Saturday August 22, 2009

The tone for the night at the start of the Southeastern Fight League was set with music by the live band, Mind Trap. Hard rock music wrapped around the building and infected everyone within earshot. This was my second live fight and I regret that I don’t know fight lingo, but with fantastic help from the enthusiasts all around me, I am going to tell you about the event as I saw it. Watching these MMA fights on television does not compare to watching the fights live. There is something in the air that unites the crowd with the fighters in the cage and it is easy to get caught up in the excitement. It doesn’t matter if you know the play by play and could commentate on the fight or just walked in off the street. With a full fight card of ten fights, crowd expectations were high for what would be revealed in the “Ring of Fire.”

1st Fight (Exhibition)
Kirkland (Team Underdog) vs. Money
This fight was over in the second round. Kirkland was vicious in his strike attack on Money and just landed 9 punches when the horn ended the second round. It appeared Money might have been TKO before the 9 punches, but he wasn’t giving up. Money stayed in the fight the referee saw that he was fatigued but not incoherent.
Kirkland won the match.

2nd Fight (Exhibition)
Terry “The Weatherman”(Supreme Team/Wolfpack Clan) vs. Hodges “The Bone Crusher” (Wolfpack)
The Weatherman was the crowd favorite for this match. In the first 5 seconds Bone Crusher had Weatherman down on the mat. That didn’t last long, Bone Crusher took a beating through to the third round where he received a brutal strike attack to the head and ribs to be TKO’d. The Weatherman brought the storm!

3rd Fight
Duran vs. Ballanceau
This heavyweight match Duran 193 lbs. to Ballanceau 192 lbs. brought the crowd to their feet in the first round. First blood of the night was drawn from Ballanceau when he took a hit to the bridge of his nose. A point was lost by Duran due to an illegal move, but he was corrected and won the match by Tap out by Ballanceau.
If the illegal move had caused the opponent to be unconscious, then the violator would have automatically lost the match.

4th Fight
Flowers “Jaybird” (Team Underdog) vs. Tice “TLB” (Tough Little Bastard) (Wolfpack)
Loyalties to fellow fighters brought about this pairing in the ring. “TLB” won a match previously against Jaybird’s friend and Jaybird requested this fight. Jaybird 1-1 to “TLB” 3-0 is certainly a challenge when you look at the stats. This fight was fast and furious. “TLB” gave a ground and pound strike with knees and hammer fist to the head while in side control of Jaybird. Tice won the match with a TKO.

5th Fight
Strength vs. Burch “Block Rocker” (Wolfpack)
Block Rocker has been on a winning streak, his stats 8-2 put him in the running to break free from his amateur fighter rank. Nobody likes to get into the cage with the odds stacked against him like that. Strength’s 0-0 reminded me of a gladiator in the arena facing the lions. I hoped to see what kind of “strength” he brought into the cage to meet an opponent like Block Rocker. The round went for a whole 12 seconds. Strength was no match for the onslaught of strikes by Burch and he tapped out.
(Check back later to read my pre-fight interview with Dray Burch)

6th Fight
Maxwell “The Hero” vs. Wade “The Terror” (Wolfpack)
Both of these fighters were a good match in size and height –
The Hero – 5’9 140 lbs. The Terror – 5’7 145 lbs. did not disappoint the crowd that came to see a fight. The Terror’s first move was to slam Hero all the way down to a hard landing on the mat. When Hero got back to his feet the rest of the fight was standing, neither opponent wanted to go down. The Terror “terrorized” Hero with pounding fist strikes to the left side. Wade won the match with a TKO.
(Check back later to read my pre-fight interview with Andy Wade)

7th Fight
Widner “The Axe” vs. Jordan “The Destroyer” ”(Supreme Team/Wolfpack Clan)
Again these were another great fight card match, both 0-0 within an inch difference in height and a pound difference in weight. After a quick strike exchange the Destroyer scored a takedown. The Axe threw some hard punches and managed to get back on his feet and somehow had the Destroyer fight most of this fight upside down. He still landed some brutal shots to Axe’s chest and when the horn blew at the end of round one, Axe couldn’t seem to catch his breath in time for the start of the second round. Destroyer jeered at Axe,- “You can quit! You can quit!!” Axe took his offer and round two never happened. The Destroyer did a back flip to celebrate winning before he left the cage.

