Tuesday, March 20, 2007

The Ready, the Almost-Ready, and the Need-More-Time

They came from a wide variety of schools, schools like Thaisport, Vadha Kempo or Vita Saana African Martial Arts. They displayed a wide range of skills, skills like solid wrestling, smooth submissions or polished striking. Some were very impressive, while others clearly needed more training. And some of them really just sucked. September 2nd brought the latest edition of promoter Ed Hsu’s amateur MMA series, Combat in the Cage ‘Adrenaline’, to the Rec Center in Rahway, New Jersey, and aspiring fighters from near and far stepped up for their taste of action.

* * *

Go to enough of these USKBA-sanctioned amateur shows and you’ll see the occasional competitor who’s definitely ready to turn pro. At Adrenaline, that distinction goes to Al Iaquinto. A 157-pound wrestler from Thaisport on Long Island, he controlled his opponent all three rounds to earn the decision, and would likely have finished the bout sooner if the rules had permitted strikes to the head while on the ground. Pitts Penn 150-pounder Ryan Broderick is another one. Having scored a knockout his first time into the cage a few months back, he snagged the guillotine for the win at this one – showing that he has the ability to end a fight both on the feet and on the ground. From what they’ve shown thus far, these two are ready.

* * *

Impressive, and almost ready to make the transition to pro. That’s how Rhino Fight Team 188-pounder Daniel Akinyemi looked when he took on a tough scrapper in Rail City MMA’s Ross Atwood. Atwood had his moments, but Akinyemi ultimately stalked him around the cage and picked him apart for the decision. John Benson Salgado showed a lot of potential at Adrenaline as well. A 170-pound New York San Da striker rounding out his training with some grappling (courtesy of jiu-jitsu brown belt Carmine Zocchi), Salgado had kung fu-stylist Ray Pina tapping to a choke at 1:52 of the first round. And in an area short on heavyweight competitors, 227-pound slugger Matt Paeth and 268-pound pugilist BJ Barrigar (of Mountain Storm and Poresky’s Dynamic Karate, respectively) sent both their opponents into la-la land in crowd pleasing fashion. If they can prove they have a ground game, they’ll soon have East Coast promoters knocking on their doors and offering them fights.

There are others, too. Tim Troxell of IMAF West, David Theis of Daddis/Cool Hearts, and Derrick Strong of Capbell’s Karate & Kickboxing. One more fight, or maybe two or three, and they’ll be ready for a pro show. They’re almost there.

* * *

The rest need more time, but of course they didn’t really suck (that caught your attention, though, eh?). Warriors like Frank Caratenuto, Joe Latour, Mike Prokop, et al. – they all deserve credit for testing themselves, and busting their asses in the cage and out of it. Each one is only a slick submission or crowd-pleasing knockout away from showing the world their potential. Just give them time.

D’Auguste Retains Belt - Issues Challenge to Tara LaRosa

*originally published in Aug '06 on fullcontactfighter.com*

(August 18th, Atlantic City, New Jersey) It ended with a fractured forearm, most likely the result of a failed throw but indicative of a dominant performance nonetheless. One round was all it took for Team Tiger Schulmann superstar Laura D’Auguste to stave off Japanese challenger and SmackGirl fighter Megumi Yabushita - just one round to punish and counter almost everything, and show she still has the skills to be top dog. And while Ring of Combat 11 saw a number of exciting bouts end in dramatic fashion here at the Tropicana Casino, it was really all about the best female fighter in the world defending her belt against the only woman willing to step up. Other highlights of the night included:

  • The 26-second long face-punching party between Team Endgame’s Sean McCann and Scott Conlon, which ended with Conlon stunned on the canvas.
  • Team Shamrock’s Andrew Montanez and his come-from-behind win over Steve McCabe. McCabe punished the hell out of Montanez, but one mistake and Montanez was choking him out.
  • D’Auguste’s battle against Yabushita. With punches allowed on the ground, D’Auguste made Yabushita realize pretty quickly that Ring of Combat is no ‘SmackGirl’.


Joe Bentz (Fight Factory-153lbs) vs. Rich Boine (TSK-159lbs)

Boine via ref stop due to unanswered strikes at 1:00 of Round Two.

Scott Conlon (Alternative Fitness-207lbs) vs. Sean McCann (Endgame-199lbs)

McCann via KO at :26 of the first round.

Stephane Cloud (Real Combat-184lbs) vs. Tenyeh Dixon (Ground Control-185lbs)

Dixon via rear choke at 1:50 of the first round.

Steve McCabe (Fight Factory-165lbs) vs. Andrew Montanez (Team Shamrock-171lbs)

Montanez via rear choke at 1:40 of the second round.

Dave Rose (Eternal Martial Arts-178lbs) vs. Radji Bryson-Barrett (TSK-184lbs)

Bryson-Barrett via ref stop due to unanswered strikes at 1:11 of Round One.

Tom Pursell (Team Propain-183lbs) vs. Joe Thompson (Full Circle Jiu-Jitsu-187lbs)

Pursell via ref stop due to unanswered strikes at :21 of Round One.

Dave Drago (Team Drago-173lbs) vs. Phillipe Nover (UDS/Soca-172lbs)

Nover via rear choke at 1:58 of the first round.

