Sunday, April 15, 2012

CFFC Postscript

Borgata. Before last night, it was a casino untouched by the gnarled hands of MMA. But then came Cage Fury Fighting Championship 14, with its championship clobberings and undercard smashfests, and the large-bosomed occupants of that venue on the Marina-side of Atlantic City never knew what hit them. Yes, CFFC was fantastic - despite a few extended breaks to allow for the ambulance to return to the site after ferry one fighter after another to the local emergency room. However, what really made the night was the Borgata itself, which seemed to burst at the seams with the heretofore unseen violence it was barely able to contain within its event center (plus, the staff cafeteria was the bomb). Some thoughts:

-I hated seeing UFC vet Greg Soto lose, as the dude has been an integral (and virtually unsung) part of the Garden State MMA scene since Nick Lembo first started allowing amateur competitions, but it was good to see George Sullivan attain that level of success that has eluded him in the past. You see, Sullivan has been around for a long-ass time himself, toiling away in a multitude of local shows dispensing - and sometimes receiving - beatings, yet always ending up better because of it. Once upon a time you could shut down Sullivan's dangerous striking with a smothering ground game. Seems like those days are gone, and now he's got a shiny CFFC welterweight championship belt to show for his hard work.

-I was lucky enough to sit next to the legendary Jeff Blatnick for pretty much the entire night, which is fun because Jeff appreciates good rock and roll, cleavage and combat when he sees it. But it was very telling to see Jeff's reaction to Aljamain Sterling. Sterling, as fate would have it, got to defend his bantamweight belt against a surprisingly-tough Casey Johnson, and Johnson was dangerous enough to put Sterling in some hairy situations (example: a triangle choke that was very reminiscent of Matt Hughes' first tangle with Carlos Newton). And like the stud he is, Sterling battled out of it all, turned the tide, and ended up dominating. So after the dust settled, who did Jeff compare Sterling and his evident talent and ability to? UFC champ Jon Jones, of course. Keep an eye on Sterling, folks. He's going places.

-Sean Santella had zero problems putting Tuan Pham on his back and cinching on the rear naked choke. Flyweight is the perfect weight class for Santella. Absolutely perfect.

-Artur Rofi's aggressive - and seemingly unstoppable - jiu-jitsu game is exactly like that of Nick and Nate Diaz. Case in point: CFFC opponent Evan Chmielski knew what to expect and was exceedingly prepared for Rofi, and when he got the Albanian down he was defending armbars and triangle chokes like his life depended on it. So what did Rofi do? After softening Chmielski up with knees on the feet, Rofi switched from attacking from the bottom to attacking from the top, and really began prying Chmielski's limbs apart. The end came via triangle, and it came after Rofi had damn near torn his opponent's arm off a couple times. I'm not sure when Rofi will be fighting champ Joey Gambino for the belt, but it's got to be soon.

-Ozzy Dugulubgov has got power and a keen ability to unleash it with great fury. He pegged Brian Nielson with a right, dropped him with a stunning high-kick, and unloaded with a storm of punches that had the referring instantly jumping in. Like Rofi, Dugulubgov is a great talent that CFFC has in their stable.

-Mike Medrano made short work of Matt Nice, although he still managed to inexplicably get a bad cut over his eye and wind up bloody. Good to see Medrano get back on track with another win. Also notching another "W" was Brian Kelleher, who kicked a lot of ass last year before falling to two of the best guys in the Northeast. In Raphael Chavez, Kelleher faced a skilled jiu-jitsu guy unafraid to throw down, and the Bombsquad rep simply wore Chavez out - so much so that Chavez had absolutely nothing in his gas tank when Round 2 rolled around.

-Travis Wynn and Anthony Craparo had a hard-fought battle that was a bit closer than the scorecards indicated (Wynn won the unanimous decision). It was really a good showing by both men.

-Shedrick Goodridge weathered Mike Wilcox's wrestling onslaught and put him away with a nice sub. Erik Purcell kept hunting for a single-leg takedown and eventually Dan Holmes put him in a guillotine that ended it all. And Jonavin Webb made Rob Gittens fight his game - a ground war - that had Gittens on the defensive until he tapped out.

Bellator Postscript

As number two MMA organizations go, nothing even comes close to how smooth and professional a Bellator show feels when you're sitting there taking it all in live, and this past Friday's installment at Boardwalk Hall in Atlantic City was no exception. It was like watching a well-oiled machine in motion - albeit, a machine that churns out violence and entertainment. Some thoughts:

-I've been there for almost ever fight in Zach Makovsky's career and I've watched him do some amazing things in the cage, but once the door shut and the ref signaled for him and Eduardo Dantas to go at it... sheesh. Other than his near-flawless takedowns, Makovsky had nothing. The Brazilian's kicks to the body sounded like a baseball bat hitting a brick wall, and whenever it went to the ground Dantas was working him hard. I was shocked when Dantas put Makovsky to sleep, but now that he's done it and secured himself the bantamweight belt, I'm firmly convinced that Dantas is going to remain the champ for a long while.

-Daniel Straus can definitely deliver a beating and Mike Corey can definitely take one. Seriously, I thought Corey's face was going to fall off for all the damage it took.

-How dangerous is Lyman Good when he's "on"? Thirteen-second knockout dangerous. Frighteningly dangerous. "He will be champ again" dangerous.

-Alexis Vila had one good punch in him, and he clearly used it up when he knocked out Joe Warren, because the Cuban had nothing for Luiz Nogueira. Vila was quite simply out of his league and was beaten in all aspects.

-Thank God Marcos Galvao made the decision in his bout against Ed West an easy one. For three rounds he was clearly the better man - beating West at striking and grappling - and when it came down to the judges deciding the winner, I had every confidence that the commission in New Jersey wasn't going to mess it up.

-Kris McCray got the job done, but I feel like he had a harder time than he should have against jiu-jitsu specialist Ailton Barbosa. Granted, Barbosa was dangerous on the ground and was willing to stand and wing punches. However, we've seen McCray perform with confidence and unchecked aggression before, and for some reason Barbosa was able to stifle all that.

-Will Martinez looked to be in trouble against Terrell Hobbs before reversing his fortunes with his sub game, but I had faith. I once saw him fight Al Iaquinta to a draw at a Ring of Combat - the man certainly has skills.

-Duane Bastress just steamrolled over Plinio Cruz. Same with Scott Heckman over Lester Caslow and Kenny Foster over Jay Haas. Now, I don't know about Haas, but I've seen Cruz and Caslow kick ass before, so I guess that means we have to keep our eyes on Bastress and Heckman. They may be the collective real deal.

-Mikhail Malyutin must've really been thrown off when a fight broke out between him and EJ Brooks. Must've really taken him out of his element. Probably wasn't expecting he'd have to actually fight or something...