8th Fight
Grooms “The Grubber” (Team Underdog) vs. Reed “The Rooster” (Team Konflict)
When two heavyweights step into the cage, Grubber’s 50 lbs. of weight advantage had me wondering, will size matter? Grubber had a strong and hard beginning attack but got taken down by Rooster. When Rooster got back up, the two took turns using the cage to trap the other to tire the other one out. Both of these fighters knew the power in their legs and hit hard with the knees taking advantage of the stand-up. The Rooster executed a standing guillotine until Grubber tapped ending the fight.

9th Fight
Lamb “From the 229” vs. Bennett “The Insane” (Wolfpack)
Down on the mat Insane was brutal with his knees to 229’s ribs. At some point 229 lost his mouthpiece and the fight was paused for him to put it back in. Insane was able to dominate by top mounting 229 and was able to slide 229 ‘s head into the cage while he went “insane” with his strikes until 229 tapped out. The fans in the crowd yelled,”This is Wayne’s world!”

10th Fight MAIN EVENT
French “The Hitman” (Tallahassee MMA) vs. Peterson “Dynamite” (Team Underdog)
I saw the Hitman win during his last SFL match. Hitman is 5-1 to Dynamite 2-0
Hitman is another fighter to watch break free from his amateur status in the near future. When these two athletes stepped into the cage it was clear to see why they were the main event. Dynamite was clearly the crowd favorite. He brought with him to the SFL his entourage of fans.
The fight started with Dynamite taking Hitman to the ground, he had control in the first round, he tried his best to break the Hitman down, but at the end of the 1st round the Hitman didn’t seem winded in his corner and Dynamite looked fatigued.

At the start of the 2nd three-minute round Dynamite was determined and got Hitman down. Hitman twisted out and both were able to retake the dominant position several times but at the end of round two, Hitman took some hard hits to the head while waiting for the horn to blow.

Round three Hitman’s initial attack was strong and had Dynamite in a neck hold, Dynamite looked like he was struggling but he was able to break free and get the fight back to standing. It wasn’t long before Hitman was back on the ground at Dynamite’s focus on his advantage to deliver strikes to the ribs and head. Hitman was not giving up. The horn sounded for the end of the round before he was able to untangle from Dynamite’s grip. The Judges had to call the winner of the fight.

The MC gave Hitman two seconds of victory by mistakenly announcing him as the winner. He knew the call was wrong as soon as he heard it, it didn’t stop him or me from cheering anyway.
The announcer quickly corrected his call and announced Peterson as the official winner.

This was a great show by the Southeastern Fight League and I am already looking forward to the next fight night.


August 7, 2009

Last night I went to a Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) fight with The Southeastern Fight League. Mixed martial Arts are a variety of different martial arts such as MMA grappling, JKA Shotokan Karate-Do, Judo, Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, Muay Thai Kickboxing. This style of fighting has gained popularity with well known Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC). MMA is intense fighting. The fights are held in an octagonal competition mat with a chain link cage. I’ve watched some UFC matches on television, last night was the first time I watched matches live. A friend of mine, Steve Baxley owns the venue, Southeastern Fight Center and started the Wolfpack MMA Dothan.

The line up for the night was for five fights. It was held in a new building on the outskirts of town. The building did not have air condition and it was hot. The air was thick with humidity and anticipation. Before the fights the fighters were warming up behind a black curtain. Through a break in the curtain I could see the fighters prepare. They prepare by punching pads and show their true personalities that pump up the testosterone and mental attitude to get into the cage. These fights have just a handful of rules:

Commission approved gloves

Weight classes

Time limits and rounds

Mandatory drug testing

No head butting or kicking to the downed opponent

No knees to the head of a downed opponent

No downward point of the elbow strikes

No strikes to the spine or the back of the head

No groin or throat strikes

State Athletic Commission approval in such major states as New Jersey, Nevada, Florida & Louisiana.

