Friday, December 23, 2011

Taking to the air ... er, cage

It's no secret that mixed martial arts and the military are, in many ways, peas in the same pod. MMA is extremely popular among members of the military and the UFC has a partnership with the U.S. Marines, which is featured prominently during UFC programming.

But other branches of our military want to get in on the MMA scene, including the Air Force. Sgt. David Perez, a cyber airman at Fort Meade in Maryland, wants his base to hold MMA events, according to the article. All military personnel receive some kind of combat training and some even hold competitions similar to that of MMA.

For one, I am a strong supporter of Perez's idea. He's already started his own MMA team at Fort Meade, Team Warfighter Iron MMA, according to the article. It is a great way to train our personnel on hand-to-hand combat, especially in close quarters. I remember an episode of "The Ultimate Fighter" from over a year ago where members of the U.S. Marines received training from UFC fighters. Training our military personnel in new methods of combat that our enemies may not be aware of gives our military a distinct advantage.

Plus, I think it would be pretty bad ass for a Marine to render a member of the Taliban unconscious with a triangle choke. Merry Christmas to you and yours.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Beyond borders

While the sport of mixed martial arts is still very much in its early stages in Maryland, its reach goes well beyond the Mason-Dixon Line and other borders of our state. While fighters from gyms across Maryland compete in MMA bouts both locally, regionally and nationwide, Maryland gyms also expand their reach beyond the borders of even the United States.

One example is Team Lloyd Irvin of Camp Springs. While Lloyd Irvin is probably best known for training fighters like the UFC's Brandon Vera and bantamweight champion Dominick Cruz, the gym also trains international fighters like Frank "The Crank" Camacho.

Camacho plans to compete in Japan in the new year, according to the article above, and also competes in Brazilian jiu-jitsu tournaments here in the U.S. Camacho is a native of the Northern Mariana Islands area, located in the western Pacific. The mere fact that gyms like Team Lloyd Irvin and others can expand all the way to the Pacific region is a testament to the reach MMA in Maryland currently enjoys while still working to grow its own profile. And with that, I wish you and yours a Merry Christmas and Happy New Year.

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Forming an Alliance

It's not uncommon for mixed martial arts fighters to train in different gyms in preparation for a fight. While each fighter has their team or home base, many fighters elect to travel the country or even the globe to train with the very best available so they in turn can put on their best possible performance. Well-known fighters like Georges St. Pierre and Rashad Evans often travel to gyms nationwide and even worldwide to get the best training in several disciplines.

But it's not just professional mixed martial artists who seek out outsiders to train with. Local fighters like those from Practical MMA in Dundalk and Charm City BJJ in Baltimore team up to train and better themselves in anticipation of events such as Shogun Fights in Baltimore.

In addition to helping other fighters, MMA gyms are also active in the local community. Many gyms like Top Flight MMA in Aberdeen help kids address bullying by training them, though the old adage is that if you're a kid and you train in karate or any kind of martial arts, you should never actually use it.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Who's the best?

One of the great things about sports is that it never fails to foster discussion and passionate debate. Perhaps the best topic of discussion is ranking which team is the best in their respective sport. College football does this better than anyone, with its multitude of rankings. But Bleacher Report, a nationwide sports website, recently put out a list of the best mixed martial arts fighters in each state, and in Maryland they decided Mike "The Hulk" Easton was the Free State's best.

Easton appeared to state his case as the best in Maryland in his last fight, which was his UFC debut at a live event in Washington, D.C. last month. Easton knocked out his opponent in the second round, much to the delight of those in attendance, which included his teammates from Team Lloyd Irvin in Camp Springs.

But is Easton, a bantamweight, really the best fighter in all of Maryland? I am in no way disparaging his skills as a fighter. So far he is undefeated and had about as good a UFC debut as a new prospect can hope for. But since MMA has several different weight classes, I've always felt it's somewhat difficult to determine who the best pound-for-pound fighter in the world is. Even though almost everyone agrees that when it comes to the best in the world, UFC Middleweight Champion Anderson Silva and UFC Welterweight Champion Georges St. Pierre are 1-2, respectively.

But when it comes to Maryland, there are so many gyms that produce fighters. From Lloyd Irvin to Evolve Academy in Gaithersburg to Team Ground Control in Baltimore, my home state has no shortage of fighters coming out of the woodwork.

While I have not been to every MMA event in Maryland and have not personally visited every single MMA gym in the state, I have been to a few MMA events in Maryland and I think I have developed at least a slight idea as to the talent level in this state. There are fighters like Easton at Lloyd Irvin and fighters like Dan Root, Ryan Mackin and Dave Daniecki at Team Ground Control. There is also Jacob Kirwan, who fights with Clinch Academy in Frederick and has fought for organizations like Bellator Fighting Championship.

If Easton can build on his momentum of his UFC debut victory, he very well can stake further claim as to being the best fighter in all of Maryland. Much like college football rankings, the debate over who's the best in MMA doesn't appear to be ending anytime soon.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Varied Interests: Secret Service, Politics...and MMA?

This is probably as political a post as I will ever make on here. But I came across this article in The Washington Post about a former Secret Service agent who lives in Severna Park and filed his papers to run against longtime Maryland representative Ben Cardin. Why am I discussing politics on a MMA blog? Simple (from the article):

"Bongino and his wife, Paula, own two small businesses: a mixed martial arts clothing company and a web design consulting firm."

