This past Saturday some folks in the Tucson Area stayed home to watch MMA legend Randy Couture prove he can still hang at UFC 105. Many people surely stayed home to watch Manny Pacquiao strengthen his own legend in the realm of the sweet science.
Locally there was NASCAR just up the road in Phoenix, and right at home in Tucson the beloved Wildcats were waging their own war.
With so much going on either in Tucson or just in general on Saturday, the odds were against a good turnout at Rage In The Cage at the Desert Diamond Casino.
It was nice to see that even with all that, in a strong display of support for the sport, local fight fans flooded the Diamond Center for a solid night of fights.
The strong turnout made for a great crowd and the fights had them all cheering. The first fight to really get them going took place between Justin Purcell and Andrew Perez. In a back and forth battle both men had their moments.
Purcell wound up on the wrong end of a hard fought war but shined brightly regardless. Perez won by unanimous decision surely based on superior striking.
The two showed a great deal of sportsmanship after the fight. They talked as if they had been training partners for years. This sport can never boast enough of this type of class.
It is more abundant than the critics of MMA might know.
The next fight was one that was sure to impress. Darin Kelly would square off with Andres Acuna. In Acuna's debut he decimated Jose Diaz with strikes in under 20 seconds. We are talking very cold and precise striking.
This fight with Kelly went much different for Acuna but it showed he had more than just quick and powerful hands; he has heart and endurance too.
Kelly really got the better of Acuna and stifled his striking game with an impressive display of grappling well into the third round. Acuna persevered and eventually got Kelly down, picked him up and slammed him hard to the mat.
The venue echoed and then erupted as Kelly rolled over unable to continue. Acuna mounted the cage and the crowd responded to their warrior. Very intense.
It is worth noting that after the fight Acuna mentioned that it was his father's birthday. Mr. Acuna, who was in attendance, must have been very proud to see his son overcome the adversity he faced in this fight and succeed before his eyes on his birthday.
That is the good stuff.
What took place next is really something that this writer will never forget. Suffice to say MMA is not for the weak of mind, body, or soul. It is one of the more physically demanding and taxing sports one could pursue.
That said, you can imagine ones surprise when amputee Matt Betzold marched to the cage. In an exciting entrance he entered the cage, removed his prosthetic leg, and began to bounce around the cage in a very impressive display showing everyone that he is not handicapped.
Across the cage from Betzold is one of the most impressive amateur fighters in the Tucson area. Freddie Lux is a young fighter who is well on his way to making his mark on MMA. He trains at 6th Street Gym under Drew Fickett. At first glance, it might have seemed a mismatch.
Betzold quieted any doubts immediately.
It took about 30 seconds for everyone in the room to forget this fighter was missing his left leg from the knee down. In a fine display of grappling he got Lux down and got on top and began to hit him. Later he maneuvered into position and made Lux defend a guillotine. At one point in the match he even took Lux down.
Lux, as stated before, is one of the top up-and-coming fighters in the area. He truly is a gifted fighter. It took every bit of his talents to defeat Betzold, and he emerged victorious after a difficult test.
His comment at the end of the fight was spot on when he credited Betzold for his heart for competing in this sport. Betzold showed more heart and desire at RITC then some fighters on the biggest stages have shown as professionals.
Lux showed local fans once again why he will be included in the next generation of well rounded fighters.
Speaking of next generation fighters, keep your ears peeled for Nick "NyQuil" Rhoads. This fighter has devastating hands and a ground game to boot. He put on an impressive display of precision striking followed up by a beautiful triangle to end the evening of Manny Guajardo.
In the main event of the evening, Matt Dell put his featherweight strap on the line against UFC veteran George Roop. In an absolutely dominating fashion, Roop pounded Dell for three rounds with a crisp and sharp striking game that came from every angle.
The combos were quick and landed flush, and the jabs were plenty. Leg kicks distracted one moment then the next they were cutting to the bone.
Roop put on one of the finest displays of combat this writer saw Saturday night, after Ross Pearson and of course Manny Pacquiao.
It took until 3:30 in the morning to watch every event, but it was worth it.
In the end RITC did what it always does. Roland Sarria brings in some great local talent for fight fans. The Desert Diamond provides one of the sharpest and intimate local venues and the service is top notch. It makes for a very enjoyable evening of MMA.
These fights and others from this card can be found at the RITC website in a few days.