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Olaf Alfonso hangs tough with Phil Baroni

A fan at ringside couldn't help bellowing out what many were thinking Friday night at the Tachi Palace Hotel and Casino. "Two more rounds,'" he shouted, shortly after the conclusion of the Palace Fighting Championship 10 mixed martial arts show.

Indeed, the ending as a bit anti-climactic, as Phil Baroni won a three-round decision over fellow welterweight Olaf Alfonso in the main event.

The show included three PFC World title bouts, including a five-round cooker between Bryan Travers and Jeremiah Metcalf. There was no shortage of fast finishes, as half of the 16 bouts ended in first-round stoppages.

But in the main event, it seemed like things were just heating up when the final bell sounded.

Baroni (13-10) showed off only some of his vaunted punching powers in defeating Alfonso (14-9). While Baroni did manage takedowns in the first and second rounds, most of the bout was fought in stand-up mode, with Baroni stalking and Alfonso moving laterally.

"I didn't fight to the best of my ability,'" said Baroni, the Long Island product known as the "New York Badass". "But he fought a good fight. I don't want to take anything away from him."

Baroni, a former UFC and Pride competitor, was the aggressor most of the way, using his heavy hands to keep his opponent at bay. Telling blows were limited on both sides, although Baroni did suffer a cut near the left eye during the first round and also had swelling on the bridge of the nose.

Alfonso spent most of the fight on the move. He said he expected to face a more aggressive Baroni and would have fought differently if he had known otherwise.

"It took me a while to find my rhythm," he said. "I was just starting to get warmed up in the third round."

So just how hard does Baroni hit?

"I don't know," said Alfonso, a native of Ensenada, Mexico. "He didn't hit hard enough to tell."

But Baroni did land enough to win all three rounds on two official scorecards. He won 29-28 on the other.

Still, the bout left fans clamoring for more action. Baroni said he would have liked to have given them just that ? and gave no excuses for his inability to corner his foe.

"I've faced that before," Baroni said of the lateral movement. "I know how to cut off the ring."

Action was most plentiful in the Travers-Metcalf bout, as Travers launched a stirring rally to take a close-but-unanimous five-round decision and claim the vacant PFC welterweight crown.

Travers, from Bakersfield, Calif., said was "by far'" the toughest bout of his career.

And there was no doubt it was a close shave, as Travers (11-1) won the final three rounds to win by a 48-47 margin on all three official scorecards.

Metcalf (9-5) was in vast disagreement with the decision, which drew some boos when announced to the crowd.

In fact, Metcalf felt he won decisively. "No," he said flatly, when asked if he thought the fight was close.

"I took him down three times," the Modesto, Calif., fighter said. "He didn't take me down but once."

The lack of takedowns on Travers' part did seem surprising. A skilled wrestler facing a taller opponent, Travers worked almost exclusively in stand-up mode.

The result was a crowd-pleasing slugfest.

Metcalf scored heavily with the fists in the first two rounds, gaining a visible edge.

But in the third, Travers began to pick up the pace while Metcalf could not match his work rate of the first two stanzas. The final three rounds were all close, with Travers' aggression gaining him the nod from the judges.

Conditioning was the deciding factor, Travers said.

"I know that if the fight goes into deep water, nobody can match my cardio," he said.

Travers added that he was surprised by Metcalf's takedown ability, and that was a reason he was inclined to keep the bout from going to the mat.

"I was confident that I could get it done with my striking ability," he said.

Another Bakersfield fighter, Brian Cobb, got it done with his grappling ability.

Cobb (16-4) dominated David Gardner (15-10) of Temecula, Calif., to win a unanimous five-round decision and retain the PFC lightweight crown.

Cobb, who managed to outstrike Gardner at long range in addition to controlling him on the ground, won all five rounds on all three scorecards. Gardner gamely avoided being stopped, but could manage little offensively.

In another title bout, Shawn Klarcyk (10-2) of Porterville, Calif., won by submission in the second round over Brandon Miller (3-3) of Tulare, Calif., and retained the PFC bantamweight belt.

