Posted 10/08/2013 by Jesse Scheckner in Championship Fighting Alliance

CFA 12: Sampo vs. Thao Preview



his Saturday, October 12 at the University of Miami’s BankUnited Center, CFA (Championship Fighting Alliance) – a Florida-based MMA promotion – will be putting on one hell of a show with FOUR titles up for grabs: CFA 12: Sampo vs. Thao. Though it is uncertain which of the event’s preceding undercard fights will air on Mark Cuban’s AXS TV, there are several worthwhile and compelling live matchups to look forward to, including an opening bout between the 1-0 Florida native Rico “Triggerman” Farrington (whose MMA Owl interview will be up very soon) and Diego Peclat (2-5) and a Bolivia vs. Dominican Republic set-to between Bentley Syler (3-0) and Wascar Cruz (5-2).

The flyweight, welterweight, lightweight and women’s featherweight titles are on the line, and The Ultimate Fighter season 8’s winner, Efrain Escudero, will face Luis Palomino in a lightweight matchup scheduled as the co-main event. To make things even more interesting, CFA’s CEO Jorge de la Noval has followed Dana White’s lead and is offering performance incentives to his fighters, so expect a lot of finishes!

Information on the order of the fights is mixed, so please excuse any misplacement.

Yosdenis Cedeno has power in his hands. (Photo courtesy of

Yosdenis Cedeno has power in his hands.
(Photo courtesy of

Lightweight (155 lbs.) Title Fight
Yosdenis “The Pink Panther” Cedeno (8-2)
Torrance “The Tyrant” Taylor (12-7-1)

This is a matchup between a veteran well-rounded journeyman in Taylor and a relative newcomer knockout artist who has blitzed through the CFA ranks in Cedeno. With the vacant CFA lightweight title on the line, both of these men are looking at raising their stock considerably with a convincing victory Saturday night. Both men are on five-fight win streaks, both of them have knocked out three of their last five opponents and both men are looking to collect a belt saying they are the best fighter at their weight class competing in the southeast region. Expect fireworks.

WMMA fighter Fallon Fox has thus far remained unbeaten in her pro career. (Photo courtesy of

WMMA fighter Fallon Fox has thus far remained unbeaten in her pro career.
(Photo courtesy of

Women’s featherweight (145 lb. Tournament Final) Title Fight
Fallon “The Queen of Swords” Fox (3-0)
Ashlee Evans-Smith (1-0)

This matchup, featuring two undefeated fighters, will crown the promotion’s featherweight queen. Evans-Smith holds an age advantage (she’s 26) over the 37-year-old Fox, but that is pretty much where it ends. Fox, who it is now known underwent gender reassignment surgery almost eight years ago, comes in with considerably more steam behind her and has displayed a scary striking game. That Evans-Smith lost four of her last five amateur bouts may lead many to assume her dead in the water against such a beastly opponent, but a $20,000 prize is quite an incentive. She’s experienced good fortune already, getting a bye in the tournament when her last scheduled opponent, Anna Barone, failed to make weight.

"BBMonster" Araujo has been tested before. Tune in to see if he passes his test this Saturday. (Photo courtesy of

“BBMonster” Araujo has been tested before. Tune in to see if he passes his test this Saturday.
(Photo courtesy of

Welterweight (170 lbs.) Title Fight
Valdir “BBMonster” Araujo (13-4)
“Junior Killer” Romario Manoel da Silva (23-10)

In a battle of interestingly nicknamed Florida-based fighters, former Bellator fighter and Miami resident Valdir Araujo – whose nickname I’d love to know the origin of – will be facing 13-year vet (::deep breath::) “Junior Killer” Romario Manoel da Silva. Araujo, who three years ago fought UFC middleweight champion Chris Weidman to a unanimous decision loss a weight class above his natural weight, has since only lost two of his last eleven fights. Conversely, da Silva – who trains with Rashad Evans and the rest of those monsters at Blackzilian – has strung together two submission victories following a loss to veteran Jay Hieron. Looking over da Silva’s record is interesting. He’s had several rematches, many back-to-back. Whether this is a product of a determined and studious mind or one of a need to remain active is uncertain. Both fighters are well-rounded finishers, and whoever gets the belt will be a difficult fight for any contender to come.

Luis "Baboon" Palomino could increase his stock considerably with a victory over the well-known Escudero. (Photo courtesy of

Luis “Baboon” Palomino could increase his stock considerably with a victory over the well-known Escudero.
(Photo courtesy of

Co-Main Event – Lightweight (155 lbs.) Fight
Efrain Escudero (20-7)
Luis “Baboon” Palomino (21-8)

“These are two veterans that will deliver a knockout performance,” says de la Noval. “Palomino is coming off a victory, while Escudero has back-to-back wins. The winner of this fight can really make a major statement in the sport, so a lot is on the line for both of these athletes.”
Having last fought under the CFA banner back in 2011 (he picked up a decision win over fellow TUF alum Mike Rio), Escudero got the call back to the UFC after he won via submission at Bellator 55. A four-fight losing skid kicked him back to the regional circuit, however  the 27-year-old – who went undefeated in his first 12 fights – is back in the win column and is looking to put his name on the short list of possible opponents for the winner of the Sedeno vs. Taylor title fight occurring earlier in the same evening.
Standing in his way is Luis Palomino, who lives up to his nickname “Baboon” in both physique and pure aggression. A proven knockout specialist, he has not been on the receiving end of a (T)KO since 2007 and has only ceded wins to top-tier fighters such as Yves Edwards and Pat Curran. The same can be said for Escudero, who has never been knocked out in his career. Go outside and smash two rocks together, because that’s what this fight is shaping up to be akin to.

Josh Sampo's record suggests he favors submissions.  (Photo taken for Sampo's Facebook page)

Josh Sampo will be defending his CFA flyweight title for the first time.
(Photo taken for Sampo’s Facebook page)

Main Event – Flyweight (125 lbs.) Title Fight
(Champion) Joshua “The Gremlin” Sampo (9-2)
“Ruthless” Sam Thao (7-1)

Perennial top-10 candidate and submission wizard Josh “The Gremlin” Sampo will be defending his title against one of the rarest MMA creatures – a 125 lb. fighter with consistent knockout power – in Sam Thao. We last saw Sampo defeat Alexis Vila at CFA Night of Champions in January, submitting him in the final stanza of an exciting five-round tilt which won him the belt. A fighter and a thinker, Sampo went on hiatus following his victory in January to finish up his master’s degree in education. He’s finally back to round out the year, facing a man who has knocked out half of the opponents he’s faced in his recent four-fight win streak. Thao, a Hmong Wisconsin resident, is a lifelong wrestler who began training Tae Kwon Do as a kid and has transitioned through multiple disciplines on his way to title contention.




Jesse Scheckner

A freelance MMA, entertainment and business journo born, raised and residing in Miami, FL, Jesse Scheckner is a former semi-serious musician, cinephile and recovering ne’er-do-well committed to nonfiction storytelling. He is the 2014 Florida MMA Awards "Best MMA Media Correspondent" winner and a two-time Miami New Times "Best Of" winner. Follow him on Twitter @JesseScheckner to talk about the stuff he writes about with him.