The slap from Demitry Moore's kick against opponent William Burton's knee echoed throughout the crowd Saturday night at the Lodi Grape Festival grounds.
Burton winced in pain, and Lodi's Moore bore down on him with his intense stare, like an animal waiting to pounce on its prey.
Moore kicked again, and Burton succumbed to the pain, falling backwards against the cage. Moore flipped him over to the center of the mat and began punching once, twice, against the side of Burton's head.
Then Moore raised his fist. Burton was out. Lodi's mixed martial arts golden child had done it again. He was taking home the title.
The battle between Moore and Burton was just one of six fights that locals were treated to at the "Hooked on Endorphins" event held at the Lodi Grape Festival grounds on Saturday night.
Twelve men from Lodi and surrounding areas competed for glory, and the crowd — which boasted over 300 people at its peak — booed and cheered for their favorites with fervor.
"Take him down!" was a common phrase as men fell to the mat inside the cage, trying to writhe their way around a defeat.
The fighters at Saturday's event were resilient, with half of the fights lasting all three 2-minute rounds.
Only two knock-outs were registered Saturday — the first fight, which ended in a total knock-out in just under 36 seconds, and the fight that Moore won.
The second fight pinned Lodi's Alex Landeros against opponent Cameron Wright. Both men fought bloodily through all three rounds, punching and kicking, before judges decided that Wright was the victor.
The third fight also had three solid rounds, with opponents Nestor Sanchez and Keith Careveo hitting each other hard. Sanchez packed particularly hard punches, landing some serious shots to Careveo's face.
At one point during the match, Sanchez appeared to have been hit so hard that he needed a break, which he got. However, it was questionable if he was really hurt, according to some crowd members who booed loudly.
Sanchez ultimately ended up winning the fight.
The fourth bout was Lodi fighter Travis McLaughlin's debut, and he showed serious potential. He beat his opponent, Jose Ayala, in round two by locking Ayala's head in what is known as "the guillotine."
Ayala's airway was choked to the point where he could not breathe, so he pounded the mat repeatedly to submit.
The fifth fight proved to be the most gruesome. Benjamin Amezquita suffered a horrendous black right eye after receiving a strong punch from opponent Marcello De Salla during the first round.
The eye swelled shut before Amezquita, who primarily used one hand to block his face from punches the rest of the rounds, was declared a victor.
Moore's battle against Burton was the last of the night, and it had the crowd in an uproar.
The minute Moore won, he fell to the mat, tears welling in his eyes. He pounded the mat three times, then collapsed.
He had been training for months for that moment, and his trainer, Terry Morgan, grabbed him into a hug.
"There was a buildup to that moment," Moore said. "We are dedicated to the sport. It is all worth it."
Contact Katie Nelson at email@example.com.
MORE FROM MOORE
MMA fighter and Lodi resident Demitry Moore discusses in his own words the training it took to prepare for Saturday's fight, and when his "dark" side comes out.
"We had switched up my game plan just recently for this fight. Once you reach a certain point, you need to go somewhere where you can learn more, and you can't learn anything by being the guy on top of the hill," Moore said.
"Coach Terry Morgan made the decision send to me over to trainer Bill Torres' gym, and I spent past two months there. I got beat up a lot, working with his pros. It was a whole lot of beating up, and it was a struggle being there at first.
"But I started to get better, and Terry kept telling me to remember what I was there for. (On Saturday), he told me that I had been busting my butt past two months. And it became real emotional for me. When I was in the back prepping, I kept getting teary. In fact, right in the middle of the third fight I got real teary.
"But then I had to tell myself what I was there for. Replaying what I was trying to do (at the fight). I didn't want to let myself down. I was really nervous, but it all worked out.
"And then I thought, 'Why am I crying?'
"This guy, it's either him or me. This guy is trying to take away what I want. I psych myself out and then get angry. I think, 'This guy is disrespecting me.' And that is when the dark child comes out.
"I get really intense before fights. That is one of the reasons they call me the 'dark child.' It is because of that intense side of me that comes out only when I am upset and ready to fight.
"As a fighter, you have to have that switch to turn on and off in your head. Some guys walk around with that all the time. But I'm really a nice guy, and it's really not me when you see my face. It is me just gearing up.
"All of this, it is an experience. I've gradually gotten better. Every loss I have suffered showed me my little holes. They've showed me where i have messed up. But they have also helped me get me to where I am now."