Fight promoter Jeff Bonugli was looking for fighters, and he got them. Ryan Spann out of Beaumont opened last Saturday night’s “El Orgullo del Valle” fight event with hands and feet blazing. Although his opponent, Robert Zamora, outweighed him by 26 pounds, it was a mismatch from the beginning, but in Spann’s favor. Spann is the kind of fighter one hates to fight; a towering 6’5 inches tall, with not an ounce to spare on his lean frame of 183 pounds. You take into account also his 82 inch reach, and it spells trouble. Spann, who trains with American Top Team in Beaumont came into this fight 1-0 as a pro, determined to extend his win record. A game Zamora (training out of Mission with Robert Torres) initiated the fray by moving in on Spann with a front kick. After a brief exchange Spann connected with a blistering round house kick to Zamora’s rib cage, which visibly hurt him. The fight went to the ground, and at 2:25 of the first round Spann applied a rear naked choke to end the match.
Julio Villarreal, (McAllen) got into the fight game to lose weight. To that end, he’s been successful, losing over one hundred pounds since taking up mixed martial arts. It wasn’t enough against Christopher Lopez out of San Antonio, though. Lopez quickly got down to business in his match with Villarreal, causing ref Jake Montalvo to stop the match at 1:39 of the first round, when Villarreal was unable to defend himself against the pounding Lopez was doling out. Coming into the match at 1-0, the very humble Lopez voiced no unreasonable expectations about his future. “I’ll take this game as far as it takes me. I’ll be happy with the results, what ever they are.” His immediate short range goal? “I want to meet again the guy I lost to as an amateur. I want to beat him.” He sports 5 wins and one loss as an amateur, and the fight he lost took place in January 2011, in a fight against Jared Perez that went the distance. The 28 year old Lopez, a marathon runner, fights out of Rangel Vale Tudo, and at age 28 is a veteran of the United States Marines. He’s a recent graduate from UTSA. Not exactly sure why, but this writer is partial to him.
You have to hand it to Gabe Reynaga. At 40 years old he took on 24 year old Jordan Morgan. Twice he attempted a spin back kick on Morgan, and each time Morgan walked on him. To Reynaga’s credit, he stayed in the fight, going the distance with Morgan, who won by unanimous decision.
One has difficulty not liking Ray Rodriguez out of New Braunfel’s “Warrior’s Edge. The kid exudes optimism. He was facing a tough Jean Cartagena Maldonado, fighting out of Seguin MMA, just 15 minutes down the road from where Rodriguez trains. The fact that Maldonado holds a Black Belt in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu did not faze Ray. Given his record, Maldonado is no pushover. He came into this fight 1-1 as a pro, with 6 straight wins as an amateur. Strange as this may seem, I felt he should have stuck to his standup in this fight. He has good standup, with very strong kicks and good hands, which, for the little I saw, I rated superior to Ray’s. Yeah, but his strength is in jiu jitsu, and that’s where he continued to go. Explain that to Ray Rodriguez, who put him in a guillotine hold in 54 seconds of the third round!
Alex Hernandez of Ohana quickly overwhelmed Mission’s David Salazar to end the fight in 34 seconds of the first round. Salazar had taken the fight on two weeks notice. One may be physically prepared, but it is the mental game which is tasked.
Jorge Cortez out of Ultra Fit MMA in Harlingen also took this fight on very short notice, but what a fight this was between him and Cory Bellino out of Full Contact Fight Academy in Corpus Christi! Bellino bloodied Cortez in the first round, but Cortez was landing punches as well, in an exciting round of stand up. In the second and third rounds, Bellino took Cortez to the mat, where he had the advantage, as Cortez seemed to be enjoying the stand up game. A close, exciting fight with all judges scoring it 28-29 in favor of Bellino.
