Sunday, October 25, 2015

Shogun Fights 13: A lucky night for Isata and Terrill

The 13th edition of Shogun Fights at Royal Farms Arena in Baltimore on Saturday, Oct. 24, was a lucky one for one fighter seeking redemption in the main event, while another longtime Baltimore fighter came up short in his bid for gold.

This edition of Shogun Fights originally boasted three title fights. However, the lightweight title bout between Dan Root and Rob Watley was postponed after Watley suffered a foot injury. The two will tentatively matchup again at the next edition of Shogun Fights, scheduled to take place in April of next year.

But there were two other title fights on Saturday’s card. In the co-main event, Francisco Isata squared off against local mainstay Binky Jones for the inaugural featherweight title. Isata took Jones down early in the first round, but Jones’ jiu-jitsu and attempts at submissions prevented Isata from capitalizing.

However, Isata was able to capitalize on his wrestling and jiu-jitsu in the second round, taking Jones down early again and smothering him throughout most of the round, before a late stand-up by the referee allowed Isata to land a stiff jab to Jones.

That jab may have woken Jones up for the third round, as he knocked Isata to the ground early and nearly finished the fight with strikes and attempts at submissions, including a guillotine and rear-naked choke. But Isata scored another takedown late in the round and finished the fight in top position, which seemed to be enough for the judges to award him a unanimous decision victory and the title of Shogun Fights’ first featherweight champion.

The main event did not need to take as long to crown a champion, frankly. Micah Terrill sought to atone in his bid to become welterweight champion, and he did just that. After a brief feeling-out period with his opponent, Jeremy Carper, Terrill swarmed Carper with a barrage of strikes that caused Carper to turtle up and referee Dan Miragliotta to stop the fight and award Terrill the welterweight title after just 46 seconds.

Following the event, Carper announced his retirement from mixed martial arts on social media. The 11-fight Shogun Fights card saw only two bouts go to a decision, and only one bout reach the third round. It was another exciting event that engaged the crowd throughout, perhaps even too much prior to the co-main event when a couple fans got into a brawl. WWE Hall of Famer Nikolai Volkoff and UFC lightweight Joe Lauzon were both in attendance, so it was another star-studded night that bodes well for Shogun Fights' future.

Full Results

Nic Nicholas def. Stephen Speck by submission (kimura). Round 1, 0:29
Hopeton Stewart def. Dameron Kirby knockout (head kick). Round 2, 0:10
Jesse Stirn def. Josh Trainor by submission (guillotine). Round 1, 1:25
Angelo DePasquale def. Albert Birckhead by submission (kimura). Round 1, 3:30
Greg Fisher def. Tim Wade by submission (rear-naked choke). Round 1, 3:36
Alvin Mercer def. Tucker Lutz by TKO (punches). Round 3, 2:08
Patrick Rivera def. Mahmoud Rashid by TKO (punches). Round 2, 3:04
D.J. Jackson def. Piankhi Zimmerman by unanimous decision (30-27 x 3)
Jon Delbrugge def. Willie Floyd by submission (arm triangle). Round 2, 3:17
Francisco Isata def. Binky Jones by unanimous decision (29-28, 30-27, 30-27) – for featherweight title
Micah Terrill def. Jeremy Carper by TKO (punches). Round 1, 0:46 – for welterweight title

Saturday, October 24, 2015

Shogun Fights 13: A lucky card in Charm City?

On the heels of probably the best card in their existence, Shogun Fights returns ... today, actually, from Royal Farms Arena in Baltimore, Md. The 13th installment of Shogun Fights promises to hopefully be the luckiest yet, with three title fights scheduled for the first time in the card’s history.

This preview will look at each of the title fights a little more in depth and predict who takes home each piece of gold, followed by picks of the remaining nine fights on the card.

Binky Jones (14-13) vs. Francisco Isata (6-2) (Featherweight Title – 145 lbs.)

