A crowd of Central Valley fans stood 30 feet away from the cage inside Santa Rosa’s Grace Pavilion Saturday, waiting for the sixth fight of the night between Lewis Gonzalez and Bobby Stack. The group of friends and family, roughly 25 in all, made a habit of attending Gonzalez’ fights but this one was different, Cage Combat’s Lightweight title was on the line and Gonzalez was expected to claim it. The Lethal Legion waited to watch what they considered to be the first big step in a promising career.
Gonzalez, on the other hand, was quietly waiting backstage, separated from his opponent by a thin black sheet while he went over the fight in his head. He wanted the fight to come just as quickly as his fans — he’s ready.
Roughly 15 minutes after his entrance music blared through the building Gonzalez and his followers got what they waited for. The fight was called 2:23 into the second round as the referee saved Stack from a mounted assault and awarded Gonzalez his first Mixed Martial Arts Championship.
“It feels great,” Gonzalez said. “It hasn’t settled in yet, but I’m happy.”
The first round of the championship fight followed an expected script. After trading several punches both men engaged in five minutes of intense grappling, jockeying for control while looking for openings to strike. Gonzalez’ fans watched as their man fought for position against a capable and resistant Stack, a rare sight to see for a group accustomed to watching Gonzalez (7-0) dominate with his wrestling. Although Stack (8-3) did his fair share of grappling, Gonzalez controlled the majority of the round, pressing his body up against the cage, taking him to the mat, and trapping the Pacifica fighter in a front headlock where he cranked his neck and landed a couple knees to the face. Gonzalez was temporarily taken down in the last 30 seconds of the round but was able to reverse positions before its conclusion.
“I knew he was going to be a tough wrestler but I knew I could out scramble him,” Gonzalez said. “He ended up on top at the end of the first period but he didn’t get to land any punches, so it wasn’t too bad.”
Gonzalez was caught off balance twice in the second round, first from a kick to the midsection that sent him to the mat and second after an off target spinning back elbow led to a Stack takedown. Gonzalez quickly recovered, however, spinning into top position where he softened up Stack with continuous knees his ribs. Shortly after, the Turlocker found himself in mount position where he dropped punches and elbow strikes on his opponent until the referee had seen enough.
“Right when I hit the mat I switched him and once I got mount I knew it was done,” Gonzalez said. “When I got on top I felt that his energy was down. The ref was yelling at him to keep fighting and I told myself ‘keep punching and this will be over’,”
Stack exited the cage with cuts and bruises on both eyes while Gonzalez emerged from the fight unscathed, save for a knot or two, sore forearms, and a case of heartburn from a jalapeño filled lunch.
“It’s a part of grappling; your forearms get burned but the adrenaline's pumping so you don’t feel the effects until afterwards,” Gonzalez said.
“I could have been a little wiser about what I ate though,” he added with a laugh.
Saturday’s victory not only claimed the Lightweight Title for Gonzalez, it also extended his undefeated streak of finishes and ushered in a period of rest and relaxation the freshly crowned champ had been looking forward to for some time.
“Unless something big comes up I’m going to take a little break and get hungry again,” Gonzalez said. “Wrestling season is coming up for Turlock High so I’m looking forward to getting my time to be the coach and not so much the athlete. But, really, I just want to relax and spend some time with my kid because it was hard to try and take him to the gym with me when I had to run every day and train two times a day.”
When he does return to the cage he’s expected to continue his accent up the Lightweight ladder, a journey that will surely be followed intently by many in the Valley.
“We’re waiting to see what’s going to happen because the big shows are starting to cater,” Gonzalez’ trainer Gene Fields said. “They want us to fight again to defend this belt but we got to see what happens. If the big show comes calling, we’re going.”