XFS “Cerebral” – San Diego MMA After-Dark

Photograph courtesy of Lance Emery Photography
Photograph courtesy of Lance Emery Photography

The Fight Voice crew took a field trip Saturday night deep into the San Pasqual mountains to take in some MMA action and support San Diego’s local MMA talent.

The anticipation and buildup leading up to a live fight creates a unique feeling that can only be described as exciting, nerve-wracking and intense — And that’s just the feeling from outside the cage for two diehard fans that are simply observing the action. One can only imagine the intense emotions taking their toll on the fighters as they prepare to engage in the rawest form of human combat.

There is a remote area of Valley Center, miles away from shopping centers, golf courses and track homes that seems as if time had passed it by. But on Saturday July 18, 2014 that modest piece of land sported a mixed martial arts cage and live music, and played host to fighters, trainers, businessmen, food and beverage vendors, and hundreds of fight fans ready to support some of the best MMA talent in the San Diego area.

Xplode Fight Series (XFS) and Gregg Sharp, along with several sponsors, presented “Cerebral”, a stacked MMA fight card that showcased a two-day event consisting of over 80 amateur and professional fighters from the Southern California area. You would be hard-pressed to find a more cost-effective way of spending your entertainment dollar on a Saturday night while simultaneously supporting local athletes striving to achieve their goals of one day fighting at the highest level.

The Fight Voice crew was fortunate to play a part in the festivities this past weekend, as we had the pleasure of profiling two local MMA fighters who fought at XFS Cerebral.

As part of our ongoing commitment to highlighting local MMA talent, we sat down with undefeated rising star Steve Orosco and UFC veteran Alex Soto earlier in the week to find out what we could expect from their bouts at XFS Cerebral.

Steve Orosco, photograph courtesy of Lance Emery Photography
Steve Orosco, photograph courtesy of Lance Emery Photography

Orosco came into this with an unblemished record of 5-0. The moment his name was announced a roar reverberated through the crowd. It became immediately apparent why Orosco is one of the top contenders in XFS and a fan favorite. With fierce determination in his eyes, he stalked his opponent the same way a wolf stalks its prey. You could just see that nothing was going to stop Orosco from achieving victory.

Orosco came out of the gates by immediately landing a side kick and followed it up with a flying knee. His opponent ducked and both fighters fell to the ground. It appeared that Orosco was caught in a guillotine choke, but he never felt that he was in danger. “[H]e actually had my arm in a weird position. The choke wasn’t there, but the way my arm was, it just took me a while to figure a way out,“ Orosco explained.

And once Orosco escaped from the chokehold, it did not take him long to dispatch his opponent. Orosco swiftly and deftly applied a rear naked choke, causing his opponent to tap out almost instantly.

“I knew what I had to do. Usually you should just turn and pull guard, but I was able to stand up and get to my feet, which was the best option. So once he stood, the neck was there and I took it.”

Steve Orosco Victory, photograph courtesy of Lance Emery Photography
Steve Orosco Victory, photograph courtesy of Lance Emery Photography

And take it he did. He took the neck, he took the advantage, and he took the victory – in less than a minute. For Orosco, there’s no time to revel in his victory, as he plans to immediately begin training for his next fight. “Monday man, I will be there Monday for sure. No rest man,” Orosco said.

It is no wonder that Orosco is undefeated with the sky as his limit.

When it was approaching the midnight hour, there was one fighter who was gritting his teeth, pacing around the fighters tents and mentally preparing himself for battle. It would have been appropriate for Alex Soto, former UFC fighter and current team member of Team Hurricane Awesome, to enter the cage to “Mama Said Knock You Out,” by L.L. Cool J because that is exactly what happened.

“Anytime you can get an early takedown and just reign down elbows on your opponent you have to be happy. I think it was done within a minute which is always nice,” says Soto.

Photograph courtesy of Alex Soto
Photograph courtesy of Alex Soto

Not only did Soto finish the job in grand fashion, but like the song says, Soto, who took off over a year from fighting, started his rise back to the top of the MMA game with the victory.

“Don’t call it a comeback…”

“I been here for years…”

“Rocking my peers and putting suckas in fear….”

Soto’s preparation, ambition and execution at XFS Cerebral embodied those three lines of the famous L.L. Cool J song to a tee. Soto’s determination to get off the mat after a loss at UFC 139, reevaluate his skills and make the necessary changes his coaches asked of him show that Soto is developing as a fighter.

“I made some changes in my game and it has helped so much. I have to attribute that to Coach Manny who told me after my last loss,” says Soto.

After a long wait to get in the cage, Soto came out strong displaying the skills that earned him a UFC shot years ago. In the early part of the first round, Soto was able to secure a takedown and begin an onslaught of elbows that sent his opponents head into the mat with ferocious force. To the casual observer, it appeared that Soto hasn’t missed a beat.

“Everything felt real natural and back to normal like it used to be. It was a great feeling,” says Soto.

