Spiritwolf, Joker score big wins at KOTC: Prowler

King of the Cage wrapped up their 2008 schedule with a match of the year candidate and several upset surprises in the welterweight neighborhood on December 11th at the San Manuel Indian Bingo & Casino in San Bernadino, CA.

The big news was previously-undecorated Mike “Joker” Guymon winning the first world title of his career in a by submitting Anthony “The Recipe” Lapsley at 3:37 of the fourth round. This match was a back-and-forth clinic in Jiu-Jitsu control, as Joker came from behind in the scorecards to turn the heat up in the third and fourth rounds, bringing the crowd to a fever pitch. This was Lapsley’s first defense after beating Aaron “Slam” Wetherspoon in August.

Of his victory, Joker reflected “this feels amazing. It’s the most emotional thing I’ve ever dealt with. I’ve scarified so much for this fight. I’ve seen what[Lapsley] can do and I respected him as a fighter. . . People like Mark Munoz [helped] me get ready for it. I keep telling people I’m surrounded by angels and he’s definitely one of them. Everybody in my life, they’ve all sacrificed for me to get to this point. All that emotion coming out is my way of thanking them. “

When asked about a rematch, Joker didn’t hesitate: “I’d give him a rematch. He earned it. I have full respect for him. I wouldn’t want to do it [laughs]. That was one fuckin’ war.“

Lapsley’s cornerman and mentor, Andrew “Cobra” Rhodes, commented “I think harnessing all the energy, all the nerves, with his first title defense, I think it was an outstanding performance by both of the fighters. Anthony came up short tonight, and I think it might be, for all intents and purposes, one of the best things to happen to him. To be in a top tier organization, defending the pinnacle of that organization. . . Now we’re going to see what kind of dish The Recipe comes back with, now that he’s faced adversity.”

The other shakeup in the welterweight ranks came at the hands of Wachiim Spiritwolf, who scored a flash KO over Rick “The IE Bad Boy” Legere at 0:16 in the second round. This match was to determine the #1 contender for the KOTC Welterweight title. Spiritwolf, a top student of Dean Lister’s Jiu-Jitsu school, was making his King of the Cage debut against Legere, who was on a six-fight winning streak ever since making his MMA debut last year at “King of the Cage: Point of No Return.”

These respective victories now pit Spiritwolf against Joker in a future title match for the KOTC welterweight title.

The other scheduled championship fight, a rematch between Chance “King of the Streets” Williams and Mike “Rhino” Bourke, ended up not taking place, when the attending fight doctor determined Bourke unfit to fight after Bourke fell off the walkout ramp in a freak accident at the beginning of the show. Backstage, Bourke complained of difficulty in breathing, and upon further examination, the fight doctor suspected that Bourke had fractured a rib, which left him susceptible to puncturing a lung if allowed to fight. Later, in private, KOTC founder Terry Trebilcock awarded Williams the Super Heavyweight title.

Williams said “I didn’t want to win the belt like this. But things happen. God bless him. Whatever.”

The event itself marked the end of a tireless year in which the KOTC staff organized and promoted over 24 events throughout the U.S. When asked his assessment of the promotion’s move this year to San Manuel, matchmaker Shingo Kashiwagi said “Ever since we moved to San Manuel, the quality of the shows and the production gets better and better. I think we ended the show this year with a phenomenal fight. Probably the best fight of the year. The best grappling I’ve ever seen. I think this is a good sign of a lot of exciting stuff for next year.”

Other KOTC action that night included:

Featherweight (145 lbs.) – Vincent Martinez vs. Fernando Bernstein
Fernando Bernstein caught Vincent Martinez with a triangle choke at 2:46 in the second round.

Lightweight (155 lbs.) – John Ulloa vs. Johnny Gomez
John Ulloa beat Johnny Gomez at the 2:00 mark by TKO with a flurry of punches.

Lightweight (155 lbs.) – Julio Sotomayor vs. Dominic Verdugo
Judges gave the match to Dominic Verdugo by split decision.

Bantamweight (135 lbs.) – Yosuke Koreeda vs. Anthony Guerra
Guerra, fighting out of Millennia Gym, charges Koreeda for the takedown. After breaking apart, Guerra hit Koreeda hard on the jaw, but Koreeda responded instinctively with an overhand right that dropped Guerra at 0:21 in the first round.

Light Heavyweight (205 lbs.) – Dave Cryer vs. Anthony Jones
Cryer and Jones came out swinging for the fences. Cryer, who is one of the more committed walking tattoo canvases in MMA, took Jones down and dominated with elbows and body shots. Jones walked the cage and was able to get to his feet, but the damage was done and he was bleeding badly. He secured a tight guillotine on Cryer, and kept it as Cryer took him to the ground just before the round ended. This crowd loved this match.

Unfortunately, the crowd didn’t love the fight doctor’s decision to stop the match due to a large cut over Jones’ right eye. Dave Cryer took the victory via TKO / doctor’s stoppage.

Featherweight (145 lbs.) – Aaron Miller vs. Brian Abram
Miller and Abram started with another fan-friendly flurry of strikes right off the bat. The first round saw Miller work hard for a takedown, going for double-legs, Hi-C’s, and judo trips. Abram, who took the match on a 10-day notice, was cautious but explosive. Round two saw the two combatants engaging more cautiously, looking for the knockout shot. Miller especially seemed to employ more kicks, although he also made several unsuccessful takedown attempts. In the third round, Miller unleashed a flurry of strikes from the get-go. Abram landed a hard right that had more than a few fans audibly comment “ooowww, shit!” Both men swung heavy shots that missed, but neither threw from inside the pocket. In the end, judges gave the match to Aaron Miller via unanimous decision.

