For a moment, it looked like the main event of Tachi Palace Fights 26 would end abruptly and with a new bantamweight champion being crowned. Instead, Rolando Velasco regrouped and recovered, allowing him to retain his TPF title via unanimous decision (49-46, 49-46, 49-47) over Joe Neal Thursday night in Lemoore, Calif.
Velasco (13-3-1) was dropped early in the opening frame by a Neal left hook, but luckily for him the overzealousness of his challenger allowed him to survive the onslaught as “The Machine” intelligently locked him up in a clinch and slammed him down hard to clear his head. From there, Velasco wore “Nine Lives” down little by little for the remaining four-plus rounds.
Neal (5-2) was able to hang tough with the 10-year MMA veteran but the Last Stand Fight Team rep was too experienced and too clever to relinquish his title. Whether it was with punches on the feet and in the clinch or using top position on the mat, the Oakdale, Calif., fighter stayed ahead of Neal throughout and eventually was awarded the unanimous nod.
In the co-feature, Danny Navarro had to fend off several takedown and submission attempts from BJJ standout Cleber Luciano, but in doing so, depleted the Brazilian's gas tank to set up a second-round knockout.
With his foe breathing heavily halfway through round two, “Ironman” clubbed Luciano with a nasty left hook to the liver. Luciano (12-6) grimaced in pain and buckled against the cage, allowing the Millennia MMA fighter to swarm his wounded prey with a volley of punches to the head and body that crumbled him to the canvas at 2:41 of the second frame. Win the win, Navarro moves to 15-6 and earns a bid at Tony Llamas's TPF lightweight title.
Team Alpha Male flyweight Hector Sandoval moved to 11-2, dominating Martin Sandoval to the tune of three 30-26 scorecards. “Kid Alex” scored powerful takedowns in each round and huge ground-and-pound to bloody his opponent over 15 minutes, although the Sacramento fighter was cut badly on his forehead by an elbow from the bottom late in round one and bled like a stuck pig for the final 10 minutes.
Former Bellator women’s 115-pound champion finally Zoila Frausto (13-5) returned to 135 pounds, earning a unanimous decision (30-27, 29-28, 29-28) over Corina Herrera (2-2). Frausto came close to finishing her opponent several times with a plethora of armlock and choke attempts, but the The unheralded Herrera was much tougher than expected and hung with Frausto until the end.
“The Warrior Princess” was tagged several times standing in the contest, but her size and wealth of experience paid dividends and helped to bust up Herrera left eye along the way. The win snaps a four-fight losing streak for Frausto.
UFC lightweight veteran Cain Carrizosa broke his own three-fight slump to move to 7-3 with a unanimous decision (30-28, 29-28, 29-28) over Ray Cervera (9-5). After a slow start, “Cain the Insane” came close to finishing his foe with a tight guillotine in the third round, but “Baby Ray” was able to fend it off to hear the final bell.
Drakkar Klose and Joshua Aveles fought to a split draw (29-28, 29-28, 28-28) in a razor-thin lightweight fight, determined by Aveles' big second-round surge to produce a 10-8 round to create the draw.
In undercard action: Christian Buron submitted Deven Ortiz via guillotine choke at 3:24 of the second round of their 148-pound catchweight bout; Casey Kenney submitted Anthony Torres with a farside armbar at 1:48 of the opening frame of their flyweight encounter; and Danny Ramirez won a unanimous decision (30-26, 30-27, 30-27) over Samuel Alvarez over at 158 pounds.