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.