TOWAOC - Isaque "Sandman" Martinez and Victor Reyna locked arms and heads for the better part of two rounds Saturday night.
In the King of the Cage "Roughnecks" Mixed Martial Arts main event, it was a professional jiu jitsu match at its finest.
Reyna was the early aggressor and viciously took down Martinez in the first-round. The Fort Worth, Texas, native tried to quickly seal the deal with a submission. But the Sandman awoke and broke loose from Reyna's hold.
Martinez earned some much needed points toward the end of Round 1. In the second round, the fighters went back to the ground. Again, Reyna was the aggressor. Martinez thwarted another Reyna submission attempt and secured a reversal. The Sandman had Reyna's neck in one arm and was in control, as the home Ute Mountain Casino sellout crowd cheered for its local hero.
However, Martinez's return to the cage after a six-month layoff would turn out to be bittersweet.
Reyna escaped the Sandman's clutches and later flipped him on his back. Reyna was finally able to secure a triangle chokehold. Martinez succumbed to Reyna (2-1) and tapped out at the 3 minute, 39 second mark of Round 2.
"Back and forth. He's just strong, man," Martinez said. "Usually, my takedowns are really good. But he had great takedown defense. I tip my hat to him. He's good."
Sandman's first fight of the year had a sad ending. A stunned silent crowd trudged toward the exits in sorrow and disappointment.
"I don't know if the crowd realizes the level of jiu jitsu that they were witnessed to," said Lifer MMA Cortez trainer Kaan Clark. "Sweeps, submission attempts, submission defenses. I mean, it was a really good fight."
Knee surgery had sidelined Martinez (14-4, Lifer MMA), who was in good shape, but lacked strength after the long layoff.
"I still got a couple areas I need to work on. (Like) my strength and conditioning," he said. "I didn't get tired. I just got beat as far as strength. I need to work on some more strength exercises."
It's the second straight loss for the Sandman, who came in ranked No. 2 in the 185-pound Middleweight Division. Martinez has great confidence for the future.
"I feel a 100 percent. I feel better than I've ever felt. I feel more confident than I've ever felt," he said. "I'm not going to quit. I'm going to continue to train hard."
Lifer MMA went 2-2 overall on the day.
The highlight on the entire night was David Lyons' devastating left hook that sent Gerald Aldaco (Grants, N.M.) to the floor.
Game, set, match.
Just 75 seconds into the first-round, Lyons used his long reach and landed a perfect punch that ignited a raucous "ohhhhhhh" from the fans in attendance. The referee stopped the fight at the 1:45 mark.
"I was actually kind of going for a knockout," Lyons said smiling. "I was keeping my distance. The last fight, I got hit in the face a lot. I kept away from the strikes and focused in (on the punch). That's pretty much how I won it."
The 6-foot-2 Lyons is now 3-0 at 170, having won every fight by Total Knockout. He was certainly pleased to win in the opening round for the first time.
"I couldn't be more pumped," Lyons said. "I felt good. My first two fights went second round. My first fight (to win) in the first round. It's awesome."
Joey Trevino won his second consecutive fight at 125s over Adrian Lopez (El Paso, Texas). Trevino was smart, withstanding attempted blows from Lopez. When Trevino saw his opening, he struck with rapid punches and kicks that knocked Lopez up against the cage. Trevino locked Lopez in a standing guillotine choke and won by submission only 51 seconds in.
"Joey is really talented," Clark said. "He really dedicated himself. He's someone, who I think with the proper training and pushing himself, can really go far in this sport."
Rex "The Mechanic" Allen made his debut at 190 with only three days notice. Allen has trained with Clark for a while and decided to give the cage a try.
"A guy backed out of the fight. Kaan called me and said, 'Do you want to fight?' I said, 'Yeah,'" Allen said. "I wanted to get my feet wet and see how it is."
Allen got a good taste of the cage and battled Kern Collymore (Lupton, Ariz.) tight for a 1 1/2 rounds. But the more experienced Collymore pinned Allen on his back and landed enough punches to win by TKO at the 2:09 mark of Round 2.
"It is what they say it is. My nerves got to me at first," said Allen, who plans to fight again. "I need to work on my ground game a little more. I got decent ground game, but there's still holes in it. It's back to the drawing board and will work at it more."
NOTES: The next King of the Cage fights at the Ute Mountain Casino are slated for Saturday, June 15.