It's really not uncommon for someone who has an interest in MMA to find himself in a position as a Secret Service. I don't know currently if this guy has ever practiced MMA or what the name of his clothing company is. But many MMA fighters have a military background and there are those in the military who decide to join ranks such as the Secret Service. While they look like GQ models in their suits, it's a safe bet Secret Service know how to kill you quickly with their bare hands.

In fact, it's also a safe bet that many agents learn techniques by participating in events such as the Maryland Grappling Championships, which will take place in January in Baltimore.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Top of the Heap

I've written before about how some of mixed martial arts' most well-known names make their home in Maryland. Among the biggest names are Team Lloyd Irvin in Camp Springs and Yamasaki Academy in Rockville. Yamasaki Academy is of course owned by UFC referee Mario Yamasaki, which has produced many fighters who compete in both regional shows and local shows like Shogun Fights.

Team Lloyd Irvin is run by the Master of the same name, Lloyd Irvin, and has produced many fighters who compete locally, regionally and nationwide, with the most well-known fighter currently being UFC Bantamweight Champion Dominick Cruz. Team Lloyd Irvin has produced other UFC competitors, include Brandon Vera and Mike "The Hulk" Easton, who won his UFC debut last month at UFC's first event in Washington, D.C.

But while gyms like Yamasaki Academy and Team Lloyd Irvin are known for producing fighters, its students also competing at numerous tournaments nationally and worldwide. One of those is the Copa Nova Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu Championships, and Yamasaki Academy and Team Lloyd Irvin finished 1-2 in the October 2011 team tournament.

The two gyms won first and second place among a field of 50 competitors, which included squads with such prestigious lineage as Royce Gracie and Pedro Sauer. For two of Maryland's most well-known MMA gyms to be able to emerge on top of such a deep and extremely talented field only speaks to the depth and quality of talent in our state.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Going to the Danger Zone

In addition to being my favorite running joke on one of my favorite shows, fighters from Evolve Academy in Gaithersburg took their own trip to the "Danger Zone" last weekend, when a trio of the gym's fighters competed at an event of the same name in Manassas Park, Va.

The event was spearheaded by UFC legend Dan Severn, which was unbeknown to me that he held mixed martial events, let alone events in my backyard. The fighters from Evolve went 2 out of 3 in their fights, according to the gym's most recent e-newsletter.

Evolve's Albert Benjamin fell to a rear naked choke in the first round of his fight while Tacuma Robinson scored a TKO in a little over a minute in the first round and Greg Lyman scored a TKO in less than a minute in the first round, according to the e-newsletter.

Other members from Evolve were on hand to coach their fellow fighters, including Zach Davis, fresh from his stint on the previous season of "The Ultimate Fighter".

Evolve continues to leave its mark in local MMA, with Albert, Tacuma and Greg's performances coming hot on the heels of teammate Marshall Thompson's first-round submission victory at Shogun Fights V earlier this month.

Monday, October 10, 2011

No Decisions Necessary

This past Saturday marked the fifth Shogun Fights event in Baltimore. I covered the event for U.S. Combat Sports, who I've written for before, and you can find my recap here.

But I wanted to point out some things that didn't make it to the final cut of my review:

- I actually do mention it in my recap, but the crowd appeared smaller than previous crowds I remember seeing at Shogun Fights. Don't get me wrong; there was still a large crowd. But unless First Mariner Arena blocked some sections, there just didn't seem to be as many people there. But in a way it made the event seem more intimate - or at least as intimate as a mixed martial arts event can be.

- Ground Control Baltimore wasn't as well represented at this event. Mainstays like Dave Daniecki and Ryan McGowan competed on the card, but at past events the gym is usually represented by multiple fighters. Binky Jones, a Ground Control fighter and an extremely popular local fighter, didn't compete Saturday night but was in attendance. I learned from my contemporary of all things MMA in Maryland, Kevin Richardson at The Baltimore Sun, that Binky recently competed on a Bellator Fighting Championship card.

- Only one of the 10 fights Saturday night went to a decision (I'll let you read my recap to find out which one). That made the night easier for me personally, since the card seemed to go by a little quicker with only one fight going the whole 15 minutes. The event offered seating for media members as well, which was a welcome sight and spared my feet.

- Despite the smaller crowd, the enthusiasm was every bit as prevalent as previous Shogun Fights events. There is definitely no lack of enthusiasm for MMA in Maryland. Joe Rogan, the color commentator for UFC, gave a radio interview a couple weeks before Shogun Fights and was asked specifically about Shogun Fights and John Rallo (the founder of Shogun Fights and co-owner of Ground Control Baltimore). Rogan mentioned how shows like Shogun Fights can serve as a great feeder system for UFC. Hopefully in the future when I watch UFC I will see some guys who got their start at Shogun Fights. And hopefully Dana White himself can make it to Baltimore one of these days and see some hopeful future stars.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Fighting for a cause

Most, if not all, mixed martial arts events aren't held to benefit any particular cause or charity. While we're used to seeing charity basketball games, softball games and hockey games, charity MMA events seem to be a rarity so far. If it's not about fighting for titles, it's really just about who's the better man.

But that changed not too long ago in Baltimore, when area police officers and firefighters competed against each other Sept. 30 at an Xtreme Cage Wars event. A local Patch reporter covered the event and profiled a Baltimore County police officer who competed in the cage but unfortunately came up short.