Welterweight (170 lbs.) – Wachiim Spiritwolf vs. Rick Legere
The crowd was nuts for this one, as both Legere and Spiritwolf have strong San Bernadino / Inland Empire followings. In round one, Spiritwolf stunned Legere with a right straight, but the IE Bad Boy would come back with three takedowns throughout the round, a guillotine choke attempt, and some damaging ground-and-pound. Spiritwolf got a guillotine of his own before the end of the round. However, in round two, Spiritwolf landed a “hooky left jab” at 0:15 that nobody would question. This now lines Spiritwolf up with a title shot at the reigning KOTC welterweight champion.

Welterweight (170 lbs.) – Brian Warren vs. Joe Boxer / Victor Valenzuela
Valenzuela, who now seems to be going solely by the “Joe Boxer” moniker, moved up from junior welterweight (160 lbs.) to take on Brian Warren at welterweight. The first round saw a lot of jockeying for position, either from the clinch on the feet or with Warrant on top. Warren worked a lot of foot stomps from the clinch, much to the chagrin of local fans. Early in round two, Boxer dropped Warren with a right cross, but The Unbreakable One was able to recover. At one point, Warren ended up in bottom position and worked for a triangle, but to no avail. Standing, Boxer continued to pressure Warren throughout the round, which often saw Warren shoot for the double-leg. Warren kept Boxer at bay with front kicks. The third round consisted primarily of clinches against the cage, foot stomps, and trip takedown attempts. Judges awarded the match to Brian Warren via unanimous decision.

King of the Cage Welteweight Championship – Mike Guymon vs. Anthony Lapsley
I don’t think you could have a more apt demonstration of sportsmanship between two fighters than between Lapsley and Guymon. The two were always mutually friendly at prior events, and both spoke highly of each other in pre-fight interviews.

Round One: Lapsley got a takedown using the momentum of bouncing off the cage. Joker was composed and nonplussed on the bottom, even when Lapsley took his back. Joker worked for an armbar, then a triangle choke once Lapsley got in his guard. This was already a tremendous Jiu-Jitsu fight. Lapsley didn’t getting many shots in, but he used his wrestling to keep Joker down. Joker climbed the cage wall to get up, spinning Lapsley against the cage and scoring a trip takedown. He proceeded to rain down damaging elbows. Lapsley used the same escape door and walked the cage to get out from bottom. They got in whizzer position, but Joker followed Lapsley to the ground and continued the ground-and-pound assault. Lapsley regained top position with a trip and worked for a combination reverse triangle-and-armlock. He eventually gots folkstyle side control, but Joker reversed position again just before the bell rangs. This was all in the first round.

Round Two: Both these guys had big smiles on their faces. So did most of the fans. Lapsley charged in, but slipped, giving Joker just enough to shoot for a takedown from afar. Lapsley reversed position with a sweep and stood up, but Joker took him down again. He kept Lapsley against the cage with side control. But Lapsley threw knees from bottom and reversed, taking Joker’s back. Despite Joker’s best efforts, Lapsley maintained top control. Joker reversed and got side mount, only for Lapsley to buck and regain control again. Lapsley is great at reversing and getting top control, but Joker proved quite adept at muting his offense from above. Both fighters traded strikes from the ground for the rest of the round.

Round Three: Lapsley charged again, ending up on top. Joker continued to work on his left arm from below. The position changes were too fast to keep track. Lapsley spun outwards to avoid getting caught. Lapsley outwrestled Joker, but he wasn’t able to build up enough offense to gain any real ground. Joker almost caught Lapsley in a triangle, but he pulled out, spun around, and almost secured a rear naked choke. Seriously, they were that fast. They ended up on their feet again, only for Joker to score the takedown. And only for Lapsley to work for the armbar. But Joker dropped some heavy shots, including one that opened Lapsley up on the right side of his eyebrow. By the end of the round, both of them were fighting on empty.

Round Four: Joker ducked a left straight and scored a textbook takedown. That’s not easy to do on a state wrestling champion from the Midwest. Joker dropped hard elbows, but Lapsley scrapped out and got what can best be described as a spin takedown. But Joker followed up with the same thing, working into a front headlock. Lapsley fought for a single-leg, but couldn’t get it. Finally, he escaped, but Joker pushed him down again and proceeded to drop bombs. The crowd was at a fever pitch. Joker got the back and stretched him out, but Lapsley survived to the end of the round.

Round 5: They started out in the middle of the ring with a hug. These men knew they’d created a match for the ages. Joker charged in for a takedown, but moments later, referee Herb Dean called a time-out. As if we hadn’t seen just about everything in this match, Joker’s cup had fallen out of his shorts. There’s a first for everything, I suppose. Restart. Joker threw a hard low kick, followed by a takedown. Lapsley blocked it, but being against the cage, Joker was able to get top position. He went for a guillotine, but Lapsley pushed him back with a flurry of punches. Joker retaliated with a hard right, but that only triggered the champ with further attack. Joker came out on the better end of a fight for position, taking side control. Lapsley slipped out the back door and slapped on a side choke. Joker escaped and they reengaged on their feet. Joker with a combo and Lapsley with a guillotine. But Joker got top position again, sunk in his own side choke, and at 3:37 of the fifth and final round, became the new King of the Cage welterweight champion.

As fans filtered out of the arena, KOTC VP of Operations Mike Low summarized “Without a doubt, that was match of the year. I just sat there and I couldn’t believe the match I was watching.”

King of the Cage returns to the San Manuel Indian Bingo & Casino on February 26th, 2009. No less than four KOTC champions are scheduled to fight, including Mike “Joker” Guymon (welterweight), Joe Boxer (super welterweight), Lazar Strojadinoic (bantamweight), and KOTC double-champion Tony “Kryptonite” Lopez, who defends his light heavyweight title.

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