If Oakdale Mixed Martial Arts Club owner/instructor Tom Theofanopoulos had any concerns about the strength of competition, venue or attendance he would see from his own Art of War production company, he certainly addressed them Saturday.
Spectators numbering around 1,000-strong lined the inside of a well-organized arena at the Chicken Ranch Casino on Saturday, Jan. 28 to witness an exciting 15-bout card of professional and amateur mixed martial arts fights from some of the area’s top rising talents.
Each fight provided its own thrill as knockouts, submissions and a few decisions engaged a boisterous but civil gathering of MMA fans of all ages. Theofanopoulos said the incredible turnout and competition would likely pave the way for a new tradition of local fights from the area’s best competitors.
“I thought it was historical,” Theofanopoulos said. “Because the event was a complete success we plan on doing four shows a year now.”
Theofanopoulos partnered with AOW co-founder Roy Arriola and chairman of the Chicken Ranch Rancheria Of Me-Wuk Indians, Lloyd Mathieson, to host the show.
The event started with around 20 kickboxing and pankration fights in the afternoon, and culminated in the evening when amateur and professional mixed martial artists waged war inside the cage.
And the local success didn’t end with the quality of fights and attendance. Oakdale MMA fighters won five of their six MMA bouts, losing only the pro main event when Ramoni Koeut (135 pounds) lost a three-round war with Ruben Trujillo via a late rear-naked choke. Koeut was stunned from an early shot to the ear that limited his hearing and corner instruction, but regained control for most of the fight. He escaped a dangerous guillotine choke in the second round and nearly escaped with a total knockout after taking Trujillo’s back in the final round. Trujillo fought back with a late takedown and choke to win the fight 2 minutes and 19 seconds into the third period.
Even with the loss, Oakdale MMA is an impressive 11-1 across pro and amateur divisions of the sport in 2012. The club was a combined 33-4 in 2011.
“Ramoni is a great fighter, but made some mistakes in that fight,” Theofanopoulos said. “We don’t take losses as a failure but as a learning experience, and that was our first loss this year.”
Eloy Garza (130) landed an Oakdale MMA win in his first-ever professional fight.
He allowed Chris Solis to snare an early takedown and a few strikes from the top position, but quickly secured an arm bar in transition for a tap-out just 48 seconds into the contest.
“It feels so good to be 1-0,” Garza said afterwards. “It’s been such a blessing to be part of this team and we all help each other so much.”
Oakdale MMA fighters won all three of their amateur bouts. Oakdale High graduate and former Mustang wrestler Buddy Wallace improved his amateur record to 2-1 with a dominant first round win over Anthony Lopez at 185 pounds. Wallace stuffed a Lopez takedown in the opening moments and delivered continuous ground-and-pound from full-mount until the referee forced a stoppage a minute and 53 seconds into the opening round.
“I just wanted to stand up and trade but he went for a takedown right away which just played into my game because I am a wrestler,” Wallace said. “I imposed my will on him until I got the finish.”
Mike John (165) stole an Oakdale MMA’s win earlier in the show when he tapped out Matt Hampton with a crafty arm bar a minute and nine seconds into the bout. Oakdale teammate Danny Croch (165) had thrilled fight fans in the previous contest after a good stand-up battle with Andres Castillo. Croch and Castillo traded big blows to start the match, but Croch showcased better boxing and knees as exchanges landed. A powerful shot dropped Castillo against the cage, where Croch rained punches until a total knockout was called just 36 seconds into the fight.
The event included fighters from Oakdale MMA affiliates Merced MMA and Sonora MMA, as well as some of the best fight camps in California. Sacramento’s Team Alpha Male, known for producing fighters like former WEC champion Urijah Faber and The Ultimate Fighter finalist T.J. Dillashaw, was also represented by T.J.’s brother, K.C. Dillashaw (winner via a first round knockout).
“If not for the support of the families in Oakdale and Sonora and those communities this would not have been possible,” Theofanopoulos said. “It seemed like everybody loved the show and it was a real positive event for all of our sponsors.”