By Jordan Bishop
THACKERVILLE – Kyle Crutchmer didn’t need a warm-up period to continue as one of the hottest young fighters in mixed martial arts.
Initially told he would fight later, Crutchmer had to begin his Bellator debut earlier than expected as there was a knockout in 16 seconds two bouts ahead of him and a first-round technical knockout just ahead of him.
Instead of using it as an excuse, Crutchmer did what he does best and that is win.
The former Oklahoma State wrestler beat Robert “Silverback” Gidron in all three rounds by unanimous decision with a score of 30-27 from the trio of judges in front of the WinStar World Casino and Resort crowd.
Instead of walking out to the cage like most fighters, Crutchmer treated it like a Cowboy dual meet and jogged out, with Jeezy’s “Put on” playing. The Union High School graduate did just that as he earned a big roar from the audience cheering on the Tulsa native.
In the first round, Crutchmer (5-0) relied on his wrestling prowess, taking down Gidron twice and working him into the ground.
“I think my wrestling kind of speaks for itself, and I would be dumb not to attempt it at first to see how hard or how easy it will be,” Crutchmer said. “That guy was big. People don’t realize he missed weight by 5 pounds and he has never fought at 170. I think. He had some height on me too. Some of those things I was trying to get to, it took a lot more than people could see.”
Crutchmer came into the welterweight bout at 5-foot-9, 170 pounds with a 68-inch range. Gidron had the advantage in every single statistic, standing three inches taller, weighing five more pounds with a 75-inch reach.
The OSU All-American didn’t seem to care about those numbers. He knew Gidron was a last-second replacement, standing in for Antonio “Doomsday” Jones after Jones withdrew Tuesday because he couldn’t make weight.
“I’ll fight the f------ Rock if he walked in here right now,” Crutchmer said. “That is what I do and what we do. I am in this to prove that I am the baddest (expletive) in the world and if I am turning down fights or saying no to somebody, then why am I doing this. I knew it was going to be hard and I could see how big he was and that does play a factor in fights. I had no hesitation, though. I told our coaches. I will get paid a little more and f------- roll with it.”
In the second, Gidron (4-4) went on the offensive after the first round clearly went Crutchmer’s way. He pushed Crutchmer into the fence a couple of times and got him in a hold, but that didn’t even faze the Cowboy grappler.
“You can feel some power when he ran me into the fence,” Crutchmer said. “The guy was a big dude. I am world class with the wrestling, and I knew what I was in, so it wasn’t much to get out after I underhooked him.”
Crutchmer, 26, got out of Gidron’s hold and dropped him to the ground a couple of times as each hammering blow shook the floor with Gidron’s weight. Midway through the round, referee Michael Bell split apart the fighters as he asked for some action.
That was a request Crutchmer delivered as he threw some punches to the face, something he said before the fight he enjoys doing best. As he went into the center of the ring and once again threw Gidron, a Grand Rapids, Michigan, native, to the floor, the crowd chanted “Two” for takedown.
“I don’t know how many people knock these spinning backfists, but I threw that s--- today and landed it and knocked him down,” Crutchmer said.
In the third, Gidiron, 27, lasted the distance, trying to stay in the fight, but Crutchmer wouldn’t have any of it, absorbing every hit without a flinch.
“He hit me with the elbow in the second and then in the third, in the back of my head and threw me in a bit of a tizzy, but it is a fight man, and those things will happen, and the best thing I can do is prepare myself to go as long as I need to go,” Crutchmer said. “I was tired, but if I had to go a fourth and a fifth, I would have figured out how to win. That is who I am and who I believe in. That is the reason why I am doing well.”
A lot of the his cheering section was family, and Crutchmer said he has had that support since when he was back in high school, but he was excited to show out in his Bellator debut.
“I hear my mom. She is ridiculous. She has been the loudest person in the stands since I could remember and that is really the only person I heard,” Crutchmer said. “I love my family and my friends and fans that come support me. To them, I will keep getting better and keep learning how to do this stuff. I am just now getting comfortable with my fans. It takes time. I have only been doing this for two years, I didn’t figure out wrestling until year 14. I am on the fast track and am trying and doing the best I can.”
Along with his family and friends was former OSU teammate Jacobe Smith, who is looking to become a fighter himself. The Muskogee native said it was a blast watching Crutchmer dominate in the cage.
“Especially knowing that I was around him and that was one of my brothers. It is pretty exciting watching him win,” Smith said. “… I guess I am just a spectator right now. I am waiting for my time pretty much. It is good to see one of my best friends is doing good right now in something that I know I will eventually be doing.”
Smith hopes to continue in the long lineage of Cowboy wrestlers who did well at the fighting stage, pointing out that he and Crutchmer could be the future of the sport.
“We know how to win and hopefully one of these days, we are both champs,” Smith said. “There are big things to come, and one day you will see one of us being the champ, for sure.”
Crutchmer’s biggest fan there was his girlfriend, Jaci Allen, who has been with him through thick and thin. Seeing him achieve his dreams and succeed makes watching him in the dangerous sport all worth it.
“It is so great, seeing him go from collegiate wrestling to going to the 4-0 fights and now at the Ballator level, I couldn’t be more proud of him,” Allen said. “He works so hard every single day. There is no one that will outwork him ever, he is amazing.”
Crutchmer and Allen are expecting a daughter in March, so Allen said it is scary at times to know what could happen, but she knows it is what Crutchmer loves.
“It has been so stressful,” Allen said. “Obviously, I have seen practice and spar and stuff like that, but being at this level is a completely different thing, especially when it’s the father of my child. It is very nerve-wracking. I am so proud of him, though, and love watching him do it.”
As for what is next, Crutchmer said he will continue trying to get in the cage as much as possible to continue making money and building his reputation.
“I got a baby girl on the way,” Crutchmer said. “If we had a fight next week and they were wanting me to do it, I would go do it. If she is anything like me, she is going to want nice things.”