Sparta Sports and Entertainment kicked off the new decade for Colorado MMA with Sparta Combat League 79 at the Jefferson County Fairgrounds Event Center on January 26.

For a local show, fans were treated to UFC veteran Drew Dober and undefeated Contender Series vet Justin “J-Train” Gonzales in the house.

This event followed the promotion’s Combat Series 4 boxing show the night before, marking a solid start to 2020, according to Sparta CEO Jeff Cisneros.

“We talked about last night being fire and then in the co-main event Joey Garcia and Josh Atkinson said ‘hold my beer,’” Cisneros said. “It was another incredible night and a great way to kick-off 2020. I’m excited to see what comes next in February.”

Coach Gilbert Smith’s Victory MMA team, based out of Colorado Springs, shined bright under the lights by going a perfect 4-0 on a night that hosted nine combined fights between MMA and kickboxing. 

“I just want to give a shoutout to all of the guys who fought their hearts out tonight. Yes, we won our fights, but more importantly, we took home some hard lessons and I believe all of the guys will grow from this experience, even the guys who are on the team and didn’t fight tonight,” said Smith, a vet of seasons 17 and 25 of The Ultimate Fighter vet and former RFA world champion. “I want to thank Coach Justin Macado and Coach Aaron Cordova for their enormous contributions to tonight’s success. We are a family. When we come together, we thrive. I love these guys.”

Knockout of the Night: Josh Atkinson

Submission of the Night: Ben Lugo

Fight of the Night: Josh Atkinson vs Joey Garcia

Let’s take a detailed look at the matchups.

Ben Lugo top notch vs Da’ub Saber 

Lugo made quick work in the main event of this 150 lb. catchweight bout against Saber by sinking a rear-naked choke that got the stoppage from referee Tim Mills at just 0:50 of the first round. The Top Notch MMA product scrambled through a takedown attempt by Saber before he took the back and got the submission. 

“You can definitely expect me back soon,” Lugo, who was cornered by Justin Gonzales, said in his post-fight interview.

Josh Atkinson vs Joey Garcia (Amateur Lightweight Title Fight) 

Garcia started the fight with a takedown, but Atkinson up right away only to be sent back to the canvas after getting cracked by and overhand left. Garcia stayed heavy with the top pressure while doing damage when the opening presented itself. Atkinson was violent from the bottom, allowing him to survive the end of the round.

Garcia started the second with a mouse under his left eye but was again able to score the takedown. Atkinson attacked a guillotine choke from the bottom before Garcia escaped and both fighters got back to their feet in neutral position. 

Atkinson took Garcia down and finished the round attempting a series of rear naked chokes and arm bars all the way to the bell. 

Although Atkinson surged late in the round, he returned to the stool possibly down by two rounds with only the third and final round to go. Atkinson knew he could not leave the fight to chance by going to the cards, and he unloaded a nuclear bomb of a headkick which was setup by a beautiful feint that put Garcia into full-rigor before eating the canvas face first. 

The knockout at 0:07 of the third round earned the Trials MMA product the SCL Amateur Lightweight title and was the second win of the night for the Fort Collins fight gym.

TJ Salas vs Steve Lontine

Lontine had the reach advantage and used his range effectively to start the fight. Lontine ate a shot to the mouth en route to a takedown where he scored some damage points with the ground and pound before being reversed into a deep rear-naked choke only to be saved by the bell.

Salas sat Lontine down right away with an overhand punch to start the second. However, Salas rushed his entry and found himself in a triangle choke attempt from Lontine. Salas escaped but maintained top position and scored damage points with blistering body shots before securing the head and arm triangle for the submission.

Fireworks ensued after as Salas taunted Lontine, causing the A Family Affair corner to lose their composure with coach Fidel Martinez screaming obscenities at Gilbert Smith and the Victory MMA corner, who scored their fourth win of the night.

Did Salas show his opponent up? Maybe. Lontine’s coach certainly thought so as his escalated emotional state spilled over into the crowd, resulting in members of the crowd being separated after pushing each other.

The crowd altercation delayed the procession of the card for a few minutes before Big Mo On The Mic addressed the crowd to remind everyone that the fighting happens in the cage and if crowd patrons want to fight, they should do it the right way by signing up in advance of a card to fight.

Mario Rodriguez vs Paul Mendoza 

This was an even fight through one round with most of the action taking place on the ground with Mendoza having an early edge in the wrestling department.

Rodriguez received strong words from his coaches in between rounds, with them stressing that Mendoza was tired and to push the pace. 

