Two armbar attempts and 117 seconds later, Marina Shafir’s much-ballyhooed debut was in the books.
That was in April. Just less than four months later, “The Supernova from Moldova” will look to keep her star on the rise when she returns to action Sunday against Amber Bell at Lights Out Promotions’ Chaos at the Casino 5 at the Hollywood Park and Casino.
“It couldn’t come at a more perfect time,” said Shafir, who added she was dealing with some nagging injuries ahead of her pro debut. “This time around, I’m all healed up, my mind’s in a really good place, everything’s coming together for this camp.”
Shafir, who trains under Edmond Tarverdyan at the Glendale Fighting Club, will be joined by stablemates Vardan Sholinyan, Levon Sargsyan and Jemyma Betrian on the card, which is set for first bell at 6 p.m.
Sporting a 5-0 amateur record with five submission wins along with being the best friend of UFC women’s bantamweight champion Ronda Rousey, Shafir’s debut drew plenty of buzz and she answered with a first-round win over Chandra Engle. This time around, the ballyhooed debut belongs to Betrian, a decorated and dangerous muay Thai kick boxer who will enter the professional mixed martial arts ranks against Hadley Griffith.
“I saw Jemyma fight five years ago at a muay Thai fight and I was like, ‘Wow, this girl is gonna be a superstar,’” said Lights Out Promotions’ George Bastrmajyan.
Though it’s likely Shafir’s fan base will do the most in terms of putting butts in the seats and garnering media attention, the main event will feature “The Ultimate Fighter” alumnus Chris Saunders (11-6) taking on Dominic Clark, with a heavyweight clash between UFC veteran Chase Gormley (9-4) and durable veteran Tony “Kryptonite” Lopez (34-14) serving as the co-main event.
Heavyweight Arsen Galstyan (2-2) of Main Event Gym in Glendale will take on Joe Hernandez (1-0), Sargsyan, a muay Thai kick boxer, will make his pro MMA debut against Jimmy Marquez (1-6) at 125 pounds and Sholinyan (2-1) is set to face Mike Frier in a welterweight bout. In all, 12 bouts are scheduled and they’re all in the arena of MMA, though all four prior Chaos events had featured boxing and muay Thai kickboxing along with MMA.
“It’s my first full MMA card,” Bastrmajyan said. “I’ve always wanted to do a full MMA card in a cage.”
Though previous Chaos events have also showcased muay Thai and boxing action, there’s been plenty of MMA highlights, such as Eddie Mendez’s slugfest decision win over Fabio Nascimento at Chaos 1, Sevak Magakian valiantly claiming a decision while essentially fighting on one leg against Saunders at Chaos 3 and Ara Muradyan’s win over John Robles at Chaos 5 in a bout that was as back-and-forth as a 48-second fight can be.
But more than anything, the Lights Out Promotions’ events have been a showcase for anticipated debuts and a platform for Southern California-based fighters to grow their careers.
In May of 2012, Tarverdyan, known most for training his GFC stable of fighters, made his MMA debut and thrilled the jampacked crowd with a first-round knockout. Burgeoning fighters such as Magakian, Christos Giagos, Max Ceniceros and Sholinian have also continued building their resumes at Chaos events, but perhaps no card to date has offered an opportunity to see the promise of such bright and hopeful rising stars as Shafir and Betrian.
“They’re gonna both be world champions,” Bastrmajyan said. “Jemyma is gonna be the UFC 115-pound in about two years — mark my words. And Marina, wherever she ends up, is going to be the champion at 145.”
Shafir, who has won all six of her MMA bouts (combined amateur and pro) by first-round submission, with five via armbar, was without an opponent for her debut until the week of the fight when the undersized Engle signed on for their 145-pound bout. This time around, Shafir has known about Bell (1-2) in advance, though she did replace Shafir’s original opponent, who was dealing with legal issues.
“Everybody else in the division seems to be so worried about the unknown and afraid to jade their perfect record,” said Shafir of the ongoing difficulties of finding opposition.
Nonetheless, Shafir enters Sunday with reports from her camp that her game has improved, particularly her striking game, and she’s brimming with sureness.
“I’m 100% confident,” Shafir, 26, said. “I’m 100% confident that this is going to be a very good performance and no matter what happens and no matter what she does, it’s going to end in my favor.”
The 26-year-old Bell, nicknamed “The Lady Killer,” is a legitimate 145-pounder fighting out of Oregon.
“I know everything I really need to know about her,” Shafir said. “I know when we get in there she’s gonna need to know more about me than I’m going to need to know about her.”
Bell’s 1-2 record is a bit deceiving.
She lost her professional debut to the well-regarded Tamikka Brents fighting for Invicta Fighting Championships. She then lost her second bout via rear-naked choke to veteran Charmaine Tweet, who has fights against Rousey and Julia Budd on her resume. She’s coming off a victory in April over Brittney Elkin via rear-naked choke. Perhaps most notably, accompanying her three professional bouts is a 6-1 amateur record that most significantly includes a win over Jessamyn Duke, a current UFC fighter and one of Shafir’s training partners and close friends.
As for whether Bell’s win over Duke is genuine motivation for Shafir or simply something for the media to latch onto, well, Shafir believes it to be both.
“I think it’s 50-50,” Shafir said. “Yes, I’m going to avenge my friend and yes, it’s something for people to write about. … It’s a nice little twist in the storyline and it’s also added incentive for me to be the best Marina I can be on that night.”
Like Bell, Griffith brings a 1-2 record into her 120-pound catch weight bout with Betrian along with a significant height advantage with Griffith standing 5-foot-11 to Betrian’s 5-4.
While Betrian is making her MMA debut, though, her combat sports pedigree is likely the most pronounced of anybody on the card. Just 23, “The Golden Girl” is 35-2-1 in kickboxing and also 3-0 in boxing. She’s the current WBC World Women’s Bantamweight (115 pounds in kickboxing) champ and her one career draw came against Tiffany van Soest, arguably the most recognizable women’s muay Thai fighter.
Indeed, Sunday night might well prove to be the beginning of a brilliant MMA career and the continuation of one, as well.
For tickets, call 323-243-7777 or 818-484-5555.