Card recap: LFA 85 – Demopoulos crowned inaugural LFA strawweight queen

LEGACY Fighting Alliance (LFA) crowned its inaugural women’s strawweight champion at #LFA85, with grappling ace Vanessa Demopoulos pulling off a Hail Mary submission to take home her maiden professional title.

The UFC talent feeder put on a six-fight card, again staged out of the Sanford Pentagon in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, with prospects staking their claims for a call-up to the elite MMA promotion. Among the entertainment, brothers Kevin and Christian Natividad both notched KO victories, with only one contest going the distance throughout the evening.

Another belt will be put on the line in next week’s LFA event too, with Greg Fischer battling Jimmy Flick for flyweight supremacy on July 24. But for now, get caught up on how each of the latest LFA bouts went down in our fight-by-fight recap.

Vanessa Demopoulos def. Sam Hughes | Technical submission (inverted triangle) 2:21 Rd 4

She may have effectively been down by the equivalent of four rounds to nil, but Vanessa Demopoulos only needed one moment of magic to snatch the inaugural LFA strawweight title from Sam Hughes‘ grasp. The Greek grappler put Hughes to sleep with an inverted reverse triangle, emphatically putting a frustrating 15 minutes and potentially costly point deduction behind her.

‘Sampage’ clearly made the better start of the two, coming out strong to land leg kicks and nice counter strikes on Demopoulos, who struggled to get within striking distance. While the victor had wrapped up a guillotine, Hughes popped out and continued her ascendancy, landing the more effective strikes – mostly via her right hand.

The American’s distance management proved vital in ensuring Demopoulos would be unable to land her own shots on the feet, but stiff straight shots were mixed in well with forward pressure and an intense pace from Hughes to put her well on top. She landed a takedown late, and just as Demopoulos searched for a leglock, she landed an illegal upkick to see a point taken away from her, meaning she would either require a finish to win, or to claim all three remaining rounds for a draw.

Hughes continued to find success at range and with her heavy punches in bunches, pushing the action forward and bloodying up the nose of her opponent. Demopoulos would return fire though, enjoying her best period to that point despite taking damage. Still, she was arguably four rounds down at that point.

Cue Round 4 and an incredible Hail Mary submission. The urgency from Demopoulos was clear, and she was able to punch her way into the clinch position, before working away as the fight transitioned to the mat. She threatened another kneebar, before throwing up the reverse triangle in lightning quick time and slowly breaking Hughes’ posture to tighten the choke. Seemingly out of nowhere, Hughes was out cold, and Demopoulos was the new LFA strawweight champion.

Kevin Natividad def. Kyle Estrada | KO (punches) 1:37 Rd 2

Kevin Natividad may well be in line for a shot at the vacant bantamweight title, after landing a dynamite knockout blow to 10-5 veteran Kyle Estrada. The win was Natividad’s fifth in a row, seeing him improve to 9-1 and match his younger brother’s earlier KO effort.

Estrada looked to have gained the early ascendancy with a barrage of low kicks to chop down his opponent’s lead leg and wide stance, but Natividad would adjust accordingly after the first bell, slowly working his way into the pocket and landing the fight-ending combination out of nowhere.

A double jab was followed by a big right hand to sit Estrada down, with the Hawaiian chasing his downed opponent to the mat to land one more hammer fist for good measure.

Leandro Gomes def. Jacob Thrall | Decision (unanimous) 30-27, 30-27, 30-26

Not even all of Jacob Thrall’s durability and nous could spare him from a unanimous decision loss to Leandro Gomes, who took out all three rounds in the first bout of the night to go the distance.

The Brazilian, nicknamed ‘Little Hulk’ may have taken the fight on short notice, but managed to grind out the win strongly to improve to 6-1 as a professional, with this his fourth-consecutive victory.

Thrall was not at all fazed by Gomes’ jiu jitsu pedigree, initiating the action on the ground and constantly looking to land big double-leg takedowns. But Gomes’ resistance was strong, and even when the fight got to the mat, he managed to dominate positon and work his submission game.
The high-octane pace was set early, with a side-kick from Gomes sitting Thrall down, a follow-up flying knee just missing, and elbows from against the fence finding a home to cut the American up.

While Thrall owned top position at times, he was unable to pose the same threats, as Gomes swept well, stayed the busier man, and landed some nice ground-and-pound throughout his time on top.

Gomes simply found an answer for all Thrall had, looking sharper on the feet, threatening to snatch kimura grips to switch position on Thrall’s takedown entries, and ending the fight on top with what one judge deemed a 10-8 round.

Jordan Leavitt def. Leivon Lewis | Submission (anaconda choke) 2:01 Rd 2

A series of unrelenting submission attempts from Jordan Leavitt eventually took toll on Leivon Lewis, who tapped to an anaconda choke for the former’s fourth submission win among an improved 6-0 professional record.

While this was the first fight of the night to endure past Round 1, it only lasted two minutes more as Leavitt sunk in the decisive choke, leaving Lewis exhausted by the end of his chained submission digs having taken the bout on two weeks’ notice.

While Lewis initially punched into range, Leavitt was the one to bring the fight to the mat, with leg-locks looking like the order of the day for much of the first round. Lewis was savvy to each transition and managed to resist for the most part, but Leavitt’s ability to thrive in awkward positions paid dividends as he snatched up an arm triangle, and eventually worked to the fight-ending anaconda choke, yielding a tap.

Christian Natividad def. Michael Aquila | KO (punches) 2:48 Rd 1

It was a classic left, right, good night for Michael Aquila by way of Christian Natividad’s heavy hands, with the Hawaiian marking his professional debut in style against a dangerous grappler.

The well-built bantamweight, who boasts a 5-0 amateur record, showed terrific fight IQ to keep the fight on the feet despite dropping Aquila twice, waving his opponent back up before eventually landing the knockout blows.

Natividad’s left hook, cross combination was his modus operandi, and made for a walk-off finish as Aquila crumbled with his back to the fence. No better way to set the tone for your older brother’s fight later in the night. 

Mitchell Sipe def. Darion Abbey | TKO (knee and punches) 1:37 Rd 1

Mitchell Sipe kicked off the show with a vicious TKO victory over Darion Abbey at heavyweight. The 5-2 professional broke a two-fight losing streak which spawned from his unsuccessful Contender Series dig, and boy was he pumped about the finish.

Despite entering his LFA debut without a corner in tow, Sipe secured his third first-round stoppage by way of a vicious knee and wild punching combinations. The 27-year-old’s weapon of choice was his winging overhand right, which initially stunned Abbey and backed him up, before the killer instinct kicked in.

The referee even copped a punch to the back amidst Sipe’s hammer fists to finish, as the knee to drop Abbey had him scrambling in to stop the onslaught. It certainly was an exclamation mark to open proceedings.

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