Above: Gilbert Yvel (left) celebrates with his cornermen Mark Bieri of Cobra Kai (center) and Skipper Kelp of Fight Capital (right) after winning the main event via first round KO | Photo by Rick Tucker.
KEARNEY, Nebraska — Friday, March 30th, 2012 will go down as a night to remember in the Cornhusker State as well as in worldwide MMA. In the second installment of the Resurrection Fighting Alliance (RFA), 38 fighters competed inside the RFA cage in 19 bouts, which saw 14 end via KO, TKO, or Submission.
More important than the 74% finish rate of the fights, the RFA streamed 12 of these bouts free and live online via Sherdog.com, while also living up to its company mission statement, which is stated concisely on their website (www.RFAfighting.com ) as follows: "The RFA's focus is simple: showcase the top contenders in the sport, resurrect the careers of big-name talent others have given up on, and launch all of them back into the spotlight."
Above: Gilbert Yvel kneels in respect for Houston Alexander. He did not celebrate his KO victory until Alexander regained consciouness | Photo by Corbey R. Dorsey.
Three modern day MMA legends were in fact resurrected on the night and not only did they win, but all three won in dramatic fashion. The main event saw UFC, PRIDE, and RINGS veteran Gilbert "The Hurricane" Yvel blow through Nebraska's most famous light-heavyweight and fellow UFC veteran Houston "The Assassin" Alexander via brutal KO. Alexander got off to a good start, but was met with a brutal left hook-right hand combo that put his lights at the 3:59 mark of the first frame. Yvel, who has a reputation as being one of the sports' bad boys, then gave a touching show of respect. Instead of jumping around and celebrating his win, he went to his knees in silence and would not stand up until Alexander regained consciousness. This was followed by a very complimentary and respectful post-fight interview in the cage.
Above: Maurice Smith returns to the cage emphatically at RFA 2. He ended Jorge Cordoba's night via third round head kick KO | Photo by Dave Mandel.
The second victorious legend on the night was none other than the 50-year-old Maurice "Mo" Smith, but if you were to ask Smith, life begins at 50. Smith, like Yvel, is a veteran of the UFC, PRIDE, and RINGS. In fact, he became the UFC heavyweight champion at UFC 14 in 1997 and won his first kickboxing world title nearly 30 years ago. On Friday night, he certainly turned back the clock en route to a thoroughly dominant and balanced performance over the much younger Jorge Cordoba. In the process, Smith was able to successfully shake some of the ring rust off and gain valuable ring time in his first fight in nearly 4 years. He accomplished just that by dominating the striking, which is his specialty, while also getting the better of the exchanges inside the clinch and on the ground. The bout came to a sudden and violent end just past the 2-minute mark of the third round, as Smith delivered a picture-perfect ending to the fight by delivering a crushing head kick KO that awed everyone in attendance.
Above: Tara LaRosa tapped Kelly Warren via armbar with 1-second remaining in their bout | Photo by Dave Mandel.
Women's MMA pioneer Tara LaRosa rounded out the trifecta of MMA legends who triumphed on the night. After being inactive for just over 12 months, LaRosa faced a very game Kelly Warren in a featured women's flyweight attraction. LaRosa started slowly, most likely due to her inactivity and Warren's busy work schedule (she just had a fight the month before). After two closely contested rounds, which saw all three judges have it scored 19-19 headed into the final round, LaRosa showed why she has been ranked #1 in the world for the past 7 years. After getting the fight to the ground, she used her dominant grappling skills to work her way to Warren's back. From there she looked for a choke before maneuvering to a fight-ending, tap-enducing armbar with only 1-second remaining on the clock.
KO of Note: Derrick Lewis squared off with fellow top heavyweight prospect and Bellator veteran Justin Frazier. After defending an ealy armbar attempt from Frazier, Lewis unleashed a furious display of ground and pound, which forced referee Herb Dean to call an end to things just past the midway point of the first round.
Submission of Note: Tim Elliott returned to the RFA cage fresh off of his flying knee KO of former UFC lightweight champion Jens Pulver in the main event of RFA 1 in December. The flyweight was able to pass the substantial expectations many had for him leading into this bout with flying colors. Elliott put away the very durable and experienced Josh Rave in just 28 seconds. After flooring Rave with a spinning heel kick, he locked on a D'Arce Choke that put Rave to sleep. Elliott is now riding an 8-fight win streak.
