After the success of the first Knucklemania in 2021, Bare Knuckle Fighting Championship set lofty goals with Knucklemania II. Somehow high expectations were exceeded, as the sold-out crowd in attendance walked away from the Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino in Hollywood, Florida fully satisfied. In addition to having the highest-grossing ticket sales of any combat sports event in Seminole Hard Rock history, the BKTV app wound up the fourth most downloaded app on event night, an estimated 17 million viewers partaking in Knucklemania II before walking away with a clear understanding of why BKFC is the premium bare knuckle outlet.
In the main event, Luis Palomino made a successful defense of his BKFC lightweight championship by decision, defeating previously unvanquished top challenger Martin Brown. Palomino opened business with an overhand right before both men settled into careful styles, looking to land jabs and find openings for bigger shots. A nice body shot from Palomino in close also scored and Brown couldn’t keep Palomino from rushing inside to physically overpower him. Brown used his jab to greater effect in round 2 and handled the clinch when Palomino tried to employ it, good head movement taking the mustard off Palomino’s punches. Brown’s corner asked him to be more active to win rounds, however. Palomino dialed in with his right hand in the 3rd and a few heavy shots made Brown hesitant to open up. Movement and a sharp jab from Palomino in round 4 frustrated Brown, whose offense simply wasn’t competing with the champion’s. Brown’s corner begged him to make the fight the kind of brawl Palomino didn’t want, but it was something Brown couldn’t do. The challenger broke through with a few jabs that raised a small bit of swelling under Palomino’s eye, though. Nevertheless, judges scored the championship bout 49-46 twice and 50-45.
“This is my fourth title defense,” Palomino said after the fight. “Nobody has done this. I’m 6-0. [BKFC welterweight champion] Elvin Brito called me a bully. Elvin, if you’re a grown man calling a champion a bully, you shouldn’t be holding my belt!”
The co-feature between Mike Perry and Julian Lane was as explosive as expected, with Perry winning a decision in a thrilling middleweight skirmish. After landing several right hands that caught Perry by surprise in round 1, a return right hand dropped Lane, who got up perhaps a bit too quickly, clearly still hurt. When Lane tried to clinch his way out of trouble, Perry began landing right hands. Both fighters emerged from an extended clinch with bloody faces, Perry from his right eye and Lane over his left. A combination in round 2 put Lane down again, though it was ruled a slip as Lane stumbled to the canvas slightly. Lane uncorked a number of bombs, but true to character, Perry absorbed them without much issue as Landed ended the 2nd jabbing nicely. By round 3, Lane had recovered to land surprising counters while having to fight with blood in his eyes. Lane’s cut earned a close look by the doctor ahead of round 4. Perry fought calmly and maintained a good distance, doing well until Lane closed strong with two or three strong shots. Both men fought coiled, ready to strike like venomous snakes in the 5th round. Perry’s lack of head movement gave Lane the opening he needed, and Perry wound up rocked, his left cheek swollen after Lane opened up. Surprisingly, Lane, 4-6, had his best round of the fight after being so badly hurt early on. It wound up academic, with all three judges scoring the fight 48-46 for Perry, now 2-0.
The feature fight of the evening ended with lightweight Chad Mendes destroying Joshua Álvarez, aka Famez in 4 rounds, turning back a valiant effort while making his high profile BKFC debut. Mendes scored first with a series of right hands in round 1, while the southpaw Famez tried to work his jab. Mendes let his hands go in combination while Famez tried to backpedal and control distance. Mendes ran forward at the start of round 2 as if shooting for a double-leg in mixed martial arts, earning him a few counters in close. Mendes then found his range with right hands, reddening Famez’s right eye. With under 30 seconds remaining, Mendes connected with a massive right hand that put Famez on his back. Somehow Famez got to his feet and finished the round, but Mendes was onto him and continued his assault in round 3. After some tactical jockeying, Mendes again timed a right hand on the end of a combination and sent Famez down for the second time. Famez answered the bell for round 4 clearly motivated, but his enthusiasm backfired. Once more Mendes put Famez down, this time with uppercuts in a Thai clinch. After Famez gamely rose, Mendes punished his opponent for the final time and ended the fight with a combination. Famez, 1-2 in bare knuckle, almost made the count, but would have been in for far more hell if he had.
