for this fight. You’ll see things from me you haven’t seen before.” We’re looking forward to that, Champ.

Brandon Farran will be defending the Championship Belt he took from Ryan Spann the last go around. When you didn’t think it could get any better, here comes Brandon Farron, waltzing into the ring. Take the word “waltzing” literally.  He has swagger, lots of it, and when the ref gave the fighters the nod, he got down to business immediately, taking out Ryan Spann in 21 seconds of the first round. It was one of those great educational lessons, one an outstanding fighter like Ryan Spann is sure to profit from. He had just learned what life in the big leagues is about.  Like any winner, he wants back in.  Farron will be taking on Hayward Charles, who is equally matched with Farron, as records go. However, the difference in the fighting styles of these two fighters is great. Because  ten of Charles’ wins have come by submission, he will want to take Farron to the mat. Farron respects that, knowing that his opponent is at home on the ground, whereby  Farron is in the business of getting the fight over quickly.  Eight of his twelve wins have come by knockout.

It is the business of a champion to take on all comers.  Although the State stripped Jamaal Emmers of his Championship status because he came into the ring one pound overweight for Best of the Best III, Emmers is in the act of regaining his belt.  Coming from an awesome win by brutal body slam of Michael Rodriguez in the first round, he is willing to take on any comer.  If experience is any factor, he’ll have his plate full tomorrow night.  But should he win, nothing is wanting for this young man!  Consider what he’s up against; shall we say the junk yard dog?

Rey Trujillo is coming into this fight at 17-14-0 versus Jamaal Emmers at a 7-1-0 record. That’s a bit of disparity, is it not?  The fact is that fighters around the state are beginning to sit up and take notice of what Jeff Bonugli is offering, with his $50,000 contract, and the $2,500 monthly training stipend as well as prize money.  Fighters like Trujillo, who have been fighting their hearts out for beans in thirty one fights are looking for something better, and that is what Jeff is offering.  Take a look at this fighter.  Thirteen of Rey Trujillo’s seventeen wins he has won by knockout. The other four he won by decision. You know he’s going to want to stay on topside.  Yeah, he does standup, and he’s been through the mill, having been KO’d six times.  Four of those times come within a period of one and a half years. Some danger in that, going into a fight within months of the last knockout! However, in between, he’s scored knockouts as well.  On his loss record are four losses by decision, with the last one coming to Adam Ward this past November, following two of his own wins by TKO in August and Oct 2014.  He’s been submitted four times, by an arm triangle choke, twice by arm bar, and once by a rear naked choke. There you have his losses, six by KO, four by decision, and four by submission versus his seventeen wins, thirteen of which were by knockout.  One has to understand the danger in not allowing any dust to gather between KOs.  Is Jamaal Emmers capable of a KO? Yes, we’ve seen it, in brutal body slam fashion, and he is young and fresh.  Jamaal Emmers is dangerous, and he’s not fazed, even against an experienced fighter with thirty one fights under his belt.  He needs to be dangerous, as well as just a bit fazed.  He’s going up against a veritable junk yard dog in Rey Trujillo, and that junk yard dog is hungry.

(Jamaal Emmers’ photo)