Ring of Combat Woman’s Championship

Laura D’Auguste (TSK-132lbs) vs. Megumi Yabushita (135lbs)

D’Auguste via TKO - Yabushita could not answer the bell for the second round due to a fractured forearm.

Ring of Combat 160-Pound Championship

Israel Gomes (Muay Thai Dream Team-161lbs) vs. Adriano De Lima Pereira (BTT/Memphis Judo&Jiu-Jitsu-160lbs)

Pereira via rear choke at 1:47 of the first round.

NYC MMA Show Still Plugging Away

*originally published in June '06 on fullcontactfighter.com*

(June 25th, New York City) The turnout was dismal for the Sunday’s installment of the Underground Combat League’s ‘Unforgiven’ show, but that didn’t stop the leather from flying. Representatives from Seaport Fighting Arts, Elite Wrestling and the Evolution Combat Club stepped onto the mat, while UFC 10-veteran John Campetella watched from the sidelines and a German TV crew filmed a news segment on the whole affair. Highlights of the event include:

· Elite Wrestling’s Mike Vingo, who showed power and strong wrestling skills in the 25 seconds that he fought.

· Lamont Tareyton’s MMA debut, which saw him stun opponent Steve Trask with fast punches before he realized he didn’t like hurting people. “I’m sorry my brother,” said Tareyton to Trask after the freestyle fighter threw in the towel.


Tommy Goodrich (freestyle-140lbs) vs. Geoff Rush (Seaport Fighting Arts-142lbs)

Goodrich via triangle choke at 1:25 of the first round.

Andrew Montanez (Team Shamrock-175lbs) vs. Jesse Convertino (Seaport Fighting Arts-168lbs)

Montanez via rear choke at 1:20 of the first round.

Mike Vingo (Elite Wrestling-182lbs) vs. Charles Davenport (Evolution Combat Club-178lbs)

Vingo via guillotine at :25 of the first round.

Lamont Tareyton (freestyle-165lbs) vs. Steve Trask (Seaport Fighting Arts-169lbs)

Trask via verbal submission at 4:11 of the first round.

Andrew Montanez (Team Shamrock-175lbs) vs. Serge Zabarin (Seaport Fighting Arts-155lbs)

Montanez via tapout due to strikes at 2:15 of the first round.

A Few Words with Tara LaRosa

Her ten-fight career stretches back to 2002, and though she lost to Jennifer Howe three years ago, she’s gained a ton of momentum from her recent wins in Shooto, Smack Girl and the Mixed Fighting Championship. New Jeresy-born Tara LaRosa packs one hell of whollop in the form of a lead hook and a right cross, and she’s got a rock-solid grappling game to boot – all of which she utilized to take out the highly-touted Hitomi Akano at MFC 7. FCF caught up with Tara after the show.

FCF: Awesome fight the other night. This is the second time I've seen you fight and I'm really impressed. What's you fight team nowadays? Last time it was Team ROC.

TL: Well, good question. I am still affiliated with Team ROC/ Royce Gracie but I have recently moved to Washington State. After training with someone for your whole career, you don't just walk away and disolve ties. Aitor "Spencer" Canup and Greg Thompson have afforded me the knowledge that I need to venture out and train at other places, and be confident that I can be successful anywhere. I am now training in Yakima, Washington, with an incredible team that pushes me to the max physically and mentally every day. I'm now under the management of Anthony Hamlett... Oh, and the daily ass-kickings as well.

FCF: Hitomi Akano is known as a judo badass. How did you prepare for her?

TL: It wasn't too hard since I came from a Judo background. I knew what her favorite throws were so all I had to do was counter them or stay to the opposite throwing side. A few of the guys I trained with were well-versed in Greco with translates well to judo, so we worked on a few scenarios and I was able to execute them in the fight.

FCF: Did the fight go as you had planned?

TL: Yes and no. Rarely does a fight ever go exactly as planned. I was shocked that she came out striking... and actually hit me. It makes me laugh because I just stood there in the ring and looked at her in disbelief... then threw a few back at her. The throws and ground work went as expected.

FCF: What's next? You're becoming a female version of Eddie Alvarez with all your fans - is the MFC going to offer you a shot a women's belt?

TL: Eddie is the man! I would love a shot at an MFC title. And if I could win it the same way he did... that'd be cooler than snow on Christmas morning.

FCF: Thanks, Tara. Once again, great job. Akano is a top-ranked fighter and you beat her convincingly.

TL: Thank you.

Combat in the Cage: Amateurs Do the Darnedest Things

*originally published in the May '06 issue of Full Contact Fighter*

Some of them clearly know what they’re doing. Some of them leave you scratching your head, wondering what on Earth they were thinking. On May 6th, in the gym of the Eastern Regional High School in Voorhees, New Jersey, Ed Hsu’s Combat in the Cage brought together almost a score of amateur mixed martial artists – some of whom knew what they were doing. The others? Well… I guess it’s all just part of the learning process. Thankfully, however, they had a USKBA-sanctioned event such as this to iron out their kinks.

Take Chris Dietzel, for example. It took until 1:21 of the second round for the Yamasaki Jiu-Jitsu 157-pounder to submit Pittsburgh Submission Fighters Club-representative Nick Eiben with an armbar, but Dietzel knew what he was doing when he controlled Eiben throughout.

