Meeting the Challenge: Best of the Best II

DJ FuentesDid I say he would come in fighting? In earlier reports of the upcoming fight with the champion, Dee Jay Fuentes, I made the prediction that come what may, Jose Ceja would come into the fight with all barrels blazing. He did just that, in what appeared to be the most action packed fight of the night, in a night full of action packed fights, during JC Fight Promotion‘s “Best of the Best II”,  in Brownsville, Texas, last Saturday, June 14, 2014.

Smack talk, he had aplenty, until one of the State officials instructed the center ref, Jake Montalvo, to put a stop to Ceja’s verbal assault.  A bit controversial that, for we are talking fight, where smack talk is part of the psyche out. Ceja was much defiant, with smack talk and sneers followed up with a flurry of power packed punches. Yes, a bit of controversy in curtailing smack talk between battlers. Tell that to a Mike Tyson or a Roberto Duran. Take the smack talk from a Muhammad Ali, and what have you done? You’ve deprived the world of great poetical thought, as for example, “Float like a butterfly, sting like a bee.”  Where would the world be without the philosophical outbursts of Mike Tyson?  “My style is impetuous, my defense is impregnable, and I’m just ferocious. I want his heart! I want to eat his children!”  Profound.

mma1Not that it fazed Dee Jay, but it may have had a tendency to be disconcerting, when Jose showed no sign of slowing down. But then it happened, toward the end of the five minute first round. Just before another clash with the champion, Jose fell forward.  Most of those watching thought Jose had slipped, but as one who has an injured knee, I knew immediately that Jose’s knee had gone out, the result possibly of torn cartilage from an earlier injury. Well, there was an Achille’s heel uncovered, there for the taking.  Dee Jay didn’t waste any time. He attacked the knee with a kick.  Jose’s angry response was to revert to grappling, latching on to the champion and slamming him to the canvas immediately.  But he could not hold him, and like the champion he is, Dee Jay went to work at bringing Ceja to bay. Ceja fought back , attempting to stand toe to toe with the champion, and taking facial damage for it. It was not until the 4th round that Fuentes began to really get the upper hand. He was relentless in the attack,  driving his knee into Ceja’s  injured leg, and from there delivering punches and knees at will into a still very game Ceja’s face. When Ceja was no longer able to adequately respond, Jake Montalvo stepped in, to call the fight a TKO.

Jose CejaOne expects a thrilling fight from Dee Jay Fuentes, and he delivered, fighting like the champion he is, slowly but methodically chipping away at the challenger, Jose Ceja, until the moment Jake Montalvo stopped the fight, but for pure “never say die spirit”,  my hat is off to Jose Ceja, who certainly gave the champion a heck of a fight, as well as keeping the audience on the edges of their seats. After the fight, he approached Jeff Bonugli, proclaiming, “I didn’t lose that fight, Mr. Bonugli! I was still in the fight! I never quit! I was winning that fight!”

That game was lost when his knee went out. He was virtually crippled, and in the cage, no mercy is extended in seeking a win. Had the knee injury been to Dee Jay, Ceja would have been merciless as well. It is a tribute to Ceja’s courage that he fought so hard and well, despite the injury. Inasmuch as experience is a factor, this was an uphill battle for Jose Ceja. Most fighters pick their fights, taking on fights they feel sure to win. Most fighters, in their desire to build up a tally of wins, do not take on such a fight, with the odds so against them. Jose Ceja is not most fighters. Months ago, when a fighter was needed to step in and take on Rick Palacios, Jose Ceja did not flinch. Palacios had plans elsewhere. When a fighter was needed to take on the champion, Dee Jay Fuentes,  that fighter should have been Rick Palacios. That didn’t happen, ostensibly because of the emotional crisis in his life at the time. Without hesitation, Jose Ceja stepped up to the plate. He came to fight.

Jammal EmmersJammal Emmers did a masterful job in keeping his Championship Belt in his fight against the more experienced Chris Pecera. He fought like the winner he is, leaving no doubt he has used the past three months to train to remain the champ. At no time did he appear in any danger of being bested by  Pecera. And the body slams! In this, he owned Pecera. One cannot discount the psychological impact being slammed to the canvas time and again had on Pecera, nor does one discount their impact on those judging the fight.

In fairness  to Pecera, he took the fight on two weeks notice,  and there was the weight loss, which in the heat of the fight certainly had to affect him. Nonetheless, Emmer’s performance was top notch, and he looks to be JC Fight Promotion’s featherweight champion for the long haul.

