Since making his professional MMA debut during a regional Extreme Challenge show on July 28, 2007 in West Orange, New Jersey, Brazilian Wilson Reis has been adamant about his dream of winning a championship title.
During Friday night’s ShoXC event at the Chumash Resort & Casino in Santa Ynez, Calif., Reis’ dream became a reality following a five-round unanimous decision victory over King of the Cage flyweight (135 lbs.) champion Abel Cullum.
Reis, who originally had been slated to fight Bao Quach, relied heavily on his black belt jiu-jitsu skills in grinding out a decisive victory over Cullum, who entered the fight with an 11-1 record.
While the judges rendered their decision as unanimous, the fight proved to be a strong test for the 6-0 champion, as Cullum got the better of the limited standup exchanges between the two and staved off myriad submission attempts throughout the duration of the fight.
Cullum entered the fight planning on keeping the contest a standup affair, but Reis converted several kicks by Cullum in the first round into takedowns. The strategy earned Cullum an admonishment between rounds from his trainer and father, John Cullum, who pleaded with his 21-year old son to rely solely on his hands.
Cullum eliminated kicks from his arsenal in round two but Reis’ lightning fast shot proved too difficult to counter. After initially doing a good job of keeping Reis in his guard, Reis began to achieve separation and started to execute several passes.
Despite several advantageous positions, Reis was unable to finish Cullum with his numerous submission attempts. Cullum excelled at turning his back in order to get his hips on the mat, all the while still preventing Reis from being able to sink in a full rear naked choke.
As the fight wore on, both fighters gradually began to lose steam and Reis focused more on securing position as opposed to going for submission.
Despite vocal questions by Showtime commentators Mauro Ranallo and Stephen Quadros regarding Reis’ conditioning, the 23-year old transplanted Philadelphian maintained a healthy tempo throughout the fight and controlled position for the vast majority of the contest.
After the fight, Cullum told Quadros that he felt he may have underestimated Reis’ strength and his takedown ability. Meanwhile, a jubilant Reis thanked his corner and responded to Quadros’ question as to whether he had learned anything from the fight by saying that even though he felt his cardio was strong coming into the bout, he realizes it’s an area he can become stronger in.
The fight capped off a night of solid action that featured five fights in total.
In the opener, Erik Apple returned to active competition following a year and a half absence and improved his record to 10-1 following a rear naked submission choke at 2:04 of round 2 against previously undefeated Matt Makowski.
The second televised fight of the night saw another undefeated fighter sustain the first blemish on his record as jiu-jitsu master Giva Santana’s record fell to 11-1 following an split upset loss to 39-year Gladiator Challenge icon Jaime Jara.
In what has to be considered the unofficial “Fight of the Night,” Cesar Gracie disciple David “Tarzan” Douglas rallied from the brink of defeat and improved his EliteXC record to 3-0 following a TKO due to strikes against Muay Thai standout Malaipet Team Diamond at 2:51 of round 3.
And in a heavyweight attraction featuring two 4-0 fighters, Team Oyama fighter and WBC Muay Thai champion Shane Del Rosario improved to 5-0 after TKO’ing Samoan Carl Seumanutafa with strikes at 1:07 of round 2.