European MMA promotion Cage Warriors made their return to the United States on Saturday night with an eight-fight card from outdoor venue Humphrey’s by the Bay in San Diego, California.
The event, which started under bright and sunny conditions, finished under the lights in front of fans that came out to see a mix of rising prospects from across the country.
UFC vet Kyle Stewart scored a massive stoppage win in the main event of the card, flooring John Poppie with a right uppercut in the first round. The shot immediately planted Poppie, causing the referee to step in only seconds later.
Stewart had been hurting Poppie earlier in the fight with strikes, doing visible damage to his face and connecting frequently with leg kicks.
The very vocal winner called out Cage Warriors Middleweight Champion Matthew Bonner immediately following his win.
“I’m coming to your kingdom. I’m [gonna] take your head, and I’m [gonna] take your belt,” said Stewart, talking to a camera inside the ring after he wasn’t afforded a post-fight interview.
The victory put Stewart back into the win column after losing a fight to Chris Curtis earlier this year.
Morales Returns With Scorecard Victory
Joseph Morales scored a win in his return to the regional scene, defeating Kevin With via unanimous decision in the co-main event (30-27, 30-27 & 30-27).
Morales showed a mix of skills in the fight, being able to score a knockdown with his striking early but also using wrestling throughout.
Morales was returning after a three-fight stint in the UFC. He departed the promotion after losing two consecutive bouts, including a bout against Deiveson Figueiredo.
He had not fought since 2018.
Wirth is now on a two-fight losing streak. He had lost in the main event of an LFA card previously, not being favored on scorecards against Askar Askar in October.
Undefeated Light Heavyweight Pauga Takes Decision Nod
Rising light heavyweight prospect Zac Pauga extended his undefeated record to four consecutive victories on Sunday with a win over Terrance Jean-Jacques (29-28, 29-28 & 29-28).
Pauga’s striking allowed him to take two rounds on scorecards. He was able to sting Jean-Jaques often with right hands, backing him up and hurting him throughout.
Pauga’s success came after he survived a scare in the first round, as a lead jab by Jean-Jaques seemingly caused a flash knockdown. After consuming some strikes from full guard, Pauga returned to the feet and went back to his stand-up game.
Pauga’s three previous pro appearances came in notable promotion LFA.
Laroco Submits An Injured Trinidad
Brandon Laroco capitalized on a sudden leg injury to Alex Trinidad for a second-round submission win on the main card.
Laroco found himself in trouble during the second round after suddenly collapsing seemingly due to an injury. Trinidad pounced on him after, taking his back and securing a rear naked choke for the win.
Laroco had success in the first round, controlling Trinidad on the ground for a large portion of the frame.
Laroco was making his return after over two years outside of the cage. His last appearance was in April of 2019, where Josh San Diego snapped his four-fight win streak in a Bellator bout.
Rophskopf Bounces Back From UFC Loss
Former UFC fighter Max Rophskopf scored a win to open the main card, stopping Jeff Creighton in less than half-a-round.
Rophskopf was quick to get Creighton to the ground, where he unloaded with strikes from full mount that caused the finish.
Rophskopf had a surprisingly short run in the UFC last year, getting cut by the promotion after losing his debut fight to Austin Hubbard. The fight saw Rophskopf retire in his corner before the beginning of the third round.
Rophskopf is now also back into the win column after suffering his first pro loss.
Main Card (11:00PM EDT / 8:00PM PDT) (UFC Fight Pass)
Bout 8: Kyle Stewart def. John Poppie via TKO, Strikes (RD 1, 4:10)
Bout 7: Joseph Morales def. Kevin Wirth via Decision, Unanimous
Bout 6: Zac Pauga def. Terrance Jean-Jacques via Decision, Unanimous
Bout 5: Brandon Laroco def. Alex Trinidad via TKO, Strikes (RD 2, 3:13)
Bout 4: Max Rophskopf def. Jeff Creighton via TKO, Strikes (RD 1, 2:21)
Preliminary (9:30PM EDT / 6:30PM PDT) (UFC Fight Pass)
Bout 3: James Lynch def. Joshua Nakagawa via Decision, Unanimous
Bout 2: Damon Wilson def. John Buttner via TKO, Strikes (RD 2, 0:15)
Bout 1: Cody Davis def. Enrique Marte via Decision, Unanimous