UFC veteran Thiago Alves made his Bare Knuckle Fighting Championship debut tonight in Daytona Beach, Florida, nicking a tight split decision victory over late replacement opponent Julian Lane in a very close, evenly-fought main event.
The 36-year-old Alves, who fought 27 times in UFC and has a career 23-15 record in mixed martial arts overall, was in against a guy who’s had some pretty good bare knuckle experience already in the 33-year-old Lane, who had several fights already in BKFC and other bare knuckle ventures, and is also a 12-8 MMA veteran himself.
Replacing Phil Baroni on very short notice, Lane fought with confidence and skill, and seemed the more fully comfortable early on, which isn’t a huge surprise given that, again, he has more experience in this discipline. But Alves got himself into the fight, settled in a bit, and was able to take two cards of 48-47, compared to one that went 48-47 in Lane’s favor. For what it’s worth, BLH had it 48-47 for Lane, but it was an incredibly close fight, truly, and there is no controversy here.
“That was a hell of a welcome,” Alves said of his BKFC debut. “It took me a little bit to get my distance, it’s a different sort of fight. But hats off to Julian, man, he’s a hell of a warrior.”
“I fought a guy that has seven fights (in bare knuckle) already. I kinda came into his home and I think I did pretty well, but I’m just going to get better,” Alves added. “I’m excited to bring a belt home to my team. That’s my goal.”
In the co-feature, fought at the 205-pound limit, former Bellator champ and UFC fighter Hector Lombard destroyed Kendall Grove, another former Bellator and UFC fighter, in the first round.
The 42-year-old Lombard, who made his BKFC debut with a win in February, put the 37-year-old Grove down three times and finished things at 1:50 when the referee had seen enough. The much taller Grove just never got anything going from the outside, which had to have been his plan, and kept circling into the southpaw power of the Cuban veteran. Grove is no total bum or anything, he’s a very experienced fighter with a 23-18 MMA record and won “Ultimate Fighter 3” — albeit many years ago for that — but Lombard just bombed him out. Grove couldn’t get out of the way, and couldn’t stay up.
Lombard, a former Olympic judoka, saw his MMA career peter out pretty hard after 2014, losing his last six fights in UFC. But he may have found a new venture where he can compete and be a contender again.
BKFC’s next event is set for Oct. 10 in Kansas, and will feature the bare knuckle debut of former U.S. Olympian Nico Hernandez, who is 7-0 (4 KO) in pro boxing but never signed with a serious promoter after going pro in 2017.
- Reggie Barnett Jr UD-5 Abdiel Velazquez: Two BKFC vets, both were confident coming into this lightweight bout, and then Barnett kinda just had his way for the most part. He dropped Velazquez (3-3, 2 KO) in the second and fifth rounds, and won on scores of 50-43 from all three judges. BLH also had it 50-43 for Barnett, who improves to 5-1 (1 KO) in bare knuckle. Velazquez, 27, also has a 9-7 MMA record, while Barnett, 34, is also 6-2 in pro boxing. He showed off some of those skills and was just too slick and good for Velazquez, who couldn’t get inside much, and even when he did he didn’t do so well then, either.
- Christine Ferea TKO-2 Calie Cutler: Both women weighed in just under 128 pounds. Ferea is a legit fighting veteran, a former Police Gazette-recognized bare knuckle featherweight champ. These two had actually fought before in Muay Thai back in 2015, with Ferea stopping Cutler in four. Cutler didn’t do any better this time. Ferea felt her out in the first round and then pounced in the second, dropping Cutler three times en route to the stoppage. Ferea will surely be looking to get her old belt back after losing it in Aug. 2019 to Helen Peralta at BKFC 7.
