Xplode Fight Series rebounds with their finest show ever

After winning the XAFS Light weight Championship over J. R. Cruz, Francisco Castro (holding the belt) is joined by his very large fan club which includes his wife (R) and two children (out front), plus fellow team members, Marines from MCAS Miramar and dear friends. Photo: Jim Wyatt

Valley Center, CA, Saturday, April 21, 2012

Last time out, the MMA critics were all over the Xplode Fight Series people for delivering a pedestrian show. Just like in the NFL, when a football team has a clunker one week, they usually rebound the following week. That’s just what the XFS staff did.

To make this rebound certain, they painstakingly signed some of the most spirited, grittiest Mixed Martial Artists this reviewer has ever seen on one fight card, bar none.

Adrien Ortega (C) rests on the shoulders of his two coaches Sean Loeffler (R) and Andy Schnadig (L) after his grueling battle with Ben Khoshaba. Photo: Jim Wyatt

Bout #1 had Ben Khoshaba of the Undisputed Fitness and Training Center in San Diego’s Downtown, a former standout wrestler, going up against Adrien Ortega of The Compound in Oceanside, CA.

Bout #1 winner, Ben Khoshaba, works and trains at the Undisputed Gym located in San Diego's Downtown.

After more than a few furious exchanges, Khoshaba ended up with top position on Ortega and went back and forth with punches to the body then head. Even with the beating he was taking, Ortega managed to get free and back on his feet.

With Khoshaba in hot pursuit, it didn’t take long before he was back on top to deliver even more blows to both sides of Ortega’s head. With Ortega taking a real beating, referee Ben Lagman finally stepped in to stop the contest.

Winner of Bout #2, Daniel Garcia (L) has his arms raised in victory by referee Ben Lagman and XFS CEO Gregg Sharp, Saturday, April 21, 2012 in Valley Center, CA. Photo: Jim Wyatt

Bout #2 had Daniel Garcia of Team Quest, Temecula going up against Jose Lopez of Undisputed, El Cajon, CA. After believing no contest could outshine the first, the combatants in Bout #2 were even more intense.

At first both fighters, tried to get their range, Lopez by kicking and Garcia by throwing the jab. puncher and down went Garcia until he got a reversal. After a clinch, Garcia threw a knee to Lopez’s midsection then slammed him hard to land in side control. Lopez worked his way back to guard. Garcia then postured up to work an aggressive ground and pound.

Lopez attempted a triangle choke which Garcia escaped and passed again to side control working his way to a crucifix position against the cage. He eventually passed to a mount when Garcia attempted his own triangle and transitioned to the armbar before the horn ended round one.

In the second round Lopez landed two leg kicks before Garcia checked the third and worked around the cage. Lopez stepped in and Garcia landed a hard left hook, right cross combo that rattled Lopez. Garcia then fired off many unanswered blows before Lopez was forced to shoot on Garcia which he then stuffed and went around to obtain the rear naked choke for the inevitable tapout.

Grant Hankinson (R) looks on as his opponent Wayne Phillips has his arms raised in victory by XFS CEO Gregg Sharp (L) and referee Ben Lagman (R). Photo: Jim Wyatt

Bout #3 featured Wayne Phillips of The Compound going up against Grant Hankinson of the Grand Master Soto/1 on 1 Fight Co. Team of El Cajon, CA.

Early on, Phillips did most of his damage with a head snapping left jab, whereas Hankinson used some solid right hands and kicks that appeared to be hobbling Phillips. Then all of a sudden, the guy who appeared to be in cruise control, Hankinson, got caught by a KO punch and down he went.

Ryan Barrow (L) looks on as his opponent Lawrence Payton has his arms raised in victory by referee Ben Lagman (L) and XFS CEO Gregg Sharp.

Bout #4 saw Ryan Barrow of Chute Boxe of Long Beach, CA getting caught in the first round by a devastating punch from Lawrence Payton of Victory MMA, Point Loma. The way Payton moved and used his hands, he looked more like a natural boxer intent on staying away from any grappling. With his footwork and reach advantage, he just kept popping Barrow from a distance and eventually set him up for the big overhand right.

Mixed Martial Artists Ivan Weston (L) and Jarred Laughlin (R), the eventual winner of Bout #5, await the announcement of the winner. Photo: Jim Wyatt

Bout #5 saw Jared Laughlin of Team Quest defeat Ivan Weston (an Independent). After a quick takedown, Laughlin almost immediately had his forearm sliding around his opponent’s neck, legs up and in the perfect position for the Guillotine Choke.