Jones is a mixed martial arts mainstay, having made his amateur debut in 2001. He is also a local MMA legend and Baltimore institution, having competed at the first Shogun Fights in 2009 and on eight total editions of the card. He’s currently on a four-fight win streak, all by finishes and all at Shogun Fights. Jones’ game is well-rounded, as he boasts wins by both submissions and knockouts. He generally tries for the knockout but has developed a nice submission game as a complement.

However, Isata is no pushover. He is also on a four-fight win streak and has won his last two bouts at Shogun Fights. He will look to push Jones and make him go the full length of the fight. The role of spoiler is nothing new to Isata, as his last fight included emerging victorious against another hometown hero. But there always seem to be a different atmosphere in Royal Farms Arena when Jones makes his way to the cage.

Whether it’s the hometown crowd behind him, the large entourage of students from his martial arts classes that accompany him to the cage or some other unexplainable phenomena, I think Jones has one last run at the top in him.

Prediction: Jones by third-round TKO

Micah Terrill (5-5) vs. Jeremy Carper (6-6) (Welterweight Title – 170 lbs.)

Terrill competed in what was probably the greatest fight in Shogun Fights history at the organization’s previous card in April. He suffered a submission loss to Cole Presley, which was also for the welterweight title. However, Terrill was in control for most of the bout and even managed to break Presley’s nose with the very first punch he threw.

While it wasn’t enough to put Presley away, Terrill gets another shot at the title after Presley decided to drop to lightweight. In Carper, Terrill will face a fighter known for his Muay Thai and kickboxing. I expect another stand-up battle for these two that should bring the crowd to its feet yet again.

Both fighters have a lot of mileage on them in their careers and are known to leave it all in the cage. This fight is my pick to be the best one of the card, and the one I’m most looking forward to. Terrill is as game as they come, but I like the 36-year-old Carper to finally add a piece of gold to his repertoire.

Prediction: Carper by unanimous decision

Dan Root (10-2) vs. Rob Watley (4-1) (Lightweight Title – 155 lbs.)

Root is a late replacement for Presley, who had to withdraw from this fight because of injury. Although he is late to the title picture, Root is also a veteran of nine bouts at Shogun Fights, with eight victories.

Root is a submission specialist, which can be attributed to his background as a wrestler. He is among the more popular fighters who compete at Shogun Fights and his early finishes always excite the crowd. However, Watley has competed multiple times at Shogun Fights himself and has a submission win on his resume. Watley is certainly not lacking in confidence for this fight, and prides himself on being a student of the game.

I think Watley’s athleticism and well-rounded game will keep him in the fight. But eventually, the veteran savvy and ground game of Root will take over. I like Root to add yet another submission victory to his already impressive resume.

Prediction: Root by second-round submission

As far as who else I think will emerge victorious at Shogun Fights 13? Check out the rest of my picks:

Nic Nicholas vs. Stephen Speck
Winner: Speck

Dameron Kirby vs. Hopeton Stewart
Winner: Kirby

Jesse Stirn vs. Josh Trainer
Winner: Stirn

Angelo DePasquale vs. Albert Birckhead
Winner: DePasquale

Greg Fisher vs. Tim Wade
Winner: Wade

Tucker Lutz vs. Alvin Mercer
Winner: Mercer

Mahmoud Rashid vs. Pat Rivera
Winner: Rashid

Piankhi Zimmerman vs. D.J. Jackson
Winner: Jackson

Rob Watley rolls with the punches

If you want to make it as a mixed martial artist, you have to be willing to adapt. That means you could spend your entire training camp preparing to face one fighter, only to have it change at the last minute because of an injury or some other reason.

That’s what happened to Rob Watley. He was originally supposed to face Cole Presley at Shogun Fights 13 in Baltimore on Oct. 24 for the promotion’s inaugural lightweight title. But Presley had to withdraw from the bout due to injury, so Watley will now face Shogun Fights veteran Dan Root for the belt. But Watley’s not worried.

“Honestly, my training doesn't really change,” Watley told Combat Press. “I tweak a few things here and there, but I don't cater my camp to my opponents. I work on bettering myself in each aspect of the sport and then maybe add in a few techniques that my coaches and I believe will help me frustrate and hurt my opponent.”

