ATLANTIC CITY, N.J. - Gian Villante prefers to knock people out, so of course he won by submission. Ryan LaFlare favors jiu-jitsu and grappling, so of course, he won by knockout.
These things happen in mixed martial arts. It is what it is, and what it is is this: Long Island has a new pair of champions. At Ring of Combat XXVIII in the Tropicana Showroom on Friday night, Villante won the heavyweight title and LaFlare the welterweight belt.
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Villante, a standout football player and wrestler at MacArthur High School and Hofstra University, only go to throw three punches. The third one landed on Mike Cook's chin and wobbled the Californian's legs. Villante (6-0) raced in, scored a powerful takedown then locked in the rear naked choke for the submission victory. Forty seconds.
"I've been talking about it all week that I'm not a jiu-jitsu artist," said Villante, 24. "But I rocked him on my feet, and instincts took over. I went to wrestling, had a good suplex on him. Slammed him pretty good. I thought it might have been over there. For some reason, I took his throat. I guess the training's paying off a little bit."
Villante's first pro MMA fight was 364 days earlier, and now the belt around his waist is gold.
The same goes for LaFlare, who trains with Villante at Bellmore Kickboxing MMA and D'Arce Jiu-Jitsu in Bay Shore. When LaFlare first began his stand-up training with Keith Trimble, he knew nothing of punching people inside a cage. Seems he's learned a thing or two.
LaFlare, from Lindenhurst, lost the first round as Justin Haskins controlled the bout on the ground. Early in the second round, LaFlare (5-0) landed a left knee, then followed with a straight left hand that floored Haskins. The southpaw landed one more left to a grounded Haskins to solidify the knockout.
"I definitely rocked him with that knee," said LaFlare, 26. "I saw his head go back, and I knew if I didn't act on that, you never know if you're going to get that chance again."
That chance can't come soon enough for LaFlare and Villante. Their dreams go beyond the Tropicana. Their talent just may take them there, too.