Tonight was a night many MMA enthusiasts had circled on their calendar. Las Vegas, the longtime home for the UFC, was scheduled to host Affliction 'Day of Reckoning'. It didn't get that. Affliction canceled the card, rescheduling it to January and relocating to Anaheim, Calif.
Instead, Sin City was treated to Night of Combat II, a nine-bout card that served as a showcase for Xtreme Couture fighters, who won seven of their eight fights. Kim Couture, who promoted the event, did not announce the attendance total but several thousand fans showed up to the Saturday night card that featured an array of former UFC and IFL stars.
"I know the house wasn't full," Couture said. "But I put this on for the guys and as long as they had fun it was worth it. I'd like to think we're going to do more shows." Couture said it hasn't been determined if the fights would be held in Las Vegas or other cities with Xtreme Couture gyms. There are six Xtreme Couture training centers across the country.
Only the main event -- a battle between Rick Roufus (4-3), a six-time world kickboxing champion and UFC veteran Hector Ramirez (7-3-1) -- did not feature an Xtreme Couture fighter.
Ramirez won the fight via unanimous decision but Roufus landed several impressive strikes in the first round, including a spinning backfist that staggered the "Sick Dog". Still, Ramirez was able to score a takedown late in the round for the steal.
In the second, the kickboxer came out with a series of body kicks and dodged several strikes before being taken down. Ramirez worked hard for an arm bar from the side and unleashed some nice knees to the ribs. Ramirez scored another takedown a minute into the third round and worked Roufus from side mount.
All three judges scored the fight 29-28. Ramirez added another win to his resume with his only losses coming against UFC light heavyweight champion Forrest Griffin, Rashad Evans, and James Irvin.
In the co-feature, Jay Hieron (16-4) won a bloody unanimous decision over Chris Kennedy (6-6). Kennedy made a valiant effort, surviving what was basically fifteen consecutive minutes of eating fists and elbows.
"He's a warrior," Hieron said. "He was bloody and kept going." It was his first time in action since April 4. Hieron was the IFL welterweight champion before the company went out of business and was scheduled to fight on the Affliction card.
Hieron opened a cut on Kennedy's forehead in the opening minute of the fight and followed it up with three rounds of ground and pound. A golf ball sized welt appeared on Kennedy's forehead in the second and only got worse in the third.
"It's been a long time since I've been able to use my elbows," Hieron said. "That's my weapon." All three judges scored the fight 30-27. Kennedy, a local Las Vegas fighter, stepped up on short notice after Bryson Kamaka, who had been scheduled to fight Hieron, tested positive for marijuana during pre-fight testing by the Nevada State Athletic Commission.
Mike Pyle (17-5-1) won via submission over Brian Gassaway (28-18-2). Pyle used a ground and pound attack before finishing with an armbar at 4:21 of the first round. Pyle, an Xtreme Couture fighter, was also supposed to fight on the Affliction card after winning a fight at Affliction 'Banned' back in July.
"I made sure I got a good clean takedown," Pyle said. "I kind of wanted to pound him out and make him quit, but I'll take the submission."
John Alessio (24-11) knocked out Gideon Ray (15-10-1) 45 seconds into the first round with a looping left hook before finishing with four left hands as Ray remained helpless on the canvas.
Alessio, a UFC and WEC veteran, last beat Pete Spratt in June at Night of Combat I when the trainer at Xtreme Couture broke his arm in that bout. Ray, an IFL and UFC veteran, has lost five of his last six fights.
Alessio and Ray exchanged heated words at the weigh in on Friday. Following the loss, Ray threatened some Alessio supporters sitting ringside as he held an ice pack on his face.
Josh Haynes (11-10) beat Sean Salmon (15-5), a UFC veteran and former Ohio State University wrestler at 2:49 of the second round with an achilles lock. Haynes appeared on the third season of The Ultimate Fighter, losing in the finals to season light heavyweight winner Michael Bisping.
Haynes dropped Salmon with a left hook early in the first but Salmon hung on and scored a takedown late in the round. In the second, Haynes again dropped Salmon, this time with a straight right and Salmon again survived.
The fight went to the ground in the second half of the round and Haynes took control. The fighters exchanged kneebar attempts before Haynes finished the fight. Haynes has won four of his last six bouts.
JJ Mix (3-2) won a thrilling war against John Halverson (16-7) with a technical knockout at 4:25 of the first round. Both lightweights came out swinging. Mix scored a takedown and landed several unanswered punches from the mount.
Mix got his Halloween on a little early and walked to the ring wearing a Grim Reaper costume.
Kui Gonsalves (2-0) defeated Shawn David (4-2) via submission (kimura) at 3:15 of the second round in a 155-pound fight.
In a woman's bout, Elena Reid (2-0), who has fought more than 20 pro boxing matches, showed her vastly superior stand up with a technical knockout of Stephanie Palmer (0-3) in only 53 seconds.
Ryan Hass (5-2) defeated Ian Omalza (2-1) via armbar submission at 3:09 of the first round in a bantamweight battle that opened the night. Omalza was the only Xtreme Couture fighter on the card to lose.
The pre-fight festivities served as a carnival for MMA fanboys as several Xtreme Couture fighters, including Gina Carano, signed autographs in the concourse.
It was the second Night of Combat event held at the Thomas & Mack Center, an arena on the UNLV campus. The first, held in June, featured the infamous Kim Couture fight in which her jaw was broken during the first round of a bloodbath loss.
Tickets for Saturday's event ranged from $18 to $58.
Here are The Night of Combat II complete results:
-Ryan Hass def. Ian Omalza via submission (armbar) - R1, 3:09.
-Elena Reid def. Stephanie Palmer via TKO (punch) - R1, 0:53.
-Patrick "Kui" Gonsalves def. Shawn David via submission (kimura) - R2, 3:51.
-Jonathan Mix def. John Halverson via TKO (strikes) - R1, 4:25.
-Josh Haynes def. Sean Salmon via submission (achilles lock) - R2, 2:49.
-John Alessio def. Gideon Ray via TKO (strikes) - R1, 0:45.
-Mike Pyle def. Brian Gassaway via submission (arm bar) - R1, 4:21.
-Jay Hieron def. Chris Kennedy via unanimous decision.
-Hector Ramirez def. Rick Roufus via unanimous decision.