Watley originally requested to fight Root, but was told Root could not make the 155-pound weight limit at that time. Watley is excited that Root was able to make weight and accepted the fight, and Watley is “looking forward to doing battle with a war-tested veteran,” he said.

Watley was a multi-sport athlete growing up, first competing in Tae kwon do. He wanted to partake in other sports, but his parents required that he achieve a black belt before moving on. Having done just that, Watley moved on to playing football in college at Southeast Missouri State.

But it was then he watched “The Ultimate Fighter” with friends that Watley decided to give MMA a try. “I thought I could do that, and I wanted to try my hand at it,” he said.

Watley trains at Royal Martial Arts in Waldorf, Md., and also trains at Conquest BJJ in Crofton, Md., which is home to his teammate Micah Terrill – a fellow title contender at Shogun Fights 13 who faces Jeremy Carper for the welterweight title.

“I love competing and putting everything on the line,” said Watley, who was 3-2 as an amateur before turning pro last year, where he has compiled a 4-1 record. “Every day I humble myself to be a student of the game and a more well-rounded mixed martial artist.”

Watley is also a veteran of Shogun Fights, having competed for the organization three times – most recently at Shogun Fights 12 earlier this year, where Watley secured a first-round submission victory.

“I feel the love at Shogun Fights,” Watley said. “They’re adding some world-class athletes to the sport, and I love to compete in front of friends and family, and people that support me.”

While Watley has his sights set on eventually competing in UFC, he also has loftier goals for his fighting career – he wants to use his talents to build toward creating a union for fighters.

“MMA doesn’t have a union, so fighters are getting screwed,” Watley said. “I look at all fighters as my brothers. I want to help make it better for them by being the best.”

Dan Root seizes an opportunity at Shogun Fights

When Dan Root showed up for a recent training session at his gym, Ground Control Baltimore, he probably wasn’t expecting to be offered a title shot. But that’s exactly what happened.

John Rallo – founder of Shogun Fights, head trainer at Ground Control and Root’s coach – offered Root a lightweight title fight against Rob Watley at Shogun Fights 13 in Baltimore after Watley’s original opponent, Cole Presley, had to withdraw because of injury.

“I haven’t had the chance to fight for a title yet, so I thought it would be great,” Root said. “If you’re not in this to be the best, then why are you here?”

A New York native who currently resides in Baltimore, Root has a unique approach to his fights, which is why he’s not too concerned about stepping up as a late replacement to fight Watley.

“No offense to any of my opponents, but I don’t study any of them,” Root said. “I only focus on what I can control – I’m a proactive fighter, not reactive. If someone beats you at their best, then they’re the better man.”

That approach seems to work for Root, as he sports a record of 10-2 as a professional after going 3-3 as an amateur. Root has fought nine times for Shogun Fights, going 8-1 with six of those victories coming by submission.

Root believes his evolution from an amateur fighter to a pro comes down to confidence. “I put in the work, and all the sweat and the work has prepared me,” he said.

Root attributes his proclivity for submissions to his background as a wrestler, which he did from age 5 all the way through college. He started training in jiu-jitsu not long after deciding that making a living as a teacher wasn’t for him, and soon thereafter made his mixed martial arts debut.

“I’m good at getting people to the ground,” Root said of his submission skills. “There’s a lot of skill for knockouts – a lot of angles and sometimes, it’s just pure, blind luck. But you actually beat someone into submission; aggressively controlling the fight plays to my strengths and my pace.”

Root describes Watley as a “young, athletic fighter.”

“He has a good team, and he fights the same style as me,” Root said.

Root has had a front-row seat to the growth of Shogun Fights over the organization’s first 13 fight cards, and he credits Rallo with bringing in great talent for each event.

“Each event is bigger and bigger, and I think we draw more knowledgeable fans,” Root said. “The fans understand the nuances of fighting and aren’t just screaming for blood. I’ve been to some other regional shows and they’re not as well run. As more people will get involved, I think [Shogun] will continue to grow.”

