Jamestown casino next stop for local MMA fighters

By David Witte / sports@losbanosenterprise.comMay 23, 2013 

If you search youtube.com for Alex McClaren MMA, you'll find a video of the Los Banos native's first MMA fight, a unanimous decision loss to Tyrell Tucker in early March at the Chicken Ranch Casino in Jamestown.

McClaren, 23, who with his Muay Thai kickboxing background considers himself stronger on his feet, spends most of the three-round grappling with Tucker on the mat, and -- except for a flurry of punches in the third round when he had Tucker's back against the cage -- he spends most of the bout on the defensive.

Two things to keep in mind: that was McClaren's first cage fight against an experienced amateur martial artist with a 2-2-1 record; and he was also given just 10 days notice for the fight.

"I was nervous. I definitely got the jitters out. I know how it feels to be in the cage now," McClaren said. "I actually wasn't going to fight until this card, until May 25, but a fighter dropped out of that March 2 card, and with me being eager and wanting to get in the cage, I took it on a 10-day notice."

McClaren gets back in the cage this Saturday in Jamestown, facing Cesar Gomez. His training partner, Los Banos resident Brit Lippincott, will face Kyle Burks on the same card, put together by Art of War Productions, which runs fights at Chicken Ranch Casino.

McClaren has analyzed his match, and laments the missed opportunity when he had Tucker back against the cage. After taking a flurry of punches, Tucker deftly worked his way out of the jam and took McClaren to the mat a third time.

"I didn't go for no body shots, you know? It was my first time. I was just going for the head, you know, knock him out," McClaren said. "(Next time I would) probably kick his legs and hit his body, knock his wind out. That's something I learned from the first spot."

Lippincott, who holds a 1-0 amateur record after a unanimous decision over Mark Ryan in October, is also new to the sport after posting a 4-3 record as an amateur boxer.

"I didn't even get touched in that fight. I did feel some leg kicks," Lippincott said. "I was a boxer converting to a kickboxing fight, and I got my legs ate up pretty good in that fight. He got me with five or six good leg kicks, and after that I definitely felt them. It opens your eyes."

Like McClaren, Lippincott's background makes him more comfortable on his feet.

"I feel more confident on my feet than I do on the floor," Lippincott said. "But lately, as we've been practicing with the coach and constant repetition, I feel so much more comfortable on the ground now that I've formed into a different fighter."

This is where their coach comes in -- Junior Villanueva, a former Los Banos High state wrestler who holds a 4-4 record as a professional MMA fighter. Villanueva took over the abandoned wrestling gym on the grounds of Lasher Brothers Trucking.

"It was just an old wrestling building. I think the freestyle wrestlers used it," Lippincott said. "It just got abandoned, with kids in here kicking holes in the walls. My coach came in and took it over, and just kind of put stuff together, added his own thing to it, made sure no kids were breaking into it."

All three fight under the banner of Oakdale MMA, which has branches in Sonora, Merced, and now the fledgling Los Banos branch.

"Technique-wise, yeah (he's tough on us). We soak it up like rain in dirt," Lippincot said. "It's not a big gym, like four or five people max. We're not in here playing games, we're just all on coach."

Enterprise reporter David Witte can be reached by phone at 388-6565 or by e-mail at sports@losbanosenterprise.com

Enterprise reporter David Witte can be reached by phone at 388-6565 or by e-mail at sports@losbanosenterprise.com

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