Saturday, June 21, 2014

A 10 across the board

Shogun Fights X at the Baltimore Arena tonight may have looked like a usual, run-of-the-mill event on the surface, if such a thing exists. But the crowd in attendance and the fighters competing on the card had other ideas for the show’s 10th incarnation. From beginning to end, a lively crowd energized the intimate confines of the arena and the fighters left nothing to chance, putting their best foot forward to deliver performances that didn’t disappoint.

Fight 1: Albert Benjamin vs. Greg Saumenig (Flyweight – 125 lbs.)

Saumenig started the bout against Evolve Academy’s Benjamin on the offensive, landing a big takedown early and positioning himself for some ground and pound. He transitioned to Benjamin’s back and attempted a rear-naked choke, before Benjamin managed to escape, switch position so he could take Saumenig’s and deliver a rear-naked choke of his own for a submission victory with just over a minute left in the first round.

Winner: Albert Benjamin (submission by rear-naked choke, 3:57 of Round 1)

Fight 2: Charles Gamble vs. Najim Wali (Light heavyweight – 205 lbs.)

The action began a little slow as the two fighters felt each other out before tying up against the cage and jockeying for position. Wali unleashed a spinning back elbow and peppered Gamble with punches, and though Gamble took him down to the mat, Wali pulled guard and used wrist control to prevent Gamble from inflicting any real damage as the first round came to a close.

Round 2 saw the fight return to the ground, where Gamble attempts a rear-naked choke before Wali reverses position and rains down punches on Gamble. The referee awarded Wali a TKO victory as well as his first victory in Shogun Fights.

Winner: Najim Wali (TKO – punches, 1:06 of Round 2)

Fight 3: Brent Hess vs. Myron Baker (Featherweight – 145 lbs.)

This was the first fight of the evening to solicit dueling chants and strong feelings from the crowd, as the fanbase of both fighters were well-represented. Hess was the aggressor at the onset, wasting little time in attempting a standing guillotine choke on Baker. Hess also quickly escaped a takedown attempt by Baker and the two traded punches through the end of the first round.

Hess kept his foot on the gas in Round 2, knocking Baker to the mat with a hard right hand and immediately pouncing on his fallen opponent, taking Baker’s back and locking in a rear-naked choke for a submission victory.

Winner: Brent Hess (submission by rear-naked choke, 2:51 of Round 2)

Fight 4: Stephen Speck vs. Timothy Wade (Catchweight – 150 lbs.)

Speck was a schoolteacher making his mixed martial arts debut, not unlike the UFC’s Rich Franklin at one time. Unfortunately, the fight didn't go as I'm sure he planned.

It took Wade one minute and one second to lock in a submission rarely seen in MMA – an arm triangle choke with Wade lying on his back and Speck on top of him. Wade said after the fight he saw Speck’s arm left available, “so I thought I’d try it … I was not going to let go.”

Winner: Timothy Wade (submission by arm triangle choke, 1:01 of Round 1)

Fight 5: Steve Moleski vs. Micah Terrill (Welterweight – 170 lbs.)

Terrill put on a brief striking clinic against the more-proficient-on-the-ground Moleski, nailing him with a stiff jab and following that up with additional strikes that rocked Moleski. It didn’t take long for the strikes to have their intended effect – awarding Terrill a first-round TKO victory.

Winner: Micah Terrill (TKO – punches, 2:31 of Round 1)

Fight 6: Binky Jones vs. Noe Quintanilla (Featherweight – 145 lbs.)

Jones received a loud and raucous welcome by his hometown crowd as he made his way to the cage. Jones had his right hand cocked and loaded, doing his best Dan Henderson impression. He swung it early and often against Quintanilla, even as he gained top position on the mat and hammered Quintanilla with punches and elbows to close out the round.

Jones was still looking for the big knockout blow in Round 2, and he finally picked his shot. A thunderous overhand right knocked Quintanilla to the mat and enabled Jones to finish him off for a TKO victory. However, Jones’ thunderous overhand right was easily shadowed by the ovation of the Baltimore crowd, which simply just exploded as the finish occurred and the winner announced.

Winner: Binky Jones (TKO – punches, 1:26 of Round 2)

Fight 7: Umaer Haq vs. Jonathan Vineyard (Bantamweight – 135 lbs.)

Haq was the initial aggressor, taking Vineyard to the mat and attempting multiple submissions including a guillotine choke and armbar. Vineyard was having none of that however, as he reversed his position and locked in a rear-naked choke for a first-round submission victory.

Winner: Jonathan Vineyard (submission by rear-naked choke, Round 1)

Fight 8: Francisco Isata vs. Robert Watley (Catchweight – 150 lbs.)

