MANILA, Philippines - Ale Cali and Mark Striegl lived up to the hype as they overwhelmed their respective rivals in the Pacific X-Treme Combat 34 before a sizeable crowd at the Smart-Araneta Coliseum Saturday night.
Cali, 21, took everything the older, more experienced but rusty Erwin Tagle could offer and responded with lightning-quick punches he complemented with a newfound taekwondo defense, forcing his 34-year-old rival to retire right after the third round.
It was the first flyweight title defense by the Davao City native, nicknamed the Young Gun, since disposing of Guam’s Jesse Taitano in the PXC 29 early this year.
“I would like to thank everyone who helped me, without you I will not be here,” said Cali in a post-fight interview in the cage, in Filipino.
Striegl, a Baguio-based Fil-Am whose mother hails from Oriental Mindoro, was even more impressive as he finished off veteran fighter Harris Sarmiento with an Americana just a couple of minutes past the first round to remain unscathed in 12 fights.
It was the second straight time that Striegl had won by that same style after dominating Robert Wustigg at PXC 33 two months ago.
“I knew Harris (Sarmiento) is a tough brawler and truly, he hurt me bad when he got me on the chest,” said Striegl. “So when I got the chance when we got to the ground, I didn’t hesitate.”
Sarmiento, the reigning lightweight champion, was all game and ready to brawl but apparently lacked the explosiveness that has marked his past fights after shedding off 10 pounds just to face Striegl at featherweight.
The 29-year-old Fil-Am, who fell to his 24th defeat against 35 victories, however, offered no excuses.
“No excuses, he (Striegl) got me fair and square and that’s how it is,” he said.
The pair of triumphs showed Cali and Striegl as the best Guam-based PXC’s bets for spots in the Ultimate Fighting Championship the way it did with John Tuck, who debuted in the UFC with a bang after decisioning Chinese Zhang Tiequan in Macau recently.
“I have to say, Ale and Mark were impressive,” said PXC chief EJ Calvo.
Cali, whose fight with Tagle was refereed by Big John McCarthy, credited his improved takedown defense to former Southeast Asian Games wrestling gold medal winner Marciano Basas.
“I knew I didn’t have time to train more in jiu-jitsu so I went to coach (Marciano) Basas to tutor me with some takedown defense,” said Cali.