Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Life-Long Dream Realized

When I was a kid growing up in the favelas of East Hampton, I used to read Black Belt Magazine and dream of one day being featured in the publication. Well, that dream has been realized. Check out this month's issue for a profile on yours truly.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Take-On to Crack the Madison Square Garden Nut

While us New York MMA fans have been languishing in a world without sanctioned fighting, Take-On has been cranking out Muay Thai events - at a neat little venue out in Flushing, at the Beacon Theater in Manhattan, and even at Bally's Casino in Atlantic City. And now the standup fighting organization will be cracking the Madison Square Garden nut before anyone else. Friday, March 16, is the date, and Take-On will be bringing something like seventeen bouts to the WAMU Theater (which is inside MSG - it's where Cirque du Soleil usually performs), including a fight between Philly trainer Rigel Balsamico and UFC vet Ryan Madigan. Hooray for Muay Thai! Also, color me jealous. I want my MMA at MSG. Damn you, New York State.

Monday, February 13, 2012

And Now the Circle is Complete

Gawker gave Sunday night's UCL the long-form treatment, and there's a pretty sweet shoutout to RAW COMBAT in there, too. Link here: http://gawker.com/5884594/semi+legal-pastimes-a-night-at-the-underground-combat-league.

So now my question is, what's left in terms of media outlets mentioning my book? It's been in the New York Times, the Observer, Metro New York, ESPN.com, MMAJunkie.com, the Tapout blog, Gawker, and quite a few others, and there should be impending mentions in upcoming issues of Men's Journal and Black Belt Magazine. I know there's television media out there, and radio shows, but, sheesh, I feel like most of the bases have been hit.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

UCL Postscript

It started off like just any other edition of the Underground Combat League, but then things unexpectedly took a turn for the "yikes". Today's UCL featured four MMA bouts and one grappling match, and in attendance was Ottavia Bourdain, pro fighter Villi Bello, a writer from Gawker.com, and producer John Moody - and in the second bout, they, and everyone else present, witnessed a fighter getting his leg broken.

It was a freak accident. One guy (Marwin) took another guy's back (Adriano) while they were standing, and Adriano planted his foot wrong and everything gave away. His femur was visibly bent in a way the bone isn't supposed to bend. There was no screaming, no wails or cries of pain. The fallen fighter just grimaced and gritted his teeth.

Peter Storm and Rage Rivas wasted no time rolling Adriano onto a folding table, and he was carted off to the back. EMS was called, and they showed up with about a dozen cops (who didn't care one bit about the show going on and promptly left). Eventually, EMS did their thing, and Adriano was rolled away on a gurney and taken to an ambulance outside (and he was applauded by the crowd as he left).

It wasn't the first time an ambulance has had to come to a UCL. Years ago, New Jersey pro fighter Glenn Ortiz had his arm popped and suffered a concussion at the hands of badass jiu-jitsu ace Rene Driefuss, and Glenn needed to take a trip to the hospital afterwards. But this, this was... yeesh.

There's been about 40 UCLs at this point, and until now no one has ever been injured so badly that they couldn't step out of the ring on their own two feet. Not even when Frankie Edgar went to war with Eric Uresk, or when the 200-pound Kaream Ellington fought the 300-pound Bryan Vetell, or when however many countless fighters got choked unconscious or put to sleep by a punch. I guess what I'm getting at is this was a freak thing, a thing that could've happened at any sanctioned show anywhere else. And Storm and Rivas did their thing without hesitation, taking care that Adriano was moved carefully and that professional medical help was on its way.

One day, when MMA is sanctioned here in New York, there are going to be a few promoters who know what they're doing (because they've done MMA shows elsewhere), and there's going to be a bunch of yahoos who are going to mess things the fuck up. The UCL team, who are working with nothing in a state that doesn't want them around, played the shitty hand they were dealt and didn't fuck things up. When MMA is sanctioned here, the UCL team is going to be among the former.

Anyway, a shoutout to the fighters who shined in the ring, and who hailed from such schools as Team Renzo, Radical Jiu-Jitsu, Asylum Fight Team and Twin Towers Wrestling. You don't get paid to fight in the UCL, you do it to test yourself and for the love of the sport. Win or lose, each and every one of them deserves respect.