Luis Ruvalcaba (L) has his arm raised in victory after defeating Ray McClary (R). Photo: Jim Wyatt

Bout #6 between Luis Ruvalcaba of Xplode MMA, Escondido and Ray McClary of Undisputed in San Diego’s Downtown was an extraordinary match when you consider the size difference. Ruvalcaba must be a good 12 inches taller than McClary, plus the intensity and quickness of both men was remarkable.

McClary, with the heavier hands, took more blows in order to get in close and deliver his own. Choke holds were escaped and takedowns were reversed. In the end, Ruvalcaba won by a split decision. 

Saturday, April 21, 2012, Mike Zoelzer (L), the eventual winner of Bout #7, and his opponent, Paul Woo (R) await the judges' decision. Photo: Jim Wyatt

Bout #7 had Mike Zoelzer of the Boxing Works in Hermosa Beach, CA going up against Paul Woo of the U. S. Marine Corps Fight Team located on MCAS Miramar. They were the perfect foil for each other, the wickedly fast and high kicking Zoelzer, going up against the more closed stance, hard punching, muscularly built Woo.

After Woo managed to land the harder shots in Round #1, back came Zoelzer to take Round #2 by outworking Woo and landing his own shots to the head.

Zoelzer, the more experienced of the two, began Round #3 with a takedown and was soon on top delivering some ground and pound. After Zoelzer’s performance in Round #3, the decision was never in doubt.

Dylan Barrelas (L), the eventual winner, and Jose Gomez (R) are shown waiting for the judges' decision regarding their bout on Saturday, April 21, 2012 in Valley Center, CA. Photo: Jim Wyatt

Bout #8 was between Jose Gomez of Grand Master Soto/1 on 1 Fight Co. Team in El Cajon and Dylan Barrelas of Xplode MMA, Escondido, CA. It was another bout between Gomez, the boxer and Barrelas, the grappler and since Barrelas was able to tie Gomez up, the majority of the bout was fought either in the clinches or down on the mat. The close decision went to the more effective grappler.

Beau Hart (R) offers his applause after Michael Pollinger (L) has his arm raised in victory by referee Ben Lagman and XFS CEO Gregg Sharp. Photo: Jim Wyatt

Bout #9 had Michael Pollinger of Chute Boxe in Longbeach, CA going up against the 47-year-old Beau Hart a well respected Independent. The youngster, Pollinger, did everything he could to get Hart out of there early but not even a choke hold could get Hart to tap out in the first round.

Then facing each other before the start of Round #2, there was the familiar Hart smile. The smile that says, ‘Is that all you got?’ Pollinger ignored the gesture and began again to out-slug and out-kick the veteran. Finally, Pollinger got Hart in a perfect rear naked choke hold to force the veteran to tap.

Oscar Gonzalez (L) has his arm raised in victory after defeating Richard Horne (R). Photo: Jim Wyatt

Bout #10 had Oscar Gonzalez, last year’s Epic Fighting lightweight champ from Victory MMA, Point Loma, going up against the always tough Richard Horne of 1 on 1 Fight Co. in El Cajon.

After the feeling out round, things got hot in the second round and it appeared Gonzalez was getting the worst of it. Frustrated by several blows to the head, Gonzalez landed an uppercut on Horne’s chin well after the horn sounded. If looks could kill, Horne gave the impression there was some definite payback on the way.

With the momentum switching back and forth in the final frame, this bout was up for grabs. Then, in the closing seconds, Gonzalez got the upper hand and was on top of Horne delivering some of his ground and pound. No doubt, this development made the judges’ decision easier.

Millard Lutu (L) has his arm raised in victory after defeating Daniel Cessena (R). Photo: Jim Wyatt

Bout #11 had Millard Lutu, an Independent, winning an unanimous decision over Daniel Cessena of Undisputed, El Cajon. Both fighters were above average strikers and at one point it looked like a knockout might be in the cards. Even though Cessena finished strong, Lutu had done more than enough in the early Rounds to get the nod.

Jonathan Carter (L) has his arm raised in victory after defeating Aaron Peet (R). Photo: Jim Wyatt

Bout #12 featured Jonathan Carter of Chute Boxe in Longbeach, CA. going up against Aaron Peet of the Undisputed Gym in San Diego’s Downtown. Carter began the first round at such a frantic pace, you would had thought he had overdosed on some Five Hour Energy Drink.

It was inconceivable that he could continue at this pace without punching himself out. Sure enough, Carter did slow down which did allow Peet to get back in the contest. After a Carter takedown was reversed, Peet had yet another opportunity to retaliate.

