The Texas-based Shark Fights promotion made its first journey outside of the Lone Star State on May 27, visiting neighboring New Mexico to put on the 15th card in the organization’s history.  Liberally filled with local fighters from the Land of Enchantment, Shark Fights 15 pleased the modest crowd at the Santa Ana Star Center in Rio Rancho…at least until the two headlining bouts.

Villasenor (r) and Camozzi (Photo: Bryan Henderson/The MMA Corner)

The evening’s main event featured Albuquerque favorite and Jackson’s MMA mainstay Joey Villasenor against The Ultimate Fighter season 11 qualifier and UFC veteran Chris Camozzi.  Camozzi got off to a slow start, getting taken down early by the Strikeforce veteran.  However, Camozzi would bounce back with a solid second stanza.  The third frame of the contest was the definition of close, with both competitors landing a number of clean shots, though neither man significantly staggered the other.

In the end, the close rounds would lead to a disappointing outcome for both the fighters and the fans.  The judges were divided in how they viewed the fight, with one judge scoring it 29-28 Villasenor, the second scoring it 29-28 for Camozzi and the third and deciding judge calling it even at 29-29.  The split draw verdict was met with disapproval by the crowd.

While the battle between Villasenor and Camozzi might not have had a clear winner, it at least delivered enough action to quiet a restless crowd.  That was not the case just one bout earlier, as co-headliners Dave Branch and Jeremy May elicited a chorus of boos from the audience for their inactivity.

Branch had little difficulty in grounding TUF 7 alum May throughout their middleweight contest, but did not attempt to push the pace once the fight hit the canvas.  Instead, the UFC veteran chose to slowly wear out his opponent before scoring a TKO at the 3:19 mark of the third round.

Branch works for a TKO of May (Photo: Bryan Henderson/The MMA Corner)

Bantamweight Federico “Kiko” Lopez might have been at a height and reach disadvantage against Jackson’s MMA product Bobby Huron, but it didn’t stop the Dream veteran from snapping a three-fight skid and grinding out a unanimous decision victory with scores of 30-27 across the board.

WEC veteran Frank Gomez posted his second win of 2011, as the Jackson’s MMA representative made short work of Tim Snyder in featherweight action.  Gomez took Snyder’s back early in the first round and secured a rear-naked choke at the 3:19 mark for a submission victory.

Surprisingly, despite the inclusion of Villasenor and a handful of other UFC and WEC veterans and TUF alum, it would be two less-accomplished fighters training in the Albuquerque area that drew the biggest response from the crowd.  Middleweight Artenas Young and light heavyweight Lionel Lanham obviously brought along their own cheering sections and gave their supporters something to celebrate.

Young, a Strikeforce veteran, was able to keep his fight with longtime Shark Fights veteran Kyle Bracey standing.  That was bad news for Bracey, as Young clearly held the advantage in the striking department and convincingly ended Bracey’s night via TKO at 4:04 of the first round.

Gomez prepares to lock in the choke on Snyder (Photo: Bryan Henderson/The MMA Corner)

Lanham, fighting out of Jackson’s MMA, kicked off the professional portion of the Shark Fights card with a quick finish of King of the Cage veteran Eric McElroy.  In just his third pro fight, Lanham needed a mere 14 seconds to finish McElroy via TKO.

Despite a broadcast deal with HDNet, the evening’s action did not air live on the cable network due to a scheduling conflict with Titan Fighting Championships.  Instead, the show, complete with commentating from former professional wrestler Bill Goldberg, will air over the course of two consecutive Fridays in June at 10 p.m. ET on Fuel TV.

Full Results

Amateur Undercard

  • Randy Ray Sanchez def. Armando Mendibles (Split Decision)
  • Edgar Lopez def. Derek Perez (TKO, 2:22 of Rd 1)
  • Adam Gonzalez def. Zachary Hynes (North-South Choke, 2:38 of Rd 2)
  • Freddie Crosby def. Kasey Yates (TKO, 1:11 of Rd 1)
  • Russell Wilson def. Robbie Gutierrez (Split Decision)

Main Card

  • Lionel Lanham def. Eric McElroy (TKO, 0:14 of Rd 1)
  • Frank Gomez def. Tim Snyder (Rear-naked Choke, 3:19 of Rd 1)
  • Artenas Young def. Kyle Bracey (TKO, 4:04 of Rd 1)
  • Federico Lopez def. Bobby Huron (Unanimous Decision)
  • Dave Branch def. Jeremy May (TKO, 3:19 of Rd 3)
  • Chris Camozzi vs. Joey Villasenor (Split Draw)

Large Photo: Camozzi (Credit: Bryan Henderson/The MMA Corner)