Saturday, February 11, 2012

ROC Postscript

There are two things you can count on when it comes to a Ring of Combat event: a quality show, and a quality show. Last night's ROC 39 nailed both points. Granted, it's rough when an event runs until past midnight, and seven of the twelve bouts on the card go to decisions, but when you have some of the best fighters in the Northeast throwing down, it's hard to justify any complaints. Some thoughts:

-Whitney Francois and Pat DeFranco just banged away at each other with zero regard for defense. It was almost as if they'd both skipped the class where they were supposed to be taught head movement and keeping your guard up. Of course, that made for a fun fight - and a valid stoppage when Francois sent DeFranco to the canvas.

-Carlos Fonseca had nothing when it came to Andre Harrison's wrestling, which makes sense, as prior to the event veteran fighter Chris Schlesinger was telling me how his teammate (Harrison) was a wrestling beast.

-Frankie Perez continues to impress. Jeremy Uy had no quit in him and showed a lot of heart, but Perez had him in his jiu-jitsu clutches throughout and did not relent.

-We all knew going in the Dwayne Shelton would be the toughest test of James Jenkins' career, and goddamn was he ever. For a while there, Shelton was even picking Jenkins apart on the feet, and it looked like the Team Serra/Longo rep was going to go down. But Jenkins ate some leather and just got more heated, and eventually he found openings in Shelton's defenses and was able to put him away. It shouldn't be long before Jenkins is competing for a belt. Believe that.

-It's amazing to me that Munah Holland was a Golden Gloves boxing star, and yet we see very little of those hands nowadays. Her battle with Pearl Gonzalez was all about who could secure the most advantageous positions on the ground, and Holland won it by a hair. Good for her, and hopefully we'll get to see her employ her full arsenal in a bout in in the future - which would be good for the fans.

-Jarred Mercado had a game plan and he stuck to it. Rafael Fagundes likely had a game plan, too, but it didn't involve being able to stuff any takedowns or get up from the ground. He had good sub defense though, so that's something. Right?

-David Tkeshelavilli is practically on the cusp of being successful in the cage, he's just not quite there yet. Ed Gordon squeaked by him with some slightly superior positioning on the ground and a plethora of knees that were thrown every time the Republic of Georgia fighter ducked his head - and really, you expect skills and the wherewithal to employ them from a Serra/Longo guy. Tkeshelavilli needs to spend some more time training with a deep, talent-rich camp (like Ricardo Almeida's crew). Maybe then he'll be able to put it all together.

-Lester Caslow was out-grappled by someone who had smooth jiu-jitsu. That's all. And Duane van Helvoirt has got smooth jiu-jitsu.

-Most people didn't know much about Daniel Akinyemi prior to ROC 39, but after the beating he put on Uriah Hall - both with his aggressive punching on the feet and his ground and pound - people damn sure know him now. And Hall proved once more why he's one of the best middleweights in the region, because in the face of all the wrath and fury that was being leveled upon him, he was able to see the opening for the heelhook and take it. This was a great, action-packed fight, and an impressive showing for both men.

-Mitch Whitesel, who's always been more of a wrestler, looked like he was going to try to replicate what Nordine Taleb had done by winging strikes and knocking Pete Sell out. Sell was having none of it, though, and got things done by getting Whitesel down and controlling position. It was definitely nice to see Drago get another "W".

-Giovanni Moljo did not belong in the same cage as Jeff Lentz. And to make matters worse, there was something wrong with his mouthpiece, because he kept adjusting it throughout. At one point he even pulled it out and started gagging near my side of the cage - I thought he was going to puke on me!

-Props to Randy Smith for stepping up on short notice. That said, what more does Tom DeBlass need to prove to earn himself a slot in the Octagon? The answer is nothing. There's nothing left to prove. DeBlass is effective in all ranges, he's got all the tools, and he's got experience against a wide range of opponents. The man is ready. Is the UFC ready for him?
















