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Welterweight champion Jesse Juarez out-toughed Aussie young gun Robert
Whittaker on Friday night at Sydney Olympic Park to retain his belt. The fight
went the distance and was a testament to the conditioning of the fighters and
the quality of athletes the CFC has competing.
Cage Fighting Championship promoter Luke Pezzutti was pleased with how the event panned out. “The CFC has matured from adolescent into an adult tonight. It’s only on the up and up.”
The rest of the event had high and low points, including some explosive knockouts, a 15 second glimpse of K-1 legend Bob Sapp and a rare Twister submission. And if nothing else, was an exciting night of entertainment for the fans.
Albert Patu vs. Rami El Chaoufani
Patu came out strong, dictating the pace. He was the more aggressive striker with both his hands and feet, but when he went for a takedown he soon found himself in trouble. Chaoufani soon sunk in a rear naked choke which had Patu tapping at 3.22 into the first round.
Chaoufani had this to say afterwards, “He’s a big hitter, and I had to weather that storm to get the submission.”
Rory O’Connell vs. Rob Lista
This fight was one of the closest of the evening. O’Connell came out strong in the first round and looked skillful and relaxed, but Listita seemed the stronger of the two when grappling. The second round was a dominant grappling display from Listita, and had his opponent quite bloodied as it ended. The third was a back and forth scrap which looked like it could have gone either way at any time.
Rob Listita was awarded the W and was stoked with the result, “It was a big weight cut for me and I had to get the win.”
Jon Leven vs. James Vainikolo
Both fighters wanted a stand-up affair and that’s what they gave the audience. Vainikolo was the more versatile striker and bothered Leven throughout the first and second rounds with slick combos, but didn’t really go in for the kill.
Leven was courageous, but as Vainikolo turned up the heat in the third round, he was taken down powerfully by the Team Tehuna fighter. Vainikolo postured up on the deck and finished his opponent with heavy strikes.
Shabe Kafo vs. Kian Pham
Kafo looked a little bigger of the two in this 57kg affair and controlled most of the action from the get-go in a fight spent mostly on the ground. Pham looked good at times, but Kafo wouldn’t let up. Kafo again dominated in the second round and at 1min and 23 seconds he submitted Pham with a rare Twister submission.
“I felt like I had the edge in this fight,” said Kafo afterwards.
Dave Vergers vs. Manny Rodriguez
This fight started with high level striking from both fighters. Rodriguez seemed to be getting the more meaningful shots on his opponent, but to the shock of many local fans Vergers caught him with a powerful combo which knocked the TP Gym fighter out cold. Very exciting and we hope to see Rodriguez bounce back soon.
Dan Pauling vs. Corey Nelson
Nelson came into this fight looking pumped and confident. Pauling seemed a bit spaced-out, which was soon to amplified massively. Nelson asserted his striking ability early and had Pauling backing up awkwardly. And at just 33 seconds into the first round Nelson caught Pauling with a massive straight right which knocked him senseless to the canvas.
Commenting on his opponent after the fight, Nelson quipped “He had a 9–0 record coming in here tonight. Now it’s 9–1.”
Jeff Monson vs. Jim York
MMA legend Jeff Monson walked into the cage looking every one of his 41 years. York was younger and more athletic, but the American soon had him on his back after shooting in for a single-leg. The fight progressed slowly through the second in much the same way. The wily old warrior used his wrestling experience the grind on York and rack up the points. Monson spent most of the third round on top of his opponent, too and justifiably got the decision at the end.
Bob Sapp vs. Soa Palelei
One of the largest men in combat sports entered the arena to massive applause, but after only 12 seconds with Palelei he was leaving to a chorus of boos. Palelei stormed in with heavy punches and Sapp retreated, fell over and was quickly finished with strikes via TKO. Not much of a fight, but it at least had people talking.
Robert Whittaker vs. Jesse Juarez
This CFC welterweight world title was the fight everyone had been waiting for. Local boy Whittaker had a stadium of support against his American opponent. Round one was very close with Juarez looking the better grappler. Rounds two and three were much the same with Whittaker looking strong at times, but a few silly decisions cost him long spells on his back.
Round four was very close, with Juarez looking spent. The crowd got behind Robbie who began striking well and started fighting a more sensible fight off the floor. Robbie couldn’t maintain the pressure, though. Round five was the same with the Aussie looking like he could finish Juarez if he sustained the striking, but Juarez’s wrestling skills kept shutting him down.
Juarez was awarded a unanimous decision and had this to say, “He was tougher than I thought. It took a lot of heart to get through those last two rounds.”
Whittaker thanked his legions of fans and paid tribute to Juarez, “He took some of my biggest hits and was very tough.”
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