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FFC XV: Fiesta Las Vegas review
by Scott Newman (MMA)
Posted on April 20, 2006, 6:05 AM

Another one of the US’s top smaller (as in non UFC) promotions, Freestyle Fighting Championship (FFC) has been running mainly out of the Mississippi region since early 2002, and veterans of their shows include current UFC fighters Joe Doerksen, Chris Leben, Jorge Gurgel, Spencer Fisher, Melvin Guillard, and Kevin Jordan. FFC XV was arguably their biggest show to date, being their first in Las Vegas, and so the card was stacked with UFC veterans and some of the hottest up and comers on the circuit.

FFC XV: Fiesta Las Vegas

Las Vegas, Nevada

-Your hosts are David Ferguson and Skip Hall, but you’ve got to REALLY listen carefully to catch the names. So much so that on a first viewing of the DVD I missed it, and due to the voices sounding eerily similar, was convinced that Rich Franklin (Ferguson) and Jens Pulver (Hall) were doing the commentary!

-Your ring announcer is a guy going by the nickname of ‘The Evangelist of MMA’. Yeah, I know, normally I don’t make a mention of the ring announcer. But here I’ll make an exception as he’s possibly the most annoying ring announcer I’ve ever heard (worse than Rich Goins even!). Seriously, it’s one thing to try to pump the crowd up, but yelling “TESTIFY!” in the introduction like you’re a squat, balding white version of D-Von Dudley is not the way to do it. Nor are lines like “Are you ready for some of the world’s best gladiator-like biblical baptizing of bloodshed?” Especially when they’re YELLED AT THE TOP OF A BARELY UNDERSTANDABLE VOICE. We’ll choose to ignore this guy from here on.

Welterweight Fight: Chris Wilson vs Dave Garcia

The announcers explain that Garcia is a top-ranked Judoka, while Wilson is one of the hottest rising stars out of Team Quest, 5-1 at this point (he’s now 8-1) with none of his wins going the distance.

They circle to begin, before clinching up where Garcia gets a nice hip throw. He tries to get into top position, but Wilson shows some sick flexibility and gets what looks almost like an upside-down body triangle, before snaking around and taking Garcia’s back. Wilson looks for the armbar from the back, and it almost looks locked, but Garcia somehow manages to avoid and goes down into Wilson’s guard. Not wasting any time though, Wilson locks on a tight triangle from the bottom, elbowing the head, before pulling it down for the swift tapout.

Impressive performance from Wilson there who definitely seemed to have a ton of skill, and training with Team Quest you know he’s only going to continue to improve, too. I’d definitely like to see him take a step up in competition in 2006.

Light-Heavyweight Fight: Josh Haynes vs Seth Kleinbeck

Kleinbeck is apparently a practicing GP out of Arkansas, and naturally his nickname is the Doctor. Ha, the Doctor and the Dentist on the same fight card? That’s hilarious. Josh Haynes – also fighting out of Team Quest – is now part of the Light-Heavyweight cast on TUF III, so expect to hear more from him in the near future. The announcers make mention of the fact that he’s actually dropped all the way from the Super-Heavyweight class down to 205lbs.

Kleinbeck comes out throwing some big kicks, but Haynes quickly clinches and muscles him into the fence, where he works for the takedown as Kleinbeck tries to defend. Haynes gets a single leg, but Kleinbeck pops right back up, and lands a big knee to the midsection as they muscle for position. Kleinbeck works to break off, and does so, before landing a BIG LEFT HOOK that sends Haynes crashing to the mat! Kleinbeck quickly goes down into side mount and then mounts him fully, but Haynes rolls to give his back and then reverses to Kleinbeck’s guard, avoiding any punishment. He lands some punches, but then botches an attempt at falling back to a heel hook, and Kleinbeck gets back on top in side mount. He looks to pass into mount, and then moves around into north/south, but Haynes gets a nice reversal and dumps him on his back, before they come back to standing. Kleinbeck presses forward with strikes, but Haynes grabs a clinch again and shoves him into the fence to end the round.

Kleinbeck comes out for the 2nd swinging, but Haynes gets the takedown quickly to guard, and works to pass into side mount. Kleinbeck gives his back, and Haynes quickly capitalizes, getting his hooks in, pounding away before applying a rear naked choke for the tapout.

Pretty decent little fight there, Kleinbeck looked good standing, but he was outmuscled by Haynes for the most part and was unable to capitalize on his knockdown. Haynes wasn’t overly impressive, but he finished the fight when he was given the chance and I guess he’ll have his chance at stardom on TUF now.