I had a front row seat right in line for blood and sweat splatter. I picked the spot because it was in line with a fan, (did I mention that it was HOT??) The building was crowded. Upon entry you could choose admission for sitting or standing. I chose sitting. I wasn’t sure how long these matches lasted and if the heat got to be too much I certainly wanted a seat. There were special effects lighting and a DJ/ announcer playing heavy metal music. The Southeastern Fight League fights draw a large crowd locally. The fights can have an attendance of close to 300 people. That’s the reason for the new building. The owner used to have the fights at his dojo but there was not enough room.

One of the trainers promoting his fighters, told me who to watch to win. Wayne the Insane and Rash guard. I met Wayne the Insane waiting in line for the unisex restroom. He was a scrappy kid and was calm and collected for someone with a name like “Wayne the Insane.” I asked him if he was nervous. He said he didn’t get nervous. I believed him.

The event started out with a presentation of the fighting style taught by the MMA Wolfpack. I have little knowledge of how these fights are won. Intense wrestling with kneeing and punches to the face and torso, arm twisting, and slamming into the chain link. At first thought I wondered if the way to win was the same as wrestling, where the opponent had to be held down by both shoulders for a count. I was wrong. There are two ways to win – a tap out, where the loser knows he’s met his match under a great deal of pain without any way to get out from his opponent. The second way to win is a knock out.

After the presentation the first round was announced. Kickboxing. The fighters were underage, under 18 yrs. Old, so they were padded up. Fighters 18 yrs. Old and under must have parental consent and pads to enter the ring. Anyone over the age of 18 is considered an adult and can get into the ring and get beat all they want without padding. The two fighters fought hard and I could tell that one of the fighters almost got knocked out. After a punch in the head I saw him wobble, lean down and put his hands on his knees while he counted his stars. Once he got done counting about 30 stars he seemed to shake them out of his view and get back into the fight. Sadly he didn’t recover and lost the match.

The second match was between two heavy weights one weighed in at 189 lbs. the second weighed in at 220 lbs. I wasn’t sure that weight made any difference with winning. The lighter of the two won the fight.

Wayne the Insane won the third match. (I was distracted with conversation and missed watching his fight, it seemed to happen really fast)

The forth match was with a Georgia boy who had traveled to the last three fight nights held by the Southeastern Fight League and didn’t have anyone to fight in his weight division. This guy looked like a fighter. He was all tattooed. His chest had an impressive star tattoos spread from one shoulder to the other. This was his first fight with the Southeastern Fight League. I like to root for the underdog so I thought his opponent would give him a good fight and might even take him. I was wrong, my choice had an explosive attack to start, but Georgia boy won.

The main event of the night fighters- Rash guard (Wolfpack team) 6’2” 155 lbs. and his opponent, B. 5’9 155 lbs. I did pay attention to this fight. I was lucky enough to be at one of the corners where I could over hear the trainer speak to his fighter. The noise was loud, but the trainer and the fighter stayed in tune with each other. The trainer watched from outside the chain link and clearly told Rash guard the moves to make, “Relax, lean towards him,” and “Lets see some knees.” At which Rash guard would hear and do what the trainer told him. At the end of the first round Rash guard was struggling. During the second round he still followed the trainer’s instruction and won the match. I was impressed with the trainer and the teamwork between him and the fighter.

The Wolfpack won all their matches and that speaks well about the training and preparation for the matches. They train male and females. After the fights a friend of mine stopped by to say hello and told me his daughter is training to fight with the Wolfpack. I could see the pride in the father thinking of his daughter fighting these fights. The fighters seemed young to me but they enter the ring with fighting track records and know what to do when they are in the ring, unleash their speed, power, and flexibility!

Going to this live Southeastern Fight League match was new to me. For a thrilling night I would recommend it to anyone to watch it live. I would go again. I would like to see more of the pre-fight behind the curtain. That is where the fighter’s real personalities shine. When they get in the ring they are focused, and do what they are there to do.