“I told him to sprawl, take the back, and choke his ass out,” A Family Affair coach Fidel Martinez said to a by-stander cageside.

Rodriguez dropped Mendoza with a cross and pounced on him to ultimately secure the rear-naked-choke finish.

Kickboxing: Namir Singleton vs Dylan Penlen

Singleton was fluid with his blend of low and high kicks with great dexterity. Penlen was strong with the forward pressure and forced Singleton to brawl with him until a spinning back fist resulted in an illegal elbow. Singleton recovered from the strike that required stoppage from referee Tim Mills and violently threw side kicks with the right lead leg to Penlen’s body. 

Penlen started the third by chopping away at the lead leg of Singleton, and was able to hurt Singleton who spent the remainder of the round walking gingerly on the right leg.

The split decision for Singleton marked the third victory for Victory MMA on the night.

Kickboxing: Colton “Goku” Ingram vs Roman Marquez 

The first round resembled the dust cloud you see in a cartoon whenever two dogs scrap. Both men threw hard and heavy shots with every limb. Marquez was headhunting, throwing bombs with intent every time he pulled the trigger. Ingram found success with knees to the body inside the clinch and appeared to tax the gas tank of Marquez with his pace. Ingram scored a knockdown with a knee to the body.

Marquez sported a nice welt on the right side of his abdomen thanks to Ingram’s body kicks. Things got a little sloppy in the third round with both fighters trading kicks to the junk that required a stop in the action.

 In an interesting post-fight display, Ingram sat Indian style on the canvas after the fight ended instead of the normal “hands over the head” show of gamesmanship for the judges in a fight that went the distance. However, Colton “Goku” Ingram went super Sayan on the scorecard with a 30-27 unanimous decision.

Rasheed Smith vs Ron Wilder

In the first MMA fight of the night, we saw an elimination bout of two fighters out of Fort Collins gyms.

The longer and lankier Wilder used his kicks early but was taken down by a strong power double leg from Smith. After a brief scramble, Wilder caught smith in a triangle choke that was all but an arm across the center line away from a finish. 

Smith showed his strength by trying to slam his way out of the triangle, but Wilder held on. Wilder missed the opportunity to go two-on-one and pull Smith’s arm over for the finish and Smith was eventually able to escape and pass to side control. Smith finished the round strong by offering a guillotine attempt of his own.

Wilder likely won the round but may have gone for broke too early as he was still breathing deeply as he came off the stand to start the second. Smith once again showed his wrestling skills by securing a takedown against the fence. He implemented ground and pound from the guard before passing to side control at the short time clacker to reign down a couple more punches to his opponent.

Smith was strong again throughout the third, taking Wilder down on his first attempt and keeping him down while doing damage across multiple positions from guard to side control and back again. Wilder showed that he has a solid Jiu Jitsu base though and that almost stole him the fight by catching Smith in another triangle attempt. Smith was able to survive the sub attempt en route to a 30-27 unanimous decision. 

Kickboxing: William Martinez vs Wesley Perry 

Perry was the aggressor in an otherwise evenly fought first round, likely edging out the 10 points on the judge’s scorecard.

Martinez found success by going to the body early and changing levels with overhands to follow. Perry was the physically stronger fighter and was able to move Martinez in clinch situations while doing damage off the break. Both fighters appeared to have emptied the tank leaving it all in the cage by the close of the third round. 

Martinez effectively countered the tired perry in the third, likely winning him the round despite backing up at times. 

The judges scored the bout a split decision for Victory MMA’s Martinez. When Big Mo On The Mic asked what he wanted fans to take away from this performance, Martinez said, “Remember the name.”

Kickboxing: Jack Losowicki vs Placido Montoya 

Losowicki owned the center of the cage, responding well to the commands of his coach Gilbert Smith as if he were a player being controlled in a video game.

Losowicki hit Montoya with a step-back jab that sent him spinning into the fence only to rebound off of it right into a right hand for the final knockout blow.

The Victory MMA product took advantage of the opportunity to rock the mic in a fashion that would make Uncle Chael proud and made it clear that he meant business in any combat sport: boxing, kickboxing, or MMA. He closed his statement with Sparta Media Queen Bailey Winters by saying, “I’ll have 12 lbs of gold around my waist.”

-Jordan Kurtz is a founding member of Comments From The Peanut Gallery and The MMA Plug and can be followed on Instagram at @CommentsFromThePeanutGallery and @TheMMAPlug303