Photograph courtesy of Alex Soto
Photograph courtesy of Alex Soto

While the comeback is not complete, Soto feels that he is on the right track. And being on the right track means no rest and getting back in the gym. “Coming back to the gym first thing next week and talking to Coach Manny about my next move,” Soto explains.

In addition to the Orosco and Soto fights, we were treated to more than a dozen quality fights starring elite talent from some of the top gyms across the city.

San Diego Combat Academy and Team Hurricane Awesome (led by local legend and Trainer Manolo “El Huracan” Hernandez) had ten fighters enter the cage on Saturday night. The elite group was cheered on by the largest contingent of supporters in the crowd and finished the night with a stellar 9-1 record. A handful of those fights ended within minutes of the first round due to vicious ground-and-pound and submission moves.

Team Hurricane Awesome with George Hernandez after first round win, photograph courtesy of Lance Emery Photography
Team Hurricane Awesome with George Hernandez after first round win, photograph courtesy of Lance Emery Photography

Cory Blades and George Hernandez made quick work of their opponents, finishing their fights in round one via brutal ground-and-pound attacks that forced the referee to step in and stop the fight. With the assistance of several elite fighters, such as Boogeyman Martinez and Walel Gazelle, in their corners, Team Hurricane Awesome and SD Combat Academy combatants made their presence known on Saturday and proved that talent coupled with world-class training only yields good results.

“We were all so excited too. And proud of each other,” says Soto. He continues about the big night for the Team Hurricane Awesome Team, “We train so hard. Spar hard. And sacrifice a lot to compete at the highest level. It makes us so much better to all be there working hard together.”

In the main event the Lightweight title was on the line as the youngest professional fighter, Chris “Taco” Padilla, and Aaron Neveu, gave the fans a fight to remember. The bout played out like a scene from a movie as both fighters shed their blood, sweat and tears in the cage. The fight between Chris Taco and Aaron Neveu had it all.

Chris "Taco" Padilla, photograph courtesy of Lance Emery Photography
Chris “Taco” Padilla, photograph courtesy of Lance Emery Photography

Taco was able to dole out the ferocious ground-and-pound that he is so well known for, before being put in a dangerous rear-naked choke at the end of round one. The second and third rounds gave the fans some good back and forth, however, it was apparent that Taco was handling his business and winning the rounds. The evidence was written all over the face of the bloody Neveu who gave it his all but was unable to get the decision. And new XFS Lightweight Champion…Chris “Taco” Padilla!

As if amazing fights in front of a rabid crowd weren’t enough, XFS Cerebral also featured some MMA celebrities in attendance. You needn’t look any further than cage-side to notice UFC fighter Robbie Peralta. Fresh off two wins in the UFC and currently preparing for a fight in August, Peralta made time to cheer on his fellow fighters from Team Xplode in Escondido. Adding to the star power, UFC legend Chris “The Crippler” Leben cornered several young fighters from Victory MMA and graciously took photos with several fans in between. The presence of these two UFC fighters supporting their teams, mentoring young fighters and taking in the action is just another example of how XFS is doing it right.

The fights started early in the day when the sun was shining down on northern San Diego and ended late in the night under a dark sky as XFS delivered a big night of non-stop fight action that highlighted the talented MMA fighters training, fighting and living in our great city. With a handful of cards scheduled throughout the remainder of the year, fight fans should plan to take a night to see these young warriors do battle for the betterment of their careers, and most importantly, to cement San Diego as “Fight Capital USA.”

Xplode Fight Series (XFS) and Gregg Sharp strive to give San Diego fighters, coaches, gyms and fans a premium outlet for professional MMA action and are already planning their next event, “Lockdown” which is happening in Iowa on August 9. XFS will be back in San Diego August 23 for “Tidal Wave!” Be sure to check out XFS on Facebook https://www.facebook.com/pages/XFS-Xplode-Fight-Series/164618330274711 on Twitter @XFSVerified and at http://www.xplodefightseries.com.

Special thanks Gregg Sharp and XFS, Steve Orosco, Alex Soto, Chris “Taco” Padilla, Manalo “El Huracan” Hernandez, Team Hurricane Awesome and SD Combat Academy, Lance Emery Photography and YOU the fans for tuning in to TheFightVoice. As always. Consume. Digest. React. Repeat.

Gregg Sharp, XFS: https://www.facebook.com/greggjsharp?fref=ts
Steve Orosco: https://www.facebook.com/steve.orosco?fref=ts
Alex Soto: https://www.facebook.com/alejandro.soto.127?fref=ts
Chris “Taco” Padilla: https://www.facebook.com/christopher.taco?fref=ts
Manolo “El Huracan” Hernandez: https://www.facebook.com/HURRICANEHERNANDEZ?fref=ts
Photograph Credit: Lance Emery Photography: https://www.facebook.com/LanceEmeryPhotography?ref_type=bookmark

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