TARZANA — An hour after his victory in the cage, Alberto Crane took a break from an intense night of action at King of the Cage's Turning Point card and realized something.
"We're creating something special here," said the mixed-martial-arts fighter, a Glendale resident.
The 600-plus fans at the Braemar Country Club saw something special Sunday night in not only Crane and his stable of fighters, but also in the professional debut of female fighter Ronda Rousey.
Rousey, who trains largely at the Glendale Fighting Club under the leadership of Edmond Tarverdyan and with Team Hayastan, embarrassed veteran Ediane Gomes. Rousey, a 24-year-old who won the bronze medal in judo in the 2008 Olympics, dispatched Gomez 25 seconds into the opening round with an armbar submission.
"She's one of the best athletes I have ever trained," Tarverdyan said. "She's awesome. I don't think anybody could beat her."
Gabe Rivas couldn't keep up with Crane in the night's opening fight.
A veteran of 18 mixed-martial-arts bouts who is a former King of the Cage champion, Crane fought first so he could focus on his fighters the remainder of the night.
Crane needed just two minutes to defeat Rivas (13-19-1) in a welterweight bout. Rivas started the bout with wild punches that Crane easily sidestepped. As soon as Crane took Rivas to the mat, "[Rivas] didn't stand a chance," said Rob Gleckman, who is also an instructor at Gracie Barra Pasadena, where Crane and his students train.
"You're not going to beat the best grappler in the world," Gleckman said.
Crane (14-5) won with an armbar submission, his 13th career submission victory. It was the 10th time that Rivas lost by a submission.
"It's truly my driving force," Crane said of his jiu jitsu game. "I've had a lot of success with it. It's my purpose."
One of his goals is to compete in the Ultimate Fighting Championship for a third time.
Until he figures out his plans, the 34-year-old Crane says his focus is on being a husband and raising his three kids – Sevan, 3, Serineh, 2, and Sona, 2.
He's also mentoring a promising group of fighters.
Daniel Clarke, a 20-year-old from West Hills, won his pro debut, knocking out Jeremiah Ramage in 23 seconds in a lightweight fight.
"He's a beast," Crane said of Clarke.
Said Clarke, who dazed Ramage with a right hand before unloading a serious of vicious combinations that knocked his opponent to the floor: "I wanted to push the pace, make it my fight, not his."
Keenan Lewis, also making his pro debut, had similar intensity in the third fight of the night, a featherweight (145 pounds) fight. But he lost to Eric Winston just 30 seconds into the fight via a heel-hook submission.
"He's a lot better than he showed," Crane said.
Crane's team then won two straight, with Martin Gantt and Rob Gooch each notching decision victories in their debut fights in the lightweight division against John Hahn and Ty Freeman, respectively.
A 20-minute break set up Rousey's debut.
At the end of her fight, she left the crowd mesmerized.
"She's an animal," said MMA fighter Manny Gamburyan, who has trained with Rousey, and was equally awed by her performance. "She doesn't waste time. She goes all out. She likes to bully people around. In the ring, she's crazy. I'm even afraid to fight her."
Rousey's plan was to be aggressive.
"I always try to be aggressive," she said. "My plan was to be aggressive all the time. I feel like that's what's going to help me stand out.
"If we want woman's fighting, we have to make it exciting."
Her mother, Ann Maria DeMars, expected nothing less.
"All my children say they're expected to be excellent," joked DeMars, who has set quite an example for her daughter, as she won the 1984 World Judo Championships, becoming the first person representing the United States to do so.
The final fight of the night had the crowd roaring, as well.
Jared Papazian, who has trained with Crane, as well as with the GFC and the Main Event Gym in Glendale, met Kana Hyatt in a bantamweight rematch of their 2010 bout that Papazian won via unanimous decision.
Papazian and Hyatt had a slugfest with each fighter landing hard punches that rattled the other.
In the end, Papazian (12-6-1) notched a 30-27 victory on each judge's scorecard for another unanimous victory that dropped Hyatt to 7-10.
Said Crane: "He was in control the entire time. It was his fight.
"It was a great night."Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun