On Friday, Sept. 12, Resurrection Fighting Alliance held its 18th event from the Albuquerque Convention Center in Albuquerque, N.M.
In the night’s main event, flyweight champion Matt Manzanares defended his 125-pound title against Brazil’s Alexandre Pantoja. Originally, Manzanares was expected to face Joby Sanchez, but Sanchez received a contract from the UFC. The 28-year-old Manzanares captured gold at RFA 14 in April with a decision win over Junior Maranhão. The 24-year-old Pantoja made both his promotional and US debut at the event. The dynamic Brazilian fighter is the Shooto Brazil champion and rode a seven-fight winning streak that included five finishes.
In the night’s co-main event, former UFC fighter and multiple-division Tachi Palace title holder Ulysses Gomez stepped into the RFA cage for the first time against DREAM and King of the Cage veteran Abel Cullum. Eighteen of the pair’s 27 wins had come via submission.
Also on the card, Chidi Njokuani faced submission specialist Steve Hanna, Brenda Gonzales took on Heather Bassett in a women’s bantamweight match-up, France’s Mehdi Baghdad faced Evan DeLong in lightweight action and Justin Linn and Adrian Cruz squared off in a 140-pound catchweight.
The RFA 18 main card aired live on AXS TV on Friday, Sept. 12, beginning at 10 p.m. ET.
RFA crowned a new champion as Alexandre Pantoja overcame the power striking of Matt Manzanares to score a second-round submission finish. Pantoja ate an uppercut early, but scored a brief takedown in the first round. Manzanares shrugged him off and they traded strikes for the remainder of the round. In the second round, the pair engaged in a few wild exchanges. Pantoja took Manzanares down and looked for an armbar, but Manzanares avoided it and the pair returned to their feet. Pantoja scored another takedown seconds later and took Manzanares’s back. Pantoja flattened Manzanares out and sunk in a rear-naked choke. Manzanares struggled to defend, but couldn’t. Pantoja coaxed a tapout from Manzanares in the second frame to claim the flyweight belt.
Abel Cullum returned to action after a long period of inactivity and impressed with a submission finish of Ulysses Gomez. Gomez got the takedown and looked to work from the top, but Cullum looked for a guillotine choke from the bottom. He tightened it up and rolled Gomez. From the top, Cullum squeezed until Gomez was forced to submit.
The Njokuani brothers have always been known for their striking, and Chidi Njokuani demonstrated why against Steve Hanna. Displaying excellent takedown defense and landing in top position every time the fight did go to the ground, Njokuani claimed a dominant unanimous decision victory over Hanna. Njokuani was able to land numerous knees and body kicks, while also delivering a number of left hands that found their mark.
After opening the round with striking and some work in the clinch, Brenda Gonzales finished her fight with Heather Bassett on the mat. Gonzales and Bassett exchanged strikes early in the contest, then Bassett opted to go for the takedown. She briefly took Gonzales to the mat, but Gonzales popped back up. Bassett scored with a body lock takedown and worked from the top. Gonzales eventually caught one of Bassett’s arms for an armbar attempt that forced the tap from Bassett. The finish came midway through the opening stanza.
Mehdi Baghdad wasted little time in capturing his 10th career victory with a knockout finish of Evan DeLong. The fighters exchanged strikes until Baghdad slipped on a kick. DeLong tried to pounce on him, but ended up underneath Baghdad. After spending a brief time on the ground, the two men returned to their feet. Baghdad eventually landed a punch and followed with a head kick and more punches, forcing DeLong to cover up. DeLong tried to escape across the cage, but Baghdad pursued him and landed a hook that sent DeLong to the mat. Baghdad closed in deliver more punches, but the referee rushed in to stop the fight.
In the opening contest of the main card, Adrian Cruz suffered an unfortunate, cringe-inducing injury that led to his defeat. Cruz and his opponent, Justin Linn, opened the fight by exchanging leg kicks. Cruz broke his leg when he connected with a kick, and Linn rushed forward when Cruz started hopping on one foot. Cruz went down and Linn delivered additional strikes until the referee stepped in at just 22 seconds of the first frame, awarding Linn with the TKO finish.