Alvaro Cifuentes securing the takedown. | Credit: Oscar Pereyra

A packed card full of fighters from all around the Central Coast came to compete inside the caged octagon within the Samala Showroom when the WFC 151 (World Fighting Championships) took place on Saturday, April 22, at the Chumash Casino Resort. The WFC showcases various fighting styles, including mixed martial arts (MMA), boxing, Muay Thai, and kickboxing, and the event featured bouts from weight classes ranging from 120-pound to 280-pound fighters.

Alvaro Cifuentes entering the Samala Showroom. | Credit: Oscar Pereyra

The night started off with a fast-paced MMA bout in the 125-pound weight class featuring Brandon Lazcano versus Johnny Alonzo. Both represent local gyms — Paragon Academy and Valhalla Martial Arts Kickboxing and Fitness. Lazcano’s vicious kick combinations, along with his sharp striking skills, were seemingly too much for Alonzo. Lazcano took advantage of his weakened opponent and set up the knockout finish (TKO) in the second round.

The second of nine fights was another MMA bout in the heavyweight division that put Mario Neblina versus Jacob Armendariz. A fast takedown from Neblina allowed him to have control for most of the first round. Neblina’s top pressure overpowered Armendariz, who tapped to a rear naked choke 47 seconds into the second round.

The first women’s fight of the night was a kickboxing bout at 130 pounds. Claire Luo of Paragon Academy faced Vanessa McKay out of Stoic Boxing, which is located in El Paso, Texas. Luo was a roaring crowd favorite and used the energy to her advantage quickly. Her display of precise kicks and strikes led the way to two knockdowns within the first two rounds and, most importantly, a victory by unanimous decision.

Claire Luo walking towards the octagon. | Credit: Oscar Pereyra

The only Muay Thai bout took place as the fourth fight of the night, and Fighters Kevin Guzman and Jesse Lara entered the showroom ready to go. The distinction between Muay Thai and typical striking is the variety of striking techniques, which may include elbows and knees and can be an advantage. Both fighters were engaging early and using their elbows frequently. A tough battle ended in a Lara TKO in the second round.

One of the more action-packed fights was an MMA bout featuring Alvaro Cifuentes out of Paragon Academy versus Anzel Griffith of Morumbi Jiu Jitsu & Fitness Academy in Ventura County. Griffith got off to a fast start, landing a strike that knocked Cifuentes down within the first minute of round one, but after absorbing the strike, Cifuentes returned to his feet. A quick scramble to the ground allowed Griffith to attack the back and attempt a rear naked choke, but Cifuentes utilized his grappling defense skills to escape the submission attempt. At the start of the second round, Cifuentes landed strikes and utilized his Brazilian jiu-jitsu to bring his opponent down with ease. Cifuentes managed to land punches from full mount position, which made it difficult for Griffith to attack or transition to a better position. As the fight continued, Cifuentes managed to attack the back and slammed Griffith to the ground hard, which was later deemed a TKO by the referee before the start of the third round, giving Cifuentes the victory. 

After his fight, Cifuentes described his experience, “I trained really hard for this fight. Having a really good team at Paragon helped me out so much. I’d like to thank my coach Jake Sandoval for giving up his free time to coach me in MMA. I thought this was a really great first debut, and I’m proud to have fought through adversity.”

Bill “The Grill” Cooper celebrating his victory. | Credit: Oscar Pereyra

A 280-pound heavyweight MMA match between James Kirby and Cody Sons looked to be an even fight as both fighters appeared eager and ready to start. Once the fight began, it was all Sons, who won in a convincing fashion. Sons unleashed powerful strikes immediately and landed a knockout punch within 13 seconds into the first round. The crowd roared with excitement, and Sons was exuberant after his performance in the octagon.

Monica Willenborg landing a strike. | Credit: Oscar Pereyra

The final women’s bout was another kickboxing showdown at 120 pounds featuring Monica Willenborg against Jordyn Edewards. The match was one of the more strategic fights of the night, with both fighters being patient and waiting for the right opportunity to strike. Both fighters showcased their kickboxing skills respectfully. In the end, it was Edewards with the unanimous decision victory at the end of three rounds.

The co-main event was an MMA bout in the 145-pound weight class that had David Acosta versus Kasen “Krispy” Matsch. At the start of round one, both fighters exchanged jabs, until Acosta was able to land a takedown and establish a full mount position. Acosta managed to switch from top to bottom control and finished his opponent with a TKO in 55 seconds of the first round.

As for the main event of the night, fans were treated to a MMA fight at 155 pounds between Bill “The Grill” Cooper and Emilio Chavez. As some local MMA fans know, Cooper is a legend among the jiu-jitsu community, having been the youngest American to have achieved a black belt in jiu-jitsu at the time. As the final match began, Cooper rushed Chavez with a flying knee attempt that almost hit Chavez straight in the chin. As Chavez tried to retain his guard against Cooper, it was already too late. Cooper clearly wanted the fight on the ground so he could display his dominant jiu-jitsu skills. The Grill attempted various submissions in a matter of seconds, transitioning from a d’arce choke attempt  to a triangle choke attempt to finally a successful armbar that sealed the victory in the first round for the local legend.

Bill Cooper with a tight squeeze on his opponent. | Credit: Oscar Pereyra


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