Cage Fury ended 2017 with their 69th rendition of their fight card on Saturday. Highlighted by 3 title fights after a last minute bout got scrapped featuring featherweight, bantamweight and flyweight title defenses by Pat Sabatini, Ricky Bandejas and Sean Santella respectively.
“Shorty Rock” has been a staple of the regional MMA scene for nearly a decade but has been looking to take a bazooka to the iron gates that are the UFC. The latest guard standing at the gate? VFC champion Kevin Gray. Evident from the start, Santella looked comfortable and without a care in the world going in. He confirmed that with me later postfight. Once Kevin Gray took a shot in the rest was elementary.
The black belt rolled through securing a guillotine on Gray and forcing the tap at 2:44 in the 1st. After the fight Santella kept coming back to those iron gates. “Im better than all these prospects at flyweight in the UFC,” Santella said in the cage post fight.
“They keep putting them in front of me I keep putting them down.”
“Confidence,” Santella told me after the bout when speaking to his different approach. “I train with the best guys. If I didn’t think it would pay off I wouldn’t do it. These guys prepare me for war. Now it’s just a matter of going in there and having fun.” He’s also a different fighter now compared to years past saying,
“I finally kind of got a hold of this striking thing a little bit. I’m a little more confident standing. So I think that opens up because people aren’t expecting that. They’re like, ‘Just wait for Shorty to shoot.’ I’m forcing people to shoot on me which I never do. It’s shocking a lot of people.”
One of the biggest differences for Santella is also a change in mindset. While the UFC is still the priority it’s not eating away at him like it once did.
“I think I got caught up in it. I believe I should be there but I try not to obsess over it. I got a job to do and I hate losing. I don’t need a lot of motivation. I don’t need someone saying if you win this fight you’re going into the UFC. Do I think I deserve it? Absolutely. But it’s just a matter of me calming down and enjoying myself and knowing the guys I’m fighting aren’t going to do anything that the guys in my training and sparring sessions haven’t done day in and day out.”
At bantamweight Ricky Bandejas took on his toughest test to date in Bellator vet Nick Mamalis. One of the biggest questions behind Bandejas is how would he handle a a tough veteran like Mamalis. It went four rounds but Bandejas persevered as the fight wore on. A surge at the end of round 3 helped him build momentum going into the 4th. Bandejas finally put Mamalis down with a KO in the 4th but it was hardly to his liking. Bandejas simply stated after the fight,
“Not my best performance. No excuse. I'll be better next time,”
Defending his belt at featherweight, Pat Sabatini found an opening time and again against Cisco Isata on the ground and he took full advantage. After being put on the mat with a shot early in the first, Sabatini took Isata to school with his submissions. Isata was forced to try and defend time and again throughout the first and the second. However, Sabatini made him pay the ultimate price for failing to protect his neck time and again retaining his belt thanks to a rear-naked choke in the second.
In main card non-title action Santo Curatolo scored quite possibly the stoppage of the evening with a head kick KO of Robiel Tesfaldet. 3:48 into the 1st the TSK rep out of Yonkers turned the crowd on its head with the stoppage.
Ryan Cafaro came into the cage with a jacket “Korean Thunder.” It seemed the only one not to notice was Jarred Mercado. As soon as the opening bell sounded Cafaro flew in with a flying knee attempt that left Mercado with a gash but not the win...yet. Mercado survived the first but wasn’t prepared for another onslaught in the 2nd. 38 seconds in Cafaro latches on the ninja choke and scored the submission victory.
As was the case of the main card, the preliminary action at CFFC 69 was filled with stoppages including a heavyweight battle between Shawn Teed and Alex Myers. While both are listed as heavyweights, Myers was just overwhelmed by the size advantage Teed had over him. At 3:47 in the 2nd, Teed secured the keylock to score the submission win.
Lighter weight action saw Al Jones steamroll Jack Hartenstine with a TKO win two minutes in the first. Joe Solecki also scored a first round stoppage over Johnson Jajoute via rear-naked choke at 3:23. BJ Young - not wanting to be left out of the party - scored an even quicker rear-naked choke just 1:25 into the opening round. In other preliminary action saw the Daukaus brothers go 2-0 in middleweight and heavyweight action respectively. Kyle Daukaus opened the night with a D’arce choke submission win over Tyler Bayer at 2:32 in the 2nd. Meanwhile Chris Daukaus scored a 1st round KO win over former CFFC heavyweight champ Plinio Cruz. After the win Daukaus took to the mic stating his desire for a title opportunity like Teed saying,
“I want that belt.”
Lutfi Sariahmed has been covering Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) in some capacity since 2008, primarily with Sherdog. He's covered local NJ MMA promotions including Ring of Combat and Cage Fury Fighting Championships.
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