At least that officer actually received an opportunity to compete. I came across an article in The Baltimore Sun that highlights a 65-year-old officer, Regis Flynn, who was scheduled to fight at the event but was pulled at the last minute. According to the article Flynn passed all the necessary physicals and tests to compete but appeared to be the victim of a last-minute rule change that prohibited him from taking part.

I understand the concern for the well-being of a 65-year-old man, who is obviously no spring chicken. But if he is in good physical health and passes all the necessary health tests to compete in rigorous physical activity, why the last-minute rule change that just smells of some kind of shady activity? If the governing body was worried about any liability concerns, they could have just had Flynn sign a waiver absolving the governing body from any legal action should anything happen to him in the cage.

Age discrimination has no place in MMA. It's a terrible cliché when used in other areas of life, but age is really just a number in MMA. It doesn't matter how old you are. It's about your level of commitment and the respect you have for the sport and your willingness to put in the time and effort to excel at it. By all accounts Flynn displayed unbelievable commitment, a tremendous amount of respect and an amazing amount of willingness to compete at the highest level.

It's unfortunate that an apparent case of political correctness or overblown concerns prevents a man from doing something he truly loves. It's even more unfortunate that it prevents him from helping his fellow brothers in law enforcement.

But speaking of Baltimore, Shogun Fights V is this Saturday at First Mariner Arena. I will be covering the event once again for U.S. Combat Sports, a website I have written for previously. I will also post my own preview of the event in the next day or so.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Making a pass

One of the best things about mixed martial arts is that the sport itself is constantly evolving. There is almost always something new you can learn if you train in the sport. Complacency should be and probably is a foreign language to those training in MMA.

A particular form of MMA that requires a great deal of teaching and thinking is Brazilian jiu-jitsu. Danny Ives of Ivey League MMA in Annapolis, an affiliate of Team Lloyd Irvin in Camp Springs, held a seminar earlier this month at a MMA school in Pennsylvania.

Ives used the seminar to teach a type of guard pass in BJJ, one of what I'm sure is hundreds, if not thousands, of those types of moves in BJJ. Many people refer to BJJ as a game of human chess, which I think is pretty apropos. You have to constantly guess what your opponent is going to do then figure out how to counteract it before they actually do it.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Representing the DMV

Normally I loathe nicknames that describe certain regions of the country, i.e. the "DMV", which refers to D.C., Maryland and Virginia. But local events featuring Maryland fighters is not limited solely to UFC's upcoming live event on Oct. 1 in D.C. and Shogun Fights V in Baltimore on Oct. 8. Other events, both locally and nationally, feature fighters who train and compete here in the Free State.

The first event was Stellar Fights V in Delaware, which took place earlier this month and featured several fighters from Practical MMA in Dundalk. A pair of fighters in particular managed to land "Knockout of the Night" and "Submission of the Night" honors at the event and the card also featured fighters from Method MMA in Forest Hill, according to the link posted above. Judging by the posted photos that accompany the article, those fighters brought their A-game and weren't kidding around.

Another event that takes this weekend is Bellator Fighting Championships, a distant third competitor to the UFC and Strikeforce. Brian Van Hoven, a Virginia fighter who has competed at previous Maryland events is scheduled to compete in Bellator's tournament format in the lightweight division. I saw Van Hoven compete at an event in Pikesville last year and while I can't remember off the top of my head if he won or lost his bout, I do remember coming away impressed with his effort and that he made quite an impression on my friend who accompanied me to the event. The first link I posted at the onset of this paragraph notes that Van Hoven is a member of the U.S. Marines and based on my very basic familiarity with the Marines, the word "quit" is nowhere near their dictionary.

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Upcoming attractions

With the calendar turning to September and events such as football beginning to take full swing, the schedule is also becoming more packed in mixed martial arts, both on the national and local level.

The UFC has put all their chips in the center of the table for its network television debut Nov. 12 with having a UFC Heavyweight Title fight between Cain Velasquez and Junior Dos Santos. The UFC is also getting ready for its debut in Washington, D.C. next month, right next door to Maryland.

Shogun Fights, the premier MMA organization in Maryland is also getting ready for its fifth card Oct. 8 in Baltimore. Several of the usual suspects who have competed on previous cards will also be featured at this event, including names such as including Dave Daniecki, Ryan Mackin, Binky Jones and Ryan McGowan, who all train out of Team Ground Control in Baltimore.

Another Team Ground Control member who will compete at Shogun Fights V is Dan Root, who won his first Shogun Fights in impressive fashion with a first-round submission. Word of Root's appearance has already gotten around.

Other Maryland fighters will compete at Shogun Fights V, including Jason "J-Mo" Morris from Evolve Academy in Gaithersburg and Cole Presley from Clinch Academy in Frederick.

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Preparing for his moment

Not too long ago I wrote about Mike Easton, a local fighter who trains with Team Lloyd Irvin in Camp Springs and who is making his UFC debut Oct. 1 at the organization's first even at Verizon Center in Washington, D.C. Word of Mike's appearance is spreading, due to the fact he recently gave an interview to The Washington Times.

In the interview Mike talks about his background growing up in Southeast D.C. and how he has trained with current UFC Bantamweight Champion Dominick Cruz, complete with a photo of the two sparring. Easton and Cruz will compete on the same card Oct. 1, as Cruz is set to defend his belt against Demetrious Johnson in the main event while Easton will square off against Jeff Hougland.