Just when you thought Peet might make a contest out it, Carter delivered a knockout blow. The punch came with just 25 seconds left on the clock in Round #2.

Austin Wourms (L) stands off to the side, while his opponent Ruben Valdivona gets recognized for the win in Bout #13. Photo: Jim Wyatt

Ruben Valdivona (C) has his arm raised in victory after defeating Austin Wourms. Photo: Jim Wyatt

Bout #13 featured Ruben Valdivona of Xplode MMA, Escondido going up against Austin Wourms of Undisputed, El Cajon. Valdivona came out of the shoot so fast, Wourms never had a shot. Valdivona’s final flurry of unanswered blows led to an early stoppage.

Erick Kapp is down for the count after getting smacked by Allen Bose. Photo: Jim Wyatt

Allen Bose (R) has his arm raised in victory after defeating Erick Kapp (L). Photo: Jim Wyatt

Bout #14 was a record setter. Allen Bose, of the U. S. Marine Corps Fight Team on MCAS Miramar, a big guy known for his heavy hands, ko’ed his opponent, Independent Erick Kapp at the five-second mark of Round #1. The previous record for an early stoppage was six seconds.

Charlie Archer has his arm raised in victory after defeating Deryk Orsat (L). Photo: Jim Wyatt

Bout #15 featured the “Comeback of the Show” with Deryk Orsat of Xplode MMA in nearby Escondido, CA going up against Charlie Archer of American Fortitude Martial Arts Academy in Santee.

After getting his face bloodied from blows to the head and almost being choked out by Orsat in the final seconds of Round #1, Mr. Archer made an amazing comeback.

As the referee signaled for the fighters to begin Round #2, it appeared Orsat was not as ferocious as he was in Round #1. He may have lost a step or perhaps punched himself out. This development had Archer taking full advantage and soon it was Archer on top of Orsat. Before long, the referee stopped the bout declaring Archer, a TKO winner.

On Saturday, April 21, 2012, Chris Beeby is shown getting the well deserved win over Brandon Doucette (R). Photo: Jim Wyatt

Bout #16 featured Chris Beeby of The Arena MMA Gym in Point Loma, San Diego going up against Brandon Doucette of 1 on 1 Fight Co. in El Cajon.

Even though Doucette scored two takedowns in Round #1, he was getting the worst of the exchanges. You could tell from the blood and scrapes on his face.

Beeby took control in Round #2 with a takedown, a dandy kick to Doucette’s head and finally a second takedown that resulted in a top mount from which he began to pummel Doucette. Since Doucette wouldn’t quit, the referee had to step in and stop the contest.

Daniel Robledo has his arms raised in victory by referee Ben Lagman and XFS CEO Gregg Sharp (R) after defeating Alex Francis (R) on Saturday, April 21, 2012 in Valley Center.

Bout #17 featured Alex Francis of The Compound going up against Daniel Robledo of Undisputed Fitness & Training Center in San Diego’s Downtown.

After taking Francis’ best shots, amazingly Robledo kept coming until he had Francis in a rear naked choke hold.

Bout #18 winner, Marcos Rubio (R) has both arms raised in victory after defeating Jorge Juarez (L). Photo: Jim Wyatt

Bout #18 featured Jorge Juarez of Team Quest going up against Marcos Rubio who is trained by Excel Tabor of the Black House Team Nogueira Gym on Miramar Road in San Diego.

In this one, there may have been a big size difference but no difference in their hearts. Both men were dishing it out and both taking an even amount of punishment. Then just seconds before the horn sounded to end round one, Rubio had Juarez tap from a choke hold.

Suren Agadzhanyan (R), the eventual winner, and his opponent Tyler Pederson (L) await the announcement of the judges' decision for Bout #19. Photo: Jim Wyatt

Bout #19 had Tyler Pederson of East Los Angeles, an Independent, going up against Suren Agadzhanyan another protege of the Black House Team Nogueira Fight Team by way of the Republic of Armenia.

Calling Agadzhanyan an Amateur is a misnomer. He’s all muscle, zero body fat and well schooled. Soon after getting top position on Pederson, the fierce, accurate punches kept landing until the referee stepped in to stop the carnage. It will be very interesting to see who has the courage to test Agadzhanyan in his next match.

Kyle Klienschmidt is surrounded by his coaches and Arena MMA Team members after winning Bout #20 to become the XAFS Middleweight champion. Photo: Jim Wyatt

Kyle Klienschmidt has his arm raised by referee Ben Lagman (C) after defeating Brandon Maynard (R) in Bout #20 to win the XAFS Middleweight Championship. Photo: Jim Wyatt

The three remaining contests were all Championship bouts. Bout #20 for the XAFS middle weight crown had Kyle Klienschmidt of The Arena San Diego MMA Gym going up against Brandon Maynard of the Grand Master Soto/1 on 1 Fight Co. Team in El Cajon.