And the Jersey Shore BJJ boys, Tinh Tupy and Greg Soto, knew what they were doing, too. When the 138-pound Tupy took on the 137-pound David Poniatowski, Tupy used his wrestling to keep his opponent down, soccer kick him in the ribs (which made the crowd gasp, but is legal under USKBA rules), and do more than enough to merit the unanimous decision. The 172-pound Soto looked even better, tapping out 184-pound Joe Diamond’s Mixed Martial Arts-representative Carl D’Alessandro at 2:21 of the first round with an armbar.

But then there are those who are clearly new to the game. Aikido of New York 190-pounder Heath Macaluso deserves a ton of credit for stepping into the cage for a second time, but avoiding the TNT Martial Arts 194-pounder Alexis Aquino’s punches by ducking his head and clinch, that was a recipe for disaster. Or a tap out via guillotine at 1:15 of the first round. And Kevin Lenau seems like he’d bang if given the chance. Yet Phil Ferraro, a 156-pound fighter from Eclectic Martial Arts, didn’t give the 159-pound Okinawan Kenpo Karate representative that chance. He took him down almost at will, and eventually submitted him with a keylock at 1:01 of the first round.

Some knew what they were doing. Some are still learning. That’s just how it goes at an amateur show.

* * *

With the ghost of a loss to Dave Tirelli hanging over him, Tom DeBlass steps into the cage. Of course, things have changed since his first and only fight three years ago. Though he’d trained just three months with the Tong Dragon school before facing Tirelli, he is now a purple belt under Ricardo Almeida, and part of a tight team of strong MMA competitors. Consequently, he can punch, he can grapple, and he’s well-conditioned – undeniably, ten-times the fighter he was back then. But is it enough to put that ghost to rest?

At 1:17 of the second round this question is answered with a toehold and a tap out. After meeting a wild-punching Aikido of New York 192-pounder Richard Dunn head-on, tying him up and taking things to the ground, it was all about the 195-pound DeBlass utilizing his grappling advantage to wear his opponent out. Anyone who’s ever watched a handful of fights could’ve foreseen the inevitable outcome. “I feel I’m pretty good on my feet, but as soon as I got in there I went to what I knew I’d be better at. And that’s being on the ground. I didn’t take any chances.” But really, this wasn’t about beating Dunn. This was about something more. Something to do with that loss three years ago, and being on a winning MMA team.

“There was pressure,” DeBlass admits. “My first fight I had only trained for three months with a team that really wasn’t a fighting team, and now I train with one of the best teams in the world.” He pauses, then continues. “All my teammates are winning, and they’re great fighters, and everyone always makes jokes like, ‘When are you getting in the ring? When are you getting in the ring?’ There was pressure.”

For now, DeBlass looks to concentrate on improving his jiu-jitsu, and helping prepare his teammates for their upcoming fights. It’s up in the air when he’ll return to the cage. Yet if even if he doesn’t return, at the very least he stepped up and faced that ghost, and for the time being relieved whatever pressure he’s felt to fight.

* * *

Amateurs do the darnedest things. Take Rich Collazo Jr. for example. The Joe Diamond’s MMA 157-pounder put on an awesome display of standup in his bout against Eclectic Martial Arts 162-pounder Nick Taylor, and the two were so thrilled to be in the cage, they could not stop giving each other ‘high-fives’ and hugs of appreciation throughout the fight. “I enjoyed it,” he says of the bout that ended with him getting the unanimous decision. “My first fight, and I had fun, you know what I mean? I just can’t wait to get in the ring and do more fights.”

‘Dirty Dave’ Trapanese seemed to have fun as well. Sprawling-and-brawling Red Dragon Dojo 168-pounder Mike Buzzone en route to a unanimous decision, the Jersey Shore BJJ 173-pound fighter was all smiles long after his fight was over. When asked how he got the nickname ‘Dirty Dave’, his smile never wavered. “The name kind of just stuck with me. Sometimes before I go to jiu-jitsu I don’t brush my teeth, so I kind of stink. That’s why they call me ‘Dirty Dave’.”

Excellent answer.

However, the ‘Darnedest Thing’ award should certainly go to Ryan Wadsworth (and his cornerman). Wadsworth, a Joe Diamond’s MMA 210-pounder, was dominated by Berks County BJJ 205-pounder Derek Hopkins, with Hopkins getting the win via armbar at 2:32 of the first round. Why, then, whould Wadsworth’s corner keep shouting at the 210-pounder, screaming ‘He’s got nothing! He’s got nothing!’ And why would Wadsworth get worked into a frenzy by this, and exchange words with Hopkins when the two were outside the cage? Did he think he had a better chance against Hopkins – a man on his way to becoming a decent pro fighter – without the gloves, shin and instep pads, and the referee there to step in? Thankfully, Wadsworth was escorted out before anyone was killed.

And I guess that’s why they’re amateurs.

Combat in the Cage: Beginnings

*originally published in May '06 on fullcontactfighter.com*

(May 6th, Voorhees, New Jersey) The amateurs were at it again, and though the cage was set up in the gymnasium of the Eastern Regional High School, promoter Ed Hsu’s Combat in the Cage was no less entertaining than his debut event in Atlantic City. Featuring 18 budding fighters from as far away as New York and Pennsylvania, the show was a mixture of smooth takedowns and fast punches, with a heavy dose of technical submissions thrown in. Highlights of the night included:

  • Jersey Shore BJJ’s Tinn Tupy’s controlling ground game, which had him in the driver’s seat throughout his bout.
  • The dominant striking of Joe Diamond’s MMA’s Rich Collazo Jr., as he picked apart Nick Taylor to earn the decision.
  • Ricardo Almeida-student Tom DeBlass’ successful return to action, where he submitted Richard Dunn with a slick toehold.