In the interview mentions how he first beat death when he was first born, weighing at a paltry 2 pounds, 3 ounces and surviving. He also mentions breaking his elbow while fighting, which while it's something I have not experienced personally, I can't imagine feels very pleasant.

I was able to secure tickets to the UFC event in D.C., so I'm very excited to see my first UFC event in person. I will post a brief recap following the event, which while it's not a Maryland event, I feel an exception can be made for the biggest MMA organization in the world.

Also, be safe this weekend with the hurricane.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

A man of many talents

When I was a fan of pro wrestling, I had read interviews with several wrestlers who said it was highly recommended that people looking to break into the industry get their college degree first, since the probability of success in pro wrestling was so low that you needed to have something to fall back on.

In that regard I feel like pro wrestling and mixed martial arts have something in common. While the big stars like Georges St. Pierre, Brock Lesnar and Anderson Silva make a comfortable amount of money each fight (and through endorsements) to where a second career is not needed, most fighters are lucky to make a few hundred bucks each fight and as such, many hold second jobs in addition to their MMA career.

That thought process entered my mind after I read this article by one of my former co-workers about Kyle Sefcik, a local fighter who just a signed a three-fight contract and is expected to make his professional MMA debut soon.

The article also mentions that Sefcik is head director at Frederick Fight Club and is pursuing many different endeavors, from self-defense instructor to personal trainer to club DJ. The article makes it appear as if there is rarely any down time for Sefcik, which I think is how most MMA fighters like it. While a break from the grind is necessary to avoid injury and burnout, MMA is a sport that requires and creates such a passion and commitment in fighters that many times, they can't see themselves doing anything else.

Though for people like Sefcik, it appears as if the more things you do with yourself, the better. At least things should never get boring.

Monday, August 8, 2011

Making the big time

Apologies for taking so much time between posts. I became pretty sick after my last post and then enjoyed a very relaxing vacation to Florida. Unfortunately, once I returned this weekend, I woke up Sunday morning and my previous illness had returned. So it's been an eventful few weeks for me.

But I finally am able to make a new post and share some information about another local mixed martial arts fighter who is getting an opportunity to compete at the highest level in the UFC. Mike "The Hulk" Easton, a member of Team Lloyd Irvin in Camp Springs, was recently signed by the UFC and the gym shared the news through a YouTube video.

Easton mentions in the video that he wants to compete with everyone in the 135-pound division, which lends one to believe he is a bantamweight and it would actually put him in the same division as UFC Bantamweight Champion Dominick Cruz, who has also trained with Lloyd Irvin in the past, including for his most recent victory at UFC 132 over Urijah Faber.

Irvin mentions in the video above that Easton will make his UFC debut when it holds its first show in Washington, D.C. Oct. 1 at the Verizon Center. Coincidentally, Cruz will defend his title on the same show against Demetrious Johnson.

Easton is just another example of the homegrown MMA talent in Maryland that is getting their chance to shine in the UFC. From Brandon Vera to Christian Morecraft to Zach Davis and others, Maryland continues to carve out its niche in the MMA world and the UFC holding an event (with a title fight no less) in its backyard, in our nation's capital, is just another step toward Maryland establishing itself as a player in the MMA world.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Making his mark

One of the good things about the continued rise of mixed martial arts in Maryland is the increased awareness of the talent that's present here in the state. While better-known MMA camps nationwide like Greg Jackson in New Mexico or American Kickboxing Academy in California churn out some of the best the sport has ever seen, Maryland is coming into its own as a breeding ground for exciting young fighters eager to make their mark in the sport.

One of those guys is Jacob Kirwan, who trains out of Clinch Academy in Frederick. I have seen Jacob compete at previous events and if memory serves, he has great stand-up and is always eager to finish fights. Jacob was recently profiled in the local Frederick newspaper (catchy headline by the way; I wish I was that creative) and it's interesting to read in the article that he actually went to Jackson's camp in New Mexico and trained with some of the most exciting fighters out there, including Melvin Guillard, Donald Cerrone and Leonard Garcia from the UFC.

It was also interesting to read that if he wins his next fight he could receive a call-up to UFC, which would be great not only for himself but for MMA in Maryland overall. While trainers like Lloyd Irvin, who has worked with fighters like UFC Bantamweight Champion Dominick Cruz and former UFC fighter Brandon Vera, base their operations in Maryland, the state appears to still be somewhat of a mystery in terms of its visibility in turning out competitive fighters. But hopefully through the efforts of people like Irvin and Jacob, that perception will soon change.

Jacob's fight that might land him in the UFC is actually schedule to take place tonight in Pennsylvania, with more information available here and here.

I will be sure to follow-up on the event and find out how Jacob fared, and in the meantime you can follow his blog here.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Shedding those pounds for summer

We're in the midst of beach season so it's a safe bet that many people (myself included) have been working out as much as possible in order to not horrify the masses when they take their shirt off once they step on the sand.

There are many forms of exercise, obviously. Some focus purely on cardio. Some focus entirely on lifting weights and building muscle. Some do a mix of both, while others focus are more unconventional methods of working out. Zumba is a craze that has overtaken the country recently. Basically you move or dance nonstop for an hour to loud Latin music while being directed by someone wearing a giant headset with a microphone that makes it look like they have a giant black mole growing out of their cheek.

