Valdez ends hiatus with first-round MMA victory

Combat Night promoter Mitch Chamille joins Rafael Valdez in celebration of his first-round win on Saturday night at The Moon.
Photo by St. Clair Murraine

By St. Clair Murraine

Outlook staff writer

Rafael Valdez was so disappointed with his performance that resulted in a loss in his professional mixed martial art debut that he decided to evaluate his career.

He did more than just look at how he could improve his techniques.

“Just looking into myself,” he said. “It wasn’t about anybody around me. I had to figure myself out; who I want to be and where I wanted to go.”

Valdez stayed away for 18 months. His soul-searching resulted in a change of his training routine and he called on longtime friend Brandon Ryals to lead his training camp.

Socrates Pierre does his final preparation with help from trainer Joe Burtoft before entering the octagon for his bout against Abraao Magalhaes.
Photo by St. Clair Murraine

The result of his hiatus was stunning in Valdez’s return to the octagon this past Saturday night at The Moon, where he knocked out James Alexander 18 seconds into the first round.

Even more astonishing, Valdez used his left knee, which has torn meniscus to floor Alexander. Referee Josh Rutgers waved off the action as Valdez was pummeling Alexander with lefts and rights to the body.

Alexander’s position on the floor seemed to be perfect for a choke hold, but Valdez had other plans.

“The body was opened,” he said. “I saw an opportunity and when I see opportunity, I take it.”

Ryals said he couldn’t recall who made the initial move to team up for Valdez’s training camp. However, they knew that concentrating to avoid wasting opportunities had to be a focus.

Ryals put Valdez on a regiment that included more work on his ground attack. The approach worked because Valdez, a former high school wrestler at Godby High School, had good fundamentals.

“We helped him link it all together,” Ryals said.

Making the decision to take as long as he needed to evaluate his career was a no-brainer because of the outcome, he said.

“It was easy. I lost,” said Valdez, who improved to 1-1 with the win over Alexander.

The Valdez-Alexander fight was one of 10 pro bouts that followed an amateur portion of the show. An amateur bout that was to feature Tallahassee’s T.J. Alexander was scratched over a no-show by his opponent.

One of the biggest surprises of the night was the unexpected ending of a matchup between Socrates Pierre and Abraao Magalhaes. Pierre won on a technical decision when Magalhaes couldn’t continue in the second round. He was struck in his left eye with a finger. He rolled on the mat for about 10 minutes before the fight was called off.

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