Tinn Tupy (Jersey Shore BJJ-138lbs) vs. David Poniatowski (Hamilton Martial Arts-137lbs)

Tupy via unanimous decision.

Kevin Lenau (Okinawan Kenpo Karate Academy-159lbs) vs. Phil Ferraro (Eclectic Martial Arts-156lbs)

Ferraro via keylock at 1:01 of the second round.

Rich Collazo Jr. (Joe Diamond’s MMA-157lbs) vs. Nick Taylor (Eclectic Martial Arts-162lbs)

Collazo via unanimous decision.

Chris Dietzal (Yamasaki-157lbs) vs. Nick Eiben (Pittsburgh Submission Fighters Club-157lbs)

Dietzal via armbar at 1:21 of the second round.

David Trapanese (Jersey Shore BJJ-173lbs) vs. Mike Buzzone (Red Dragon Dojo-168lbs)

Trapanese via unanimous decision.

Ryan Wadsworth (Joe Diamond’s MMA-210lbs) vs. Derek Hopkins (Berks County BJJ-205lbs)

Hopkins via armbar at 2:32 of the first round.

Alexis Aquino (TNT Martial Arts-194lbs) vs. Heath Macaluso (Aikido of New York-190lbs)

Aquino via guillotine at 1:15 of the first round.

Tom DeBlass (Team Renzo/Almeida-195lbs) vs. Rich Dunn (Aikido of New York-192lbs)

DeBlass via toehold at 1:17 of the first round.

Greg Soto (Jersey Shore BJJ-172lbs) vs. Carl D’Alessandro (Joe Diamond’s MMA-184lbs)

Soto via armbar at 2:21 of the first round.

Prelude to Sportfighting

*originally published in April '06 on fullcontactfighter.com*

When: April 22nd. Where: St. Peter’s College in Jersey City. What: Sportfighting III. On Saturday night, the latest installment of promoter Brian Cimins’ MMA show returns to the Garden State, bringing with it a fresh batch of young MMA studs hoping to make their mark. With a featherweight title is up for grabs, and representatives from Jungle Gym, Rhino Fight Team, Team Renzo and Lloyd Irvin stepping into the ring, it promises to be an action-packed night. Here’s a look at some of the fighters:

Justin Garcia – Jungle Gym

He’s 2-0 in MMA competition, but his reputation a grappling beast is a strong one. At Sportfighting II, Garcia practically ran through his opponent utilizing those ground skills. Will we see more of the same from him at Sportfighting III? Or will Garcia throw some leather?

Glenn Sandull – Cornerstone Martial Arts

He was the Reality Fighting Heavyweight Champ until a pair of crushing fists dethroned him. Now, ground-and-pound monster Sandull returns to action on April 22nd after a year off, so expect some unstoppable takedowns and some punches as he stakes his claim for a future shot at the Sportfighting belt. The first man standing in the way of that shot: Sherman Pendergarst.

Sherman Pendergarst – Ground Control

A heavyweight banger from Baltimore, Pendergarst is a man who’s not afraid to throw down. Fresh off a win in Massachusett’s WFL, he’s got momentum – and a solid grappling team – behind him. Does he have what it takes to withstand Sandull’s strong top game?

Travis Roesler – Balance Studios

He made his MMA debut in impressive fashion almost a year and a half ago, defeating a dangerous Norm Schack with a knee to the midsection after weathering a storm of punishment. Paired up with a strong jiu-jitsu camp, Roesler should be returning to action with a wider range of submission skills to compliment his toughness and heart. Is he back to makes waves in the North East’s heavyweight ranks?

Kevin Roddy – Rhino Fight Team

A wiry grappler and protégé of Kurt Pellegrino, Roddy got a taste of his own submission medicine at the last Reality Fighting via a rear naked choke. Will he redeem himself at Sportfighting III?

The full card as of 4/18/06:

Michael La Duke (Empire MA) vs. Bill Pounds (Philadelphia JJ)

Brian McLaughlin (Rob Kahn) vs. Khristian Geraci (Real Combat)

Justin Garcia (Jungle Gym) vs. Mario Marin (Red Planet)
Glen Sandull (Planet JJ/Cornerstone) vs. Sherman Pendergarst (Ground Control)
David Kaplin (Lloyd Irvin) vs. Rich Swawola (Real Combat Martial Arts)
Andre Gusmao (Nago Capoeira Head Instructor/Renzo Gracie) vs. John Swangler II (Independent)
Tom Galecio (Rhino Fight Team) vs. Marc Stevens (Tai Kai/Streetwise Fightwear)
Travis Roesler (Balance Studios) vs. Chris Harding (Real Combat Martial Arts)
Mike Murray (Jerry Jones) vs. Kevin Roddy (Rhino Fight Team)
Julio Cruz (Renzo) vs. Scott Argott (Bare Knuckle)
Thomas DeNicola (Full Circle) vs. Leandro Hernandez (Alex Wilkie)
Diego A. Jimenez (Adrenaline Gear/Santos/Rodriguez) vs. Scott Malloy (Rhino Fight Team)
Tracy "Supreme Commander" Taylor (Rodrigo Vaghi) vs. Doug "Flash" Gordon (RIO BJJ/Robson Moura)