Klarcyk's ground-and-pound attack gained him a notable first-round edge. The gutsy Miller turned a stunning reversal in the second round, and was launching blows from the top position. But he worked promptly into an arm-bar, which Klarcyk used to end the bout at 2:19.

Friday night's show also featured the U.S. debut of French star Xavier Foupa-Pokam, who stopped Richard Montoya (6-5) of Reno, Nev., at 1:13 of the first round.

Foupa-Pokam, a former kickboxing star from Paris better known to the fight world as "Professor X", used an arm bar to stop his opponent.

"It didn't go the way I expected," Foupa-Pokam said. "I was expecting a knockout. But it's a win, so I'm happy."

Foupa-Pokam, naturally, is most experienced in striking. But his victory Friday showed that he's gaining some sound all-around skills.

"It's MMA, so you have to be good overall," he said. "You have to stay fresh at everything."

The big local draws were the return of lightweight Poppies Martinez and the debut of featherweight Chad Mendes.

Mendes easily helped draw one of the largest crowds ever at a PFC event, as nearly 3,000 packed the Palace's outdoor venue to see the Hanford, Calif. native in his debut.

Mendes was a star wrestler for Hanford High and later at Cal Poly San Luis Obispo where he earned Pac-10 Wrestler of the Year honors after finishing No. 2 in the nation with a 30-1 record at 141 pounds.

"I think that this kid is going to be the future champ. I think he is the next era in the sport and will take over for me," said Urijah Faber, Mendes' trainer at Ultimate Fitness, who is ranked No. 1 in the world at 145 pounds and the current World Extreme Cagefighthing Featherweight champion.

"I think he can compete with the best in the world. He's ready. He's an excellent wrestler and he loves to fight and that's the main thing."

And Mendes made it look easy in his debut, submitting Concord's Geovanny Encarnacion (0-2) at 2:06 of the first round with a rear-naked choke.

"It felt awesome out there. It reminded me of the NCAA championships. All my family and friends were here cheering me on," said Mendes. "There were no jitters for me. Of course, I'm not 100 percent use to all this yet, but I train with the best in the world, who have been in there and done this before."

Martinez (16-5) did have a bit of jitters in his three-round unanimous-decision win over Huron, Calif. featherweight Sergio Cortez (4-5).

"I had to get hit in the face and shake off some ring rust," the Lemoore, Calif. fighter said. "It's been a while since I've been in a ring. I'm happy that Team Buhawe took me under their wing and I had my old team Ultimate Fitness here."

The fight didn't get under way until after a 20-minute delay because of a generator failure.

But when it did, the pair put on a hotly contested battle.

Martinez controlled the early action in both the first and second round before Cortez came on late in the round and caught Martinez in two close submissions at the end of the rounds.

In the third round, Martinez took the fight over with his leg kicks.

In other bouts:

?San Luis Obispo, CA bantamweight Antonio Banuelos (16-5) knocked out Macon, Georgia's Bryan Goldsby (4-3) in 59 seconds of the second round.

?Sacramento, CA lightweight Dustin Akbari (2-0) won by technical knockout over Oakdale, CA's Bill Theofanopoulos (3-0) in 1:39 of the first round.

?Hanford, CA flyweight Luis Gonzales (3-0) defeated Oakland, CA's Elbert Randle (0-2) by technical knockout in 2:24 of the first round.

? Madera, CA heavyweight Lavar Johnson (10-3) won by technical knockout over Casa Grande, Arizona's Vince Lucero (22-14) in 1:16 of the first round.

?Live Oak, CA flyweight David Suarez (2-1) won by knockout over Macon, Georgia's David Mitchell (2-0) in 1:13 f the first round.

?Lemoore CA welterweight Chris Botelho (4-3) defeated Sacramento, CA's Anthony Bivins (2-1) by majority decision.

?Lemoore, CA welterweight Joey Cabezas (3-0) won by technical knockout over Taft, CA's Billy Terry (3-9) in 54 seconds of the first round.

?San Jose, CA bantamweight Omar Sandoval (1-0) defeated Visalia, CA Mike Craddock (2-3) by unanimous decision.

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