There were 16 fights and 32 mixed martial artists on hand Saturday night at the open bleachers outside of the Ute Mountain Casino in Towaoc for King of the Cage, High Altitude.
Local favorites from Cortez and Dove Creek lit up the cage and the home fans on a beautiful night with temperatures in the mid-70ss.
The action really heated up in the final three matches of the night. Cortez fighter Isaque Sandman Martinez headlined the night against Javier Rubio, of Ruidoso, N.M., in the professional main event. Local favorite Elsie Henri, of McElmo Canyon, took on Amylynn Salopek (Las Cruces, N.M.) in the female pro fight, and crowd pleaser Grant Hobbs headlined the amateurs fighting Durangos Kevin Wirth.
Montezuma Martial Arts Studio saw its fighters go 2-1 on the night. Manny Ruiz, 18, got things started at 145 pounds against Kyle Van Horn of Grand Junction. Ruiz didnt waste time, as he quickly took Van Horn down to the ground. After a few body jabs, Ruiz got Van Horn in perfect position and secured an armbar hold forcing a tapout at the 1:19 mark of the first round. I could feel his arm and I grabbed hold of his wrist. My plan was to just stretch his arm out and I was going to hang on to it as long as possible and stretch him out, Ruiz said.
Ruiz, now 1-1, may put his career on hold for a while, so he can train to become a professional fighter.
Cortez amateur Dominic Pit Bull Gustamantes dropped to 0-3 at 165 pounds against the heavier Loren Shorty of Gallup, N.M.
The next fighter representing Montezuma Martial Arts was 145-pounder Zach Larimore who faced Albuquerques Charlie Williams.
Larimores 3-0 unbeaten streak came to an end with a Williams chokehold in Round 1.
The next fight featured two rivals at 125 pounds Grant Hobbs representing Vicious Strength MMA (Durango) against Kevin Wirth of Durango Martial Arts.
Hobbs basically dominated the fight. Not many punches were thrown, but the two grappled on the ground, where Hobbs, who has a strong wrestling background from Dove Creek High School, took control. Hobbs was on the bottom but he had Wirth right where he wanted. Hobbs locked his opponent in an armbar to win the fight at the 1:20 mark of Round 1. It was Hobbs third straight win by armbar and fourth victory overall, as he serenaded the crowd to raucous cheers of joy.
You know, this one tops it all, said Hobbs, who is now 7-2. I get better on the ground, because I put hard work into it. I backed up my end of it tonight. My camp works hard.
The first pro bout of the night was between women at 125 pounds. Henri quickly raced to Salopeks corner with a jumping body kick to seize control early. The women bumped and popped each other against the cage before Henri wrestled Salopek to the ground, then Henri landed several devastating blows to the face. Henri dominated the first round with a punishing performance. Salopek suffered a broken nose in the fight and felt she couldnt continue in the second round and Henri jumped in jubilation, being declared the winner by corner stoppage.
I didnt expect her to (quit). I was ready to go into the second round, said the mother of four. I could definitely feel that she was weak from her weight cut. I didnt have to cut much weight, so I felt real strong, real ready. She just took a lot of damage.
Henri is now 5-4 and undefeated in home matches.
These are my people, they came to see me, theyre here to support me. It just gives me a lot of readiness, a lot of focus, a lot of just motivation to get out there and give them what they came to see, she said.
The final fight of the night was the Sandman against Rubio at 185 pounds. Rubio went to a jiu jitsu strategy to try an avoid boxing Martinez, where he can be down right deadly. Rubios game plan looked like it could pay off, as he had the Sandman secured for a better part of Round 1. The two continued to battle on the floor, but Martinez eventually escaped. In the second round, Martinez got in more of a comfort zone and landed some pulverizing punches that winded Rubio. It became apparent the Rubios best defense was to go to the ground. After surviving another round, Martinez was poised to end the fight. A little more than a minute into the third round, the Sandman locked Rubio in an armbar, but the referee missed the initial tapout by Rubio. This enabled Martinez to get a few more punches to the face in. The Sandman dealt the final blow with one more armbar and Rubio got the tapout he wanted and Martinez prevailed to 12-2.
I listened to my corner really well. They just helped me stay calm and take my punches. I used my jiu jitsu and stayed heavy on him, Martinez said. I was glad he took the fight on. Hes a very worthy opponent. Hes tough, man. He took some mean punches and tough elbows.
Reach Bobby Abplanalp at email@example.com