I assumed Ammens, whose 185-pound body was stacked with muscle, would dominate the fight. He came out strong, landing hard, straight punches, but Cooper kept returning fire, punishing Ammens for not covering his face after he threw a punch. Soon, two large cuts opened under Cooper's eyes and blood streamed from Ammens' nostrils. After three, three-minute rounds of slugging, Ammens walked away with a unanimous victory, but Cooper, too, proved something to himself and the applauding crowd.
In Florida, a fighter must endure five amateur bouts before he is eligible to fight in one of the many professional leagues across the country. The bouts may have a few more rules than pro competitions — no knees to the head, fighters must wear shinguards, no "ground and pound" tactics — but the blows are just as bruising, and the chokes are just as tight.
MMA is the only sport where fans will pay $25 a head to watch amateurs compete for the first time. Why? There's something inherently compelling about people willing to put their bodies on the line in order to test themselves.
Below is a summary of the action:
-Julio Valladares (0-0) repeatedly dropped Paul Sandoval (0-0) to the canvas with a flurry of unanswered punches, earning Valladares a TKO in the first round. (155 lbs.)
-Brandon Nehls (0-0) kept taking down Mark Cain (0-1), but was unable to submit the musclebound Cain, giving Nehls a unanimous decision victory after three rounds of grappling-intensive fighting. (155 lbs.)
-When the final bell rang after three hard rounds, Jerad Gonsalves (1-1-1) and Robert Gillion (2-2) remained on their knees in the center of the cage, congratulating each other. It hardly mattered that Gonsalves came away with the split decision victory. (145 lbs.)
-The lankier Keith Swetland (2-1) used a series of head kicks to stave off the superior punching of the stouter Anthony Califana (2-2). Califana dropped Swetland once in the first round, but it was not enough to finish the fight. Swetland came back in the second two rounds to pull off the split decision victory. (145 lbs.)
-After a brutal series of punches delivered by Michael Cora of Gracie Brandon, Tim "T-Bone" Simonell (0-0) verbally admitted defeat seconds before the end of the first round. (205 lbs.)
-Eric Gosnay (1-2) won a split decision against Telly Wells (1-2). (145 lbs.)
-Shaun Scott (6-2) locked up an airtight guillotine in the first round, choking out Keiton Jones (5-1), who refused to tap. (185 lbs.)
-Dan Martinez (7-2) of Gracie Tampa West repeatedly swept CC Jiu Jitsu's Voytpka Clark (4-3) with single-leg takedowns. On the ground, Martinez threatened with submissions until he eventually caught Clark with a finishing head triangle in the second round. (170 lbs.)