ONTARIO – Roughly a month ago, Jared “the Jackhammer” Papazian was entrenched in his plans to take a break from mixed martial arts.
Things can change with little notice in the world of MMA, though.
And on Saturday afternoon, Papazian emerged from a break with a breakthrough performance.
Using precise strikes and one very effective takedown, Papazian took a unanimous decision from John Robles in their three-round bantamweight bout on Saturday afternoon at the World Series of Fighting 4 at the Citizens Business Bank Arena in Ontario.
“It feels great to be back in the winning circle,” said Papazian, who trains out of Burbank Gracie Barra, among other Southern California locales.
Papazian (16-10) used a diverse array of accurate striking and a second-round takedown that controlled much of the round to take the decision 30-27 (twice) and 29-28 over Robles (7-2), a friend and former training partner of Papazian. The bout was the second of the card on the preliminary portion.
Following a disheartening loss at a National Fight Alliance show to Brandon Bender via first-round submission in May, Papazian had planned to concentrate on muay Thai fights and jiu jitsu tournaments to build a better all-around game before an eventual MMA return. But roughly three weeks before Saturday, he was offered the fight with Robles. Opportunity knocked, Papazian answered and the two decided to put their friendship aside for 15 minutes.
It didn’t stop Papazian from being Papazian, though, as he talked trash during the fight, implored Robles to come at him, even wagging his finger at Robles after getting the better of a third-round exchange that Robles initiated.
“I would say [I was] in my zone. I like to have a little fun,” said Papazian, who embraced Robles after the fight. “I’m like, ‘You’re too slow, man. Hit me.'”
While the fight was still plenty entertaining, Papazian, who prides himself on putting on fight-of-the-night-type performances, didn’t go for the kill, as he realized going in how important a victory was above all else.
“I needed a victory,” Papazian said. “My goal was just to win the fight.”
Papazian’s lead corner man and trainer at Burbank Gracie Barra, Alberto Crane, agreed that the win was too important for any ill-advised risks, but did think Papazian could’ve finished the fight.
“When he turns it up, when he’s in his Jackhammer-mode, [if he would have done that], I think he could’ve finished him,” said Crane, a Glendale resident. “But he fought smart.”
Papazian weathered a flash knockdown in the first stanza that seemed only to fire him up, as he jumped up and began throwing strikes and landing well to close the round.
“Only thing I’m upset about is I got dropped,” said Papazian, a three-time Ultimate Fighting Championship veteran and former King of the Cage champion.
The opening round was the only one difficult to judge, as one judge gave it to Robles, as did the Burbank Leader. But Papazian controlled the last two rounds.
Following his first-round burst of action to end the stanza, Papazian came out aggressive in the second round and early on caught a Robles kick and worked seamlessly into a takedown. Papazian worked from side control for a good portion, landing punches here and there and eventually taking Robles’ back, where he landed his best shots with a stream of rights to the face before Robles worked it back standing.
“It was there, I just took it,” Papazian said of the takedown. “I hadn’t trained with him in a while, so I didn’t know how he was off his back. I didn’t want to take too much risk. I was just going with it.”
In the third round, Papazian’s striking was at its best, as he worked crisp leg kicks, connected on a big overhand right, fended off a takedown and landed accurately throughout, picking his shots.
“I give John Robles credit,” Crane said, “He took some hard punches.”
Characteristic of Papazian, though, he went out swinging, as the 10-second signal went off, Papazian and Robles ended the bout winging punches in a rousing exchange.
With the MMA break seemingly in the rearview for Papazian, he, along with his camp, are hoping that a home could be found with World Series of Fighting, an upstart promotion that airs its main cards on NBC Sports Network.
“I really feel like he belongs in the big show,” Crane said. “He’s exciting.
“The World Series of Fighting, they’re top notch, they treat us first class all the way. I hope they pick him up. This would be a great place for Jared.”