By Grant Gordon / Glendale News Press
Published: Thursday, November 19, 2009 12:35 AM PST
LAS VEGAS — It took Karen Darabedyan 15 minutes to introduce himself to the mixed martial arts world.
After three rounds of mostly toe-to-toe battle with former World Extreme Cagefighting lightweight champion “Razor” Rob McCullough, Darabedyan emerged victorious with a split-decision victory on Wednesday night as part of WEC 44 at The Pearl at the Palms Casino Resort in Las Vegas.
“I’m just really happy to get the ‘W’,” Darabedyan said. “I don’t know how to describe it, I’m just so happy.”
In all, it was a night in which MMA in Glendale put itself on the map, as Darabedyan (9-1), a Glendale High graduate who still resides in the Jewel City, and his training partner at the Main Event Boxing Club in Glendale, Manny Gamburyan, were both victorious.
Sitting next to his younger training partner during the post fight press conference, Gamburyan heaped immense praise and expectation on Darabedyan.
“Look at the newcomer,” Gamburyan said. “Like I said, he’s gonna be the champ, I guarantee it.”
In a three-round featherweight (145 pounds) co-main event bout that could very well have decided the next title contender in the division, Gamburyan (10-4) decisioned Leonard Garcia (13-5), 29-28 on two cards and 30-27 on a third. In the main event, Jose Aldo (16-1) defeated Mike Brown (22-5) for the featherweight title with a second technical knockout win, perhaps setting up Gamburyan for a future title shot.
“It’s up to the WEC,” Gamburyan said. “If they think I’m next for the title shot, I’m down for it, anytime, anywhere.”
Darabedyan’s lightweight (155) tilt had a surprisingly tense ending when the decision was read, as Darabedyan received scores of 30-27 and 29-28 from judges Adalaide Byrd and Junichiro Kamijo, respectively, and McCullough (17-6) received a 30-27 score from Toni Weeks. The News-Press scored it 29-28 for Darabedyan, with the local fighter coming up short in a relatively even third round.
Nonetheless, Darabedyan was grinning ear to ear despite a marked face and a tough fight that saw him weather a steady stream of leg kicks, mixed with a few stiff body kicks and punches to the face that unveiled his solid chin.
“There’s no word to describe it,” he said of his thoughts on the victory, which came after a training camp of less than a month prepared him to make his debut for the major MMA organization, which is owned by the same Zuffa, LLC that owns the Ultimate Fighting Championship, against McCullough, a well-known former champion on the live, televised portion of the card.
Darabedyan, who has now won seven straight fights, perhaps surprised some by saying before the fight he intended to stand with McCullough, who brings a Muay Thai background and nine past knockout wins to the cage. But that’s exactly what Darabedyan did, and for the majority of three rounds he got the better of the veteran fighter.
“He got me with a couple pretty good body shots,” said Darabedyan, who took a multitude of leg kicks to his lead left leg throughout the bout, proving to be McCullough’s biggest asset. “Right now I feel them a little bit, but during the fight your adrenaline’s going.”
In the first round, a bit of a slow start saw both come together for a furious exchange before both backed off. For the most part, both fighters showcased their abilities to take a punch throughout the fight.
Later in the first, Darabedyan pushed McCullough back with an exchange, stunning him a bit, but the Team Hayastan-trained fighter didn’t get overly aggressive and rush in.
Darabedyan then began to work what would be his most reliable weapon, sticking a stiff left jab down the middle, bloodying McCullough’s nose just before the round’s end.
In the second round, roughly 40 seconds in, Darabedyan secured the only takedown of the match. From the top, he landed a couple of punches, but did the most severe damage with a number of elbows. McCullough eventually swept and got the fight back to standing, where the two clinched against the cage. Darabedyan would end the round with two solid jabs, but upon getting separating from McCullough, 32, after the aforementioned clinch it was evident that the 22-year-old had a cut opened up under his left eye. It was unclear when the cut happened, but it was a fresh cut unlike the two cuts that Darabedyan had sustained prior to the fight, but kept quiet. He had one over his right eye and one under his left eye before the bout that had been rather recently stitched up.
“Nothing opened up except a new one,” he said. “I was nervous about [the one over my right eye]. I was nervous if it opened up they were probably gonna stop it.”
The third round was relatively even and relatively uneventful, beginning early with an attempted takedown by Darabedyan that was stuffed. He used the subsequent clinch to land a solid knee to the stomach. Thereafter, the most telling exchanges saw McCullough continue to land leg kicks, apparently enough to warrant a shutout for the former champ on at least one card.
“I was pretty shocked at that,” Darabedyan said of the 30-27 score against him.
But it wasn’t enough to foil a victorious debut.
“[I’m] just real happy,” Darabedyan said. “I had a little bit of nerves.
“It’s the big show.”
It was a big show in which Darabedyan most certainly made a phenomenal first impression.
“I was truly impressed with him,” WEC General Manager Reed Harris said, “and we are really proud to have him as part of the WEC and I told him that right after the fight.”