Underground Combat League: “Face Off”

*originally published in the April '06 issue of Full Contact Fighter*

Sometimes you’re the hammer, and sometimes you’re the anvil. On April 9th, at the Underground Combat League’s ‘Face Off’ show at an undisclosed location in New York City, Gracie Barra black belt Emerson Souza made his mixed martial arts debut against Kaizenkai Karate/Mullero Dojo rep Angel Ortiz, while Andrew Montanez took on Ortiz’ teammate Angel ‘A-Rod’ Rodriguez, and Mike Riccardi faced KaizenKai head-coach Mike Mullero himself. At Face Off, after nailing the takedown and raining down strikes from top position, Souza, Montanez and Riccardi were the hammer. And though their efforts were valiant, Ortiz, Rodriguez and Mullero inevitably ended up as the anvil. The latest installment of New York City’s only MMA event featured a fresh batch of rookies making their first venture into the realm of limited-rules combat, and though the bouts were quick, their was certainly a lot action.

It was textbook jiu-jitsu for the 135-pound Souza, as he nailed the takedown, moved into sidemount and then mount, and rained down strikes. The Brazilian Jiu-jitsu black belt was just too much for the young 135-pound Ortiz, and the ref was forced to step in at :36 into the first round.

It can only get easier for Ortiz, who admitted he’s more of a striker than a grappler. “I respect him,” said Souza afterwards. “He was a tough opponent.” Why did the accomplished jiu-jitsu man step into the ring at the UCL? “I am a Gracie Barra black belt, a jiu-jitsu champion, a teacher – I’ve done everything in jiu-jitsu. What was the next step? Fighting was the next step.” And what does the future hold for Souza (who was actually offered a fight in Japan for K-1, but balked at the short notice the Japanese had given him)? “More fights. Definitely more fights.”

He’s the true definition of a workhorse. Team Shamrock 175-pounder Andrew Montanez fights everywhere and everyone, and does it frequently, and returned to the UCL after having fought twice at the WFL tournament in Massachusetts the week prior. Taking on 185-pound newcomer A-Rod, Montanez was able to showcase his wrestling against someone who preferred to stand and trade. A slick high kick to a single leg takedown and Montanez had it on the ground in no time. Working methodically into the mount, he leaned back and started punching, delivering punishment until the ref stepped in at 1:32 into the first round.

“I felt I could have banged with him, but I didn’t really feel the need to,” said Montanez. “I try to stay very active and didn’t wanna get cut.” Added the workhorse – who’s already line up two fights for May and one for June – “I knew my wrestling was better than his, but I didn’t wanna make it seem like I just wanted to wrestle so I threw some kicks to set it up.”

“I wanted to strike as I knew that was my advantage,” said A-Rod. “Andrew knew this as well and took it to the ground.” He added: “I made some mistakes this fight, rookie beginner mistakes. But it is part of the learning curve and I will come back stronger.”

In another match-up between a grappler and a striker, Team Renzo 205-pounder Mike Riccardi made his debut against accomplished striker and KaizenKai coach Mike Mullero. Weighing in at 193-pounds, Mullero was also taking his first foray into the MMA arena – and it ended up being a rough one. After a few tentative moments, Riccardi got the bodylock and put Mullero on his back. Working into mount as his opponent fought to get out from beneath him, Riccardi kept up the pressure with punches, and Mullero was left with no choice but to tap at 2:01 of Round One. It was a good win for Riccardi (who was expertly cornered by pro fighter Norm Schack), but hopefully both fighters will return.

A knee injury did little to prevent UCL mainstay Richie Torres (Kaizenkai Karate, 150 pounds) from entering the ring, as he took on a 152-pound street fighter named Marko Rodriguez. With Torres throwing his bread-and-butter round kicks until he could land a one-two combo, it was only a matter of time until he dropped Rodriguez with a blazing right. The ref stepped in at :56 of the first round after a mounted Torres delivered a slew of unanswered elbows.

Rounding out the card was a grappling match that paired the 170-pound Felix Rodriguez against Andrew Montanez. And as expected, it was a total dominance by Montanez (who was fighting jiu-jitsu black belts the week prior). Takedown to mount, and then a forearm across the throat was all she wrote; Rodriguez tapped at 1:54 of the first round.

Expect the Underground Combat League to return in June, with Shootfighting-style bouts as well as MMA.

Battle at the Boardwalk: Amateur MMA Returns to New Jersey

*originally published in Feb '06 on fullcontactfighter.com*

(February 18th, Atlantic City, New Jersey) They came. They saw. And they signed up and kicked ass. Amateur mixed martial arts competition returned to New Jersey for day two of the Battle at the Boardwalk’s martial arts expo, and as a board-breaking contest was waged on one mat, and as modern samurai clashed with foam swords on another, 16 wet-behind-the-ears warriors stepped into the cage for a taste of real fighting. There were battles, submissions and slugfests, and thanks to the New Jersey State Athletic Control Board and the USKBA (who sanctioned and oversaw the event), all it took to compete was a $30 licensing fee and a signature. In a state that heretofore required all MMA competitors to shell out about $450 in medical testing, this was big news indeed. Highlights of the afternoon included:

New York San Da’s Greg LaChaga, who punished Kevin Lenau on the ground with crowd-pleasing knees and garnered the majority decision.