Thursday, February 9, 2012

ROC 39 Preview

Do you smell that? That's the scent of warriors about to ride off into battle, their anticipation distilled into a sweat that reeks of aggression and violence. *Cues orchestra for dramatic medieval battle music* Oh yeah, it's on now... well, actually, it's on tomorrow night, which is when Lou Neglia's Ring of Combat returns to the Tropicana in Atlantic City for another 50-bout extravaganza that will go on into the wee hours of the morning (actually, a dozen bouts will go down, but trust me, when the main event doesn't happen until after midnight, it feels like 50 bouts). I've already extolled the virtues of Uriah Hall vs. Daniel Akinyemi (slugfest!) and James Jenkins vs. Dwayne Shelton (bloodbath!), so let's take a look at some of the other pairings that will make the hairs on the back of my neck stand up and make my colon feel like it has to crap out a sofa.

-Tom DeBlass vs. Randy Smith -After going through about a dozen would-be opponents, light-heavyweight DeBlass - who's on the cusp of breaking into the big leagues - just wanted a damn fight. So in stepped heavyweight Smith. When last we saw Smith, he was fighting Brendan Barrett to a draw, and his size advantage and ability to wear opponents out is something hometown hero DeBlass is going to have to be wary of. While this isn't the first time the ROC 205-pound champ is fighting at heavyweight, it will be the first since he committed to making his mark on the light-heavyweight division, and he's had, what? Something like two weeks notice since Smith took the fight? It should be a good test.

-Jeff Lentz vs. Giovanni Moljo -I interviewed and wrote something about Lentz about two or three years ago and put it up on the FCF website, but I'll be damned if I can find it. Man, that sucks. It was pretty glowing, too, as the kid was something of a prodigy in the Northeast and was taking dudes out left and right with his unorthodox striking and competent ground game. Oh well. I have no idea who Giovanni Moljo is, but Giovanni Ribisi has alway been a decent actor. Remember "Saving Private Ryan"? Gritty performance for sure.

-Pete Sell vs. Mitch Whitesel - It was rough watching Sell fall to Nordine Taleb at the ROC 38, especially since I remember when "Drago" kicked Ted Govola Jr.'s ass at ROC 2. Anyway, Whitesel has never really been one to outstrike anyone, so this should be a nice, competitive matchup where no one gets killed at the end.

-Lester Caslow vs. Duane van Helvoirt - Former teen pop sensation Caslow has fought in just about every promotion that has come to New Jersey, including Bellator. Van Helvoirt, meanwhile, hails from the Netherlands. You know what the Netherlands is a major exporter of? Flowers. Caslow has nothing to fear.

-Munah Holland vs. Pearl Gonzalez -Gonzalez is some kind of submission specialist out of Chicago, while we all know Holland excels at punching girls in the face so hard they... so hard they... I don't know. They something. Anyway, Holland fights out of TSMMA, and she about murdered Kim Couture, and Kim Couture was kicked to the curb by Randy Couture when he found out she was disguising herself as an old witch and handing out poisoned apples to innocent young girls in the woods. So, um, yeah.

Sunday, February 5, 2012

CFFC Postscript

CFFC really hit it out of the park for their thirteenth show. From the bottom of the card, which saw a pair of green bantamweights battle it out, to the top of the card, which saw some high-level shit go down, the event was a real homerun. Some thoughts:

-Travis Wynn kicked ass in his debut, but the scorecards on that unanimous decision don't accurately reflect how good Marcus Daniels is. Daniels has rock-solid jiu-jitsu, and a ton of composure when it matters. Wynn was just a superior wrestler and was able to dictate how the fight went.

-MMA Institute in Virginia is kicking butt and taking names, with Brian Nielson looking smooth in the way he handled Marc Stevens-trained Dustin Baker. I guess Virginia isn't just for lovers?

-In my CFFC preview, I posed the question "Is Brad Desir the real deal?" The answer: Oh fuck yeah. Luciano Cristovam was every bit the jiu-jitsu stud you'd expect from a Renzo Gracie black belt, and he absolutely dominated Desir in the first round. Like, completely dominated, a 10-8 round for sure. But Desir didn't falter, and came out in the second winging bolos, and when they started connecting Cristovam was doomed. Desir has got a bright future ahead of him the cage. Very bright indeed. (As an aside, why the hell did Cristovam's people agree to that fight with Desir? It was his MMA debut, and he was taking on someone with eight fights - both amateur and pro - under their belt? That's nuts. Just like when Igor and Gregor Gracie took on Tom Gallicchio and Doug Gordon, Cristovam got creamed.)