Lightweight Fight: Roger Huerta vs Matt Wiman

I’ve never personally heard of Wiman, but Huerta is supposedly one of the most exciting fighters on the circuit, with his lone loss coming to Team Quest standout Ryan Schultz in 2004. Wiman is apparently a BJJ-based fighter though.

They begin and Wiman comes out looking to strike, but Huerta gets a takedown to guard, and tries some wild punches from the top, as Wiman attempts to reverse out. Huerta keeps on throwing punches wildly ala Joe Riggs, but Wiman has an active guard and locks him up in a tight armbar! Huerta looks in DEEP trouble, but somehow he keeps trying to escape, and eventually manages to slip free, getting into top position in Wiman’s guard. Crazy escape there. Huerta starts punching again, landing some good shots, but Wiman tries a kneebar, and uses the defense to escape, getting into top position and taking Huerta’s back. Wiman works a body triangle from the back and lands some punches, as Huerta works desperately to defend the myriad of rear naked choke attempts. After a while Huerta manages to escape, and somehow turns over into Wiman’s guard, but as he starts to drop bombs again, Wiman gets a triangle locked on! Huerta looks in trouble again, but somehow manages ANOTHER escape, and then drops more punches with reckless abandon to end the round.

They come out for the second and WILDLY BRAWL, just swinging crazy punches at each other before Huerta stuns him and follows with a BIG SPINNING KICK TO THE BODY!~! Huerta gets the takedown to guard, standing and dropping some punches down, before he backs off and Wiman follows him back up. Huerta lands a nice front kick, but Wiman comes right forward and tags him with a combination, into the clinch! Huerta lands a knee to the face to break off, but Wiman comes forward with a combo again, so Huerta gets the takedown to guard. He tries to drop some more bombs, but Wiman rolls for a leglock. Huerta avoids it and continues to drop heavy punches, before Wiman almost gets the triangle again. Houdini, sorry, Huerta escapes AGAIN, and then stands up to drop some BOMBS into Wiman’s face, avoiding a heel hook from half-guard as he does so, before Wiman tries the triangle again to end the round. Jesus Christ this fight is awesome.

Third and final round, and they come out exchanging high kicks, before Huerta rocks him with a right and another high kick, then DECKS HIM WITH A BIG RIGHT!~! Huerta pounds away with punches in the guard, then decides to bring things back up to standing. Wiman comes forward and grabs a guillotine, but Huerta pops out as he pulls guard, and makes him pay for it, landing some heavy shots down into Wiman’s guard as Wiman looks tired. Huerta stands up again, so the official stands Wiman up, and he comes forward into a WILD EXCHANGE!~! Wiman NAILS him with some punches and suddenly Huerta looks in trouble, and he goes for the takedown, getting a single leg to guard, but Wiman goes for the triangle again, so Roger stands right back up. Wiman follows him and they brawl again, with Wiman TAGGING him before getting a big takedown to half-guard! Wiman quickly passes into side mount, controlling Huerta and landing some elbows. He passes into full mount, and lands some good punches as Huerta desperately tries to buck him off as the round, and fight, ends. Whew.

To the judges for the first time of the night, and the winner by unanimous decision is Roger Huerta, and boy is that an unpopular decision with the crowd. This was an INCREDIBLY close fight though that definitely could’ve gone either way, and I really wouldn’t like to say who won. Really though it was one of those fights – like Griffin/Bonnar and Olaf/Polakowski – where the winner didn’t especially matter, as both guys put 110% into it and came out looking like a million bucks. Seriously, this was one of the best fights I’ve ever seen in MMA – like Olaf/Polakowski, but with a much higher level of ground skill from both guys, Wiman with the hyperactive guard and sub attempts, and Huerta throwing bombs into the guard with as much reckless abandon as Joe Riggs on speed. Total FOTYC level stuff here – you NEED to see this fight.

Welterweight Fight: Josh Neer vs Forrest Petz

UFC veteran Neer was looking to rebuild after losing to Drew Fickett in his Octagon debut (in one of the scariest finishes in UFC history, FYI) while Forrest ‘Hitman’ Petz – 9-1-0 at this point – was coming off a win over Charles ‘Krazy Horse’ Bennett, and looked to make a name for himself by knocking off one of the Midwest’s top rated Welterweights. Neer is one of those guys that, despite me not having seen all that much of him, I mark for on sheer principle just because his nickname is ‘The Dentist’. That’s a seriously cool nickname.