Up to this point, every fight has been exciting! One would think the action would slow down. Not so. Next up was Matt Mooney of El Gallero Den in Mission, versus Juan Chapa, also out of Mission. This was probably the most evenly matched fight of the night, with both fighters debuting as pros with an amateur record of 1-0, with both fighters winning their match by submission. So you ask, if the fight only lasted 35 seconds, what was so exciting about it? Those were 35 seconds of great stand up, pure toe to toe confrontation. And then Matthew goes and stops it all by submitting Chapa with an arm bar, which Chapa admits he walked right in to, by thinking he could take Matt out with his hands. Chapa, who lost, will also be on the June Orgullo del Valle card.
Jose Ceja, making his pro debut, represented promoter Bonugli’s Green Ghost Academy in a match against jiu jitsu purple belt Rene Gonzalez, also out of Mission. Ceja landed a hard shot over Gonzalez’ left eye early on, and continued to put on the pressure for three rounds. This fight began with a bang and finished in like manner; action packed, with Ceja taking the fight by unanimous decision.
Up to this point, it had been a night of continuous action, seemingly one exciting fight after another, with each succeeding fight seemingly better than the last. Could it get any better? The best was yet to come. The much ballyhooed co main event between Leroy Martinez and Ricky Palacios was in the offing. There had been much smack talk and insults traded between the two men and their camps, situated only miles apart in Mission. Ricardo “El Gallero” Palacios was coming into this event 4 pounds over weight at 139 pounds, versus Leroy “El Guapo” Martinez at the required 135. Ricky was sporting a record of 1-0 as a pro, and 6-0 as an amateur, all by KO, something which surely did not escape Martinez, whose pro record was 1-1, with an amateur record of 2-2. No one was disappointed at the effort expended by the two. There had been the attempted psyche and shoving between the two at the weigh ins, and this continued into the ring. Palacio’s fight skills are evident in his record to this point; nonetheless, one danger in over confidence can be that training may be allowed to lag. In the first round, Martinez did every thing right. When going up against a striker of the caliber of Palacios, one takes the game to the ground, and Martinez was doing a good job with this. His attempts to get Palacios into a submission hold in the first round failed, but in this writer’s view, the first round went to Martinez. The second round, Palacios got into his game, eluding attempts to be taken to the ground, tagging Martinez at least a couple of times with hard shots to the face, softening him for a clean knockout at 1:22 of the second round.
The much anticipated duel between two good fighters is over, for the time being at least. One writer calls it a total win for the Palacios camp, citing this and two other wins. I don’t agree with his analysis. The first round was too close, and it gets tougher from here, with each fight getting progressively tougher as opponents study his style. Rick’s ground game needs work. Why is this important? You have in Rick Palacios a genuine knockout artist. Consider this: 6 -0 as an amateur, all six wins by KO. 1-0 as a pro boxer, this also by knock out. 2-0 as a pro, both by knock out. Nine fights, 9 KO’s. Future opponents would be foolish not to study his game, as did Leroy Martinez. Nullifying his standup is essential, as Martinez almost did. My advice would be to heal the breach between camps. Sparring partners like Leroy Martinez who can help with the ground game can be a blessing. Both fighters will benefit from each other’s experience. Heal the breach.
We come to the main event, Aaron Rosa versus Tony Melton. Tony Melton entered the fight a solid 264 pounds, the kind of opponent who will pose a threat to any unprepared fighter. He entered this event sporting a 7-3 pro record, and 1-0 as a pro K-1 kickboxer. All his MMA bouts have been almost exclusively stand up. And yes, Aaron Rosa came into the fight, by his own standards, less prepared than desired, and well over his fighting weight. His employment, entailing long hours, has eaten into his training time, and he had been able to train only sporadically. Predictably, the fight evolved into a boxing match, with Rosa having to fight Melton’s game. In a closely fought stand up game, Rosa won by decision, by virtue of landing more punches.
El Orgullo del Norte, first event is now in the past. It has all the markings of a first class event. If Jeff Bonugli has his way, it will come one day to match the UFC in drawing power and excellence.