- Lorenzo Hunt KO-3 Erick Lozano: This 195-pound fight was a more tactical matchup than many you’ll see in bare knuckle, with the 38-year-old Hunt (3-1, 3 KO) being patient and waiting for the opening for what he wanted, which was a big right hand. He got it late in round three, and knocked the debuting, also 38-year-old Lozano clean out. Lozano hit the canvas so hard he had a huge bump on the back of his head. He was OK after the fight, though, but it did take him a bit to get his senses back. He was able to take part in the announcement of the winner and all that. This was a rebound win for Hunt, who was stopped in one by Gustavo Trujillo in February.
- Josh Dyer TKO-3 Jared Warren: Warren had some minor MMA experience, going 1-2 in fights in 2011-12. The 36-year-old 185-pounder is now 1-1 in bare knuckle, dropping this fight via TKO to the debuting Dyer, who was the clear harder puncher but almost punched himself out a few times, dropping Warren twice in the second but getting hurt himself earlier in the third. But Dyer came back, pinning Warren against the ropes and just punching away until the referee had to step in and stop it because Warren just wasn’t fighting back.
- Joe Elmore UD-5 Tom Shoaff: A supremely entertaining brawl here at 165 pounds, with the 31-year-old Shoaff honestly out-boxing Elmore, 37, for the most part, but just getting repeatedly dropped and stopping all his momentum, including Elmore (2-0) probably swinging a fourth round with a late knockdown. Judges had this 49-42, 49-42, and 49-43 for Elmore; I was a bit more generous to Shoaff with a 49-45 score, but I gave him some credit for doing a lot of good work but still getting dropped in the second, fourth, and fifth frames. Elmore was a bloody mess in this one, as Shoaff pieced him up some and opened cuts over the right eye, under it with a mouse, and on the bridge of the nose. But Elmore is a crazy dude and licked his own blood off his fingers between the first and second rounds, after a pre-fight video package where he punched himself in the head and proclaimed, “Y’all can’t do shit to me!” This fight also featured something I don’t think I’ve ever seen in a fight, a mid-fight referee switch when veteran ref Bill Clancy had to step out because he had, as he noted loudly between rounds at one point, “tore (his) fuckin’ calf!”
- Jarod Grant TKO-2 Joshua Boudreaux: The 38-year-old Boudreaux just got destroyed here, dropping to 0-3 in bare knuckle in this 135-pound fight. Grant, 22, reportedly has some amateur boxing experience, but this was his first pro fight in any discipline, and I don’t suppose it could have gone a lot better, as he dropped Boudreaux six times in this fight before it was finally stopped at 1:23 of the second. Remember, these are two-minute rounds. Boudreaux basically couldn’t take any shots from Grant without going down. After the first round commentator Sean Wheelock said that “scoring is still finding its way in bare knuckle,” regarding whether it would be a 10-6 or 10-7. It seems to me that maybe BKFC should take the initiative and put out some guidelines for judges to follow, but that’s just me, man.
- Kenmon Evans KO-1 Robert Washington: These guys fought at 185 pounds. Evans is 5-0-1 (0 KO) in normal boxing, with all of his fights coming between 2015 and 2018. Both guys were listed at 5’11” but that seems off. Washington had a shorter, squatter frame, while Evans had a longer, lankier body, and was able to easily fend off Washington’s attempts to clinch, then absolutely drilled him with a 1-2 that put Washington’s lights out at 1:39 of the first round.
- Rusty Crowder UD-5 Jacob Brunelle: Both weighed in as normal boxing welterweights. The 30-year-old Crowder improves to 2-1 in bare knuckle after a 6-9 MMA career, as he and the 42-year-old Brunelle went out and banged right away to kick off the prelims. Brunelle, making his bare knuckle debut, dropped Crowder in the first round, but was dropped twice himself in the second, and really looked done there; in traditional boxing the referee probably stops him after the first knockdown, definitely after the second. But Brunelle continued on and went the distance, and the pace did slow some in the final three rounds. Scores were 47-45, 47-45, and 48-44 for Crowder. BLH had it 48-43 for Crowder.