They get underway and Neer slips to his back on a high kick attempt as they press early, but Petz can’t capitalize. Neer comes forward and grabs a head clinch, but Petz PUNISHES him with some sick bodyshots as Neer looks to answer with some Thai knees to the head, before pulling him to the mat in guard. Neer lands some big punches from the top, and then passes into mount, where he drops some VICIOUS ELBOW STRIKES to open a nasty gash on Petz’s forehead. Petz reverses over to Neer’s guard before things can get too nasty, but before he can really get to work the official stops things to have the doctor check the cut. They agree that he can go on, but the blood is EVERYWHERE at this point, with Neer’s chest covered in it. They restart in Neer’s guard, but Petz stands back up, and Neer follows. Petz comes forward with a good combo, and then lands some more heavy body punches as Neer grabs the head clinch again. Neer shows no affect though and lands some more big Thai knees to the head, opening the cut up again, before getting a takedown to side mount. Neer uses the knee on the belly to slide over into mount, and then drops some more brutal elbows, before Petz reverses him over to guard again, but this time Neer slaps on a slick triangle choke, and Petz is forced to tap out there.

Wow, that was another seriously entertaining fight. Neer looked hugely impressive with some really good knee strikes standing, and he was absolutely vicious when he got on top with the elbow strikes, as well as showing a slick submission game for the finish. It wasn’t a whitewash though – Petz’s assault to the body was one of the most vicious body attacks I’ve ever seen in MMA and would’ve badly hurt less tough fighters than Neer, and with a record of 11-2 with some impressive victories, he could break through into the big leagues this year – although the Welterweight division is admittedly *stacked*. Neer followed this up with a disappointing loss to Nick Thompson, but has since taken two major victories in the UFC, including one over TUF II winner Joe Stevenson, and he seems to be on a serious roll in 2006. He could make some serious noise at 155lbs if he drops down as he’s said he will.

Light-Heavyweight Fight: Jason Lambert vs Travis Wiuff

Wiuff has one of the more impressive records out there (40-7-0) as, like his training partner Jeremy Horn, he has a tendency to take a crazy amount of fights against practically anyone. This was his sixth fight in 2005 alone, as he was looking to rebuild following his UFC loss to Renato Babalu, and make another run into the upper echelon at LHW. Lambert – nicknamed ‘The Punisher’ - was on an impressive streak of his own – four straight victories with two over highly rated veterans Marvin Eastman and Matt Horwich. Both of these guys look HUGE at 205lbs, with Wiuff having the reach advantage over the shorter Lambert.

Lambert shoots in for the takedown to open, but Wiuff sprawls back into a front facelock, and lands a knee to the head as Lambert comes back to standing. Wiuff forces him into the fence and then gets a single leg to guard, where Lambert looks for a kimura, but as he turns, Wiuff shifts into a rear waistlock. He gets another takedown as they scramble, and Lambert looks for the kimura once more, but again Wiuff gets the rear waistlock. They come up to standing and Wiuff looks for the suplex, but Lambert blocks and turns into him, where they exchange in the clinch. Lambert works him over with some uppercuts, and then picks him up and delivers a HUGE SLAM!~! to half-guard. Lambert grinds away from the top, before passing into mount, but Wiuff rolls and gives his back. Lambert gets a body triangle from the back and lands some heavy punches, before turning him back over, where he drops some HUGE BOMBS to knock Wiuff completely out cold.

Hugely impressive performance from Lambert there to knock off a very highly rated fighter, and in fact he did it in even more impressive fashion than Babalu, as once he’d weathered the early takedowns from Wiuff and got on top, he just never let Travis recover and destroyed him from the top. This result really opened people’s eyes to Lambert’s skills, and it was the general consensus that this win would be his ticket to the UFC. That came true earlier in the year as he’s competed twice in the big show now, stopping both Rob MacDonald and Terry Martin, and he looks like one of the hottest prospects out there at 205lbs at the minute.

FFC Welterweight Title: Keith Wisniewski vs Carlo Prater

This fight was about two months prior to Wisniewski’s UFC debut, so it could be argued with records of 21-8-1 and 18-4-1 respectively, that these were two of the very best WWs out there to have never fought in UFC. The announcers explain that this is a rematch from an earlier fight they had in 2004, that saw Wisniewski capture the title from Prater in what was supposedly a controversial decision.

Prater comes forward with a fast combination to open, but Wisniewski avoids it and lands a HARD kick to the body and follows with a snapping overhand right. They go into the clinch, and Wisniewski gets a trip to half-guard, where Prater ties him up as Keith looks to grind away. Prater works his way back to full guard, before referee Herb Dean stands them for inactivity. They go into another brief clinch, but Prater breaks with a knee and a low kick. Wisniewski gets double underhooks and muscles him into the fence, where he gets a takedown to side mount. Prater manages to get guard back again, but things really slow down once more, and again they get stood up. Prater fires a right-left combination into the clinch, where they exchange knees and short punches to end the round.

