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Oakdale Fighters Ready To Wage War Saturday
4-13 Oak MMA1
A lengthy sparing session allows for a quick break and pose from Oakdale MMA fighters Justin Smitely (of Modesto) and Martin Sandoval (of Oakdale) during recent action. Both will fight in Plymouth on Saturday on a Rebel Fighter Card. - photo by IKE DODSON/THE LEADER
The innards of the Oakdale MMA complex near the corner of First Avenue and F Street is a bustle of activity these days as youth and adults undergo vigorous exercises to learn the art of Kajukenbo, kickboxing, boxing and Brazilian Jui Jitsu.
But while beginners, intermediate and advanced students work to sharpen their skills, fighters push their bodies to the limit just a few paces away in preparation for upcoming professional mixed martial contests.
A few weeks ago, one of those fighters was Michael McDonald, who landed an Ultimate Fighting Championship victory and Fight of the Night bonus on March 26.
McDonald’s career, which has so far landed a World Extreme Cagefighting victory and eventual three-fight UFC contract, has certainly created some national buzz and increased local interest for Oakdale’s Last Stand Fight Team.
McDonald’s 25-year-old brother, Justin Smitely, and 25-year-old teammate, Martin Sandoval, are next to step into the cage.
Smitely (a Modesto native) and Sandoval (Oakdale native and Oakdale High graduate) will fight in two of 18 expected contests in the Rebel Fighter “Explosive” Card at the Amador County Fairgrounds in Plymouth on Saturday.
Sandoval (6-3) will take on David Suarez (3-3) in a bout that will decide the vacant 125-pound flyweight world championship title for Rebel Fighter.
Suarez has been vocally critical of Sandoval in recent weeks, and has given the Oakdale fighter some added motivation for their Saturday showdown for a Rebel Fighter title belt.
“Usually I go into fights trying to be humble and keeping it cool on a respectful level,” Sandoval said on Sunday. “This guy has really disrespected me and our team and there is a lot of animosity there.
“I would really like to take him down and ground and pound him, teach him a lesson.”
Sandoval is fresh off a decision loss after he went up a weight to battle 135-pound wrestling All American, Tommy Vargas. He was 6-1 in his last seven fights before that, and said he is more than ready to land one more win for his bright MMA career.
“Honestly, a lot of fighters are on a journey to become champions, but I’m not on a journey to become a champion,” Sandoval said. “I am on a journey to be remembered.”
Smitely may not have the UFC prestige of his 20-year-old brother, but carries more experience than anyone in the Oakdale gym. Smitely has fought one of the world’s top-ranked bantamweight fighters in Joseph Benavidez (No. 2 in the world, No. 2, No. 3
Smitely (6-7) lost to Benavidez, and also dropped a controversial split decision to the brother of boxing legend, Roy Jones Jr., Tito Jones.
The Modesto raised and Oakdale trained fighter has earned a reputation for exciting fights, and while brawls in the cage have been good for the fans, they have been bittersweet for Smitely’s win-loss record.
The seven losses were a reason why Smitely was turned away when he and hundreds of others flocked to tryouts for the 145-pound division of UFC’s popular SPIKE television show, The Ultimate Fighter.
Smitely said it’s important that he topple his Saturday opponent, Tony Boyles, to even up his fight record.
“I just want to keep winning and getting better as a fighter,” Smitely said. “I like to have crazy fights, but I need to focus more on getting the victory and being a little smarter in the cage.”
Smitely was featured live on Facebook in the UFC Fight Night 24 card where he cornered his brother, McDonald, with Oakdale MMA instructor Tom Theofanopoulos.
Smitely said that his brother’s UFC win and subsequent Fight of the Night bonus was a tremendous experience for the family (their brother Brad McDonald also fights) and the Last Stand Fight Team.
“Words can’t even explain it.” Smitely said. “I remember when my brothers didn’t really want to fight and I got them into it.
“For one of my brothers to reach the pinnacle of the sport is a dream come true for our whole family and for the team as well.”
To see the Oakdale fighters compete live in Plymouth, or obtain more information about the “Explosive” card visit