But as I have pointed out in the past, mixed martial arts is also becoming a popular form of exercise as well. Those who read these blog regularly know that I have dabbled in such endeavors previously at Evolve Academy in Gaithersburg. And I am hopeful to return to it before too long. But Evolve is not alone in offering MMA as a form of exercise for those who want to get in shape but find walking on a treadmill or lifting 10-pound dumbbells as exciting as public television on a Saturday afternoon (seriously, watch it sometime. It's mind-numbingly boring).

Ground Control Baltimore is another gym that offers MMA to the masses as a way to work out, joining other gyms like Shaddock MMA in Eldersburg. Ground Control's efforts drew the attention of The Baltimore Sun, which wrote an article on the gym offering MMA training for fitness purposes.

People who go to Ground Control to train MMA but don't want to become fighters themselves still have the opportunity to train with local fighters, including Ryan Mackin, who has competed at the bi-annual Shogun Fights in Baltimore.

So if your annual trip to the beach is coming up and you still have that spare tire that you didn't realize you were cultivating while sitting at your desk eating donuts (which I have been known to do on occasion, so I am not criticizing), and you don't want to share space with meatheads who could probably create a mosaic on their backs due to the startling amount of bacne-inducing steroids they probably inject daily, MMA may be the ticket. It's a terrible cliché, but it's a hell of a workout.

Monday, July 4, 2011

To be the best, learn from the best

The first family of mixed martial arts seems to enjoy coming to Maryland. Members of the Gracie family have met with students from multiple gyms in Maryland over the last year or so and recently made yet another stop in our state.

Royler Gracie met with students from Garfield BJJ in Arnold and held a self-defense seminar. A full recap of the seminar can be found here.

At least one other member of the Gracie family, Ryron, has visited Maryland gyms before. If a Mount Rushmore of MMA was made, the Gracies would adorn every spot. But it remains to be seen if a mountain range in America could accommodate all the different members of the family. Maybe the Rocky Mountains or the Appalachians.

Monday, June 27, 2011

You see them on the street, but....

One of the more interesting things of my immersion into mixed martial arts is finding out how deep the Maryland MMA scene is connected to the national stage in organizations like the UFC. It's also interesting to find out that there may be more to the people you see in the office every day than meets the eye, to borrow a terrible cliché from Transformers.

Apparently UFC heavyweight Christian Morecraft is a native of Prince George's County. The story doesn't say where in PG Morecraft hails from and I distinctly remember watching a replay of his fight against Stefan Struve and hearing him described as a native of the New England MMA scene. However, fighters often travel to areas outside of their hometown in order to train and join a camp.

Unfortunately, Morecraft found himself on the wrong end of a wicked knockout from Matt Mitrione (the weird guy from Season 10 of "The Ultimate Fighter" who claimed to hear voices) last night at the "UFC Live" event in Pittsburgh. If it wasn't for Cheick Kongo's insane comeback and knockout of Pat Barry last night, Morecraft would have been involved in the "Knockout of the Night" for all the wrong reasons.

But while Morecraft is still finding his way, Mike Young, a junior league wrestling coach from Dundalk, won his second MMA fight earlier this month in Delaware. The MMA world is rife with fighters with unique day jobs, mostly famously Rich Franklin in the UFC, whose story of being a math teacher before becoming one of the more prominent fighters in recent UFC history is well-known.

There's a feeling throughout society that people you pass just walking down the street may have an amazing, interesting (or sinister) story that you would have no idea about just by looking at them. In the case of Young and Rich Franklin, the teachers and coaches who look after your kid at school may enjoy beating up guys on the weekends. You just don't know.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

A triumphant return

It's been almost a month since my last post, but quitting one job and starting another will do that. It's been a whirlwind the last 3-4 weeks, but at least now I've built a bank of things to write about.

I figured there was no better way to do that than to highlight some posts from my contemporary in all things mixed martial arts, Kevin Richardson at The Baltimore Sun. Kevin wrote on his MMA blog recently that the UFC came to Maryland recently for I believe the first time with its "Octagon Nation Tour". Kevin's posts previewing the event can be found here and here.

The tour stopped at Dick's Sporting Goods in Columbia, according to Kevin's blog. UFC fans had the chance to meet local hero Zach Davis from Evolve Academy in Gaithersburg (for those living under a rock, Zach was a competitor on the most recent season of "The Ultimate Fighter") as well as Mackens Semerzier.

One can only hope that the tour stop that featured fan exhibitions (including a video game station, who doesn't love those?) will lead to an eventual UFC card making its way to our fair state. I'm confident a large contingent of fans showed up at the event and let the UFC now that it's about time they brought a show here. UFC events in nearby Virginia and Pennsylvania have done well. It's time for the UFC to make its mark here.

Monday, May 30, 2011

A valiant effort

Unfortunately the ride for Maryland's current favorite son in mixed martial arts has come to an end.

Much has been made in the local media about Zach Davis from Evolve Academy's ascent on this season of "The Ultimate Fighter", where he scored a first-round submission victory over Chuck O' Neil in the preliminary round. Zach has made the rounds on local TV and newspapers since it was announced he would be part of the show, including on local TV stations like Comcast SportsNet, WUSA-9 and newspapers like The Washington Post.

Unfortunately for Zach, O' Neil was given a chance at redemption when the two met in a rematch in the quarterfinal round. Zach didn't have a chance to apply the same magic he did in the preliminary round, as a seemingly reinvigorated O' Neil was tenacious and set the tone from the beginning, not giving Zach time to breathe as he secured a unanimous decision victory.

