Denver’s Ring of Fire promotion again returned to the 1st Bank Center in Broomfield, Colo., for Ring of Fire 42: “Who’s Next?”  The event featured UFC and WEC veteran Tyler Toner headlining against rising featherweight Nick Macias.  The night’s co-main event showcased up-and-comers in the women’s 125-pound division as Michelle Blalock put her Young Guns championship on the line against Lacey Schuckman.  Former IFL lightweight kingpin Ryan Schultz also returned to action after a lengthy layoff.

Toner claims decision win in closely-contested bout with Macias

The night’s main event did not disappoint as featherweights Tyler Toner and Nick Macias battled back-and-forth for three full rounds.  When it was all over, the judges gave the nod to Toner, 29-28 on all three scorecards.

In the opening frame, Macias got the better of the UFC and WEC veteran.  Macias hung with Toner on the feet, but used his wrestling to largely neutralize Toner’s attack.  The majority of the round was spent against the fence, with Toner forced to defend Macias’ relentless takedown attempts.

The middle round was the closest round of the night.  Similar to the first, Macias looked to lockdown Toner against the cage.  After ducking under a punch from Toner, Macias scored with a big takedown near the end of the round.  Toner countered with a guillotine attempt as the round came to a close.

Toner found his rhythm in the third round, letting his hands go.  Macias took every shot and fired back one of his own.  Macias again landed a takedown, but Toner looked for both a guillotine and an armbar before the referee stood the fight up, right near the end.

“I can see why that kid (Macias) has never been finished.  I punched myself out trying to hit him,” Toner said after the bout.

“He forced me to wrestle.  I lost track of my game plan, but I’ll be back,” Macias proclaimed after the loss.

Schuckman chokes Blalock to become new Young Guns champion

Lacey Schuckman (L) battles Michelle Blalock

Stepping in on late notice and fighting out of her natural weight class, Lacey Schuckman upset Michelle Blalock with a guillotine to become the new Ring of Fire 125-pound Young Guns champion.

In the first round, Schuckman scored with strikes and Blalock worked hard for a takedown.  Schuckman defended for the majority of the round, but with under a minute remaining in the round, Blalock scored with a big slam.

Blalock again looked for takedown to start the second round to neutralize Schuckman’s striking.  When Blalock did get the fight to the ground, Schuckman locked in a deep guillotine and forced a tap.

“She was very strong and tough, but my experience paid off in this fight,” Schuckman said in her post-fight speech.

“She was the better fighter tonight, she beat me up,” the former champion Blalock proclaimed.

Schultz victorious in return; submits Duarte

Ryan Schultz (top) rains punches on Angelo Duarte

Former IFL lightweight champion Ryan Schultz returned to the cage for the first time in over two years.  In his featherweight debut, Schultz needed less than three minutes to dispatch of two-time state wrestling champ Angelo Duarte.

Schultz hurt Duarte right off the bat and briefly looked for a guillotine.  After abandoning the attempt, Schultz effortlessly moved to the mount and began to batter Duarte.  Duarte gave up his back and Schultz methodically worked to secure the fight-ending rear-naked choke.

In his post-fight interview, Schultz was quick to thank Duarte for stepping up and taking the fight.  “No one would take a fight with me,” the veteran fighter explained.

Gaethje uses uppercut to set up finish of Bell

Lightweight Justin Gaethje remained undefeated by finishing off a very game Donnie Bell.

In the opening frame, Gaethje scored with multiple hip tosses.  Bell scored a takedown of his own, but Gaethje escaped and hammered Bell with punches and knees to the body.  Bell survived and again gained the top position, moving to the mount as the round concluded.

Bell opened the second frame with another takedown and worked from side control.  Gaethje again escaped and the pair returned to the feet.  Gaethje connected with an uppercut that buckled the knees of Bell.  A barrage of hammerfists and knees to the body forced a stoppage.

“He’s a tough ass dude,” a celebratory Gaethje proclaimed.

Skalos tops Baldwin in fast-paced bout

Idaho’s Czar Skalos spoiled Grudge product Mike Baldwin’s night in a flyweight battle.

Baldwin slipped on a head kick attempt and Skalos capitalized, taking the top position.  The pair scrambled on the mat and Skalos took Baldwin’s back with a slick transition.  Baldwin was forced to tap to the deep choke.

“I slipped on the canvas and he took advantage,” a disappointed Baldwin stated.

Cleve uses repeated head kicks to defeat Torres

Scott Cleve (L) lands a head kick

Lightweight Scott Cleve took advantage of his smaller, last-minute opponent Johnny Torres, dispatching of the usual featherweight with head kicks.

Cleve scored with multiple takedowns in the opening minutes of the fight, but ultimately, it was his stand up that would lead him to victory.  Spotting a hole in Torres’ defense, Cleve unleashed three consecutive head kicks that put Torres out.

The fighter was quick to credit Torres for taking the fight on only one day’s notice.

Romero chokes out Martinez

Grudge Training Center product Aaron Romero made sure that the fight wouldn’t be left in the hands of the judges in a rematch with Santana Martinez.

In the pair’s previous meeting, Romero was announced as the victor, but in the locker room post-fight, the commission announced that the scorecards were tabulated incorrectly.

The opening round was slow-paced, with Romero scoring with a trip takedown and working from the top position.

In the second stanza, Romero connected with a knee that wobbled Martinez.  Romero latched onto Martinez’s neck, pulled guard and forced Martinez to tap to the guillotine.

Amateur Undercard

Featherweight John Zahn mixed in a variety of takedowns and finished James Deherrera with a standing guillotine choke early in the final frame.

Lightweight Randy Caruso needed only 24 seconds to knock out Andrew Kauppila with a right hand.

Tyson Grippin survived a deep guillotine and triangle attempt from Jeff Malaterre before forcing his fellow flyweight to tap to a rear-naked choke in the third round of their fight.

Welterweight Bernardo Fanti dominated Nolan McClaughlin from the opening bell to cruise to a lopsided decision win.

FULL RESULTS

Tyler Toner def. Nick Macias by unanimous decision (29-28 x3)

Lacey Schuckman def. Michelle Blalock by submission (guillotine). Round 2, 1:02 (New Young Guns Flyweight Champion)

Ryan Schultz def. Angelo Duarte by submission (rear-naked choke). Round 1, 2:47

Justin Gaethje def. Donnie Bell by TKO (strikes). Round 2, 2:57

Czar Skalos def. Mike Baldwin by submission (rear-naked choke). Round 1, 2:53

Scott Cleve def. Johnny Torres by TKO (head kick). Round 2, 1:04

Aaron Romero def. Santana Martinez by submission (guillotine). Round 2, 0:28

John Zahn def. James Deherrera by submission (standing guillotine). Round 3, 0:26*

Randy Caruso def. Andrew Kauppila by KO (punch). Round 1, 0:24*

Tyson Grippin def. Jeff Malaterre by submission (rear-naked choke). Round 3, 2:40*

Bernardo Fanti def. Nolan McClaughin by unanimous decision (30-27 x3)*

*(a) designates amateur fight

Top Photo: Tyler Toner (L) battles Nick Macias (R)

All photos courtesy of Paul Kincaid/SANskrit Photography