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  Team Elite is just that at Warrior’s Cage

By Damian Marquez

PORTERVILLE, Calif. – Visalia fighter Cody Gibson wasn’t pulling any punches during  the Warrior’s Cage Beat Down mixed martial arts show on Friday night at the Eagle Mountain Casino in Porterville.

“When I first started fighting, I was just a wrestler,” Gibson said. “Now I’m training with the best fight team in the entire Valley.”

Visalia’s Team Elite made its case as the Valley’s best fight team in the San Joaquin Valley by going an impressive 3-0 on Friday night.

Gibson showed he has come a long way as a fighter by winning fight of the night honors in a three-round war with Fresno Kickboxing Academy fighter Art Becerra. Gibson dug deep in an extremely entertaining fight to pull out the unanimous decision victory. All three judges scored it 29-28.

But what made Gibson’s win so impressive was taking the fight on just nine day notice and having to shred 23 pounds in that amount of time to make weight for the 145-pound fight. Gibson dominated Becerra in the first round, but appeared to be gassed in the second round and Becerra took advantage. Gibson seemed to be down and out, but dug deep and used his much stronger wrestling skills to gain top advantage and ground and pound Becerra.

“I felt like I won the first round” Gibson said. “My wrestling was just on a different level. I was gassed in the second round, but a part of the game plan tonight was to have a gut check and dig deep.”Gibson did just that as he improved to 4-1 in his MMA career.

Mike Cook, who joined Team Elite just before Christmas, stepped into the cage for the first time in over six months since straining his bicep.

And Cook looked like a rejuvenated fighter, stopping Gladiator Challenge light heavyweight champion Mike Gonzales in 3 minutes, 5 seconds with an arm triangle. He improved to 11-8 and Gonzales dropped to 6-2.

“It feels so good to win,” Cook said. “I’ve been out for six months and I dehydrated for the last three days. My throat was swollen shut last night so it was worth it.”

Cook and Gonzales came out swinging, but it was only a matter of time before the fight went to the ground where Cook felt he had the advantage.

“The game plan was to land a right, follow with a left hook and then another right and take both his legs out,” Cook said. “He landed some good shots and did a good job, but then we went to the ground where I felt stronger than him.”

Mauricio Mejia made it a perfect 3-for-3 for Team Elite. Mejia, fighting at heavyweight for the first time, improved to 6-1 in his career with a victory over Robert Gonzales.

Mejia locked in another arm triangle, forcing Gonzales to tap out 1:34 into the third round.

Mejia is another fighter who took the fight on short notice, but it was a gamble that paid off.

And now he will look to drop weight because he didn’t like getting hit by the heavyweights. He said the hardest he had been hit in the past was by his trainer Doug Marshall.

Mejia was happy with the victory, but wasn’t completely pleased with his performance.

“I’m my own worst critic,” he said. “But I can tell you that I’m not fighting at heavyweight anymore.”

In the main event of the night, The Ultimate Fighter veteran Jamie Yager made quick work of Marcus Gaines, winning via rear-naked choke in just 1:30.

There was some bad blood heading into the bout from some trash talk and a physical altercation that took place at the weigh-in before. And true to the form that made Yager such a disliked figure on the reality television show, he slapped Gaines in the back of the head as he was getting pulled off by the referee.

Yager taunted Gaines and played to the crowd after the fight. Gaines wanted to go after Yager some more, but both fighters were restrained by the officials in the cage.

A pair of fighters making comebacks showed no ring-rust as they took care of their opponents with two first round stoppages.

“King Arthur” Art Arciniega needed just 21 seconds to lock in a guillotine choke and put Jason Drake to sleep. Arciniega was rewarded with the submission of the night bonus.

The last time Arciniega fought was March 10, 2010 when he fought for Playboy Fight Night. He improved to 9-4.

And Kenny Ento, the former Palace Fighting Championship, 185-pound title holder, returned to action to beat Cheyandre Johnson just 1:49 into the first round. Ento made quick work of Johnson. He recorded a takedown and quickly jumped on top where he landed some vicious ground and pound, forcing the referee to step in and stop the fight. The fight was the first one since Nov. 20, 2008 for Ento. He improved to 10-5.

It didn’t take very long for Porterville fighter Javi Ayala to win his MMA debut. Ayala defeated Gary LaFrankie in just 41 seconds. Ayala used a sweeping leg kick to the back of LaFrankie’s knee to knock him down. He immediately jumped on LaFrankie with some vicious ground and pound, forcing him to tap out verbally.

Visalia fighter Luis Gonzalez picked up the first victory of his career by forcing Nevada City’s Nick Sperling to tap out 2:36 into the second round. Gonzalez, fighting for the Samurai Dojo, improved to 1-1 and Sperling fell to 0-2.

In a controversial match, Bakersfield’s Oscar Martinez picked up his first pro victory against Porterville’s Daniel Boelter. The referee stopped the fight thinking Boelter was knocked out, but it appeared as if he wasn’t. The fight was stopped 2:12 into the first round because of strikes.

Porterville fighter Chris Pavon was dominant in his professional MMA debut. Pavon, a 135-pounder fighting out of the Garage, wasted very little time in shooting in for the takedown and  getting top position on Fresno’ Avery Kayeo, who was also making his pro debut. Pavon worked his ground and pound until the referee stepped in to stop the fight with just two seconds remaining in the first round.

Bakersfield fighter Enrique Guillen improved to 2-0 in his career with a victory over Lemoore’s Jake Hunter. Guillen locked in a guillotine choke, forcing Hunter to tap out 1:15 into the first round.

It probably wasn’t the kind of ending he would have wanted, but Adam Calderon was impressive in his victory over Tule River’s Dakota Bell (2-1). Calderon, fighting out of Porterville, was explosive with his striking, landing several big punches and hurting Bell on a couple of occasions. Bell hung tough, but verbally tapped out to the referee after a knee to the groin area. The fight was stopped 0:55 into the second round. Calderon improved to 2-0.

In a matchup of two Porterville fighters making their MMA debuts, Carlos Cordero walked out with a win. Cordero mounted Anthony Wedlock and finished him off with some vicious ground and pound 2:47 into the second round.

Bakersfield fighter Victor Torres improved to 3-0 in his young career in the opening bout of the night. Torres defeated Alex Rojas, of team Buhawe, via unanimous decision in a very exciting bout. The fight was contested mostly on the ground but featured several reversals and some impressive ground work by Torres.