News of Zach's defeat spread locally and he was understandably upset after his loss, but that shouldn't diminish the significance of what Zach accomplished. It didn't seem that he was pegged as one of the early favorites, while some who were found themselves on the losing end early. For Zach to overcome a debilitating eye injury to boot only magnifies the strides he's made in his MMA career.

Even when fighters lose prior to the final rounds on "The Ultimate Fighter", the UFC will still occasionally give those fighters an opportunity and I hope Zach gets his. He's shown the kind of guts and determination to work his ass off that guys like Dana White love to see.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Locals recapping locals

Unfortunately I was not able to make it to the latest installment of Shogun Fights last month, as I instead elected to introduce my friend Sandi to the world of mixed martial arts by taking her to a local Buffalo Wild Wings to watch UFC 129, where we saw Randy Couture end his career on a less-than-stellar note and watched Georges St. Pierre dominate Jake Shields, even though GSP couldn't see out of his eye for the latter part of the fight.

But I have since heard that the latest Shogun Fights was yet another rousing success and I came across an excellent recap here, through a local Baltimore sports website. Having read over the recap, a few things stick out:

- Ryan McGowan received his first taste of defeat. I've seen McGowan compete at previous Shogun Fights and in addition to being a very large man, he has devastating power in his punches but unfortunately did not seem to have the opportunity to display them in his latest fight. The ref stopped the fight in the second round after McGowan did not answer back from his opponent's strikes. I'm sure McGowan will learn from this experience and will come to the next Shogun Fights hungry for redemption.

- Local MMA hero Binky Jones finally ended his run of bad luck at Shogun Fights with a win. The first time I saw Binky compete at Shogun Fights, he was submitted quickly in the first round. His next run didn't go much better as the ref stopped the fight due to an injury by Binky, though he felt he could continue. Binky has always been a fan favorite at Shogun Fights and probably received quite a high from emerging victorious in front of his hometown crowd.

- Team Ground Control, the Baltimore gym that always has several of its fighters compete at Shogun Fights, once again ruled the evening. Although McGowan lost for the first time, other Ground Control fighters like Jones, Dave Daniecki and Ryan were all victorious. The gym's head trainer, John Rallo, is also the founder of Shogun Fights and the passion he has for MMA is showcased through his fighters. They always seem to bring their best to every fight, especially in Charm City.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

A good first impression

Much has been made about local mixed martial arts fighter Zach Davis from Evolve Academy in Gaithersburg being a competitor on this season of "The Ultimate Fighter". When news broke that Zach would be a part of this season's cast, he seemed to conduct interview after interview with local news outlets, which I'm sure brought him more attention than he expected.

But if Zach was feeling any pressure as he prepared for his first fight on the show, he sure didn't show it once he stepped into the cage. He made relatively easy work of Chuck O' Neill, a game fighter who competed for Team Lesnar, with a first round submission victory via triangle choke.

Tonight we will learn Zach's fate for this season's quarterfinal round. But while it still remains to be seen whether Zach will be a part of the UFC or not, two of his Evolve Academy teammates are experienced success of their own.

Jason Morris and Marshall Thompson both won their respective fights at Shogun Fights IV, which was held late last month in Baltimore. Jason won his fight via first-round submission while Thompson secured a unanimous decision victory. Although I did not attend the event, I will post a more comprehensive recap of the show in the coming days. I have done a little training with Jason previously and the fact he won in the first round is not surprising at all.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Learning from the best

Anytime you can learn technique from the master, or anyone affiliated with the master, it's a huge plus.

Students at Garfield BJJ in Arnold got to do just that recently when they received instruction from Ryron Gracie, a member of the legendary Gracie family that is known by all those involved in mixed martial arts as the originators of the sport.

A video was recently shared by the gym in a recent e-mail blast. In the video Gracie offers tips on how to attack from behind an opponent, going beyond the usual approach of trying to lock in a rear-naked choke or trying some ground and pound. One of the great things about Brazilian jiu-jitsu is that offers so many different opportunities to take advantage of your opponent from virtually anywhere.

Other members of the Gracie family have been guest instructors at other Maryland MMA gyms, which can only help the sport's growth here in the state to receive assistance from the First Family of MMA.

Friday, April 15, 2011

Need a sponsor?

If you're looking for a sponsor, FightCo Mixed Martial Arts of New Jersey might be a good place. They've already chosen a pair of fights to sponsor who have proven to put on exciting fights.

The group has chosen two fighters to sponsor at Shogun Fights 4 on April 30 at First Mariner Arena in Baltimore.

FightCo is sponsoring Dave Daniecki and Dan Root at the event, two Shogun Fights veterans who have brought fans to their feet at previous shows. I remember Daniecki most for his three-round war with Germyale Adkins from Shogun Fights 2. Both guys just went at it full-tilt and though Daniecki lost a decision some saw as controversial, but there was no doubt that Daniecki went all-out. He saw redemption at Shogun Fights 3, where he dominated Elder Ramos for an unanimous decision victory.

Root was also impressive at Shogun Fights 3, winning his fight in the first round with an arm triangle. Submission victories were abundant at the third Shogun Fights card, but I felt Root's in particular stood out and gave him the Submission of the Night award.

I'm not sure if I will be able to make Shogun Fights 4 at the end of this month, unfortunately. It falls on the same night as UFC 129, where the main event is Georges St. Pierre vs. Jake Shields for the UFC welterweight title. While I love checking out local MMA events, I don't feel I can pass up watching GSP and Shields duke it out to see who is the best at 170 pounds. But I will give Shogun Fights 4 the respect it deserves and as much coverage as I can leading up to and after the event.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

A local celebrity

While they may not throw any ticker-tape parades for him, Zach Davis' profile is continuing to rise in the local mixed martial arts scene.