A rematch nearly three years in the making between Christine Ferea and Britain Hart did not disappoint, with Ferea being crowned the inaugural BKFC women’s flyweight champion, as well as the Police Gazette Diamond Belt champion, by commanding decision. Hart, whose record fell to 4-3, fought carefully from the outset, looking to use hand speed and quick combinations to open up bigger shots. Ferea largely stayed back, assessing the situation without much offense in round 1. Ferea kept her jab active in round 2, and Hart’s use of the 1-2 prevented Ferea from stepping in with anything serious. A few right hand counters from Ferea were absorbed well by Hart, though Hart’s right eye leaked blood and swelled quickly as she leaned out of a clinch. Ferea closed the 2nd round in control, although she did walk into a hard overhand right at the bell. Hart’s unorthodox movement made Ferea hesitant at the start of round 3. Hart connected with a very good right hand while pulling out of a clinch, likely her best punch to that point. Ferea’s jab opened up more offense in round 4 and the fight edged closer to the kind of brawl BKFC fans are used to from Hart as she took offense to Ferea’s success. Hart’s face wore far more damage, but a few tactical rounds meant the fight appeared up for grabs in the final round. Hart stepped forward into a clinch and traded with Ferea, but despite landing well, her right eye began to close rapidly and busted open in the final minute. Ferea, 5-1, sensing a potential end to the fight, closed in and punished Hart for the remainder of the bout. Judges scored the fight 48-47, 48-47 and 49-46.
Heavyweight Gustavo Trujillo served notice to the rest of the division that he is a force to be reckoned with by scoring a massive kayo over Stephen Townsel. After some brief posturing, things became entertaining in a hurry. At the one minute mark, Trujillo sent Townsel down with a left hand. Townsel got up with a smile and went offensive to fight his way out, but in moments Trujillo turned Townsel around completely before brutalizing him with a right uppercut as he held Townsel’s head down. Townsel fell forward, clearly unconscious. The knockout came at 1:41 of round 1.
Christine Vicens shined in her BKFC debut, winning a women’s flyweight bout against Jade Masson-Wong with a medical stoppage in three rounds. As the fight began, the fighters traded punches with Vicens getting the better of it. The pace slowed, with Vicens establishing a good jab but pulling out of a clinch with a bloody nose. Masson-Wong began connecting with right hands, forcing Vicens to clinch repeatedly. A terrible cut opened up above the inside of Masson-Wong’s left eye as a result of a hard, solid jab in round 2. After a brief gander from the ringside doctor, the fight continued and Vicens continued scrappily attacking. Masson-Wong wiped at the blood on her eye and struggled to gain control in the clinch. Vicens absorbed a number of hard body shots in the final moments of the round. Vicens’ clever use of the clinch kept Masson-Wong defensive and she couldn’t deal with the blood over her eye. With action paused again to check Masson-Wong’s cut, the ringside doctor called a stop to the fight at 0:49 of round 3. Masson-Wong falls to 1-1.
A height disparity of nearly comical proportions played out splendidly in a war between middleweights Francesco Ricchi and Jake Bostwick, with Ricchi battling for a unanimous decision. Round 1 opened with Ricchi, now 4-0, landing a right hand to Bostwick’s left eye. After some maneuvering, Bostwick landed a right hand bomb with 45 seconds remaining in the opening round that flattened Ricchi. Up and affected, Ricchi caught another few shots that kept him buzzed, though he made it to the bell, albeit by the skin of his teeth. A recovered Ricchi sent Bostwick down with a jab not long into round 2, and again Bostwick hit the deck off a much harder shot moments later. Bostwick took a deep breath before rising and angling backwards. Ricchi used his reach to pressure Bostwick as the round ended. After hearing his corner implore him to step forward and throw, Bostwick did exactly that in round 3, wobbling Ricchi early. Bostwick’s lack of height and reach hurt him, though, and Ricchi opened Bostwick’s left eye by the bell. In the 4th, Ricchi’s jab became more difficult to navigate for Bostwick, who landed a nice hook at the bell, but not enough otherwise. Bloodied and tired, Bostwick, 1-2, opened up with good jabs and right hands in round 5, and Ricchi responded by pushing him back with jabs and right hands, making for a hotly-contested round. All judges scored the fight 48-44.
