There are some things we just count on in Alaska. Someone will stop if you're car is in trouble, the moose eat our ornamental trees, and Brian Ryan knocks out chumps. To unseat one of these fundamental precepts would be to turn the entire world upside down. You can imagine, then, the disillusionment that swept the Sullivan Arena when the consummate knock out artist succumbed to the challenger from Outside on Wednesday.
There are a few small consolations we can take. The fight wasn't for the belt, and Ryan is still our heavyweight champion. The guy who beat him is exceptionally good, even besting UFC fighters, and is also a really nice guy. Ryan probably got as close to winning without actually winning as a person can get. Of course, close only counts in horseshoes, hand grenades, and cutting weight. The fact is our champion, the undisputed baddest man in the state, lost. That's gonna sting, no matter what. The best we can hope for is that Lopez takes Ryan up on his challenge for a rematch, next time for the belt. Knowing Lopez's penchant for collecting belts, we've got a halfway decent shot at seeing it.
FIGHT OF THE NIGHT: TONY LOPEZ vs. BRIAN RYAN
For the first time in waking memory, Ryan entered a bout on Alaskan soil as the underdog. It wasn't long before he reminded everyone why he was unbeaten in the Last Frontier for the past five and a half years. Ryan landed punishing body blows that pushed his opponent back, setting up huge overhand shots intended to end the fight quickly. It was vintage Ryan, and everyone in the stands thought they knew what was coming. To his credit, Lopez showed why he's one of the top fighters not signed by a major promotion by staying game on his feet and firing back with some head kicks. However, when Ryan's left atom smasher found it's mark and Lopez hit the canvas, most people figured it was time to leave and beat the traffic. Only things don't always go according to the script. Lopez later confessed he was out on the way to the mat, but woke back up before Ryan could finish the fight. It was here that Lopez showed the value of his extensive experience, exploiting a mistake from Ryan to swing for a fight ending armbar. I'm not sure my psyche can take both Fedor and Brian Ryan losing within a week of each other. Local fans only consolation is that this fight was not for Ryan's belt. If Lopez can make his way back up here, however, you can bet he and Ryan will have one hell of a rematch, this time with AFC gold on the line.
Lopez said he felt good for the first thirty seconds of the fight, then felt the champ's power and backed off.
"I thought, 'You know, he's hitting me too much,'" The sturdy journeyman said. "I was trying to knock him out."
Once Ryan jumped into his guard, Lopez said he was thinking of trying a triangle choke, but the arm was there so he took it.
Ryan knew immediately how he presented an opportunity for Lopez to win, and chastised himself for making such a costly mistake.
"I felt incredible ... it was obvious I had the stand-up. I just made the mistake of following him to the ground," Ryan said.
The champ, normally jovial, seemed rather down after the match.
"What bothers me is I didn't lose, stupidity lost," he said, "I feel like I let people down.
KO OF THE NIGHT: AARON BEAN
In a night where half of the fights ended by way of KO or TKO, this stoppage stood out for one very entertaining reason that I'm not sure anyone else in attendance caught. When Tait Stockman landed the first significant blow of the fight, Bean's face grimaced. Not with pain, but rage. It was like Bean had entered the cage without realizing what he was supposed to do in there, but Stockman's punch suddenly woke him up. The Rage (tm) took over, and Bean blitzed Stockman into oblivion with an assembly line of identical and unanswered right handed jawbreakers.
SUBMISSION OF THE NIGHT: TONY 'KRYPTONITE' LOPEZ
Lopez rebounded from a punch that has felled everyone who's tasted it, managed to regain consciousness when lesser men's brains would steadfastly refuse to turn back on, and locked up a submission that ended a local legend's 11 fight home turf winning streak. The only thing Lopez could have done to make it more dramatic was have the rent for an orphanage full of sick puppies riding on the outcome.
MOMENT OF THE NIGHT: DON'T TELL BRIAN RYAN HOW TO FIGHT!
During the main event, a high-pitched voice could be heard rising above the general din of the crowd. "Lead with your left! Lead with your left!" the male voice shouted. Then, shockingly, Ryan turned in the direction of the voice and shouted back, "Shut the f*** up! Shut the f*** up!" This was in the middle of someone trying to knock him out, mind you. Always the people's champion, Ryan took a moment out of his fight, at extreme danger to life and limb, just to cuss out a stranger for trying to give him boxing advice. Lopez, gentleman that he is, did not take advantage of his opponent's momentary distraction, and allowed him to refocus on the pressing matters inside the cage before resuming them.
I'm not sure who's side to take here. On the one hand, part of the fun of attending fights live is yelling your instructions to the fighters. On the other hand, Ryan has had more knowledge of the Sweet Science knocked out of him than this random heckler will ever conceive of. I guess the only lesson to really take from it is that, sometimes, your shouts can get through the cage to the athletes inside. That's nice to know.
SHIVERS TO RETURN?
Former champion Ricky 'Ice Cold' Shivers dismantled last minute opponent Justin Trenton just like he was expected to, excepting of course a guillotine choke that looked damn close to sunk but Shivers insists was not. Following current champion Stephen 'The Incredible Hulk' Waalkes' inaugural defense, Shivers entered the cage and challenged Waalkes for the belt. The crowd howled it's approval, but I'm not jumping up and down just yet. For one, Shivers has fought and won at bigger promotions outside the state. He said he would actively defend his belt, should he win, but still wants to chase the bigger name opponents and bigger payday. What if that conflicts with commitments he's made to the AFC? Supposing he wins the belt, what if a bigger pay check suddenly comes up, as so often does in this sport? Does he abdicate the belt, or does the AFC and his opponent postpone their plans to accommodate Ricky? People like having a definite continuity for a championship belt, and abdications, stripping, and long postponements work against that. It's part of the reason the lightweight division is such a mess right now. Look, I like watching Ricky Shivers fight, and a brawl with Waalkes would be the best fight Sarah Johnston could put together at 205, but I have serious doubts that such a fight ever will, or should, occur.
NEXT FOR LOPEZ: He has two fights lined up in the next three weeks, each in different states. With such an active schedule, it may be hard to get him to come back, but hopefully Ryan will get another crack at him, this time with the belt on the line.
NEXT FOR RYAN: Do a little ground training before stepping in against Lopez again. The Champ is blatant about his lack of preparation before his fights. And who can blame him, until Lopez he's never needed any!
NEXT FOR WAALKES: Perhaps Shivers, but more likely one of the many new 205ers that are worming their way out of the woodwork.
NEXT FOR LECKBEE: Stephan Beck. Hopefully this exciting fighter will not be a stranger to Anchorage.
"I didn't see it, I didn't feel it, but when I woke up, I was on the ground."
-Tony Lopez, on the giant left hook that nearly cost him the bout
"[The AFC] is a lot better than what I imagined. It surprised me ... This tops a lot of the places I've fought."
-Lopez, on his impression of the Alaska fight scene.
"Whenever Lopez want's to come back up and get [the belt], I'll fight him."
“Man, this guy's flexible! [...] I'll be damned if I'm going to win by submission, I going to punch him in the face.”
-Jerry Williams, after grotesquely manipulating Marlin Sergio's arm failed to elicit a tap, and he was forced to win by ground 'n' pound
"Sarah, I f***ed up."
-Bob Lester, overheard after he realized he had said the wrong fighter had won the first fight