Lewis Gonzalez made his way back into the winner’s circle Saturday night at World Series of Fighting 16 in Sacramento when he earned a split decision victory over Justin Buchholz.
Gonzalez (10-1), who lost for the first time in his career back in August, bounced back against Buchholz (15-9) with improved striking and his established wrestling skills for a final judges' tally of 30-27, 28-29 and 29-28.
“Getting a win against a guy like that, you know he’s been in some big leagues, from a big team, been in the UFC, that’s a big win,” Gonzalez said. “I was kind of surprised with the split decision, but that doesn’t matter. I won, so getting the W is the main thing. I know I won, my camp knows I won, just one judge didn’t.”
With less than two weeks to prepare for each other — Gonzalez’s original opponent, Brian Cobb, pulled out of the fight due to injury — Gonzalez and Buchholz agreed to fight as Welterweights instead of in their established Lightweight division. The change in weight proved to be a non-issue for Gonzalez, who fought his entire amateur career and started his pro career as a Welterweight.
“We just wanted to worry about the fight more than cutting the weight,” Gonzalez said. “I knew it was going to be a tough opponent. That’s a tough guy to fight on less than two weeks notice. I was preparing more for a wrestler and he’s more of a standup guy. That was tough, but I knew I wanted to fight here in Sacramento (so) all my fans could come and see me.”
Despite the short notice and the bump up in weight, Gonzalez looked calm and collected in the cage. The first round played out much like a sparring session, with the two fighters feeling each other out, but Gonzalez proved early that he was prepared for Buchholz’s striking, particularly his leg kicks, while Buchholz showed good takedown defense.
Things picked up in the second round with Gonzalez putting his hands on Buchholz and landing several leg kicks, but an attempted takedown nearly derailed Gonzalez’s shot at redemption in the cage. After securing a body lock and taking the fight to the ground, Gonzalez found himself on the wrong side of a full mount after a Buchholz reversal. Gonzalez absorbed a number of shots to the head and was forced to give up his back or risk a stoppage due to strikes. Buchholz sunk in a rear naked choke and seemed to be on the verge of submitting Gonzalez, but the threat was soon neutralized as Gonzalez slipped the choke, reversed position into Buchholz’ closed guard and finished the last minute of the round on top.
“I went for a body lock and we were both really slippery. It slipped and we just landed in the worst position, he landed in full mount,” Gonzalez said of the second round scare.
The third round without a doubt belonged to Gonzalez who continued to land shots from his feet. After several body shots and leg kicks, Gonzalez again took the fight to the ground where he landed some of his most effective strikes of the night, hitting Buchholz with fists and elbows from the mount.
“I think I just started getting into my groove, except for that one moment in the second period when he took my back and got in a rear naked choke. I’m the wrestler and he’s supposedly the standup guy and I felt like I actually was picking him apart a little more with my standup,” Gonzalez said. “I have to thank my standup coaches and my sparring partners for that.”
Gonzalez is now 2-1 as a WSOF fighter with three more fights left on his contract with the promotion.
“Both the wins I have in this promotion are huge. Everybody knows their name, they're veterans of the sport and both have fought in the UFC,” Gonzalez said of his wins over Buchholz and Antonio McKee. “World Series of Fighting, I can’t complain. They’re giving me top notch opponents here.
“I’m not here to fight scrubs. I’m here to fight the tough guys,” he added.
Though he performed well as a Welterweight, all indications point to Gonzalez continuing to fight as a Lightweight as he moves forward with his career.
“I don’t mind fighting at 170s. I wish there was like a 160, 165 pound weight class, I think that’s really my weight class. But since there’s such a big gap I have to pick one or the other. Either cut a lot of weight or maybe face some guys that are pretty big,” Gonzalez said.
Gonzalez now awaits his next opponent. There are no names and no date set for when he will return to the cage, but with a desire to compete three to four times in 2015 it shouldn’t be long before Gonzalez’s next fight is announced.
“I want to try and get back up to that title fight. But I know Palomino is getting that one and they haven’t’ even fought yet,” Gonzalez said of the as-of-yet unannounced Justin Gaethje vs. Luis Palomino Lightweight title fight. “Who knows, I might have to get one more W to get back into that discussion. I don’t know man, I’m just thinking about enjoying Christmas right now and in the next week or two I’ll talk with my manager and we’ll figure something out.”