This match involved contrasting styles. For most of the fight it was like watching a chess match with Maynard, preferring to slug it out in the middle of the cage while his opponent preferred to get him down on the mat.

Someone had to prevail and it was Klienschmidt who was able to slip under the big overhand rights thrown by Maynard and thus negate his strength, that of going for the knockout. Once Klienschmidt had Maynard tied up, his superior grappling and jiu jitsu skills gave him the advantage.

Round #1 featured an immediate takedown by Klienschmidt with little if any punches being thrown. Round #2 was a repeat, only this time Klienschmidt added knee kicks to the sides and got in three solid punches to the head. It was déjà vu in the third round, as Klienschmidt continued to frustrate the big puncher. After going to the scorecards, Klienschmidt had this one by a landslide.

After being awarded the championship belt, Klienschmidt was invited to address the fans, “Well I pulled it off. Awesome feeling and a great fight. I have to thank my coaches who cornered me Jeff Clark and Pat Speight, my teammates Chris Beeby, Xavier Anderson and everyone else at The Arena MMA gym. Thank you to all my brothers from the El Cajon Fire Company that came out to support me and cheer me on. And I really appreciate Out For Blood clothing for sponsoring me tonight and making me a part of your team.”

Brandon Collins (L) has his arm raised in victory by referee Ben Lagman after defeating Gibran Alvarez (R). Photo: Jim Wyatt

Brandon Collins is joined by teammates plus coaches from his gym, The Compound. Photo: Jim Wyatt

Bout #21 for the XAFS heavyweight championship had Brandon Collins of The Compound in Oceanside going up against Gibran Alvarez of Victory MMA in Point Loma. When looking at their body types you would think Collins, having a body like Arnold Schwarzenegger in his prime, would definitely have the advantage over Alvarez who is more stocky.

Since the big guys are not supposed to be that mobile, that would make Alvarez and Collins an exception to the rule. From the outset this was a Battle Royale.

In Round #1, Collins got an early takedown and despite his efforts to hurt Alvarez with short straight punches, his opponent kept coming and putting on the pressure. As a judge you would have to award Round #1 to Collins.

In Round #2, Alvarez seemed to be going all out to even the score. A hard overhand right got Collins’ attention as he began to backpedal. After one exchange Alvarez got himself a takedown and went for the rear naked choke. This scenario was repeated and both times Collins managed to free himself from the choke hold.

After enjoying top position twice, Alvarez had to be frustrated by the successful roll overs and twists by Collins. All in all, the round went to Alvarez and Collins was physically spent plus had wobbly knees as he went to his stool. He was also in need of the cutman as a laceration above his left eye had a stream of blood coming down his face.

The third round would decide the winner. After clashing in the center of the octagon, Alvarez once again became the aggressor and this observer felt he had done enough to get the razor thin verdict. However, all three judges saw it differently and awarded Collins the Championship with identical scores of 29-28.

What such a close and exciting match, the Gibran “Joe-Joe” Alvarez supporters were upset and immediately booed the decision. Since the bout was razor thin, I heartily agree with the one gent who yelled out, “Give them one more round!”

After their battle Francisco Castro (L) and J. R. Cruz (R) await the announcement of the judges' decision. Photo: Jim Wyatt

After his victory, Francisco Castro is joined by his support staff which includes two Marine Corps Fight Team buddies, plus his lovely wife and two children. Photo: Jim Wyatt


The Francisco Castro fan club gathered around their hero for a group photo. Photo: Jim Wyatt


In a way it was befitting that Bout #22, for the XAFS Lightweight Championship between Staff Sergeant Francisco Castro of the U. S. Marine Corps Fight Team and J. R. Cruz, an Independent, end the way it did. It had been a long day and with all the hearts fluttering and pacemakers needing an adjustment from the excitement in the first 21 bouts, Castro most likely saved a few lives by ending the show with a quick TKO just seconds before the close of Round #1.

Not a big man in stature, Castro began the contest by picking his opponent up and once he had Cruz high overhead, he sent him crashing to the canvas. Unbelievable as it seems, Cruz fought on and took a ton of punishment right up until the stoppage.

From that point on, it was a Lovefest for the Castro fans which included his wife and two children, the members of his fight team, fellow Marines and the many friends who came out to support their hero.

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