XFO 39 Punctuated with Victories by UFC Vets Jeff Curran and Jaime Varner

Article by Rainer Lee
Photos by Richard Lee

This Saturday night, just outside Chicago, the twenty-two fighters of XFO 39 put on an exciting and varied show before a raucous Midwestern crowd.

Quick Results
Hector Garcia def. Nicolas Scotti by TKO at 0:13 of round 1
Will Brooks def. Bobby Reardanz by armbar at 3:22 of round 3
Kent Rexford def. PJ Cajigas by rear naked choke at 4:47 of round 1
Amanda LaVoy def. Michele Gutierrez by doctor stoppage at 0:34 of round 2
Dan Stittgen def. Jason Graves by armbar at 1:10 of round 1
Lucas Gwaltney def. Jon Murphy by unanimous decision
Dan Aguirre def. Terrance Kinney by triangle choke at 2:20 of round 1
Mike Stumpf def. Dan Bolden by unanimous decision
Felice Herrig def. Nicdali RIvera-Calanoc by unanimous decision
Jamie Varner def. Tyler Combs by north south choke at 1:30 of round 1
Jeff Curran def. Billy Vaughan by unanimous decision

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Lightweight Hector Garcia set the tone for the night, dropping local favorite Nicholas Scotti with a right hook early in the first. After a flurry of punches on the ground, the referee called the stoppage at only thirteen seconds into the first round.

Will Brooks, a lightweight prospect out of the Midwest Training Center, continued his rise up the ranks with a third round submission win over the well-traveled Bobby Reardanz.

In the opening round, Reardanz threatened with flashy kicks to the head and body, but Brooks remained composed, and set his opponent on his heels with straight punches before shooting for the takedown. Brooks settled in nicely, roughing his opponent up both from inside the guard and, once on the feet, from within the clinch.

Things heated up in the second, as Brooks dropped Reardanz twice within the early minutes of the round. It was a flurry of punches punctuated by a knee that first put Reardanz on his backside. The veteran struggled to his feet, only to find himself on the wrong end of an uppercut followed by a well-timed leg kick that once more left him vulnerable on the mat. Reardanz showed a thick hide and a toughness of spirit but, ultimately, was unable to deal with Brooks’s speed and power, as exemplified by the young lightweight’s crowd-pleasing suplex.

By the third, Reardanz was visibly worn from the rough treatment he’d received. Heavy leather from Brooks once again left him dazed on the mat, where he turtled up to defend the rear naked choke. From back control, Brooks transitioned to the arm bar, coaxing the tap 3:22 of the third round.

In a catchweight bout of 190 pounds, the debuting Kent Rexford found himself in trouble early when faced with the crisp boxing of P.J. Cajigas. Finally, though, it was Rexford’s grappling that would win the day, as a takedown late in the round allowed Rexford to advance to full mount. Cajigas rolled to his belly, but before he could explode to the feet, Rexford sunk in the rear naked choke. The stoppage came at 4:47 of Round 1.

In a well-received women’s match, Michele Gutierrez squared off against hard-luck case Amanda LaVoy. Gutierrez looked sharp early, sending LaVoy crashing to the mat with a blistering right. LaVoy wouldn’t be put away, however, and maintained a relentless if awkward-looking assault of punches and knees that left Gutierrez off-balance and gassed out. By the second round, Gutierrez’s left eye was badly swollen, and clinch work from the tireless LaVoy opened a gash on the beleaguered Gutierrez’s forehead. Following a doctor’s inspection, the fight was called, and LaVoy walked away with a victory by TKO at thirty-one seconds of the second round.

It was a good night for the Midwest Training Center, as their second fighter of the evening, welterweight Daniel “The Anvil” Stittgen, made short work of opponent Jason Graves. A flurry from Stittgen early persuaded Graves to search for a takedown, but he found no solace on the mat. Sensing a creeping, high guard, Graves attempted to scramble out, but was too late. Stittgen slapped on an arm bar and earned a submission victory at 1:10 of Round 1.

Lightweights Lucas Gwaltney and Jon Murphy grappled their way across an exciting, closely contested three rounds.

