Himes has tough debut in Cage Wars XV

Grand Junction mixed martial arts fighter Courtney Himes knew about her first professional fight at Saturday’s Cage Wars XV about two weeks beforehand.

She had never stepped in the cage, but the Fruita Monument High School graduate was lifting regularly, attending Colorado Mesa University, and raising two daughters, Karson, 8, and Rylie, 5.

After a Texas fighter dropped out at the last minute, Himes became the opponent for pro Paige VanZant, who at one point was ranked No. 25 in the WMMA rankings, and competed in Invicta, the second highest women’s professional league, because UFC doesn’t have a weight class under 135 pounds.

Himes lost to VanZant by submission Saturday in the first round at Brownson Arena. About two minutes in, Van-Zant locked in a headlock that left Himes momentarily unconscious.

“I had never been in a cage before tonight,” Himes said. “Tonight they walked me through and kind of showed me around. When I went down, I was ready to get back up and go round two.”

VanZant (3-1) began her MMA career at age 15 after taking self-defense classes because Reno, Nev., was “a scary place.” Since then, she broke an opponent’s arm in a fight and started training against men at Wanderlei Silva’s gym in Las Vegas. During Saturday’s match she was coached by former Central wrestler Andrew Yates.

In the main event, 155-pound Grand Junction fighter Jason Brenton beat Montrose’s Sergio Lopez via TKO after multiple takedowns in the first round. It was the third match between the two and Brenton’s first win. 

For the 155-pound pros, Grand Junction’s Mike Smith dominated Denver fighter Pete Vandervort, making him submit with an arm bar just over one minute into the first round.

Blake Sprouse won a nonlocal, professional 130-pound tilt over Agustin Espinoza by TKO in the third round.

In amateur bouts, Utah fighter Tanner Cowan topped Grand Junction’s Thomas Sanchez on an out-of-nowhere arm bar with seven seconds left in the second round in the 162-pound class.

Grand Junction’s Michael Hupke submitted Utah’s Colby Murray 2:09 into the third round of the 186-pound match. 

Less than 40 seconds into the first round of the 196-pound match, Dakota Groth topped Josh Cantu via an arm bar. 

Glenwood Springs’ Chantry West notched his second 171-pound victory in three Cage Wars, dispatching Paonia’s Tanner Ellenberger by TKO.

Giving up 30 pounds to Denver’s Ken Atkinson, Grand Junction’s Dylan Legge won the heavyweight fight by a TKO with 40 seconds left in the first round.

Grand Junction’s Ismael Gaona dropped a 156-pound amateur bout by decision to Montrose fighter Kristian Nieto in the only fight that went the distance.


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