When everything went dark, Derek Daku made a decision.
The Estevan fighter tapped out at 1:44 of the second round in the featured bout Friday at Hard Knocks 24, losing his first career fight and ceding the Hard Knocks heavyweight title to opponent Devon Smith. Smith ended the hotly anticipated fight with a guillotine choke.
Daku had scored a takedown on Smith early in the second round and they began to grapple, but then things went awry for the 46-year-old with two hometown wins under his belt.
"I was just trying to fight my way into getting a better position to be able to throw some strikes," said Daku. "I put my head down so I'd get my hips around him. He locked up that choke, and I had a little bit of my chin on his arm and I just felt his arm slip in. Once it slips in past your chin right up onto your neck, there's not a whole bunch I could have done at that point.
"The lights started getting a little dim on the outside, so I tapped out. I wasn't going to go out."
The fight went differently than many likely expected, as the two men known for their striking ability spent most of the match grappling and trying to get into a choke position.
Smith, who is from La Ronge, said he tried to keep his distance at the beginning to avoid Daku's fists, but Daku got him into a choke early.
"The choke was deep, but not deep enough that I was going to tap from it, so I was just trying to get him to tire his arms out, pushing my shoulder into his chest to try and take the wind out of him and tire him out some more," said Smith.
The strategy worked. Daku said he used "quite a bit of energy" on the choke, which hurt him later.
"I might have spent too much time trying to choke him out and wore my arms out a little bit, so when I actually made the takedown (at the end of the fight), I couldn't really posture myself up to get the strikes," said Daku. "He probably had a little more energy than I did at that time and happened to slip the choke on me. My hat's off to him. He did a good job."
Both fighters had reservations about standing with each other despite fighting almost exclusively that way previously.
Daku said he wanted to avoid Smith's powerful leg kicks, which did not materialize. Smith said he found Daku's "big wild bombs" intimidating.
"I was completely prepared to strike with him and then the second that he came in throwing those heavy hands, I'll admit, I got nervous."
After becoming the poster boy for mixed martial arts in Estevan following his two wins, Daku said he sees the bright side in his first taste of disappointment.
"I don't like losing in any way, shape or form, but on the other hand, it's a great learning experience for me to see once you get into a situation like that, how you're going to react.
"From this fight I've learned many things, like if I get a guy in a choke and I don't have him going out quick, I'm getting off him," he laughed.
"If you think you know everything about this sport, you're not going to go very far. You gotta keep learning from your mistakes. I'm a little disappointed I guess, because the fans in this town are absolutely awesome, and you never want to disappoint them, but on the other hand I think it'll help my game going forward."
Despite Daku's defeat, every other Estevan fighter was victorious — aside from Roark Franke, who had the upper hand against Christian Crowthers in an exhibition junior match in which no winner was declared.
For Wade Baldwin, the sweet taste of victory was a long time coming. He defeated Humboldt's Damon Steadman by tap out at 2:16 of the first round, winning his first fight after two losses.
"It feels good. It's been a long road. It's been a year in the making for that one," Baldwin said.
He came out flying, took Steadman down quickly and unleashed a flurry of strikes. One of them caught his opponent in the back of the head, giving Baldwin a one-point deduction.
But he soon brought down Steadman again, threw more punches and quickly got the tap out.
Baldwin cut 10 pounds since his last fight and said it helped.
"I don't know if 10 pounds physically made any difference, but the way I felt, I felt lighter. I knew if it went long, I'd be able to last. I had my cardio up. I didn't lose any strength with the weight cut either. I was lighter on my feet and moved around a lot faster."
Now that Baldwin has his first win, he's hungry for more.
"I wouldn't mind avenging a couple of losses. Whatever Hard Knocks puts in front of me, I'll do it."
Felix Jimenez was another local who got his first win in three tries. He used a guillotine choke to defeat Moose Jaw's Steven Arens by tap out 29 seconds into the second round.
"I knew it was done, I was just waiting for him to tap out," Jimenez said in his post-fight interview in the cage.
Estevan's Craig Gaudry earned his second straight victory, defeating Mike Geib by unanimous decision in a fight that went the distance.
The finish was quite anticlimactic, as the two exhausted fighters did virtually nothing for the last 30 seconds of the second round, and the first half of the third round.
Gaudry, whose win came on the strength of a dominant second round, apologized to the fans for the lack of action toward the end.
In the other fights, veteran wrestler Ron Gonzales dominated opponent Chris Wilson and used an arm bar to win by tap out at 1:31 of the first round.
Ryan Starkell overcame a kick to the groin from Travis Triskle, taking his allotted five minutes to recover and then winning by tap out via rear naked choke late in the third round.
A fight between Bob Macumber and Harold Brun was ruled no contest after an illegal knee to the head by Brun 19 seconds into the second round.
Rodney Dela Rosa defeated Mike Papequash in one of the most action-filled fights of the night, winning by tap out via rear naked choke at 1:44 of the second round.
Derek Lapierre used an arm triangle to defeat Adam Zarrillo by tap out with 29 seconds left in the second round.
In another match featuring teenagers, 17-year-old Madison Mejia defeated 16-year-old Curtis Richard by tap out via arm bar at 2:18 of the first round.
In the second fight of the evening, 18-year-old Tyson Haines defeated Cody Puls by unanimous decision in a fight that featured mostly standing strikes.
The next Hard Knocks card in Estevan will be held Sept. 14 at Spectra Place.