Card recap: Titan FC 60 – JZ Cavalcante takes home latest grappling title

FLORIDA once again set the scene for the return of a martial arts promotion, this time hosting the latest Titan FC instalment inside the MMA Masters facility. Hot and humid conditions made life tough for fighters, refs and commentators alike, but fans were still treated to some worthwhile action.

Gesias ‘JZ’ Cavalcante took home the inaugural Titan FC combat grappling world championship after defeating Raush Manfio in overtime, headlining what was a diverse collection of mixed martial arts bouts. The conditions made it tough for fighters to plant their feet for power or pull of submissions, making for some improvised tactics.

Get caught up on the results from all six bouts below, including three eye-catching finishes.

Gesias Cavalcante def. Raush Manfio | Escape time (submission shootout)
(Combat Grappling bout)

After a handful of MMA scraps came a headliner combat grappling bout between two men who had already held Titan FC gold. Another strap would be up for grabs, the promotion’s inaugural combat grappling world championship, no less, to be earned either during the eight-minute regulation round, or submission shootout tiebreaker.

Somewhat of a slapping contest ensued during the initial round of action, with seasoned grappling veteran Cavalcante looking secure a double-leg takedown, but Manfio calmly thwarting his opponent’s forward movement. After some persistence came to no avail for Cavalcante, the remainder of regulation time saw Manfio comfortable with maintaining the stand-up status of the contest.

Cavalcante would come in again with a high crotch attempt among his late advances, but Manfio did enough to defend while hitting back with some nasty open-handers up top. The pair went all the way to overtime, where ‘JZ’ started on offence from the back and spent solid time there having locked in a body triangle. As roles reverse, Cavalcante got out in a flash to secure victory.

The sweaty conditions inside the MMA Masters gym made submission attempts tough, while driving through for takedowns on the greasy mat was also made difficult throughout the night, especially in the grappling showcase event.

Rami Hamed def. Frank Carrillo | Decision (unanimous) 29-28, 30-27, 30-27

Hamed got the better of grizzled veteran Carrillo in their welterweight matchup, fighting all the way to just the second decision of the night. A polished kickboxer, Hamed took little time to find his range and timing against the perennially forward-moving Carrillo, working kicks from his side-on stance and using his footwork to good effect.

But even when Carrillo would close the distance with his looping overhands upon entering the pocket, Hamed remained calm and picked off some slick counter strikes up top. Hamed was not afraid to move forward himself, but much of the bout saw Carrillo following his opponent and looking to pressure.

That sense of following, and not cutting off the cage ultimately cost Carrillo despite all his toughness, with Hamed increasingly able to pick him off wherever the fight went. The veteran, who last fought in a loss to Mike Perry in 2016, was cut near both eyes towards the end of the contest, and seemed frustrated upon the final bell after landing a solid combination.

It was a safe fight from Hamed, who did what he needed to for victory and a 9-3-1 professional MMA record. He certainly did not underestimate the 36-year-old Carrillo, who was a tough adversary in the co-main event slot.

Mike Lilly def. Kendly St Louis | KO (punch) 2:10 Rd 2

Lilly produced the sole knockout of the night with his impressive stoppage of St Louis, making it four wins on the trot after a 3-5 start to life as a MMA professional. St Louis, a slightly taller and longer stand-up fighter struggled to find his range in the face of Lilly’s pressure, as the latter worked an early takedown in Round 1 and looked dominant from top position.

After a somewhat lacklustre first round, Lilly made quick work of his opponent in the second for the finish. Lilly gave a sighter as he landed an overhand right flush on St Louis’ jaw, before ending the fight with the same punch shortly after as the referee scrambled in to save St Louis. A good showing from the ever-improving welterweight.

Daniel Gonzalez def. Sal Guerriero | Decision (split) 28-29, 29-28, 29-28

This may have been one of two decisions for the night, but it was an entertaining one. Gonzalez broke through for his maiden professional MMA win in a razor-thin split decision victory over Guerriero. Gonzalez’s polished grappling skills shone through, particularly on the defensive end as he swept beautifully and stuffed most of Guerriero’s takedown attempts with beautiful sprawls.

Guerriero, now 1-1, had some success in landing those takedowns in Round 1, but he would look exhausted by the end of the bout as he desperately grabbed at Gonzalez’s legs in hopes of bringing the fight to the mat. That kind of ploy was no surprise after he almost sunk in a rear-naked choke in that opening round, but couldn’t quite pull the move off.

Guerriero constantly looked to be the aggressor and pushed the pace of the bout, but was ultimately outclassed upon closing the distance as the judges saw Gonzalez’s successful spinning kicks and tight defensive wrestling as the greater, and winning factors.

Gustavo Villamil def. John Birdsong | Submission (rear-naked choke) 3:29 Rd 2

The sole catchweight fight on the card took place at 130lbs, with Villamil winning out against the enigmatic Birdsong. The latter mixed it up well on the feet with some unique looks and a solid kicking game, but came undone as the fight hit the mat.

A couple of takedowns had Villamil edging ahead after Round 1, and another double-leg in the second would land him on top once again. Constantly looking to transition and create pressure, Villamil moved into full mount from half guard, and sunk in a swift rear-naked choke as Birdsong turned to give his back. Slick work in his first fight in over two years, and professional debut.

Danny Sabatello def. Chris Johnson | Submission (arm triangle) 1:54 Rd 3

Credentialed wrestler Sabatello opened the show with an impressive showing to move to 7-1, redeeming his first professional loss with a submission win over 20-fight veteran, Johnson. Sabatello got his grappling game going early, not closing the distance quickly and keeping busy from top position once he successfully hit the mat.

Johnson had few answers for Sabatello’s pressure, being taken down easily early in each of the rounds and not looking in a particular hurry to burst free once he relinquished position. Sabatello had constantly threatened an arm triangle, and finally sunk it in properly from mount to yield the tap in Round 3 as his aggression mounted with each passing minute.

Sabatillo would call out Raymond Ramos, the man he was supposed to fight on this card, for a shot at Titan FC championship gold in a well-delivered post-fight speech.

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