To the casual observer, Steven "Stryker" Ciaccio didn't seem to be doing much striking Thursday night at the OC Fair & Event Center in Costa Mesa.
Ciaccio, a mixed martial arts fighter who grew up in Irvine and Newport Beach before graduating from Cal State Fullerton, now lives in Rancho Cucamonga. But his return to Orange County for Fight Club OC appeared to be going rocky.
He spent much of his match against Mario Delgado of Torrance on his back. But when Ciaccio got up late in the second round, it was Delgado, making his professional debut, who had a huge welt under his left eye.
Delgado was unable to continue after being examined ringside. "Stryker" had stunned the crowd and earned a victory by technical knockout 2:52 into the second round of the welterweight match. It was just the start of a night of big performances on the hybrid boxing/MMA card in front of a sellout crowd of 1,412 at The Hangar.
"People think that if you're on your back, that you're at a disadvantage," said Ciaccio, 24, who called Thursday's win a "homecoming" after he improved to 3-1. "But he was so tense, so tight … and he wasn't doing damage. I'm not losing; he's not doing anything. Then I saw my opening and I took it. I started elbowing him, and they just started landing and landing and landing. Even on your back, you can be dangerous."
In the second MMA fight of the night, Yoko Hamamura of Huntington Beach showed he was dangerous. He improved to 3-1 by earning a TKO win against Tremaine Lewis of Long Beach (2-4).
Hamamura, nicknamed "Godzilla," won the fight after earning a delayed knockdown early in the third round. A few seconds after taking a kick to the stomach, Lewis hit the canvas and was unable to continue. He knelt there, vomiting, as the match was stopped.
"We got a mop or something?" the announcer asked, as Hamamura walked out the winner.
The MMA feature bout was the only one for a belt, for the Fight Club OC welterweight championship. Curtis Millender of Fullerton earned it, improving to 6-0 by going the distance against Dom Waters of Santa Rosa (6-2).
Millender won a split decision. Two judges had the match 30-27 for Millender, and the other had it 29-28 for Waters. At times it resembled a wrestling match, with a lot of grabbing, but Millender was able to win despite being poked in the eye four times, he said after the match.
Millender said that it felt "amazing" to win the belt. He is a regular and fan favorite in Costa Mesa, as he is signed with promoter Roy Englebrecht, who puts on Fight Club OC.
"I've been fighting for this promotion since the start of my career," Millender said. "Roy gave me the opportunity from the beginning and it has been five fights and a year-and-a-half of work. I wasn't going to let somebody who had never fought here come and take that away from me."
Still, Millender said he looks forward to bigger opportunities down the road.
"I feel that there's guys at 170 [pounds] in UFC that I can beat now," he said. "I train with a lot of the top guys in the world already at the UFC training center in Fullerton. It's not going to be anything new."
Both of the early boxing matches went the distance. In the first, Ronnie Austion of Detroit improved to 5-0 with a 40-35 decision over Cory Muldrew of Phoenix (1-6) in a four-rounder.
Austion dropped Muldrew early in the fourth round and was never really in danger. He appears to have a promising future and has been signed by NFL star Antonio Gates, who also is from Detroit. Austion is coached by Gates' cousin, Ali El.
Austion, who has the nickname "Teflon Ron," gained some fans in Orange County after he was constantly able to counter Muldrew's jab with his right hand.
"It's good to travel, and I love traveling," said Austion, 20, who knocked out Luis Hernandez last month in a fight at the Hyatt Regency Hotel in Irvine. "I fight in Detroit a lot and I've got the love out there already, so why not come out here and get some California fans? I was trying for the knockout again [tonight], but I'll take the result."
The second boxing match may have been the best in terms of fan support. UC Irvine graduate Daniel Kim of Cerritos and Sopuan Rin of Chico both had spirited fan sections. In the end, the four-round bout was a 37-37 draw, despite the fact that Rin knocked down Kim twice in the first round.
Kim is now 1-1-1, while Rin is 0-1-1.
The final boxing match of the night featured the heaviest contenders, at 195 pounds. Alexey Zubov of Oxnard improved to 4-0 by defeating Brent Urban of Dallas (7-6-1) in the main event, after the referee stopped the fight 1:42 into the third round. Zubov had knocked Urban down earlier in the round and was controlling the action.