There was apparently some bad blood and trash talk between Isata and Watley prior to the fight. The pair wasted little time trying to hammer out their differences on the mat. Both fighters traded control on the ground in attempts to finish the other off, with Watley nearly locking a rear-naked choke as the first round ended.

The two picked up where they left off in the second round, returning the fight to the ground and exchanging the dominant position. Isata finally asserted himself for good, locking in an armbar on Watley for the submission victory.

Winner: Francisco Isata (submission by armbar, 3:44 of Round 2)

Fight 9: Allanna Jones vs. Kirsten Murphy (Bantamweight – 145 lbs.)

The lone women’s bout on the card stole the show, but not for the obvious reason of the gender of the two fighters. Jones and Murphy started slugging it out from the get-go, with Jones appearing to get the better of the exchange by inflicting noticeable damage to Murphy’s face. She returned to her corner at the end of the first round a bloody mess.

However, the punishment Murphy suffered appeared to inspire, as she spent the second round retaking control by mixing up her strikes with kicks and Muay Thai and very nearly finishing Jones before the second round ended.

This is where the fight, or the ending of the fight I should say, got interesting. The doctor stopped the fight before the third round and awarded the victory to Murphy. Why? I’m not sure. Jones appeared as though she could continue, but apparently the doctor felt otherwise. Perhaps Murphy’s variety of strikes inflicted more damage than what was visible to the naked eye.

While the crowd was disappointed with the result, they gave both fighters a well-deserved standing ovation for delivering the best performance of the night.

Winner: Kirsten Murphy (doctor’s stoppage, 5:00 of Round 3)

Fight 10: Adi Alic vs. Rob Sullivan (Bantamweight – 135 lbs.)

The main event featured two local fighters, with Ground Control’s Adi Alic (who also split with the world-renowned American Top Team) squaring off against Baltimore BJJ’s Rob Sullivan, who had yet to be finished in his mixed martial arts career.

Well, that’s why they fight, right? After a feeling-out process, Alic landed a hard shot that knocked Sullivan to the mat and busted him open. Alic pounced on the dazed Sullivan and locked in a rear-naked choke for Sullivan’s first non-decision loss.

Winner: Adi Alic (submission by rear naked choke, 4:38 of Round 1)

All in all, I was reminded why I enjoy going to Shogun Fights. I had been out of the loop but the energy of the crowd tonight, as well as the effort and passion of the fighters, will help me make sure not to miss any more. The MMA scene in Maryland is alive and well, and I fully expect 10 more shows from Shogun Fights, and many more after that.

Fight of the Night: Allanna Jones vs. Kirsten Murphy
Knockout of the Night: Binky Jones
Submission of the Night: Timothy Wade

Friday, June 20, 2014

Ten shows in the making

As I mentioned in my last post, tomorrow night is Shogun Fights in Baltimore. On top of that, it's the event's 10th edition. But it's not the actual 10th year, since the event is held twice annually. Man, it's hard to believe it's been almost five years with this.

I've been to a few of these cards, so I've seen Shogun Fights evolve. It's featured everything from 125-pound flyweights to more than 300-pound super heavyweights. It's counted NFL players and other mixed martial arts fighters from the UFC among its guests. But most importantly, it's always been a good time.

And it's also featured many fighters from both Maryland gyms and others, as well as a revolving door of the same fighters. One of those is Binky Jones from Ground Control Baltimore. He's been a staple at Shogun Fights, and was recently the subject of a nice article in The Baltimore Sun.

I'm looking forward to watching a good slate of fights tomorrow night. I'll be there to cover the event and will post the results here after the event. I'm not sure how many people expected Shogun Fights to make it to 10 events, but I'm sure there are many people who hope there will be 10 more, and more beyond that.

Friday, June 13, 2014

It's that time of year

You can usually bet that during the first half of the year, Shogun Fights will have a card in the Baltimore (formerly First Mariner) Arena. They usually have it in the spring months, March/April, but since the city of Baltimore had the good fortune to host UFC 172 in April, I'm sure that was the cause of Shogun Fights being moved to June 21.

A 10-fight card awaits Maryland mixed martial arts fans who attend the event, featuring fighters from across the state and gyms such as Ground Control Baltimore, Evolve Academy in Gaithersburg and Conquest BJJ in Crofton. There are also fighters from neighboring states like Virginia and Pennsylvania, and even a female fighter from Michigan.

There are some familiar names on the fight card for me, including Binky Jones, Micah Terrill and Umaer Haq. But I also see some brand new faces, which I think just speaks to the scope that Shogun Fights is developing, attracting new fighters all the time from far and wide.

I am planning to attend this event (stop me if you've heard that one before) and I look forward to re-familiarizing myself with the Maryland MMA scene on a bigger scale. Look for a more detailed preview of the event here next week.