The wild haymaker-throwing party Richard Dunn (of the Aikido School of Self-Defense) had with Robert Cunane.

The non-stop stand-up war New York San Da’s Tim O’Connor waged with John Salgado.



Tinh Tupy (Jersey Shore BJJ) vs. Andrew Antonik

Tup via armbar at 3:00 of Round One.


Kevin Lenau (Okinawan Kenpo Karate Academy) vs. Greg LaChaga (New York San Da)

LaChaga via majority decision.


Andrew Montanez (Team Shamrock) vs. Greg Soto (Jersey Shore BJJ)

Soto via unanimous decision.

Andrew Hume (World Karate) vs. Kyung Whan Kim

Hume via unanimous decision.


Heath Macaluso (Aikido School of Self-Defense) vs. Tony Diliberti (Goldeus Karate)

Macaluso via unanimous decision.

Tim O’Connor (New York San Da) vs. John Salgado (Tribeca Sports Center)

O’Connor via split decision.


Joshua Cramoy (Lake Placid Martial Arts) vs. Derek Hopkins (Brooks County BJJ)

Hopkins via triangle choke at 1:15 of Round One.

Heath Macaluso (Aikido School of Self-Defense) vs. Derek Hopkins (Brooks County BJJ)

Hopkins via rear choke at 2:17 of Round One.

Richard Dunn (Aikido School of Self-Defense) vs. Robert Cunane (Modern Bujitsu)

Dunn via verbal submission at :29 of Round Two.

Underground Combat League: Beatdowns and Bloodshed

*originally published in Dec '05 on fullcontactfighter.com*

(December 11th, New York City) It was a night of beatdowns and bloodshed here at the Underground Combat League’s latest MMA installment, where the usual mix of skilled martial artists and streetfighters stepped into the ring to fight it out. Going back to its roots with style against style action - judo versus karate, wrestling versus submission fighting, Thaiboxing versus wrestling – the show was a welcomed throwback to the UFCs of yore. Highlights of the night included:

· veteran Richie Torres’ spirited performance against tough newcomer Gil Collazo, which saw Torres weather a torrent of knees to get the choke in the second round.

· the bloody rematch between Peter Storm and Abraham Garcia, which had both men punishing each other en route to a crowd-pleasing finish.


Richie Torres (Kaizen Karate-155lbs) vs. Gil Collazo (freestyle-155lbs)

Torres via guillotine at :24 of Round Two.

Christian Grullon (wrestling-160lbs) vs. Andrew Montanez (Team Shamrock-160lbs)

Montanez via rear choke at 2:58 of Round One.

Ibrahim ‘Silk’ Muhammed (Thaiboxing-170lbs) vs. Christian Grullon (wrestling-160lbs)

Grullon via rear choke at 1:08 of Round One.

Ibrahim ‘Silk’ Muhammed (Thaiboxing-170lbs) vs. Felix Rodriguez (freestyle)

Rodriguez via tapout due to forearm across the throat at 2:26 of the second round.

Peter Storm (judo-175lbs) vs. Abraham Garcia (Kaizen Karate-190lbs)

Storm via rear choke at 2:40 of Round Two – a bloody battle!

Aggressive Shoot Championship A Success

*originally published in the Nov '05 issue of Full Contact Fighter*

The date: October 30th. The venue: an undisclosed location in New York City. The show: the Aggressive Shoot Championship. The rules: akin to the Pancrase matches of old, with kicks and open-handed strikes permitted on the feet, submissions and rope escapes allowed on the ground. The ASC (a cousin of the NYC Underground Combat League NHB show) offered budding MMA warriors the chance to test the waters without the risk of taking too much punishment, and with seven bouts featuring fighters from some of the more prominent local schools, as well as a packed house of cheering fans, it unfolded into a well-executed, well-received event.

Headlining the night were championship match-ups in the middleweight and welterweight divisions. Vying for the title at 185 pounds: Carmine Zocchi of Thaisport and Abraham Garcia of Kaizen Karate-Do. Zocchi – a Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu brown belt under Marcelo Mello – wasted little time in taking things to the ground, where he established control early and slapped on the triangle choke from the mount. Garcia was forced to tap at 1:43, while Zocchi got to add another championship belt to his collection (he won the BAMA Shootfighting championship in his last venture into the ring).

Battling at welterweight, 160-pound Rob Guarino (of Rhino Fight Team) and 168-pound Team Endgame rep Tom Velasquez fought a back-and-forth war that had the crowd on its feet. Nailing a heelhook that forced his opponent to utilize a rope escape (which translates into a penalty and a restart for the escapee), Guarino seemed to be well on the way toward victory. But Velasquez turned up the heat in the second round when he promptly got the takedown, then mount, then swung into an armbar. At :42 of Round Two, Velasquez secured the win and the title.

