Oakdale High graduate Martin Sandoval and Modesto native Justin Smitely each landed the seventh win of their respective professional mixed martial art careers after a 2-0 showing from Oakdale MMA during the 16-bout Rebel Fighter “Explosive” Card on Saturday at the Amador County Fairgrounds in Plymouth.
Sandoval (7-3) submitted David Suarez (3-4) to settle some bad blood between the two, while Smitely (7-7) controlled Tony Boyles (5-6) in a three-round war for a unanimous 29-28 decision.
Suarez drew some attention to the Rebel Fighter Flyweight title fight after some disparaging remarks he made about Sandoval and Oakdale’s Last Stand Fight Team in recent weeks. The match-up gained even more anticipation when Suarez and Sandoval nearly came to blows during pre-fight weigh-ins on Friday.
Sandoval stole all of the attention — and the Rebel Fighter title belt — after forcing Suarez to tap via a guillotine choke just 36 seconds into the second round. Sandoval had landed a first round takedown and nearly ended things with a triangle choke in the same round, but settled for a round two submission to take charge of the division’s vacant title.
“I was listening to (country singer) George Strait before the fight to stay calm and was not going to let my emotions get in the way,” Sandoval said on Sunday. “It’s a huge accomplishment for not only myself but for our team as well. We just keep progressing and getting better and better.”
Smitely went into Saturday’s featherweight fight with the game plan to discard his usual tactic of a toe-to-toe war and concentrate on smart decisions inside the cage.
That tactic fell to pieces after Boyles desperately battled to avoid the loss to break down his even fight record. Smitely engaged some big exchanges, but wisely controlled Boyles with key takedowns to convince all three judges he had the upper hand in at least two of the three rounds.
“It was a war, but I felt like I pretty much was dominating the whole fight,” Smitely said. “He threw some elbows from the bottom that left some dents in the back of my head and he certainly wasn’t giving up.”
Smitely was coached by his brother (Oakdale MMA and UFC fighter Michael McDonald), instructor Tom Theofanopoulos and teammate Angel DeAnda. Sandoval was cornered by McDonald, Theofanopoulos and fellow Oakdale grad, Bill Theofanopoulos.
Both fighters will likely see their next fight on a Rebel Fighter card in June or July. Sandoval’s will be an expected defense of his flyweight title.