Former Tornado blows through first foe

WOODLAND HILLS - Wins didn’t come easy for Jorge Bonilla when he played football at Hoover High.

And while Saturday night might not have exactly been easy, Bonilla was victorious in quick, impressive and emphatic fashion.

The former Tornadoes defensive back/receiver notched an ultra-impressive omoplata submission victory just 50 seconds into his amateur mixed-martial-arts debut on Friday night at the Warner Center Marriott against Tom Pagano.

“It was my first fight, I was really nervous,” said Bonilla, 21, a 2008 Hoover graduate. “I just tried to stay real calm.”

Bonilla’s victory began a 12-fight – six amateur, six professional – Alberto Crane’s National Fight Alliance MMA “Valley Invasion 2” card that saw the rookie grappler and five other teammates compete with
Glendale’s Crane in their corner.

“I’m real proud of everyone,” said Crane, who owns and teaches at Gracie Barra Burbank and Hollywood. “I’m hoping to put these guys in the [Ultimate Fighting Championship]. It’s just a matter of time.”

Crane’s Team Crane Gracie Barra charges went 4-2 on the night, with amateurs Bonilla, John Tercedi and pros Ako Harper and Rob Gooch claiming victory, while Daniel Clark and Keenan Lewis came up with losses.

Bonilla began his bout landing a leg kick, but was quickly taken down by Pagano, who shot in off the kick.

“I wasn’t happy [about getting taken down], but I was comfortable,” Bonilla said. “Jiu jitsu’s my base.”

Bonilla immediately went to work, looking for the omoplata, a high-level jiu jitsu shoulder lock that’s very rarely seen in MMA, but is a favorite hold of Crane, a Brazilian jiu jitsu third-degree black belt and
former world champion.

“It’s really awesome to see one of my guys do it,” Crane said.

Having just begun training MMA for six months, Bonilla has already seemingly become well-versed in the omoplata.

“For me, I know how to time the omoplata like the back of my hand. It’s just one of the things in my repertoire,” said Bonilla, who began training at Gracie Barra Glendale before hearing about Crane and moving on to Gracie Barra Burbank. “[Crane] took me under his wing, he took care of me.”

After losing to Jeremy Ramage in his MMA debut via split decision at the first Valley Invasion in Burbank in October of 2011, Harper, a 41-year-old Pasadena native, left nothing to chance in a rematch. A grazing leg kick by Harper (1-1) was enough to get Ramage (2-4) off-balance and send him to the canvas, where Harper followed and deftly maneuvered for an inverted straight armbar that secured a tap out in just 37 seconds of the first round.

“This is his dream,” Crane said. “To see him get his hand raised in the cage … it just makes me happy.”

The 150-pound Gooch (2-1) defeated JJ Williams (1-5) despite the latter coming in over weight and owning a visible size advantage. Williams also almost ended the bout when he caught Gooch with a left cross, put him on the canvas and unleashed some vicious ground and pound in the second round. Gooch
was able to grind out a majority decision, however.

“I might not have the most talent and skill, but I sure as hell have a whole … lot of heart,” Gooch said after the fight in the cage.

Clark (1-2) didn’t make it out of his own contentious second round, though, succumbing to a rear-naked choke against Christian Palencia (1-1).

Lewis (1-2) lost a razor-thin split decision to Willie Gates (3-2).

“It could’ve gone either way,” Crane said. “I thought [Lewis] won.”

In the other two pro fights, Alan Jouban (4-1), arguably the most impressive competitor on the night, notched a tapout win via strikes against Daniel McWilliams (10-21) in only 46 seconds. In the night’s main
event, John Robles (5-1) was stunned by Caleb Volloton (2-1), who used smothering grappling to grab a unanimous decision.

Tercedi took a unanimous decision over Julian Pinto. Tercedi won by scores of 30-27.5 twice and 29.5-28 thanks to solid striking and effective takedowns.

Ara Aroutiounian, who trains with Team Hayastan and was cornered by Glendale fighter Karen Darabedyan, was stopped 26 seconds into his amateur fight against Daniel Shin via strikes.

In other amateur action: Dustin Little defeated Luis Suarez via split decision; Arash Nardershani won a unanimous decision over Jaron Cheung and Tim Ricen garnered a first-round TKO over Audey Ortiz.

Glendale fighter Sevak Magakian was scheduled to fight on Friday, but on Thursday sustained a back injury that forced him to pull out.

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