BURBANK — Burbank opened its doors to mixed martial arts on Saturday night, as Alberto Crane's National Fight Alliance presented "Valley Invasion" at the Burbank Marriott Convention Center.
Headlined by Glendale's Sevak Magakian, a former "The Ultimate Fighter" cast member, claiming victory in his return to the cage, the nine-bout card thrilled a healthy throng of fight fans.
"Finally, it's good to be back, to be back in the cage," said Magakian, cornered by Glendale fighter Karen Darabedyan, legendary trainer Gokor Chivichyan and Alex Ariza, who's Manny Pacquiao's strength and conditioning coach, "I'm never gonna stop, I'm gonna keep going."
Crane, a Glendale resident and MMA fighter, as well, who's brought Gracie Barra Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu studios to Burbank and Pasadena, among other Southern California locales, also led in a healthy stable of fighters who trained under his guidance.
Leading the charge was Orlando "The Cuban Tree Stump" Sanchez, who like Magakian, claimed victory in the first round in the co-main event to aid in the evening ending with an exclamation point.
Magakian (9-3), who hadn't fought professionally in more than a year, defeated David Gardner (18-20) at the 2:37 mark of the first round. Gardner shot in for a single leg and held tight to Magakian's limb for the duration of the bout, but Magakian began laying in hammer fists and elbows before dropping down and finding space to throw uppercuts that sent Gardner limp.
"I thought he was gonna stand up with me, but he tried to shoot. I'm comfortable there, too," Magakian said. "I felt him drop [after the first uppercut] and I just continued to hit him [until the fight was stopped]."
Sanchez, who leads the charge at Pasadena Gracie Barra, wasted no time in claiming victory, as the former La Cañada High football standout muscled down William Wheeler and took side control. From there, Sanchez (2-0) controlled top position and blitzed Wheeler (2-2) with a vicious barrage of punches, elbows and finally hammer fists that solicited the stoppage by referee Mike Beltran just 56 seconds into the first round.
"I was just looking to have fun," said Sanchez, a Brazilian jiu-jitsu brown belt. "That's what it's all about, being a champion in life."
Haik Tsaturyan, fighting out of Glendale's Main Event Gym, began the night with a sloppy, but entertaining unanimous decision win over Octavio Flores.
Tsaturyan (3-0) took the bantamweight fight on all three cards, 30-26 twice, and 30-27 once as he opened up with a first-round barrage in which he knocked down Flores (5-5) four times on strikes — first with a counter-right-knee combo, then with a right cross, then with a left hook and finally with another right.
"Coming into this fight, I knew I was prepared," Tsaturyan said. "I was pretty happy with what I did."
Flores, wild and off-balance throughout, took on less, but still plenty of punishment in the second.
In the third, Tsaturyan floored Flores again with a knee and followed with a savage right to the grounded fighter. Flores made it interesting with a couple of leglock attempts, but the fight was still one-sided in Tsaturyan's favor.
"To be honest, I don't know what kind of chin that guy has," Tsaturyan said. "I caught him with some really good shots… that guy is tough."
Keenan Lewis began the night on a high note as it related to Crane's understudies with his first professional victory, topping Peter Baltimore with a unanimous decision: 30-27 twice and 29-28 in another bantamweight clash. He used three big takedowns — one in each round — and a steady diet of top position to improve his record to 1-1, while Baltimore fell to 3-2.
Two fights later, Crane's charge Ako Harper, making his pro debut at 40, lost a split decision to Jeremy Ramage, as Ramage (2-3) outgrappled Harper to win, 29-28, 28-29, 30-27, in the lightweight bout.
In one of the evening's most enthralling bouts, Crane prodigy Daniel Clark was stopped by debuting Eric Steans at 1:51 of the third round after Steans got full mount and rained down a barrage of right and left punches and elbows, busting up Clark and forcing the stoppage by Beltran.
In the first round of the lightweight bout, Clark (1-1) used a bevy of knees to the belly from the clinch before Steans took him down, only to see Clark use a monkey flip to gain top position and transition into a guillotine choke attempt that Steans eventually freed himself of. The second round saw more back-and-forth, but was slightly in the favor of Steans thanks in large part to a phenomenal running takedown slam and a subsequent ankle lock attempt.
In other fights: Jon Gorton defeated German Baltazar via split decision in both fighters' pro debut in a bantamweight bout, middleweight Mike Jasper (3-0) stopped Daniel McWilliams (9-20) after a standing elbow and subsequent punches on the ground at 1:58 of the first round, and featherweight John Robles improved to 5-0 with a first-round TKO over Bobby Sanchez (6-18).