While Root’s short-term goal in MMA is to win the lightweight title at Shogun Fights 13, in the long term he would like to fight at least once in UFC.

“I want to know I could fight with the best in the world,” he said.

Jeremy Carper looks to leave a legacy

For many fighters, mixed martial arts isn’t a full-time job. They still need to pay the bills with a day job and in some cases, raise a family. For Jeremy Carper, it’s all of the above.

Carper, 36, works as an electrician during the day to supplement his fighting career and take care of his three children. Carper aims to create sparks of his own and take home the gold as he steps in the cage against Micah Terrill for the welterweight title at Shogun Fights 13 in Baltimore, Md., on Oct. 24.

Carper’s journey into MMA began the same way it does for many fighters – as a child, doing karate and watching Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. Carper first tried kickboxing after watching Dutch kickboxer Ernesto Hoost, then became hooked on MMA after watching the very first UFC card.

Hoost was a favorite of Carper because “he’s a masterful technician,” Carper said. “I saw how smooth he was and how much fun he was having.”
Carper trained in Brazilian jiu-jitsu and competed in kickboxing and Muay Thai before transitioning to MMA, achieving high rankings in both sports.

His amateur MMA career began in 2007 and lasted for two years, where he compiled a 7-4 record competing on cards across the Shenandoah Valley, mostly in Virginia, before turning pro in 2009.

Carper boasts a victory over Shogun Fights veteran James “Binky” Jones in his pro career, but lost in his only appearance for Shogun Fights – a submission defeat at the hands of J.C. Cuffee at Shogun Fights VI in 2012. Carper also competed twice against another Shogun Fights veteran as an amateur and pro – former welterweight champion Cole Presley, who decided to drop to lightweight after winning the belt over Terrill earlier this year.

Carper has an overall pro record of 6-6 and said he loves MMA because “I’m a competitor. MMA is basically the purest form of sport.”

Carper formed the Coalition Fight Team in Martinsburg, West Virginia, 10 years ago and said while he originally vowed to only fight once when he started his fighting career, he now takes things “one fight at a time,” since he also holds down a full-time job.

“It’s a pretty crazy life,” Carper said. “I don’t know how I do it sometimes. But I do my best, and I have a great support group behind me. I want to leave a legacy behind for my kids to be proud of.”

Carper’s oldest son has taken an interest in fighting and said while we won’t push his children to follow in his footsteps, “I would be all for my kids trying fighting,” he said.

Shogun Fights 13 will be Carper’s second appearance for the organization, and he touts how Shogun Fights founder John Rallo “puts fighters first,” Carper said. “It’s a lot of exposure, and to fight for a title at this stage in my career? I couldn’t ask for anything better.”

Carper described Terrill as a “banger” and added “he’s very athletic, and he moves well.”

“This is my kind of fight,” Carper said. “If he wants to stand up and bang, then it’s going to be fireworks.”

Micah Terrill seeks redemption

Note: I fell behind with posting my interviews with fighters competing for title at Shogun Fights today - sorry about that. But hey, you can check them all out right now over at Combat Press. Or you could stay here and read them. Better yet, stay here. Like I said, I need the clicks.

The first round of Micah Terrill’s last fight went pretty much as he expected.

Usually when a fighter throws his first punch in a fight, it’s meant to feel his opponent out – get an idea for how his opponent will react to being hit, or how he might approach the fight. For Terrill, the very first punch he threw couldn’t have had a much better result.

Terrill’s first punch broke the nose of his opponent, Cole Presley. So it didn’t take long for the white mat of Shogun Fights to begin being spotted with red drops of blood from Presley’s nose. The second round was a little closer, but Terrill still thought he came out on top. Unfortunately, the white Shogun Fights mat began turning a healthy shade of pink as the blood continued to flow from Presley’s nose, and it started to affect Terrill’s footing.

“With all the blood, I started slipping and couldn’t move, so I stayed still,” Terrill said.

