After intermission Bryc Palmer, Terrence Mitchell and Jesse Cruz entered the cage for an AFC 73 promo. Bryc’s opponent will be longtime heavyweight champ Brian Ryan. Of Ryan’s legacy he said, “I got some big shoes to fill but I got some monster feet.”
Cruz and Mitchell were interviewed next. Their fight will be for the featherweight belt on what looks to be a stacked card July 14. As they faced each other Jesse said he planned on avenging his earlier defeat. “I’m going to get this loss off my back. He’s the only one that’s beat me. I’m going to get the belt.”
Terrence assured the crowd it would be him taking the crown in their rematch. “This guy’s not gonna beat me,” he said.
After they left, Julio Paulino entered the cage in a solemn state and informed the fans that he was dropping out of his scheduled UFC 116 fight against Daniel Roberts. Even though national media hinted towards an injury, Julio cited training as his reason for canceling.
“Unfortunately, training doesn’t pay the bills. I apologize,” he said in tears. He then referred to his last short notice match against Paul Pierce by saying, “I don’t want to embarrass Alaska again.” It was a sad moment for all with the crowd voicing their support for him.
Co-main event and seventh fight of the night saw former welterweight champion Michael Madrid out of Gracie Barra facing Greatland’s “Naptime” Nic Herron-Webb in the middleweight division. Nic has been exhibiting excellent form of late and is scheduled for a welterweight title shot against incumbent David Knight in August.
Madrid entered first displaying a chiseled physique and wearing bright red shorts. He began stretching in the cage resulting in Van Damme-like splits eliciting shrieks from some of the ladies in the crowd.
Naptime came in all business and began with a quick punch but Michael aggressively attacked with a flurry of strikes. After a few exchanges Michael landed a solid knee in the clinch followed by a close range punching game. Nic countered by pushing him up against the cage where fighters threw knee for knee. He then landed uppercuts and traded strikes to end the round.
Second round Michael landed a beautiful spinning kick to his opponent’s ribs but Nic showed resilience by recovering quickly and scoring the first takedown of the match. With Nic in his guard, Michael made the mistake of attempting a sweep at the wrong time and the Greatland star was able to take mount which eventually lead to a rear naked choke at 1:48 of the second.
“I try to train everyday,” the winner said after his impressive victory. “I did push the pace more than I’m used to. I’m finishing fights now.”
Main event saw Nikiski-based Mae Osborne cornered by First Stryke of Soldotna facing Wasilla’s Willow Bailey representing Black Lake Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu.
After the belt was carried around the cage Mae began with aggressive leg kicks, punches and knees to her opponent’s legs. She pushed Willow up against the cage and held her there for most of the round neutralizing Willow’s touted boxing ability.
The second began the same way although Willow was able to land a strong knee in the clinch. Al then separated the fighters but they resumed their former position before Willow was able to get a slow takedown followed by full mount against the cage. From there she began raining down punches with Al nearly stopping the fight with 10 seconds left in the round, however Mae was able to outlast the barrage and survive.
In the third fighters came out and promptly resumed in the clinch with Mae pushed against the cage for most of the round, her nose noticeably bloody. Willow was able to land a few short punches and knees close in.
Between rounds Mae crouched to the ground looking exhausted as Willow stood in her corner poised for the horn. The fourth was the strongest round for Willow as she scored with strong elbows, knees, as well as a single leg takedown. From top she landed hard body shots, a nasty elbow to the head and close range shots to win the fight with one second to go in the round, 2:59 of the fourth.
AFC owner Sarah Johnston then brought in the belt and crowned the new ladies champion to boisterous applause from the audience. She was presented with a Tapout watch awarded by a Mad Hatter representative who said, “That was the best damn fight of the night.”
Willow immediately thanked God with fans, friends and family surrounding the cage to cheer her on. “I love you everybody,” she said. “Thank you guys.”
Of her preparation for her fight she said, “It’s not an easy road, but I’m thankful.” Later on she complimented her opponent. “She’s a tough girl. I knew I didn’t want to be taking too many shots. I saw her tire in the third round and popped her in the nose. She started gassing pretty good, breathing hard.”
Willow is the first ladies champion to be crowned in four years. She says she plans to “keep fighting” and maybe become “a world champion someday.” Whether or not she accomplishes her goal, Alaska could not have wished for a better role model and ambassador for the sport.