Elsewhere on the card, Team Renzo 205-pounder Matt Soares squared off against Team Rhino 205-pounder Carlos Rodriguez. Jumping to guard on the more experienced fighter, Soares wasted no time in his submission hunt, and soon found the kimura at 1:20 of the first round. In a clash of heavyweights, Team Endgame’s 275-pound JA Dudley stepped into the ring a rookie and came away with a win against 235-pound Hook-n-Shoot veteran and Team Rhino rep Dale Carson Jr. Utilizing his weight advantage to the fullest, Dudley grounded out a split decision after two rounds. In a welterweight bout, 159-pound Team Lionkill grappler and Combat-Do Challenge veteran Job Toby took on the 165-pound Carmine Zocchi-trained Andrew Montanez. Sinking in a tight guillotine, Toby put Montanez to sleep at :48 of the first round after Montanez repeatedly shot in for the takedown. Squaring off against the 160-pound Zack Divine of Team Rhino, Richie Torres (Kaizen Karate-Do/155 pounds) found himself trading strikes with an opponent who had a much greater reach. An ankle injury prevented Torres from answering the bell for the second round, giving Divine the win. And in a grappling-only match, Team Lionkill’s 199-pound Nolan Dutcher controlled but was unable to submit the South Bronx Fight Team 225-pound Kaream Ellington. Dutcher came away with the split decision after two rounds.

It was a solid night of action. With apparent interest in ‘Shootfighting’-style combat so fervent, expect many more of these events in the Big Apple. The next one is slated for January.

Aggressive Shoot Championship Debuts Strong

*originally published in Oct '05 on fullcontactfighter.com*

(October 30th, New York City) It was an impressive debut event for the Aggressive Shoot Championship here in the Big Apple, as a few hundred fight fans gathered to watch over a dozen local athletes mix it up in the ring. Kicks, open-hand strikes to the face, submissions and rope escapes were the order of the day, and with a welterweight and middleweight championship on the line, there was action aplenty. Highlights of the event include:

· Jiu-jitsu stud Carmine Zocchi’s smooth grappling game, which kept him in control from start to finish.

· The back-and-forth battle between Tom Velasquez and Rob Guarino. Despite utilizing a rope escape when caught in a heelhook, Velasquez rallied in the second round and nailed the armbar.



Nolan Dutcher (Team Lionkill-199lbs) vs. Kaream Ellington (Team South Bronx-225lbs)

Dutcher via decision after two rounds.

Shootfighting-style bouts

Richie Torres (Kaizen Karate-Do-155lbs) vs. Zack Divine (Team Rhino-160lbs)

Divine wins when Torres cannot answer the bell for the second round.

Joey Toby (Team Lionkill-159lbs) vs. Andrew Montanez (Carmine Zocchi-165lbs)

Toby via guillotine at :48 of the first round – Montanez was put to sleep!

JA Dudley (Team Endgame-275lbs) vs. Dale Carson Jr. (Team Rhino-235lbs)

Dudley via split decision after two rounds.

Carlos Rodriguez (Team Rhino-205lbs) vs. Matt Soares (Team Renzo-205lbs)

Soares via kimura at 1:20 of Round One.

Middleweight Championship Bout

Carmine Zocchi (Thaisport-185lbs) vs. Abraham Garcia (Kaizen Karate-Do-185lbs)

Zocchi via triangle choke at 1:43 of the first round.

Welterweight Championship Bout

Rob Guarino (Team Rhino-160lbs) vs. Tom Velasquez (Team Endgame-168lbs)

Velasquez via armbar at :42 of Round Two.

Eddie Alvarez: Rising Star on the East Coast

*originally published in the Aug '05 issue of Full Contact Fighter*

He’s the welterweight Reality Fighting champ, and has recently been tearing through Japanese and Russians fighters alike at the Mixed Fighting Championship. His takedowns are unstoppable and his fists are powerful and accurate, yet most people know him as the man with the huge cheering section, a section that seems to go ballistic whenever he enters the ring. Fan-favorite Eddie Alvarez – the undefeated 168-pounder from Philadelphia – is a dominant force once the referee says, ‘go!’ And with his superior conditioning and preparation, he’s undeniably the East Coast’s hottest rising mixed martial arts star.

A state wrestling champ-turned fighter, Alvarez has proven to be a formidable scrapper since he debuted in December of 2003. He scored a knockout in just under four minutes then, and has continued to overwhelm in the five bouts subsequent. “I wanted to fight since I was little,” says the amiable Alvarez, when asked how he ended up in the fight game. “It just felt like a calling.”

An product of the Fight Factory – a prominent MMA school in Philly – Alvarez has displayed all the requisite skills that go into making a champ: he can grapple, he can box, and he’s unflappable under fire. How does he train for a fight? “A lot of it depends on my opponent,” says Alvarez. “I’m real strategic about things.” He goes on to describe how he and his trainer, Steve Haigh, will pour over tons of fight tape looking for whatever chinks in a fighter’s armor they can find. “I usually just pick apart my opponent’s weaknesses and exploit them.” Alvarez goes on to explain that, as his wrestling accomplishments have given him a solid base in the grappling department, most of his training nowadays consists of boxing and kickboxing. “My body already does what I tell it to do when it comes to grappling,” he says.

When it comes to cardio, Alvarez seems to have a ton (even though his longest bout was just shy of two rounds). What sort of work does he do to keep his wind? “I love to swim,” he says without hesitation. “I swim a lot before a fight.” He also advocates hill sprints, something he does with his trainer.