Unfortunately for Terrill, in addition to the slippery footing, Presley just wouldn’t go away. Presley’s comeback was complete in the third round, as he finished Terrill with a guillotine choke and won the inaugural Shogun Fights welterweight title, with the 5,000 or so fans in attendance going insane (including me. It was the best mixed martial arts fight I’ve ever seen, at any level – amateur, professional, UFC, Bellator or World Series of Fighting).

“When he started hitting me, he showed me a lot about myself,” Terrill said. “He kept coming forward – I don’t think the dude is human. I tip my hat to him, but the second time we would fight would be different.”

The loss to Presley was Terrill’s second in a row following a 3-fight win streak. With an overall record of 5-5, Terrill isn’t getting a rematch with Presley at Shogun Fights 13 on Oct. 24 in Baltimore, Maryland, but he is getting another shot at the welterweight title. Following Presley’s decision to drop to lightweight, Terrill will face Jeremy Carper in one of three title fights on the card.

Shogun Fights actually offered a rematch to Terrill and Presley, which Terrill accepted but Presley then decided to drop a weight class. When that happened, Terrill didn’t think he would get another shot at the title.

“I’m hard on myself – I don’t think I deserved another title shot, but I’ll take it,” Terrill said. “It’s what the crowd wants, and I want to give them a show and prove why I got this shot.”

Terrill trains at Conquest BJJ in Crofton, Maryland, and worked with a new striking coach every day for the last six months for his fight against Carper, he said. Terrill added that he also worked on improving his strength and conditioning.

“I can finish this fight anywhere I go,” he said. In his 10-fight career, Terrill has only been to a decision once, and he’s confident his fight with Carper will not result in a second decision.

“I’ve heard his chin is suspect,” Terrill said. “He’s been beaten by Cole twice, and I’m bigger, faster and stronger than he is.”

While Terrill still has the goal of fighting in UFC or Bellator, he’s already preparing for a life after fighting by working on opening his own gym. But his focus is still 100 percent on his fight against Carper, and on another chance to become champion.

“Shogun Fights is my second home,” said Terrill, with seven fights already under his belt with the promotion. “I’ll have the hometown crowd behind me, and it’s going to be my night.”

Friday, October 2, 2015

Isata is no pushover

Note: This is the second in an ongoing series of articles on fighters competing for titles at Shogun Fights on Oct. 24. Check back here for more!

The underdog. It’s a role that’s nothing new to Francisco Isata. He’s used to being looked at as fodder for the hometown guy on any card he competes on. That’s why he relishes his title opportunity with Shogun Fights on Oct. 24 in Baltimore.

Isata will compete for the inaugural Shogun Fights featherweight strap against Baltimore native James “Binky” Jones. Isata is a Maryland native and resident himself, which is one reason why he enjoys competing for Shogun Fights.

His fight against Jones will mark Isata’s fifth appearance with the organization. He’s compiled a 6-2 professional record after starting his mixed martial arts career as an amateur in 2010. Isata competed on the last Shogun Fights card in April and scored a unanimous decision victory over Mahmoud Mohagheghrashid.

“It’s home for me,” Isata said of Shogun Fights. “No disrespect to other organizations, but Shogun Fights always gives me a fair shake. Other organizations tend to bring you in to showcase their hometown guys.”

Isata lifted weights and played basketball growing up. It was a recommendation from a fellow employee when the two worked at a moving company that set Isata on the road to becoming an MMA fighter.

Isata trained with Team Pedro Sauer, which was founded by the Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu legend and has multiple locations in Maryland and Virginia. Isata recently opened his own gym, Team Black Print, in Silver Spring, Md., and also trains at Disciple MMA in Sterling, Va.

Isata’s last fight, which took place in Atlantic City, N.J., in July, ended with a unanimous decision victory for Isata over Lester Caslow. Jones will be a heavy hometown favorite when he faces Isata at Shogun Fights 13, but Isata is perfectly fine with that. While five of his six victories have come via decision, Isata will be looking for the finish against the local legend Jones, no matter how it comes.

“I like Binky. We’ve fought on the same cards before,” Isata said. “But when that cage door locks, it’s just [him] and me. I think I’m better than everyone everywhere, so I’ll just fight him wherever it goes.”