Ring of Fire delivered a card filled with finishes at its 41st event entitled “Bragging Rights.”  The event took place from the 1st Bank Center in Broomfield, Colo., and featured a number of fast-rising prospects in addition to UFC veteran Tyler Toner.

Thatch overwhelms Njokuani

The night’s main event was slated to be a title fight for the Ring of Fire welterweight strap, but Chidi Njokuani (brother of UFC competitor Anthony Njokuani) came in two pounds overweight and the title implications were scratched.  Brandon “Rukus” Thatch, a Grudge Fight Team product, made him pay for it by dispatching of him in less than a minute.

The pair traded on the feet as the fight began, and Thatch moved inside to clinch.  Using a body lock, he forced the fight to the ground, landing in the top position.  From there, he unloaded on Njokuani along the fence.  Njokuani resorted to the fetal position to try and defend, but Thatch continued to attack, forcing a stoppage from the referee.

Njokuani was visibly upset by the stoppage and Thatch stated in his post-fight interview that he would have let him continue.  However, Thatch noted that Njokuani failed to respond to the referee’s instructions to do anything to improve his position.

“Rukus” has now won three straight fights and moves to 5-1.  He has two straight first-round stoppages since returning from an 18-month layoff due to injury.

Toner shows resiliency, stops Sims

In the co-main event, former WEC and UFC fighter Tyler “Thunder” Toner met J.R. Sims in a featherweight bout.  It was the first fight for Toner since dropping two straight and being cut from the UFC in December.

Tyler Toner (L) battles J.R. Sims (R) (Rob Tatum/The MMA Corner)

From the very start of the fight, Toner battled cage rust.  He looked to find his rhythm and range, but Sims wouldn’t allow it.  Sims caught a kick from Toner early in the opening round and dumped him to the canvas.  Toner looked for a triangle and then an armbar, but Sims defended.  Sims remained on top for the remainder of the round while delivering big shots.

The second round featured more of the same.  Toner connected with a combination early, but Sims again caught a kick and brought the fight down to the ground.  Sims flurried with elbows and opened a large cut on Toner’s head.  Toner managed to get to his feet late in the round, but Sims slammed him back to the ground as the round closed.

In the final stanza, Toner dug deep and found his range.  The pair traded combinations throughout the round, but it was Toner that landed the better shots.  Toner connected with a jump knee that appeared to rattle Sims. Toner smelled blood.  He landed a kick to the head and followed with body shots that took a toll on Sims.  Sims tried to survive, landing a spinning back fist of his own, but Toner would not let up.  A flurry along the fence had Sims out on his feet and the referee was forced to step in and end the bout.

Toner jokingly credited his performance in the final round to his older brother for beating him up as kid.  Clearly down two rounds, Toner delivered the type of round that earned him a shot in the big show in the first place.  “Thunder” is now 12-3.

Velickovic remains undefeated, finishes Lee

Top international prospect Bojan Velickovic used an impressive striking display to put the first blemish on crowd favorite Jason Lee’s record.

Velickovic came to the promotion by winning the Road to the Ring of Fire reality show in Europe.  He won all four of his bouts by submission.  Against Lee, it was his striking that gave the Serbian native the edge.

After an early combo and a miss on a head kick, Velickovic connected with a big right hand that sent Lee falling to the mat.  Showing his killer instinct, Velickovic pounced on Lee and delivered big shots that put Lee out for good, less than two minutes into the fight.

Martinez chokes out Endriss

Ryan Martinez chokes out Brandon Endriss (Rob Tatum/The MMA Corner)

In a battle of heavyweights, Ryan Martinez showed a well-rounded attack to end the night of Brandon Endriss.

The pair started slowly, but Martinez used a body lock to throw Endriss to the ground.  He worked to side control and Endriss tried to escape.  Martinez latched onto the neck and locked in a standing guillotine that resulted in Endriss lying unconscious on the mat.

Martinez moved to 5-1 with the victory.

Mercado outwrestles Wood

Featherweight Jarred Mercado kept his perfect record intact by controlling Brian Wood for the majority of their three-round fight.

Mercado scored with multiple takedowns in each round, forcing Wood to work from his back throughout the fight.  Wood threatened with a leg lock in the first round and a guillotine in the second, but failed to finish the fight.

Inexplicably, one of the judges scored the fight for Wood, but the other two scored the one-sided contest for Mercado, who takes his record to 5-0.

Martinez finishes Lopez with guillotine

Welterweight Santana Martinez survived an early barrage from Vinnie Lopez to finish the Grudge product with a guillotine choke.

Lopez flurried to back up Santana, but Santana delivered a counter-right that wobbled Lopez.  Santana took advantage and locked in the choke that forced a tap from Lopez just two minutes into the fight.

Gaethje slam KO’s Croom

In his pro debut, lightweight Justin Gaethje delivered the knockout of the night against Kevin Croom.

Croom opened the fight aggressively, but Gaethje ducked under the strikes to clinch and secure a takedown.  Croom locked in an armbar from his back, but Gaethje picked him up and slammed him violently to the mat.  The impact put Croom out, ending the fight just one minute into the contest.

Amateur Undercard

The night’s amateur card featured four bouts.

Female bantamweights Shannon Culpepper and Lindsay Jones went to war for three rounds.  Culpepper dominated the striking, opening a large cut on Jones’ head.  In the end, the judges gave Culpepper all three rounds on the scorecards.

In a back-and-forth round, Adam Gonzalez got the better of Cody Mumma.  The pair traded takedowns but returned to the feet where Gonzalez dropped Mumma with a huge right hand.  Mumma survived the ensuing onslaught, but Gonzalez used his grappling to take the back and lock in a rear-naked choke.

Welterweight Tito Solis used more effective striking and pure strength to survive the wrestling of David Treanor.  Solis frequently landed on the feet, forcing Treanor to take the fight to the ground.  Treanor showed his grappling advantage, passing to mount on a number of occasions, but Solis powered out of the position each time.  The judges rewarded Solis for the performance.

The night’s opening bout featured an impressive comeback as Kris Hocum finished Kirk Piatt with an armbar.  Piatt dropped Hocum in the first round and threatened to finish the fight on multiple occasions.  Hocum survived and quickly ended the fight just one minute into the second round with the submission.


  • Brandon Thatch def. Chidi Njokuani by TKO (strikes). Round 1, 0:53
  • Tyler Toner def. J.R. Sims by TKO (strikes). Round 3, 3:49
  • Bojan Velickovic def. Jason Lee by KO (strikes). Round 1, 1:39
  • Ryan Martinez def. Brandon Endriss by technical submission (guillotine choke). Round 1, 3:45
  • Jarred Mercado def. Brian Wood by by split decision (30-27, 28-29, 29-28).
  • Santana Martinez def. Vinnie Lopez by submission (guillotine choke). Round 1, 2:01
  • Justin Gaethje def. Kevin Croom by KO(slam). Round 1, 1:01
  • Shannon Culpepper def. Lindsay Jones by unanimous decision (30-27 x 3). (a)
  • Adam Gonzalez def. Cody Mumma by submission (rear-naked choke). Round 1, 2:25 (a)
  • Tito Solis def. David Treanor by unanimous decision (29-28,30-27,30-27). (a)
  • Kris Hocum def. Kirk Piatt by submission (armbar). Round 2, 1:09 (a)

*(a) designates amateur fight

Top Photo: Brandon Thatch (L) delivers a left hook (Rob Tatum/The MMA Corner)