Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Ultimate Warrior Challenge - Jacksonville

I was recently invited to attend the Ultimate Warrior Challenge in good ol' Jax. I owe a big thank you to Fight Zone magazine and the folks at UWC.

What could be more perfect for the next installment of the Ultimate Warrior Challenge than a full moon in the swamp. While watching the workers putting the finishing touches on the cage I couldn’t help but feel the energy in the air. I’m also semi-surprised at all the work and checking of the cage to make sure it’s ready. Fighter safety is not to be taken lightly and the folks at UWC know it well.

The Prime Osborn Convention Center in Jacksonville turns out to be a cozy little spot that none-the-less has an old-school, upscale feel to it, once being a railroad depot. Likening tonight’s series of opponents to two railcars rushing toward each other with the momentum of months of training pushing them on really is a great metaphor and seems to be on point. Thankfully the first fight tipped off rather soon after and I didn’t spend too much time coming up with more railroad analogies for the fight game. Whew!

Marcus Foran and Matt Darsden are the first fight of note. The first round is all Foran who comes in aggressively swinging before changing levels, scooping up Darsden and then dropping him on his head but then was unable to achieve much else being stuck in half-guard. The two work their way back to their feet with some busy-work from the clinch until the round closes. The second round is more of the same stuff but it’s obvious that Darsden is just getting started and Foran’s gas light is on. Foran stumbles forward, or goes for a takedown I’m not sure which and Matt Darsden sprawls, spins and soon sinks a rear naked choke for the 2nd round win.

Lefty, John Skidmore provids what had to be the knockout of the night when he catches John Morrison with a mouth-guard flinging teeth smack that ends his night rather quickly, early in the first round.

Charley Blanchard from Team Obake made quite a statement overwhelming Brazilian Beto Nunes. Blanchard gets the mount quickly but, and credit Nunes on his defense in the mount, he cannot raise up to do any damage. Still it’s only a matter of time before Blanchard uncorks and pounds his man out leaving Nunes looking dazed sitting in a small puddle of blood dribbling from his nose.

The co-main event is a scrap between Jonathan Brookins and Yves “the Tiger” Jabouin. The first thing I notice about Jabouin was that he’s pretty quick but he throws nothing but swinging punches. The fight hits the ground at Brookins’ urging and a short while later I am amazed at how quickly the Canadian moves again as he swivels for an armbar in about half an eye-blink. I’m not sure but I think me have over-shot the mark he was going so fast. After watching more of the fight I’m thinking that Yves may be on of the quickest guys I have ever seen, especially on the mat. JB keeps pushing on inexorably like a terminator throwing punches in bunches, working nice combos. Sheer relentlessness wins out and Brookins finally pins down the shorter man in half-guard and drops elbows on him until opening a cut and stopping the fight.

Last fight, I am not sure what happened but Seth Petruzelli is not fighting. After watching him corner multiple fights I had kind of seen this coming. In his place Chris Baten takes on former running back “Whisper” Goodman. Goodman has one heck of a game face. He’d have the same expression if he was at a barbecue, I’d wager. Having seen Baten before at RFC events, I know that Goodman has his work cut out for him. Baten has the physique of Kevin Randleman but fights more like Anderson Silva.

The two get their feet wet tentatively before Baten seems to tire of the foreplay and comes in swinging hard. The two wind up in an inactive clinch, working for leverage and I soon find myself ogling the ring girls.

A loud “BAM” brings my attention back to the fight where Chris Baten has slammed Goodman to the mat and the crazies behind me are screaming their. Goodman eventually manages to reverse and ends the round on Baten’s back. Maybe the Lion’s Den fighter does have game. The 2nd round has us seeing a short striking display before they clinch yet again and Goodman works hard for a hip-toss that lands him on top in side control. The former Packer is unable to achieve anything significant and Baten gets to his feet.

The fans behind me are yelling “Whisper” at the top of their lungs which I find amusing. I look up at their hero and I’ve heard of stoicism but wow, is he awake? Does he know he’s in a fight? You have got to love his game face. Baten sensing something moves in and the two apparently decide to open up trading fast and furious punches that concludes with “Whisper” being put to sleep. In all that knuckle-chucking I didn’t even catch the shot that caught him. Mayhem and pandemonium ensue in the adrenaline, and beer, charged venue. What a finale! `Chris Baten should have taken a well deserved bow. He’ll get another chance real soon I am sure.

All in all I would have to say the Ultimate Warrior Challenge was a sterling success. Chris Cordeiro’s matchmaking made for some nice fights and a few spectacular knockouts and there were some pretty amazing people watching too. Andrei Arlovski, David Loiseau, Crafton Wallace, Dean Lister, Charles Bennett and Din Thomas were all on hand to check out the competition. A possible future match-up between Wallace and the Crow were hinted at as well. I can’t wait for the next UWC event and if you know what’s good for you, like I do, you’ll be there with me.