While he is already being known on a national scale by appearing on this season of "The Ultimate Fighter", Davis is also appearing on the local news to share his story of perseverance.

A little-known fact is divulged in the story that Davis was an alternate on the 2007 season of TUF. The story also chronicles Davis' battle with a torn retina in his eye, an injury that would put most athletes on the shelf permanently.

I mentioned in my last post that Davis competed at the last Shogun Fights event in Baltimore. One wonders if Davis will make an appearance at this month's event that will take place April 30.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

The Main Event

Maryland is continuing its push into the forefront of mixed martial arts on the national stage. Previously, I had written about a fighter from Evolve Academy making the cut for the latest season of "The Ultimate Fighter". Now, another Maryland MMA gym is muscling its way into the spotlight.

Team Lloyd Irvin of Camp Springs, which is known for churning out talent that has competed in the UFC and other organizations, has one of its fighters in one of its highest profile-bouts to date. "Mr. Wonderful" Phil Davis - who trains at the gym, according to a recent Lloyd Irvin e-newsletter - is in the main event tonight on "UFC Fight Night", facing Antonio Rogerio Nogueira, better known as the twin brother of Antonio Rodrigo "Minotauro" Nogueira.

Many are starting to compare Davis to Jon "Bones" Jones, who, if you saw UFC 128 last weekend like I did, absolutely DESTROYED Mauricio "Shogun" Rua and won the UFC Light Heavyweight Title, all at the tender age of 23. It's definitely too early to tell if Davis is another Jones in the making. Jones appears to be a once-in-a-lifetime phenom who has completely dominated his division so far. It remains to be seen if Davis can measure up and overcome the same type of competition Jones has, and tonight's fight against "Lil' Nog" will be a good place to start.

But speaking of big events, Shogun Fights 4 is scheduled to take place next month in Baltimore. The card for the event is still taking shape, but looking at some of the planned bouts already listed on the site, it looks like another entertaining show is on the horizon.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Getting the word out

It's always encouraging for me when I see mainstream news outlets cover mixed martial arts. While the sport is covered extensively throughout the sports media world and particularly the MMA world, reading about it in a mainstream outlet where you're not used to reading something like that is always gratifying.

So it was much to my pleasure when I saw that the Carroll County Times wrote a feature article about Shaddock MMA in Eldersburg. The article says it's in Sykesville, which is right next door to Eldersburg, but I have spoken to owner John Shaddock and was told it is in fact in Eldersburg. So I take the man at his word.

It was interesting to find out that UFC welterweight Kamal Shalorus helps to train people at Shaddock MMA. There are a few UFC fighters who train at gyms in Maryland but it would be interesting to find out how exactly Shalorus found his way to the tranquility of Carroll County. Shalorus will be a part of UFC's next pay-per-view on Saturday as he takes on Jim Miller.

The article also mentions that Shaddock has an extensive background in boxing and even quotes him as saying boxing is too controlled by promoters, which I agree with wholeheartedly. Boxing is rampant with corruption and an oversaturation of weight divisions, which in turn dilutes the product. The fact Floyd Mayweather is being allowed to duck Manny Pacquiao, when it's the only boxing match that myself and other people would be bothered to watch, shows how much of a joke boxing has become.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Local boy makes good

I'm finally able to write again after first dealing with a back issue and then being as sick to my stomach as I've ever been in my life. This past Sunday was not a good day to be me.

But while I've been less than stellar, Evolve Academy in Gaithersburg is riding high by virtue of having one its fighters, Zach Davis, on the new season of "The Ultimate Fighter". Davis will be one of 14 welterweights who will be coached by UFC heavyweights Brock Lesnar and Junior Dos Santos.

I saw Zach fight at the last Shogun Fights show in November and I remember him being very impressive in victory. Like all fighters who compete on the show, he is contractually bound to not speak about what went on during the show's filming while the show is being aired on TV. I myself would probably not be able to keep myself from spilling the beans. But if I was faced with a multi-million dollar lawsuit if I did, I would probably shut the hell up pretty quick.

Learning that a local fighter will be on "The Ultimate Fighter" gives me an extra incentive to watch this season. While I always enjoy watching new fighters scrap and fight for their chance to do something special, watching someone local is always exciting.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

GSP must protect this house

While several well-known mixed martial artists like Mike Brown, Donald "Cowboy" Cerrone and Leonard Garcia have previously found their way to Maryland, my contemporary in all things Maryland MMA, Kevin Richardson from The Baltimore Sun, probably landed his biggest interview to date when he was able to talk to UFC Welterweight Champion Georges St. Pierre while GSP was visiting the headquarters of Under Armour in Baltimore (Yeah, betcha didn't know it was headquartered here did you?).

GSP starts by talking about the increasing possibility that he will fight UFC Middleweight Champion Anderson Silva, which would more or less be the "superfight" to end all superfights in MMA from my perspective. While I'm sure most MMA fans believe that a superfight should somehow involve Fedor Emelianenko, I personally think Fedor's best days are behind him as evidenced by his back-to-back losses. GSP/Silva is where it's at.

