Though two champions stepped into the Tachi Palace Fights cage to do battle Thursday night, only one title was at stake in the TPF 31 main event. Adrian Diaz put his featherweight belt on the line against Ultimate Fighting Championship veteran Cody Gibson and had to regroup after a rough opening round. Gibson took him down and controlled the pace with plenty of strikes from on top, but when Diaz landed a partially-blocked head kick in the second, the tides were changed.
Gibson, who is the current TPF bantamweight champion, stormed back in the third, but when the fight went to the ground, Gibson made a critical error by ducking his head in a dangerous position. Diaz quickly latched on a guillotine, locked in a tight body triangle and forced the tap at the 1:46 mark of the third. After the fight, Gibson announced his retirement while the younger Diaz politely demanded a shot in the UFC.
Randall Wallace went to war with fellow welterweight J.C. Llamas in the TPF 31 co-feature and prevailed, but a rematch might be in store. The two fought tooth and nail from the start, but a nasty laceration around Llamas’ right eye ended the fight prematurely. With blood covering his face like a mask late in the opening frame, Llamas threatened with a leg lock. However, both men inexplicably stopped fighting with several seconds remaining before the bell ended the round. From there, the cageside physician deemed Llamas’ cut too severe and advised referee Mark Lawley to stop the fight before the second began.
Heavyweight prospect Chris Lewis dominated the larger Van Palacio as soon as their duel began and eventually stopped him in the second. “The Law” picked Palacio apart from the outside with punches and kicks and continued to pound on his foe in the following frame. When Palacio was tagged by a pair of rights, he attempted a guillotine, but missed. Lewis slid out from the choke, scrambled on the ground and wound up on top. From there, Lewis hammered away with punches until referee Jason McCoy halted the mugging. The end came at 4:38 of the frame.
In a matchup of undefeated featherweight prospects, it was Team Alpha Male’s Tyler Diamond who reigned supreme. Diamond took Nathan Stolen down at will and when he did, Stolen was trapped. Diamond pounded away at him with punches from on top and while he couldn’t put “Superman” away, he dominated him for every minute of every round. When the final bell had sounded, it was clear that Diamond had won; the only question was by how many points. Two judges favored him 30-25 while the third official saw it 30-26 for Diamond, who won the unanimous decision.
Light heavyweight prospect Angel DeAnda was too much for Mike Morales to handle as he levelled him in the opening round. The two opted to keep the fight standing, but it was DeAnda that struck the hardest first. A powerful overhand right landed on the head for “The Dream,” who followed that up with a low kick and flurry of punches as Morales covered up against the cage. “Chunk” was unable to escape and with punches raining down from everywhere, Lawley stepped in. the end came at the 2:55 mark.
San Francisco-based bantamweight Joe Neal dominated Alex Rojas in the first with much better overall striking and then put him away with a single punch. “9 Lives” drilled Rojas with a lead right uppercut through the guard and when the punch connected, “First Blood” slumped back and caved in against the cage, clutching his face. Lawley immediately halted the contest, marking the end officially at the 35-second mark of the second.
Lightweight scrapper Jalin Turner made quick work of Paradise Vaovasa, stopping him just 90 seconds into their tussle. “The Tarantula” hurt Vaovasa with a wicked knee to the gut and when a few follow-up punches to the body preceded a left knee to the face, it was all over for “The Problem.” Vaovasa crumbled against the cage, prompting referee Lawley to intervene.
Young featherweight Armando Espinoza showed off a solid ground game as he forced debuting Diamond Templeton to tap out a few minutes into their fight. After threatening with a D’Arce choke and having “The Wraith” slither out of it, Espinoza locked in a textbook triangle choke from his guard and got the tap. The end came 2:07 into the first.
In his professional debut, heavyweight Mohammed Usman ran right over Derrick Williams in the opening bout of the evening, quickly taking him down and submitting him. “The Motor” was all over Williams from the start and when he moved over to side control, he latched on a textbook cross-body kimura and forced “Alpha Wolf” to tap out. The end came just 76 seconds into the match.