The cage sat in the middle of the room, under vaulted ceilings and bright lights, occupied by modern day gladiators and surrounded by spectators. Those in attendance at Stockton’s Memorial Civic Auditorium gathered to watch Mixed Martial Artists fight, eager to see strikes, submissions, and if they were lucky, blood. Split between the balcony and the floor, a sizeable group of Turlockers sat in anticipation, waiting for Brandon “The Fireman” Bettencourt and “Lethal” Lewis Gonzalez to make their way into the cage.
The day was Friday. The event — UPC’s Up and Comers 10. For one local fighter it was a night of triumph, for the other, a night of disappointment.
Both had trained side by side, focusing on their respective opponents and sharpening their skills for combat. But the journey that started weeks ago with training and preparation ended abruptly due to an unfortunate injury for Bettencourt. In the first amateur bout of the night, Bettencourt found himself face to face with Mike Ruiz. The match lasted only a few seconds.
“I threw a hook and a kick and then my shoulder just slipped out,” Bettencourt said. “It dislocated; it was a freak accident.”
His reaction was immediate, prompting the referee to end the match and award Ruiz the win via TKO. Now, if Bettencourt is to further his MMA career, he must undergo his third shoulder surgery in the past nine years.
“Hopefully, I’ll get surgery within the next couple months and be back in the cage in six to eight months,” Bettencourt said.
Although Bettencourt’s misfortune disappointed the fighter and his supporters it wouldn’t be long before their spirits were resurrected. After a handful of professional bouts, Gonzalez’ entrance music pumped from the speakers, signaling the beginning of what many in the crowd had been waiting for, his fight with Oakland’s Lamar “Lion King” Reed.
Gonzalez entered the cage first, his stone face reflecting his intensity. The fans cheered, and then booed, as Reed made his entrance to the cage with his entourage and godfather, MC Hammer. The Reed camp was highly confident as the cage doors were closed and the two fighters faced each other.
“I knew it was going to be a tough match because we have the same mentality as wrestlers,” Gonzalez said.
The two fighters circled each other at the sound of the first bell, gauging their distance and sizing each other up. Both men exchanged strikes to start the match but their wrestling backgrounds quickly emerged as the fight was taken to the mat. Although Reed scored the first takedown, Gonzalez proved to be the better grappler, reversing Reed’s control and taking the mount. After a few blows, Reed got back to his feet and the two began to strike once more. Reed showed an inclination towards clinching with Gonzalez which resulted in a last second takedown for the Turlocker to end round one.
The second round saw Gonzalez assert his dominance on the ground. Reed was taken down and mounted several times; taking blows to the head and nearly escaping a reverse choke hold and an arm bar attempt. As the two scrambled on the mat, Gonzalez delivered a devastating knee to Reed’s ribcage and followed it with effective stand up striking. The punishment was the beginning of the end for Reed.
“I think I broke his will at the end of the second round,” Gonzalez said. “I knew I was tired but when I saw him, I knew I had more in my tank. I felt it in my lungs but my mentality wouldn’t allow me to let up.”
The visibly winded Reed began the third round with his hands by his side and was soon cornered into the cage by Gonzalez. Reed absorbed a flurry of punches and a flying knee to his midsection before being taken to the mat. Gonzalez sat on Reed’s back and delivered blow after blow until the referee finally called the fight, awarding Gonzalez the TKO 1:45 into the third round.
It was the first time Gonzalez had fought past the first round.
“Even though you prepare and you do all your cardio, there’s nothing you can do to simulate the adrenaline rush from a real fight,” Gonzalez said. “I never knew if the work paid off but now I know it has.”
After the fight, a disoriented Reed was loaded onto a stretcher and taken to the hospital. It is unknown what injuries he sustained.
With Friday’s victory Gonzalez remained undefeated. In his short career he has defeated a Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu black belt, a champion striker, and an All American collegiate wrestler; highlighting his versatility and natural ability. An early June matchup with Dan Price is already in the works as Gonzalez prepares to kick his career into high gear.
“His goal is UFC,” Team Voodoo trainer Gene Fields said. “When they’re ready and they recognize what he’s doing they’ll call him.”