CAPE TOWN - A single, telling blow proved to be the difference between victory and defeat, championship gold and missed opportunities, and glory and agony, as Martin van Staden scored a TKO win over England’s Gavin Hughes on Saturday night in Cape Town to claim the EFC lightweight title.
Van Staden landed a flush knee early in the second round to drop his opponent, followed him to the canvass and forced the referee to stop the fight with vicious ground and pound.
The victory marked a late-career revival for the 35-year-old Van Staden, who dropped down to a weight division after losing back-to-back title fights at welterweight.
“I was thinking about it the other day and I have anxiety about retiring in the next three or four years,” Van Staden said in the cage after his win.
Over ten years in the making! @thepunishermma1 finally realises his dream of capturing EFC gold last night!
Relive last night’s epic #EFC68 fights on the @watchkwese app now. pic.twitter.com/xrFj6EWZPv
“I don’t want to do it after this, but I still have a good four years left in me. I’m still getting better every single day.”
On Saturday night he showed all the nous, experience and composure of an athlete with 35 professional fights to hand Hughes the first defeat of his professional career.
The bout started with Hughes as the aggressor, pushing the pace while moving well and staying defensively sound.
However, the Liverpudlian was unable to successfully close the distance on his rangier opponent, with Van Staden able block his punches, slip out of range or angle away every time Hughes closed in.
The Johannesburg resident grew increasingly confident as the round drew to a close (without major incident), even taunting Hughes at one stage, and he proved to have the measure of his opponent soon after.
Van Staden landed a well-timed straight right on a ducking Hughes less than five second into round two and then brought the event to a spectacular end, landing the telling right knee as Hughes once again stooped low to avoid a punch.
His victory also signals the start to a new era for the EFC’s lightweight division after years of domination by Don Madge, Leon Mynhardt and Dave Mazany.
Earlier, in the co-main event, Mazany put himself firmly back in title contention with a second round TKO win over South Africa MMA pioneer Chris Bright.
The USA’s Mazany had to fight through some early adversity as a short left hook from Bright knocked him down midway through the first. He recovered and went on to drop Bright with a powerful left before swarming Bright with hammer fists strikes on the ground to take the victory.
In the first fight of the main card, Gary Joshua showed off his slick submission skills to tap out Martin de Beer in the fifth minute of an entertaining first round.
Cal Ellenor also put his submission skills on display in the second round, choking out Faeez Jacobs with a standing guillotine with just eight second remaining in the first round.
Then, In the first of the three lightweight bouts on the main card, Roedie Roets used his superior wrestling to grind out a unanimous decision win over Regis Muyambo.