I have always had an appreciation for mixed martial arts. Not because I want to watch athletes get their faces bashed in or because of the sheer violence of the sport but because I appreciate it as an art form. Like boxing and wrestling, and all its predecessors, mixed martial arts entail a huge amount of discipline, presence of mind, and intellect. Because there are a lot more techniques available in one’s arsenal, it is more explosive, and more unpredictable. Most often than not, one does not have an idea what to expect from a match and this makes the sport doubly exciting.
When my brother and I learned that ONE Fighting Championship, Asia’s version of of Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) was coming to Manila with veteran UFC fighters Andrei “Pitbull” Arlovski and Tim “Maine-iac” Sylvia as co main events of Pride of a Nation, I just went nuts. I have been pulling for the Pitbull every since his days as a champ in the UFC and I really want him to get back at Sylvia for the two losses in their trilogy. Our very own URCC champ Eduard “Landslide” Folayang was pitted against Japan’s Felipe Enomoto, a BJJ expert, while another URCC champ Eric Kelly was matched against former UFC lightweight champ Jens “Lil Evil” Pulver. Two Pinoys also opened the fight with URCC lighweight champ Honorio “The Rock” Banario taking on conteder Andrew Benibe. Three fighters from the Enzo Gracie Academy also fought for the pride of their family — Gregor, Igor and Rolles Gracie — Believe me, having Enzo at the event was awesome not only for the fans, but obviously for the fighters as well.
At first, I was afraid of what my reaction to watching a live fight would be. While from afar, I am perfectly comfortable watching the athletes destroy each other, I’m not really big on violence while it is happening right in front of me. During the first fight, I was feeling twinges of sympathy of Benibe, who showed a lot of heart but was outclassed in technique but I was soon able to adjust my perspective, and see the matches as excellent back and forths between two warriors wanting to give the fans a good show. As with the rest of the fans, I yelled my head off and enjoyed every moment of the event.
There were highs and lows of course — even the UFC has such moments but what’s great was that everybody came to fight, well most of them. The event that I was most anxious to watch — Arlovski vs Sylvia was actually the biggest letdown. Before the match, they aired a mini primer where Tim boasted that he would expose Andrei’s weak chin and that he was taking the pitbull down like he did years back. When game time came, however, the weak chin never materialized. During the first round, Tim was able to corner Arlovski a couple of times and landed combinations of strikes but Arlovski weathered him out and was generally unaffected by Sylvia’s attacks. He was obviously better conditioned between the two as Sylvia was already gassing out by the end of round one. Arlovski took control of Round 2 and landed two punches that dropped Sylvia to the ground, where he continued his onslaught. Unfortunately, Arlovski prematurely landed two soccer kicks to the head which is considered illegal in the OneFC until the referee says so. He is given a yellow card and Sylvia is given several minutes to recover. After announcing that the fight will resume shortly, the crowd was surprised (and outraged) when instead of getting on with the fight, the judges have a huddle inside the cage and later on rule the match as a No Contest because Sylvia is unable to continue. It was truly a WTF moment because he obviously had his wits about him, and he was standing up and all. Andrei was obviously pissed, as were we. The biggest dude on the fight card was obviously the biggest wus.
Another disappointing result was the premature stoppage of the fight between Thailand rising star Shannon Wiratchai and crowd favorite Mitch Chilson. Mitch pretty much took control of the first round and Shannon was returning the favor in the second round. When Wiratchai landed a heavy punch and a kick that knocked Mitch to the ground, the referee stepped in to immediately stop the fight, even when Mitch was already getting up and returning to stance. The ref never lived it down, as the crowd booed him at the beginning of every match that he was called to referee. That’s what you get for sucking, bud.
The high points of the evening obviously came from excellent submissions from the Gracies. Gregor submitted Australian URCC champ Nicholas Mann via armbar. Mann was very good natured about getting locked on a Gracie submission as hugs were exchanged between both camps after the announcement. Rolles finished opponent Tony Bonello in the third round with a textbook rear naked choke but Igor got caught by his Korean opponent, the stonecutter Jun Hwang Cha who controlled his takedowns and turned on some vicious ground and pound, handing Igor his first loss in his OneFC debut.
Folayang won against CFC champ Felipe Enomoto via his lethal kicks and and great takedown defense. Enomoto was unable to practice his BJJ on the Landslide mainly because he could not find an opportunity to take down Eduard.
I love this kid. Really, in all his fights, he has shown great courage and consistency and I am glad that this champ is getting his shot at a OneFC belt in October as announced by ONeFC CEO Victor Cui himself. Eric Kelly finished the scrappy Jens Pulver in the second round after a lengthy (but entertaining) back and forth in the first round. Eric, not known to let the grass grow under his feet, capitalized after he landed some hard rights and sees that Pulver is hurt in the opening of the second round. He follows with a body kick and Jens drops to the ground. The crowd goes wild and it is over. Eric, it was announced, will be vying for a title shot in the next OneFC against his compatriot and fellow URCC fighter Honorio Banario. Anyhow, Jens was a great sport and even heaped a huge compliment down Kelly’s head, dubbing him the Manny Pacquiao of the MMA. Pretty big. Plus, he’s also helping out typhoon victims from the Philippines through his website” http://www.jenspulver.com. I can’t help but love this guy.
The biggest finish of the night came from the New York badass himself Fil Baroni, who never gave BJJ expert Rodrigo Ribeiro a chance to land a punch. He went in with a hard right and landed a barrage of punches against his opponent. Lights out for Ribeiro but party time for the American as he danced around the cage, jumped up and down and just engaged the crowd. Fil Baroni rocks. (Mike Swick was in his corner too)
The main even between CFC champion Gustavo Falciroli and former Dream champion Bibiano “The Flash” Fernandez was kind of anticlimactic, perhaps because it was the last match and people were leaving after the Folayang fight. Bibiano won the fight in the third round, which was frustrating because he could have ended the fight sooner as he got Falciroli in different vulnerable positions on the ground plenty of times throughout the match.
Overall, my experience in watching a live match was awesome. I’m not really great at writing blow by blows but I hope you got the idea. Thank you OneFC, for coming to Manila. Please come again. And if the UFC is thinking of coming too, Dana White, you would be more than welcome. Bring it on!
For a more detailed account, check out this website: http://www.thefightnation.com/