The hands of 21-year-old unbeaten Oakdale MMA amateur fighter Mercedes Campos flew from her shoulders like the blades of a fan, connecting over and over with the head of Red Bluff’s Denise Bruckner until she was trapped against the cage.
Other fans took notice.
The large crowd packed into the Chicken Ranch Casino’s bingo hall erupted as the fighters traded furious blows, and bellowed loud cheers as Campos slammed Bruckner to the canvas with a standing arm-triangle. Campos mounted her opponent, rained down punches, elbows and wrenched Bruckner’s arm from her guard and pulled back until she tapped out.
The viscous first round arm-bar drew a deafening ovation and finished one of 18 bouts in an action packed Best Of The Best card in Jamestown on Saturday.
When Madera’s Dona Castro upset Arlene Culbreth a fight later with a stunning and thrilling come-from-behind decision that left both fighters visibly exhausted, the Chicken Ranch crowd all but blew the roof off the place.
The women’s contest would give way to six pro fights to cap the night, but nothing would compare to the MMA clinic put on by Campos or by the warfare revealed in Castro’s gutty victory.
“They were definitely the best fights of the night,” matchmaker and Art of War Productions co-Founder Roy Arriola admitted. “As a matchmaker and promoter, you know when you put any female on a card you guarantee fans and yourself that they are going to put it all on the line.
“Female fighters are hard to find, but when you find them, they are great fighters. I feel sorry for their boyfriends.”
Campos improved to 3-0 with the win. She credited the victory to her Last Stand Fight Team teammates and the support of a big base of family members who had made the trek from Sacramento to see her fight for Art of War’s strawweight (105 pounds) championship belt.
“I know she is a tough girl and I knew it was going to be on right away,” Campos said afterwards. “It feels great to be 3-0.”
In the other female fight, Castro appeared battered early when the heavy hands of Culbreth landed flush on her cheeks in the opening round. She survived the early onslaught and fought off second round strikes to come on strong with big late combinations to steal the round. In the third, Castro peppered Culbreth early and had her fatigued and broken in the final moments as the last bell sounded. When she was announced the victor and winner of AOW’s featherweight (126 pounds) belt, Castro dropped to her knees and wept. Bruised and bloodied, she had overcome devastating punches to claim the first victory in her three-fight career.
“Look at my face, do I still look pretty?” Castro said after the card ended, drawing attention to deep contusions on her cheeks. “Those were tears of joy, I was just so happy.
“I’m not taking this belt off; I’m going to shower with it.”
Oakdale High graduate and recently-turned professional Buddy Wallace landed the most one-sided victory of any fighter to compete when he stuffed an early takedown from Aaron Medina, slipped into full mount and punched his way to a technical knockout only 1 minute and 26 seconds into the fight. Since Wallace submitted David Villescaz only a minute into his first fight on Aug. 18, he has yet to see the second round of a pro fight.
“I’m going to keep rolling and stay undefeated as long as I can,” Wallace said. “I wanted to stand up with this guy and get more comfortable on my feet, but he just shot straight for the takedown.”
It proved to not be the best of decisions, as Wallace utilized his background as a wrestler (at OHS) to gain favorable top position and pound his way to victory.
“I don’t know if he didn’t look me up or if he was worried about my hands, but he went straight for my legs,” Wallace said.
Fellow Oakdale MMA professional Sergio Vasquez was unable to keep his 1-0 record in the win column after an errant kick sailed high above Garrett Dugger in the opening seconds of his match. Dugger pushed forward to lift Vasquez’ leg and send the Mexico native reeling to the canvas. Dugger rolled to claim Vasquez’ back and sunk his arms in for a rear-naked-choke tap-out just 44 seconds into the fight.
The choke was Oakdale MMA’s only loss of the night. The Last Stand Fight Team that includes academies in Sonora and Merced, combined for a sterling 8-2 record against opponents.
Mike John (3-1) captured Oakdale MMA’s first win despite losing both the first and second round to the well-placed strikes of Dontay Miller. Miller appeared in control of the fight, but unwisely slipped into a superb triangle choke from John in the third and final round.
Oakdale MMA standout pro and Mustang graduate Martin Sandoval was set as the main event, but was dejected to learn that both his original opponent, Rob Whitlock, and his replacement, Kino Vuittonet, pulled from the fight at the last moment. Sandoval instead fought/sparred with teammate Romoni Koeut, who also had an opponent (Dino Espinosa) withdraw from the card.
The finale featured an exciting front flip to mount attack from Sandoval and some skilled maneuvers, but lacked the animosity of a typical main event.
“It was kind of awkward, because Ramoni and I are training partners and we know what each other is going to do. We just had to put on a show.”
Both Sandoval and Oakdale MMA instructor Tom Theofanopoulos (AOW co-founder) praised the event for its civility and the professionalism exhibited by a rare family-friendly MMA event where alcohol is not served. It was the final AOW card of the year, though Arriola and Theofanopoulos predicted big events ahead for the organization in 2013.