Walking to Harrah's Casino in Council Bluffs, Iowa, the blinking lights and tall, colorfully arched hallways were filled with portraits of smiling, middle aged people with fortune far greater than my own. And like a moth to a flame, the cheers of winning and the clatter of large coins falling into the bucket of a slot machine, I am drawn to the pit of Roulette and Craps tables.
Walking to Harrahs Casino in Council Bluffs, Iowa, the blinking lights and tall, colorfully arched hallways were filled with portraits of smiling, middle aged people with fortune far greater than my own. And like a moth to a flame, the cheers of winning and the clatter of large coins falling into the bucket of a slot machine, I am drawn to the pit of Roulette and Craps tables.
Thankfully, before I get too far, a free standing advertisement reminds me of why Ive traveled across the state of Iowa. Extreme Cage Fighting, Thursday, May 6 th , Fights start at 8:00 pm. The sign breaks the Casino Trance and I turn down another hallway towards Extreme Challenge 57.
The main event was Miletich Fighting Systems standout Jeremy Horn against Team Quest rising star Chael Sonnen. Curtis Stout, Horns original opponent, was called up to fight in the UFCs next show on June 19, presumably against Lee Murray. With help from UFC matchmaker Joe Silva, Sonnen stepped in for Stout with just three days notice.
Before Sonnen would take the fight, some arrangements had to be made. First, the fight had to take place at 195 lbs. Horn has been making a name for himself at 185 and a win against Stout would have continued that streak. Sonnen naturally fights Light Heavyweight at 205 lbs. As an added incentive, Sonnen was guaranteed a shot in the UFC if he was able to defeat Horn.
The sold out crowd of 1,100 filled the Blues Grand Ballroom and they turned to watch the fighters introduced through the smoke and strobe lights that surrounded the ramp to the ring. Horn was fighting close to his hometown of Omaha, Nebraska for the first time in years and his supporters were pulled out of their seats for his introduction.
Sonnen kicked Horn to the head twice to start the round, but Horn deflected the blows and moved into Sonnens body and pushed him into the corner. While Horn was attempting a takedown, Sonnen sunk in a deep headlock and they both maneuvered to gain an advantage. Horn finally locked up both of Sonnens legs and finished by putting him on the mat. When Sonnen tried to escape, Horn took advantage of the position and picked up Sonnen just to slam him in his corner where Matt Hughes and Tim Sylvia were shouting instructions.
In the corner and in a mount, Horn tested Sonnens defense. He threw two explosive punches to Sonnens head and dropped an elbow. Somewhere in the three shots a cut opened up around Sonnens eye sp the referee pulled Horn off of Sonnen so he could get looked at by the ringside Doctor. The crowd let out a gasp when Sonnen stood as blood covered much of Sonnens face and chest. Tt 3:34 of the first round, the Doctor determined Sonnen couldnt continue.
It was another dominating win for Horn who, with every win, sparks new debate about why he is passed up so often by the UFC and Pride. The prevailing argument has been he wasnt a finisher, but since moving down in weight and changing his style, hes only been to decision twice, losing once to Renato Babalu Sobral and winning a majority decision against Dean Lister. The debate about who Jeremy fights can go on indefinitely, but the real question is how a win against Jeremy Horn assures a fighter a chance in the UFC, as was promised to Sonnen, but being Jeremy Horn cant get you in.
In feature bout action Kyle Jensen and Josh Neer took the ring amidst a buzz of anticipation. Neer has had over 90 amateur fights while Jensen came in sporting an impressive 13-4 professional record. The first two rounds were only slightly dominated by Jensens ability to gain better position while on their feet but Neer displayed some excellent takedown defense and tried countering with some hip tosses, but was never successful. At 1:03 of the third round, Neer was finally able to gain the advantage and work an armbar against Jensen for the win.
In a battle of big men, Chris Geschke was taken down by barrel chested Mike Radnov where Geschke held on from the bottom position for dear life. Inevitably, the much stronger Radnov pulled Geschkes arm into a keylock and forced him to tap at 1:26 of the first round.
In a number one contenders match for the VFC lightweight championship, Justin James and Kendrick Johnson entered the ring to a standing, screaming crowd. When the bell rang, both fighters came out swinging for the fences. Johnson was backed into the corner of the ring amidst a maelstrom of attacks from James and somewhere in the onslaught Johnson injured his shoulder and verbally submitted to the referee. James finished Johnson with an uncomplimentary verbal assault so intense, the referee couldnt pull James off until he was done.
The first Feature bout had UFC veteran Andre Roberts against Gabe Beauperthuy. The 13-1 Roberts made quick work of the 2-5 Beauperthuy by using his weight advantage to lie on Beauperthuy, attempting armbar submissions. Instead, nasty elbow rubs to the face followed by dropping elbows forced Beauperthuy to tap at 3:34 of the first round.
Luke Caudillo and John Strawn fought one of the more exciting fights of the night. Caudillo, stronger and faster, pushed Strawn around for a round and a half and landed cleaner and harder punches to Strawns face and body. By all rights, Strawn should have been out, but his ability to take a punch kept him in the fight until Caudillo gassed himself out. Strawn won at 1:57 of round two when he gained control of Caudillos back and forced him to tap from a rear naked choke.
Victor Moreno finished an exciting fight with Alonzo Martinez when, with just eleven seconds left in the first round, the referee stopped the fight due to strikes.
Dan Anderson faced his toughest test to date with King of the Cage, K-1, and Pride veteran Shannon Ritch. Ritch who has been in the ring with the likes of Sakuraba, Ken Shamrock, Dennis Hallman, and Evan Tanner has been looking to make a name for himself in the Middleweight Division and his experience would pay off. He made short work of Anderson, impressively winning by armbar at 1:19 of the first round. With his fourth straight win at 185 lbs., Ritch is also looking for the call up to the next level. I want in the UFC, Ill take all comers
Ritch has rededicated has life to fighting, I was fighting all the time, I took two months off and now Im training with Rick Rufus in Tempe. I used to fight for the paycheck and now Im doing it for me. Shannon Ritch made some fans that night and he looks poised to take that next step, and like other fighters, is just waiting for the phone to ring with opportunity.
The remainder of the card had Josh Rafferty defeat a winless John Owens by armbar at :48 seconds of the first round.
Cliff Sanders won by TKO when Chris Bott, who had clearly been winning, was unable to answer the bell for the third round.