Murphy, fighting out of Team Curran, took an early lead on the score cards with takedowns, ground and pound, and solid submission attempts. His efforts left him visibly tired for the second, but he nevertheless delivered much of the same. A cut near Gwaltney’s left eye elicited a pause in the action, during which the attending doctor appeared hesitant to allow the fight to continue, but Gwaltney convinced her otherwise, and returned to the fight emboldened and energized. Sensing Murphy’s exhaustion, Gwaltney indulged in some showboating before peppering Murphy with jabs and folding him up with a kick to the body.

In the third, Gwaltney made use of his reach advantage, working the jab and remaining mindful of Murphy’s takedown attempts, which came ever more sluggish and telegraphed. Yet, the tenacious Murphy managed to bully Gwaltney to the mat one more time, landing in side control and scoring with elbows to the face and knees to the body. It was a gutsy series of scrambles and submission attempts by Gwaltney that punctuated the round, however, leaving the crowd cheering and, apparently making a rather strong impression on the judges. In an upset victory, Lucas Gwaltney earned a unanimous decision, with scores of 29-28 across the board.

In a bantamweight attraction, Daniel Aguirre kept his undefeated record intact thanks to a technical submission win over Terrance Kinney. Out of the gate Kinney was eager for the takedown, and Aguirre was happy to oblige. With Kinney wrapped up in his half guard, Aguirre methodically applied the triangle choke and, after a brief struggle, forced the referee to rescue the unconscious Kinney at 2:20 of the first round.

EliteXC veteran Mike Stumpf survived a couple of scares on the feet en route to a unanimous decision victory over Dan Bolden. Takedowns and top control were the story of the fight, with Bolden’s heavy hands acting as a continual reminder for Stumpf to seek the double-leg. Bolden managed to explode to his feet throughout the fight but, in the end, his power wasn’t enough to counteract Stumpf’s wrestling savvy.

A much-anticipated grudge-match between Felice Herrig and Nicdali Rivera-Calanoc occasioned plenty of clinch work from both fighters. Wary of Herrig’s boxing prowess, Calanoc dove for the takedown early and often, but Herrig’s defense was unyielding. Across all three rounds they traded knees to the body and tested their dirty boxing, separating only occasionally to fire at range. Herrig enjoyed a comfortable advantage on the feet, and made with takedowns in the second and third rounds, leading to a clear-cut win by unanimous decision.

In his first fight since leaving the WEC, Jamie Varner returned from the brink of retirement to make short work of regional standout Tyler Combs. After threatening with a flurry of straights and uppercuts, Varner effortlessly planted Combs on his back, where he advanced to side control, and then mount. Combs regained full guard, but to little effect, as Varner postured up and pounded away. As Combs attempted to reverse, Varner seized the opportunity to tie up a north-south choke, rendering Combs unconscious a minute-and-a-half into the first round.

In what may have very well been Jeff Curran’s last fight, the former featherweight contender went three hard rounds with journeyman Billy Vaughan.

The opening stanza saw Curran testing out his kickboxing, marking Vaughan up with jabs and leg kicks. Curran put his stamp on the round in its closing minutes, with a head kick that left Vaughan staggered and shooting for a takedown. With Vaughan in his full guard, Curran attempted both a guillotine and an arm bar before Vaughan tried a submission of his own, dropping back for a heel hook as the bell sounded.

Despite the wealth of submission victories between them, the bantamweights were content to test each other out on the feet during what was a relatively uneventful second round. Vaughan’s punches came fast, but consistently fell short. In what were the most significant blows of the round, Curran slammed his shin into Vaughan’s midsection and followed up with a nice lead uppercut. Otherwise, however, the UFC veteran insisted on a measured approach, and found success mainly with jabs and leg kicks as he cruised into the third.

In the final round, Vaughan decided to try his luck on the mat and, following a swift takedown, found himself in Curran’s rather formidable full guard. Threatening with a kimura, Curran transitioned to the distracted Vaughan’s back, where he composed an inverted triangle choke. Though it appeared tight, Vaughan signaled to the referee that he was fine and, sure enough, managed to slip out just as the closing bell sounded.

Once his unanimous decision victory was made official, Curran addressed the crowd and contemplated retirement. He asserted that, with nearly fifty fights and over a decade of competition to his credit, the only thing that interested him anymore was fighting at the sport’s highest levels. If the UFC won’t have him, Jeff Curran will, by his own reckoning, finally turn away from the bright lights of the ring.