Bout of Note: In a bout that many had circled as "Fight of the Night" favorite, the fireworks displayed did not disappoint. Jared "Demon Eyes" Downing met Alessandro "Zoio" Ferreira in a top-tier 150-pound Catchweight duel that pitted Downing's gritty midwestern wrestling and boxing against Ferreira's black belt jiu-jitsu skills and vaunted Muay Thai game. Both men had their moments, but in the end Downing was the man who impressed the judges the most.
Upset of Note: Cliff Wright and Dakota Cochrane agreed to meet in a lightweight contest on short notice, but the bout was slated as the co-main event of the evening for good reason. Cochrane, who is a vetran of the RFA cage and fought on TUF 15 just three weeks before this bout, was the big favorite both locally and on paper. However, the submission savvy Wright would go on the offensive early and often. After nearly sinking a Guillotine Choke, he put Cochrane to sleep with a Rear Naked Choke late in the first round.
Amateur Bout of Note: The standout of the amatuer portion of the card would easily go to local hero T.J. Hepburn. Three weeks before the bout, he won the NCAA Division II national championship in wrestling at 157-pounds for the hometown University of Nebraska at Kearney (UNK). In doing so, he helped UNK also win the overall team title. With his teammates and coach in attendance, Hepburn squared off with Kellen Fraser of nearby Hastings, Nebraska. In what many thought would be a ground battle between two strong wrestlers, actually played out entirely on the feet. In the second round, Hepburn eventually took a page out of Chuck Liddell's play book and landed a huge over-hand right that put Fraser to sleep and saw the crowd explode in excitement.
Women's Amateur Bout of Note: Standing 5'11" tall and weighing a svelte 135-pounds, it is no wonder that the Bluegrass State's Jessamyn Duke is one of MMA's most highly-touted female prospects. Participating in her last amateur bout, before turning pro, the Kentucky native Duke squared off with Elizabeth Phillips who came in highly recommended by former Strikeforce women's bantamweight champion Miesha Tate. The well-rounded Duke, who many regard as a dangerous striker, used this fight to demonstrate her jiu-jitsu skills. After hitting a beautiful omoplata sweep to end round one, Duke put an end to things via arm-in Guillotine Choke at just 58 seconds of the second stanza.
RFA 2 - Yvel vs. Alexander
Friday, March 30, 2012
Viaero Event Center
Kearney, Nebraska, USA
19 Gilbert Yvel defeats Houston Alexander KO (Punch) Round 1, 3:59
18 Cliff Wright defeats Dakota Cochrane Technical Submission (Rear Naked Choke) Round 1, 4:39
17 Maurice Smith defeats Jorge Cordoba KO (Head Kick) Round 3, 2:05
16 Tara LaRosa defeats Kelly Warren Submission (Armbar) Round 3, 4:59
15 Derrick Lewis defeats Justin Frazier TKO (Knee to the Body and Punches) Round 1, 2:37
14 Tim Elliott defeats Josh Rave Technical Submission (D'Arce Choke) Round 1, 0:28
13 Jared Downing defeats Alessandro "Zoio" Ferreira Decision (Unanimous) Round 3, 5:00
12 Laramie Shaffer defeats Aaron Ely Decision (Split) Round 3, 5:00
11 Elaina Maxwell defeats Ashley Sanchez Decision (Unanimous) Round 3, 5:00
10 Tyler Shinn defeats Cody Land Submission (North-South Choke) Round 3, 3:53
9 Aaron Derrow defeats Jordan Johnson Submission (Triangle Choke) Round 1, 2:12
8 Angelo Antuna defeats Chad Obermiller Submission (Rear Naked Choke) Round 2
7 Darrio Mobley defeats John Gettle TKO (Punches) Round 3
6 Jessamyn Duke defeats Elizabeth Phillips Submission (Guillotine Choke) Round 2, 0:58
5 Tyler Perry defeats Wayman Carter Submission (Arm-Triangle Choke) Round 1
4 Enrique Torres defeats Josh Heath Decision (Unanimous) Round 3, 3:00
3 T.J. Hepburn defeats Kellen Fraser KO (Punch) Round 2
2 Dusty Spaulding defeats Richard Barajas Decision (Unanimous) Round 3, 3:00
1 Derek Williams defeats Ben Wallingford Submission (Rear Naked Choke) Round 1