Ray Banda, a Soryu Karate Purple Belt student of Jeff Bonugli, was very aggressive in his onslaught against  40 year old Daniel Duran, showing no mercy in his ground and pound attack, which brought the fight to an end as a TKO for Banda. Duran was certainly game, for almost three rounds, but to no avail. He was TKO’d in the third round

We expected much from Rick Palacios, but Joel Scott had a game plan, and followed it. It is no secret that El Gallero is a good stand up fighter. Six wins as an amateur by KO, two as a pro by KO, and one as a pro  boxer by KO; yeah, he has good hands, so to deny him the use of them is the game plan. This Joel Scott did with a quickly applied Kimura arm bar almost immediately in the first round. I applaud Ricky Palacio for the recognition he received in Florida, but I will tell you of the vulnerability incurred in fighting for such an organization. If you fight only Latino opponents, you are excluding a lot of outstanding competitors who are not Latino. It won’t fly, and Rick is realizing that. He also realizes that any loss needs to be viewed as a learning experience, and perhaps a wake up call. Joel Scott did what most of those fighting Ricky will be attempting to do, that is, deprive him of the use of his hands in a standup fight.  Rick will shrug off this loss, but we may suppose he will be working gabeon his ground game. And perhaps we will yet see a Dee Jay Fuentes, versus Rick Palacios, face off. That one will keep us on the edge of our seats.

Gabe Reynaga came out charging.  Reynaga, now 42 years of age, had done his homework. His trainer, Jason Yerrington, assured me of that. Reynaga’s hard charging stand up attack and a solid left ended the fight for Brandon Bradshaw early on.  Reynaga has worked his cardio, and every fight he has entered up to now reflects that, for in each he has gone the distance. This time his training paid off early in the fight.

The fight between heavyweights Javier Rendon and Raul Ponce ended early in the first round, when Jake Montalvo stopped the fight, given that Ponce was unable to adequately respond to Rendon’s ground and pound attack. Rendon was awarded the win.

The kick of the night had to go to Travis Joyner. Joyner has not fought since 2006, and was fighting a more experienced (in the cage) Joe Rodriguez. Knowing that Joyner is a Jiu Jitsu Black Belt, one would have expected a strong emphasis on a ground game from him. With that in mind, when it happened, that beautiful rear leg round house kick to Rodriguez’ head was totally unexpected. It was good. Very good. From where I was sitting at ringside, between Jason Yerrington and Louis Arnold, it appeared to have caught him on the side of the neck. It was solid. Joyner trains at Rudy Vasquez’ Soryu Karate Academy in Austin. Like his father before him, Joyner is an Austin Texas police officer. As an Austin Police Officer, he, and not anyone else, ought be running that department’s defensive tactics section, a position this writer held for five years,  long before Joyner was born. No one on that department has the qualifications to teach defensive tactics that Joyner has.  We shall see.

jeff bonugli“Best of the Best II” was an outstanding MMA event, with the hard work of Daniel Martinez and Jan Bonugli and their supporting cast much evident, in making noticeable improvements from one event to the next. The fighting was outstanding. Two champions, Dee Jay Fuentes and Jammal Emmers, retained their belts, and the $2,500 per month which goes with them, courtesy of JC Fight Promotion. They fought like champions, and will continue to improve as they train to meet future challengers. Indeed, the “Best of the Best” promises to get better, in order to fulfill the vision of Jeff Bonugli and his partner, Charlie Clark, speaker of fluent Spanish, and even a little English.

In a serious vein, let us remember that the event began with a prayer, invoking the Lord’s blessing on the participants, that none would suffer serious injury. And so it was, for which thing we are grateful. We compliment JC Fight Promotion for their determination to dedicate their event to Jesus Christ. It is inspiring to me, and it thrills me, to see each winner raise a finger to the air, and  hear them proclaim their gratitude to Jesus Christ. In each instance, in keeping with that proclamation, we see two fighters who have battled hard against each other, embrace after the fight. This is as it should be.  We thank you. The Lord is pleased.

[Pics courtesy of South Texas Contender]

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Mr. Lopez

Chris Lopez began his training in Martial Arts in early 1967. He served as the defensive tactics instructor for the Austin Police Department from 1969-1974. For nearly forty years he's trained kickboxers, boxers, and karateka's in his dojo. He is a 10th Dan, the head of Texas Soryu MMA, and retired from the US Army.