Late stand-ins stand out

COSTA MESA — Fighters began falling before they entered the ring at Fight Club OC on Thursday.

The card lost fighters before anyone threw a punch at the OC Fair & Event Center. Fans still came out strong, 1,435 sold out the Hangar.

The rest of the boxers and mixed martial artists made up for the dropouts.

The two boxers who stepped in at the last minute after the main attraction, 6-foot-7 heavyweight Lionel Davis (9-0), pulled out of his fight with Andrae Carthron (5-7-2) put on a show. It took just one round for super middleweights David Tabatadze and Lester Gonzalez to exchange heavyweight-type blows.

The shots mostly came from the left side, making sense since both are left-handed fighters. Through six rounds, it looked even, Tabatadze, a Ukrainian, worked the body while Gonzalez, a Cuban, used his quick hands to strike Tabatadze's head.

The three judges did not view it as a close fight at the end, giving a unanimous decision to Tabatadze, 58-56, 59-54, 60-54. Gonzalez (12-5-2) looked disappointed, while Tabatadze (8-1-1) celebrated his third straight victory.

In the opening bout, Alex Vlas of Laguna Hills expected to make his debut against Eric Mendez, but Mendez dropped out.

Vlas got a tougher draw in Marcus Robinson. The quick left-hander from Los Angeles went into the welterweight match undefeated in his first three fights.

Vlas challenged Robinson for most of the four-round action. Robinson's corner even cautioned the undefeated fighter, yelling, "Don't get careless. Keep your hands up."

Vlas was the sloppy one right before the final bell rang.

Robinson delivered a quick right, knocking down the newbie in the middle of the ring. Robinson raised his arms, knowing he was still perfect as a fighter, earning a unanimous decision.

Another fighter looking to avoid a blemish on his record was Vinc Pichel.

The MMA lightweight from Valencia kept his winning streak alive. Pichel improved to 7-0 after easily getting past David Gardner (15-15), with a technical knockout in the second round.

At the start, a woman in Gardner's corner had the nerve to scream, "He's scared Dave!" The amount of abuse Pichel handed out to Gardner frightened her and many sitting ringside.

Pichel caught Gardner with a kick to the head, and blood began gushing out from above Gardner's left eyebrow and from his right ear. The referee stopped the fight at the 1:47 mark. Someone jumped inside the ring to try to stop the bleeding near the eye with a towel, the same towel Gardner's corner should have thrown in after the first round.

Pichel body slammed Gardner with four seconds left in the opening round. The only thing that saved Gardner was the bell.

Neil Cooke of Santa Ana was not so lucky in the first round of his MMA heavyweight match.

Rancho Santa Margarita's Manny Lara (4-1) caught Cooke with a left-handed shot and then pounded Cooke's head in near the corner. The referee gave Cooke, a chance to recover because he went into the ring with a 6-1 record.

But Cooke stood no chance.

Lara continued the ferocious attack to the head, knocking out Cooke 26 seconds into the fight. Lara got a spring in his step. He surely bounced back after coming off a loss. The crowd showed Lara support by throwing crumbled money into the ring.

Alexander Flores delivered the money shot in the final fight of the evening.

The heavyweight from Rowland Heights knocked out Ukraine's Serhiy Karpenko (6-2) at the 2:59 mark in the fourth round to improve to 5-0. Flores ended the event on a high note as well as Karpenko's six-fight winning streak.

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