Chiseled, and with high degree of functional strength that has enabled him to maintain control in the ring, one might assume Alvarez spends a decent amount of time pushing weight around in the gym. But that couldn’t be further from the truth. “Steve will kill me if I lift weights,” says Alvarez. “He respects it, he just doesn’t believe it should be a big part of the game.” Instead of the Smith machine and the weight rack, Alvarez credits his day job as a stonemason for playing a large part of his strength training. Indeed, it would be hard to argue that hauling around bags of concrete hasn’t helped. “Most of my training is fight training. My weight training is my concrete work.”

In terms of diet, Alvarez is keenly aware of what his body needs to maintain maximum performance. “I eat a lot of greens and a lot of fruit,” he says. “And I’m not just saying that because it sounds good. Greens and fruit give me energy after a long day at work and at the gym.” But he’s by no means a vegetarian. “I eat all kinds of white meat – chicken and stuff – but I kind of stay away from red meat.” He adds: “I can’t eat fatty foods, McDonald’s, or fast food. My body won’t allow it.”

His dominance in the local fight scene has opened the door for more opportunities. In addition to squaring off against international opponents at fairly large Atlantic City-based shows, Alvarez was flown out to Las Vegas for the hit SpikeTV reality series “The Ultimate Fighter”, and while he was never utilized for the filming of the show’s second season, the fact remains that the people in charge at the Ultimate Fighting Championship have taken notice.

So what does the future hold for this East Coast rising star? Currently, Alvarez is focused on one thing: “To beat Daisuke Hanazawa at Mixed Fighting Championship 5 on November 5th,” he says. At MFC 5 in Atlantic City, New Jersey, Alvarez will be facing a more-experienced fighter in what promises to be a thrilling main event. After that, who knows? For this promising welterweight, the sky’s the limit.

Andrei Arlovski: Profile of a Champion

*originally published in the Nov '05 issue of AXL Magazine*

In his last fight, his opponent came away with a torn ACL, two broken hands and a broken nose. In the fight before that, his opponent was forced to tap out or suffer a broken ankle. Before that: two wins via knockout. At 6’3” and a lean 241 pounds, with power matched only by his skill, it’s no wonder the Ultimate Fighting Championship’s Andrei Arlovski is one of the most feared men in mixed martial arts. Currently the Interim Heavyweight Champ while Heavyweight Champ Frank Mir recuperates from a badly broken leg (suffered in a motorcycle accident), the man also known as ‘the Pitbull’ is every bit as tenacious as his namesake when he steps into the cage. But what goes on outside of the Octagon has done as much in making the champion as what has gone on within it. Besides his heavy hands and submission skills, what’s the key to Arlovski’s success? Training - and lots of it.

The humble beginnings of the Pitbull can be traced back to his homeland of Minsk, Belarus, where a young soccer goalie traded in his cleats for a kurtka and took up the Russian grappling art of Sambo. Excelling and eventually earning world championship titles in the sport, Arlovski rounded out his martial arts training with kickboxing, taking up with UFC veteran Dmitri Stepanov. After several MMA victories back home, Arlovski was invited to compete in the Octagon at UFC 28 in Atlantic City. There, before a packed Trump Taj Mahal, he submitted his opponent Aaron Brink in just under a minute - and tasted for the first time the kind of glory that comes from winning before an audience of thousands. Two subsequent losses (one by TKO to future champ Ricco Rodriguez, another by KO to top-contender Pedro Rizzo) only served to refine Arlovski’s training regimen, and by UFC 40 he had a rock solid game underway that has since earned him a wide range of wins against some of the best heavyweights in mixed martial arts. Now, with the Interim Championship belt around his waist - which he earned by submitting former champ Tim Sylvia (a 6’8”, 265-pound striker) in just 47 seconds - the former soccer goalie is at the top of the food chain.

So what sort of training does Arlovski do? In refining his game, he ended up in Chicago (where he lives while training for a fight), taking up with Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu coach Dino Costeas and Golden Gloves boxing trainer Arturo Salas. “Several months before a fight he’ll lift a lot of weights,” says Leo Khorolinsky, Arlovski’s manager and translator. “Then when a fight gets closer he’ll cut down, do more reps and do more running – running, swimming and biking.” With a schedule that has him grappling five times a week, in the boxing ring six times a week, and lifting weights and doing cardio nearly every day, there’s no question being a champ requires almost complete physical focus. Does Arlovski do anything special to prepare mentally? “He just trains,” says Khorolinsky. “He just concentrates on the upcoming fight.”

For the man who’s ended more than a few bouts with his fists, being the champ also requires a physician. Rounding out Arlovski’s training team is Dr. James Stoxen DC, and with the Pitbull repeatedly fracturing his hands scoring knockouts (against the skulls of sluggers Ian Freeman and Wesley ‘Cabbage’ Correira), the doctor has proven invaluable in patching him up.

One look at Arlovski’s chiseled form at fight time and it’s not hard to imagine the strictness of his diet. To keep his body fat low, Dr. Stoxen also plays an active role, ensuring the Belarussian eats no dairy, bread or sugar as a bout approaches. Coupled with complex carbohydrates after training and protein before bed, and Arlovski is one lean, mean fighting machine once the door to the Octagon is shut.

What does the future hold for the Interim Heavyweight Champ? Hopefully, a match-up against a fully-healed Mir to unify the belts. At this time, submission specialist Mir is slated to return in October, where he and the Pitbull will face off in what promises to be a classic battle between a grappler and a striker. But again, this is all contingent on Mir’s recovery. In the meantime, Arlovski will continue to train the only way he knows how - like a champion.