In a quick turnaround from their sellout show in March, the World Fighting Federation put on another stellar event for Arizona MMA fans. With a card that featured both amateur and pro fights, the WFF and their athletes made their first-ever appearance at the Wild Horse Pass Hotel and Casino as the proud guests of the Gila River Indian Community.
With their cage featured front and center in the intimate venue, the fighters took full advantage of a rabid MMA crowd and treated them to an amazing night of competition and fireworks. All the matchups had something to offer, but a few in particular were really memorable.
One performance that really stood out was that of amateur Justin Rascon who earned his second win in as many months. Fighting out of Boxing Inc. of Tucson, Arizona this young man made his MMA debut on March 2 and quickly made it clear that his lack of experience would not reflect in his competition.
Coming off a debut which saw the young fighter taken into deep waters and tested as he won a very impressive unanimous decision, he returned to the cage little more than a month later and seized another victory.
Securing a first-round armbar, Rascon was able to finish James Ramirez after a heated early exchange and scramble which saw the young Rascon again find his hand raised. It was the type of performance that makes fight fans remember a name and anticipate his next appearance.
In a potential fight-of-the-night performance, amateurs Jesse Van Dyke and Carlos Castro put on an all-out war that had the Arizona fight fans on their feet on more than one occasion. With repeated aggressive exchanges these two guys hooked up in the middle of the cage and really looked to bring the pain.
While Van Dyke had many strong moments that saw his striking really shine, it was the footwork, takedowns and mobility of Castro that really dictated the tone of the fight. Both fighters had strong moments in which they both performed well but in the end Castro leaned the opinion of the judges ever so slightly in his favor. Still, both fighters walked out of the cage proud and with their heads held high after putting on such an amazing scrap for the fans sitting cage-side.
In the first title fight of the evening, undefeated pro and local fan favorite Benny Madrid put his WFF lightweight strap on the line against Shawn Fitzsimmons of Las Vegas. Fitzsimmons traveled deep into enemy territory to face the champion Madrid and for his trouble was battered with precision and relentless striking.
Madrid was able to dictate the pace and control the exchanges all while showcasing an elevated prowess for striking as he defended his title yet again. Then Fitzsimmons succumbed to strikes midway through the second as the knees and strikes of Madrid forced the third man in the cage to call a stop to the action.
Madrid advanced to 8-0 and one has to imagine with his flair for the finish and deep following in the Arizona desert that it is only a matter of time before the phone rings and he is invited to compete at a higher level.
In a fight that can only be described as inspirational, amputee Matt Betzold looked to defend his flyweight WFF title against Gene Perez. Betzold did exactly that and once again he toppled the odds and the doubt when he answered the questions anyone may have had as they watched him dominate Perez on his way to a vicious guillotine choke in under a minute.
At first glance, Betzold may leave an MMA fan scratching their head as they watch a man without one of his legs take his corner inside a cage. Yet, win, lose or draw, every time he competes there isn’t a question left in the room other than "When is this guy competing again?"
He has been involved in many wars in front of his fans, but his last two bouts have been dominant performances that ended in lethal first-round submission finishes. The changes he has made to his training and approach to fighting have been paying healthy dividends and it will be exciting to see how he moves forward from this most recent title defense.
In the main event of the evening, Olympic Gold Medalist Henry Cejudo made his third appearance inside the cage since his debut in early March. Across the cage from him this time was Anthony Sessions of Jackson’s MMA.
There is no gentle way of putting it other than to say that Cejudo looked like a man among boys as he absolutely dominated Sessions to win the WFF bantamweight title. Repeated takedowns were the expectation and they came with a certain degree of ease which should be demanded of an Olympic medalist.
It was really the striking of Cejudo that left the strongest impression on those looking on. His lightning quick speed combined with powerful aggression was apparent in striking exchanges on both the feet and from the guard as he towered over his opponent.
His ground and pound was flawless and lightning quick, which is a testament to his commitment to becoming the total package, not just another great wrestler making the transition to MMA. The self-proclaimed “Inspiration” showed how capable he is of transitioning to MMA and to meet the demand of a sport that has such high expectations of even its most promising athletes.
Make no mistake, Cejudo is the real deal and it is only a matter of time before his career escalates. At the pace he is improving already, it won’t take long at all. It is worth noting that in the corner of Sessions was former UFC flyweight title contender John Dotson. While Cejudo just won the WFF bantamweight title, it was at 121 pounds that he won Olympic gold.
One has to wonder if Dotson was looking on wondering if it will only be a matter of time before he could be looking across the Octagon at the rise of the MMA career of Henry Cejudo.
While Cejudo was the celebrity of the night, it was a solid performance by all those who showed up to compete for the WFF and their guests this past Friday evening. Each and every athlete should have taken something back to their gyms with them to either build on or be proud of.
It was yet another step in the forward progress of one of Arizona’s premier MMA organizations. The staff of the WFF was able to live up to the reputation they have established as they put on another phenomenal show. The next one can’t come soon enough.