GSP also raises a very interesting point during his interview, in that he would have to move up in weight to fight Silva and noted that it is actually more simple for a lighter-weight fighter to gain weight for a fight than it is for a heavier fighter to lose weight. I can identify with that sentiment, albeit on a significantly smaller scale. I've been trying to lose weight for some time but appear to be stuck in the 190-195 pound range, which is roughly where GSP said he walks around at before his fights when he has to cut down to 170 pounds. Losing weight definitely sucks.

GSP and Kevin also have a very interesting discussion about the different countries where MMA is readily present, like Brazil and Russia. GSP basically concludes that it is difficult to determine the best pure fighter in the world, since each country has its own style that's popular.

Suffice to say I'm extremely jealous that Kevin got to interview GSP. I'm hopeful for the day where I will be able to nail a landmark interview of my own.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Youth is Served, Part II

I made an entry a couple weeks ago about a pair of brothers training in MMA. While I wish I could take credit for the pair's sudden ascendancy in local MMA, that would probably be more than a little disingenuous.

However, there is no debate that Cal and Chase Wilson are getting more notoriety, at least on a local level. The local FOX station recently did a feature on the brothers, and in the process enlightened me to something I didn't previously know.

Cal, the older of the brothers, prefers the stand-up, Muay Thai aspect of MMA while Chase, the younger, has taken a liking to the ground game and Brazilian jiu-jitsu. The pair's Dad is also a part of Evolve Academy in Gaithersburg, where they train, and I'm sure having two sons who partake in two different aspects of MMA keeps ol' Dad on his feet.

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Molto Mario

I'm willing to bet most people don't know that one of the more recognizable faces in mixed martial arts spends a lot of his time here in Maryland.

Mario Yamasaki, one of the top and most respected referees in the UFC along with the likes of Herb Dean, runs the Yamasaki Academy in Rockville. My fellow MMA blogger Kevin Richardson from The Baltimore Sun had the opportunity recently to interview Mario for his blog on the Sun's website.

Mario touches on how he got his start working for the UFC, noting that he started before the sport really took off here in America and he played a role in the UFC establishing a presence in Brazil. At the end of the interview Mario shares a new workout technique at his gym that looks to be a sick way to work your abs.

Mario will also be the referee of tonight's Middleweight Championship fight at UFC 126 between Anderson Silva and Vitor Belfort. You want to know more? Well, watch the video. What are you waiting for?

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Youth is Served

I've often mentioned on this blog that I wished I had received an early start to better prepare myself to pursue mixed martial arts, whether it would have been taking martial arts classes as a kid or maybe deciding to wrestle in high school. I probably could have taken on a more assertive stance on the latter.

(I have been told by good friends that I could still pursue training now and I don't disagree. Unfortunately, less desirable personality traits that I possess make it difficult to overcome insecurity about being a possible somewhat older novice training with a younger professional.)

If I had done that, maybe I could have been like these two kids. They practice at Evolve Academy in Gaithersburg, not Frederick like that article states. The two kids have already competed overseas in various kickboxing/martial arts tournaments, which I'm sure was a mind-blowing experience for someone so young.

Another article about the kids can be found here. As the video in that article shows, the kids are in good hands at Evolve. Speaking from personal experience, the gym provides top-notch training and guidance, even for a blatant novice like me.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Down at the copa, the Copa Nova

It doesn't quite do justice to Barry Manilow, but you get the idea.

Sadly there is no Cuban theme to this post. But there is a Brazilian theme, specifically in jiu-jitsu. The Copa NOVA BJJ Winter 2011 Championships were recently held in Ashburn, Virginia and Maryland was well represented to its neighbor to the south.

Yamasaki Academy of Rockville took first place overall at the event, followed closely by Team Lloyd Irvin of Camp Springs. Other Maryland gyms finished among the top 28, including Evolve Academy of Gaithersburg and Ground Control Baltimore.

Speaking of Maryland and Virginia, Maryland MMA fighter Jon Delbrugge won several gold medals at the Maryland Grappling Championships. Delbrugge, who I believe fights with Lloyd Irvin, was part of the marathon MMA event I attended in Manassas, Virginia last month. Delbrugge was one of several first-round knockouts at that event and if I remember correctly, his knockout resulted in his opponent being taken out on a stretcher. But winning several gold medals at a grappling competition proves he is more than just a stand-up trader of punches.

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Tournament time

It's playoff time in the NFL, when the league starts its own single-elimination tournament to determine who makes it to the Super Bowl this year. Last year's Super Bowl participants, the Saints and Colts, each lost in the first playoff games yesterday, so we will see a brand-new Super Bowl match-up this year.

But mixed martial arts schools in Maryland are also participating in their own tournaments during these long winter months. Evolve Academy in Gaithersburg were expected to have several of its students compete in the Copa NOVA Winter Grappling Championships this weekend in Ashburn, Virginia, according to Evolve's latest e-newsletter..

The event looked to have numerous division competitions in the No-Gi and Brazilian jiu-jitsu disciplines, which almost always begs the question to me of how it can all be tracked in a single event in a single day. If this wasn't an all-day event that started early and ended late, I would be surprised. One would think that they probably had multiple competitions going at one time; which seems to be a common occurrence at events like these.

Evolve students are also expected to compete in the WKA North American Combat Sports Championships next month in Hampton, Virginia, the gym previously announced. That event appears to have something for everyone, from Muay Thai to MMA to kickboxing to Brazilian jiu-jitsu.

Even as winter continues to grip the area, hibernation seems to be a dirty word to the state's MMA gyms.