-Man, Jackson Galka's Muay Thai is sharp as hell and fun to watch. If he got a chance to land those leg-kicks for another round, Terrell Hobbs' leg was going to fall off.

-We all knew going in that Claudio Ledesma is one of the best, but what we didn't know is that Pedro Gonzalez is actually pretty dangerous himself. I'd like to see Gonzalez again, against someone high-ranked as Ledesma.

-Anthony Morrison has still got it. Jay Haas was no slouch, and had some nice transitions to go with his functional strength, but Morrison put him on ice. I'd like to see Morrison make a run at the CFFC featherweight title sometime soon.

-Sean Santella ate a lot of punches, and things were looking really grim when Bryan Laschomb found his groove and started sprawling and brawling effectively. But then came the slick jiu-jitsu, and Santella had the kneebar. Nice. (Note: the athletic commission labeled the official result as a heelhook, but from my angle I could see it was a straight kneebar with Laschomb's foot tucked under Shorty Rock's armpit.)

-How ready is Joey Gambino ready for the UFC/Strikeforce/Bellator? Against his toughest opponent to date, Gambino kicked ass for most of his five-round bout against Kenny Foster, and even after a blocked kick in Round 4 saw Gambino likely break his arm, the CFFC featherweight champ kept going. That kind of mettle - plus his skill, strength, speed and technique - means it's just a matter of time before we're seeing the dude on TV. He's definitely ready.







Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Cage Fury Fighting Championship 13 Preview

While most of you will be shelling out bucks to see Nick Diaz and Carlos Condit go at it on pay-pay-view on Saturday night, a select few of us will instead be at the Resorts Casino in Atlantic City, watching some top-notch regional MMA the way the sport is meant to be watched: in-fucking-person. That's right, I'm talking about Cage Fury Fighting Championship 13. Now, I've already extolled the virtues of a few of the bouts (http://www.mmajournalist.blogspot.com/2012/01/why-february-will-be-awesome.html), but there are others that have my interest piqued as well. So why not discuss them now? Hey, that's a great idea! (Note: I'm talking to myself. I think I might be going crazy.)

-Sean Santella vs. Bryan Lashomb - Up until when Santella ran into the human brick wall known as Aljamain Sterling, he was the baddest "little guy" in the Northeast. Which isn't to say "Shorty Roc" isn't still pretty bad ("bad" meaning he could put his fist through your chest; "bad" meaning he could submit you before you even knew he'd taken you down). He is. Only now he's aiming to get back on track as a dominant force in the Garden State circuit. On the other side of the bout is Lashomb, who trains out of MMA Institute in Virginia, is a veteran of M-1 Challenge, and seems pretty well-rounded. The big question here, though, is if Lashomb is ready for the step up in competition, as Santella is way better than any of the guys he's faced while competing in the Maryland-DC-Virginia area... *Awkward silence* ...Wait, are you expecting me to tell you if Lashomb is ready? How the hell should I know?
-Anthony Morrison vs. Jay Haas -How's this for bad luck: "Cheesesteak" Morrison worked his way up the Northeast rankings and made it into the WEC, only to face Mike Brown and Chad Mendes (an ex-champ and a top contender). Man, talk about screwed. Anyway, Morrison is back after a year and a half hiatus, and standing on the other side of the cage will be Haas, an experienced dude from Pennsylvania who can pound opponents out or get subbed by them. This bout intrigues me because I'm curious to see where Morrison is at in terms of being "Mr. Ass-Kicker".
-Claudio Ledesma vs. Pedro Gonzalez - Ledesma is another top "little guy" who fell to Aljamain Sterling but still remains a stone-cold killer, so this matchup should see him work New England fighter Gonzalez over pretty thoroughly. My crystal ball is showing me some punishment from top position, a transition to a sub, and a victorious Ledesma doing the Marcarena, but in the interest of full disclosure, I should say my crystal ball is a piece of shit. Literally.
-Mike Medrano vs. Brian VanHoven -Back in 2010, Medrano was a contender fighting the best guys in Ring of Combat, but he's hit a bit of skid from then to now. VanHoven was winless in 2011, so in theory, this should be the perfect opportunity for big-punching Medrano to get back to his winning ways. In theory. In reality, just about everyone Medrano has ever faced has had a reach advantage; if that's the case with VanHoven - and if VanHoven is explosive - this one could get ugly.