Mr. Sandman

Isaque Martinez makes 2012 King of the Cage fight debut Saturday

Isaque “Sandman” Martinez stands at the Ute Mountain Casino in October 2011 the day of his 185-pound pro fight versus Dwight Parker. Martinez won the fight by first-round TKO. He will make his 2012 debut Saturday against Lamont Stafford. Enlargephoto

Photo courtesy of Will Fox

Isaque “Sandman” Martinez stands at the Ute Mountain Casino in October 2011 the day of his 185-pound pro fight versus Dwight Parker. Martinez won the fight by first-round TKO. He will make his 2012 debut Saturday against Lamont Stafford.

It’s been almost a year since local favorite Isaque “Sandman” Martinez stepped into the Mixed Martial Arts cage.

Various nagging injuries have sidelined the 185-pound professional punisher since he defeated Dwight Parker (Rock Springs, Wyo.) last October by first-round total knockout at the Ute Mountain Casino in Towaoc.

Despite a pulverizing distribution of beatings to all 13 of his career opponents, Martinez’s body was dealt bludgeoning blows of its own.

So is the life of a cage fighter.

Currently ranked No. 2 in the King of the Cage, Middleweight Class (171-185 pounds), Martinez will try to inch closer to a title shot Saturday.

Martinez’s main event return to Towaoc is so significant, KOTC has billed it as “Sandman.”

“That’s pretty cool. I’m glad they did that,” the Sandman said about the event’s name. “Hopefully, I will sell more tickets. It’s pretty cool to get online and see my name on the poster event.”

Fighting catch-weight at 195, Martinez (11-2 pro, 2-0 amateur) will face Lamont Stafford (3-3 pro, 2-1 amateur) of Hobart, Okla.

Stafford, 28, stands 6-foot-6 and has a long boxing reach, which is something that presents a new, but acceptable challenge for Martinez.

“I got to stay away from his reach. I got to be on the inside or outside. Nowhere in between. I still stick to my game plan and inflict it on him,” Martinez said.

The Sandman has got back into fighting shape with his Lifer MMA trainer Kaan Clark. Martinez feels his grappling and jiu jitsu have improved training with Clark, who is a blue belt in Brazilian jiu jitsu.

“Grappling… it’s really helped. I’ve been training my butt off to cut weight and got my cardio up with Kaan,” said Martinez, who feels he is at 100 percent health. “I like to ground and pound, but I can stand, too. I setup up my jiu jitsu with punches with my grappling, then go for submission or TKO.”

The time has come for the Sandman to reclaim his cage glory.

“I’m not any more nervous than I usually am for a fight, but I’m just anxious to get in there. I’ve cornered the last few fights for people and I’d rather be in there,” Martinez said. “I’d really like to start climbing up the leader board again and get that title shot in Oklahoma. That’s my goal — to get that second belt in the Four Corners.”

Elsie Zwicker holds the women’s 125-pound Superfight title belt. The McElmo Canyon resident won’t compete Saturday, but one fighter competing isn’t seeking a title. He’s seeking redemption.

Grant Hobbs (Lifer MMA) made his pro debut July 7, at KOTC “Wrangler.” It was a night he’d like to forget, as Hobbs was dominated by Gene Perez (Belen, N.M.) in a first-round TKO loss in front of the home fans.

“It’s about the people that come to watch my fight. It’s never fun to take a loss for everyone that’s involved,” said the Dove Creek native. “Gene Perez came out ready to fight. I’m pretty positive I got overzealous. It’s devastating to lose your pro debut. I’m looking to even it up at 1-1.”

Hobbs will get a chance to even his pro ledger against another Oklahoman in Teddy Potts (2-7 pro, 5-2 amateur) at 125 pounds.

“I know he’s won a couple fights with guillotine choke and he’s been knocked out a few times. I need to watch some film to get a feel of what he likes to do, but I don’t go much into that,” Hobbs said. “I train for everything and I’m sure he’s going to have a game plan on me.”

Hobbs is as well rounded as fighters come. But there is always work to be done and room for improvement. He, too, has trained in boxing and jiu jitsu with Clark and has worked out at Durango Martial Arts as well.

“My goal is to come out on top. If that means slow it down and work strategy, then that’s what we’ll do,” Hobbs said. “Teddy Potts better be ready to fight, because I’m going to be ready. I hope he’s been to Colorado before, if he hasn’t, he’s going to be going home unhappy.”

Local amateur fighters competing for Lifer MMA are Dominic Gurule (0-3, 170 pounds), Joey Trevino (1-1, 130) and David Lyons (170, 1-0).

Doors open at the Ute Mountain Casino on Saturday at 6 p.m., with the fights beginning at 7. Tickets can be purchased through the Ute Mountain Casino Gift Shop or by calling 800-258-8007. It’s an all ages event, but children under 18 must be accompanied by an adult.