In the first fight of the main card, light heavyweight Uly Diaz showed once again why he’s one of the most explosive fighters in bare knuckle with a thoroughly entertaining two-round war with, and subsequent victory over late replacement Sawyer Depee. A left hand put Diaz, 3-1, down 30 seconds into round 1, and he responded by fighting through weakened legs to floor Depee with a right hand to the ribs in the final minute. The decal on the canvas may have been slippery, appearing to cause both men to slide when stepping across it. As Depee, 1-1, looked to be gaining an advantage in round 2, a left-right combination froze Depee on the ropes and the follow-up opened his right eye and sent him down for the count at 1:00 of round 2.
The final bout of the opening portion of the card ended explosively, as featherweight Edgard Plazaola walked away with a knockout victory in his BKFC debut, while sending Chevvy Bridges home with a 1-1 record. Bridges’ southpaw stance appeared to give Plazaola issues and he landed a handful of lead left hands. Both fighters began switching stances while trying to find ways to get their offense going, but Bridges clearly had the better opening round. A good jab from Bridges troubled Plazaola further in round 2 and a shot opened up a cut on Plazaola’s forehead before he seemed to wake up and land a handful of his own bombs, though the round ended with Plazaola’s right eye in bad shape. Bridges continued his success in the 3rd, and he stunned Plazaola a few times in the opening minute. But with at 1:09 of round 3, three consecutive right hands from Plazaola changed the course of the fight like a strike of lightning, and Bridges crumbled to the deck, unable to beat the count.
Yosdenis Cedeno, 2-0, wasted little time attacking fellow middleweight Mario Vargas in the second bout of the free prelims, which likely helped him win a unanimous decision. Vargas, bleeding from his scalp, landed a nice right hand that slowed the pace. A fun tactical battle unfolded from there, both fighters using good footwork and feints. A series of clever shots sent Vargas down and opened a cut under his right eye as the 1st round ended, causing him to reconsider his strategy in his corner. Cedeno rushed forward aggressively to great success, though Vargas attempted a Superman punch moments after one of Cedeno’s rushes. With short time left in round 2, a right hand sent Vargas down hard and upon rising, Cedeno attacked and almost put him down again. Vargas looked for a big shot in round 3, likely understanding his two-knockdown point deficit. Cedeno wouldn’t comply, instead angling about the squared circle avoiding the incoming, but he didn’t land much in return. Action remained slower, and close, in round 4, both fighters landing only a few punches. Vargas, now 0-1 in bare knuckle, continued to have difficulty with Cedeno’s rhythm and footwork in round 5. Official cards tabbed Cedeno the winner by scores of 48-45, 49-44 and 47-46.
Middleweight Jomi Escoboza opened the free portion of the card with an impressive 4th round victory over Zion Tomlinson, whose record fell to 2-2. Both fighters began round 1 as southpaws, though Tomlinson switched stances freely after that. Escoboza established his jab and therefore his optimal range, then walked into a right hand that sent him down briefly. Escoboza closed strong, however, backing Tomlinson up. Round 2 began the same, though slightly faster, with both fighters trying to do damage with jabs. Tomlinson’s nose began to bleed and his eye swelled after several combinations from Escoboza, who looked to be settling into a rhythm. Tomlinson walked backwards into a hard right hand in round 3 and Escoboza continued to dominate with his jab into the 4th, landing a nasty body shot in the process. A series of punches and a push down on Tomlinson’s back sent him down hard with just over a minute in the 4th and he barely beat the count. Upon rising, Tomlinson went down again quickly out of sheer exhaustion and took the full count. The official time of the stoppage was 1:16 of round 4, and Escoboza is still undefeated at 7-0 in bare knuckle with a big victory in his BKFC debut.
Knucklemania II needed to really deliver in order to both properly follow in the tracks the first Knucklemania laid, and improve upon it. And it did deliver, in a way that wonderful way BKFC fans have become accustomed to.
It was a truly enthralling way to begin the year for BKFC—the first big show of many already on the schedule.
“We’re holding events in six different countries this year, broadcasting already in 60 different countries,” said BKFC president David Feldman, Sr. “This sport is growing so fast because these men and women are going out there and fighting the way they are. This is an incredible start to a huge year.”
Follow Patrick Connor on Twitter: @PatrickMConnor
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