Into the 2nd and they circle to open, both working leg kicks and jabs before they go into the clinch where Wisniewski works for the takedown. Prater defends well, but Wisniewski gets him down to side mount, and looks to mount, but Prater pushes off the fence and gets half-guard to avoid. Prater kicks him away trying to create distance, but Wisniewski drops a right hand back into half-guard and works him over with some shots to the body and head. Prater tries to kick him away again, but Wisniewski stays on top, and continues to grind, but the action slows up and the official calls the restart once more. Like the first round, they exchange combinations into the clinch, and work inside to end the round.

Third and final round, and Prater comes out aggressively, grabbing the clinch and landing some quick knees before tripping Wisniewski to guard. Wisniewski ties him up immediately, and Prater can’t do much but land short, grinding punches as Wisniewski looks to avoid being pinned into the fence. The official stands them as things slow down again, and they exchange jabs into the clinch, where Wisniewski establishes double underhooks and looks for a takedown. Prater tries to block, but Wisniewski drops down and then lifts him up, getting a nice slam to half-guard. He drops some shoulder strikes, and then follows with some short elbows, before Prater works to guard and lands some elbows of his own from the bottom. The action slows again and they get another restart, but Wisniewski muscles him right into the fence, and works to a waistlock, looking for the takedown as the round ends.

Well, that was a letdown after the hype the announcers gave them after the first meeting. To the judges, and Wisniewski gets the decision, 29-28, 30-27, 29-28. Can’t disagree with that – I had him taking every round. Really flat fight though as neither guy looked willing to take any chances, and it made for a really conservative bout with no stand-out moments. Both guys appeared to be *good* fighters, probably worthy of a shot in the UFC, but as I mentioned earlier, the Welterweight division is frighteningly stacked and I can’t see either guy making real noise unless they seriously improve.

FFC Lightweight Title: David Gardner vs Ryan Schultz

I don’t know all that much about the champion, Gardner, but his record doesn’t seem to be all that impressive – a victory over Rich Clementi is all that really stands out. Schultz though is one of those guys from Team Quest that has a pretty big reputation around the circuits, and he was rumoured to be part of the TUF II cast as a Welterweight at one point. He’s got some impressive wins of his own, over Gil Castillo and Hiroyuki Abe, to name two.

Gardner comes in looking for the quick takedown to open, and grabs a single leg, but Schultz shows some nice wrestling skill and blocks, trying to snake over onto Gardner’s back. They scramble back to their feet, and Gardner shoots in again, but Schultz sprawls to avoid, before Gardner gets him down to guard. Schultz looks like he’s talking to his corner and not really defending, and Gardner gets into side mount and drops a couple of knees before Schultz’s corner calls a stop to things. Everyone seems confused as to what’s happened, but the ring announcer explains that Schultz has dislocated one of his ribs, so Gardner retains on a TKO.

Disappointing end to what could’ve been an excellent fight there, as apparently (according to Matt Lindland) Schultz dislocated a rib in a training session leading to the fight, and it popped back out as he went down to guard following the takedown. A freak accident more than anything, and not the best way to end the show, but hey, these things happen.

Aaand, we end there.

Final Thoughts....

This was a really great show – up there with IFC Global Domination as one of the best non-UFC/Pride MMA shows I’ve ever seen. Granted, the double main event fell a bit flat as Wisniewski/Prater was slow and Schultz/Gardner ended on a freak injury, but everything leading up to that was excellent, with Lambert/Wiuff and Neer/Petz being two really top-level entertaining fights. Fight of the night though goes squarely to Huerta/Wiman, as it’s truly a diamond, entertaining from the opening bell to the final bell, and I’d rank it up there as one of the best MMA fights I’ve ever seen. It’s a testament to the growing popularity of MMA that a smaller organization like FFC could put on a card like this, with no real “toughman-esque” fights like you’d see on some KOTC shows, and you could probably argue that there was a UFC-level fighter in every fight on this card.

I’d recommend this show highly to any fan of MMA – the production of the DVD was also very impressive, and the distribution company was excellent to work with too. You can pick it up from either www.FFC.tv or www.knient.com, and if you’re able to, I suggest you do it now. Highly recommended.

Coming Soon....

Pride: 9, 10, 11, 18, and 28.
UFC: 18, 20, 21, 57 and 58.
Cage Rage: 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14 and 15.
WFA: 1, 2 and 3.
King of the Cage: 18, 23, 30 and 32.
IFC: Shogun
Best of Shooto 2003 vols. 1 & 2.

Until next time,

Scott Newman:

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