For a few sequences during the second round, it looked like the Andres Quintana vs. Bruno Cannetti rematch was going to end like the original – with a Quintana stoppage.
Quintana opened up the offense during the frame, landing punches, knees and a spinning back elbow that viciously ricocheted off the back of Cannetti’s head.
But it was all part of Cannetti’s painful, yet effective strategy Friday night at Combate Tahoe to eat Quintana’s onslaught, have him use all his energy and shoot for a takedown when he got too close.
His face bloody by that point, Cannetti managed just that when he slipped under Quintana’s head kick and took him down, ending the second round by delivering heavy punches and elbows in the mount position.
That served as a precursor for the third round, when Cannetti took a spent Quintana down within the first 30 seconds and kept him there until the end of the fight en route to eking out a unanimous decision (29-28 on all three cards) and claiming Combate’s inaugural world featherweight title as the promotion’s first-ever South American world champion.
Being patient and absorbing punishment took pure guts from Cannetti, but his game plan ultimately paid dividends.
“[Quintana] wanted to finish the fight. He wanted to give his maximum to win the fight,” Cannetti assessed of his rival’s power surge during the second round. “I was waiting for that moment to pass by. So, I recovered little by little. Then, I led Quintana to hit me a little bit because I knew I could take the force. I knew Quintana wouldn’t hurt me.
“So, when Quintana was done trying to give his maximum to finish the fight, I took him down, demonstrating to him that he wouldn’t be able to defeat me,” he continued. “That I have much more than that.”
The mettle exhibited by the rugged Argentinian not only gave him some new hardware, but it allowed him to exorcise demons and exact revenge from a stinging first-round TKO loss to Quintana back in December during the Copa Combate tournament, which the latter fighter eventually won to pocket $100,000.
That bout had Cannetti dropping Quintana with a big right hook and trying to smother him with a barrage of punches to end the fight. But Quintana willed himself up onto his feet and unleashed an explosive right-left combination that helped spell the end of the clash.
Cannetti learned a valuable lesson from that fight that he directly applied to the rematch.
“In the first fight, I felt like I was superior, but my way was a little bit impulsive to go forward and go to finish the fight,” he admitted. “I think after the first fight, I knew I was going to beat him. I knew I had to give it all to beat Quintana.”
Cannetti gave it just that – and then some. The 30-year-old’s 9-6 pro MMA record is far from pristine in comparison to other champions’ ledgers across promotions. But it’s indicative of his willingness to engage as an all-action fighter. If anything, Combate Tahoe was proof that Cannetti will be as gutsy of a fighting champion as any.
“I’m ready to fight anybody,” Cannetti said. “I have to show that I’m a champion.”
And if that means facing Quintana in a trilogy, so be it.