August 2, 2014; Sharkey’s Bar & Grill
By Briggs Seekins, #BriggsFightTalk on Twitter
In the first weekend of August, Gladius Fights Promotions continued their now long-standing tradition of bringing quality amateur MMA to Central New York when they held their 12th card at Sharkey’s Bar & Grill in Liverpool. With their huge outdoor volleyball-court area and ample lighting, Sharkey’s was easily converted into a mixed martial arts venue once the octagon cage was set up. Early in the evening, the weather was stellar, with sunny skies and temperatures in the low 80s.
But central New York weather is always predictably unpredictable. Before the card ended, it would need to be moved several miles away to the Ultimate Athletics Gym, late at night, due to torrential rains.
Fight One: Brandon Vargason vs. Ahmad Burks, 205 lbs
Fighting at a 205-pound limit, Brandon Vargason of Shogun MMA made his amateur debut against Syracuse-native Ahmad “the Bear” Burks of Ultimate Athletics. Both fighters sported outstanding beards and very solid physiques for the 205-pound weight class.
Burks flashed a strong jab to start but Vargason countered with a nice leg kick. Burks clinched and pushed his opponent into the cage and opened up with some heavy handed hooks. Vargason dropped his level out of desperation and pushed Burks across the cage to the fence on the far side. They separated briefly and then Burks re-clinched, forcing Vargason against the cage and to the mat with a front headlock, allowing him to open up with ground and pound. Vargason fought gamely to his feet, forced a separation and controlled distance with solid leg kicks for the last seconds of the round. After his outstanding offensive explosion early on, Burks appeared winded as the round wound down. I scored the round 10-9 Burks
Vargason landed a sweet superman punch to start round but Burks forced him to the cage and took him down into the guard where he dropped a hammer fist. Vargason worked his way back to standing and landed a heavy series of uppercuts on Burks against the cage. Back in standing, Vargason attempted to reassert his leg kicks but Burks dropped level and attempted a shot. Vargason briefly threatened with the choke and then shifted to side and landed some hard shots on a turtled up Burks against the cage to force the referee’s stoppage at 1:45 of the second round.
Fight Two: Brandon Smith vs. Corey Kenerson, 155 lbs
From Victory MMA in Rochester, Brandon “the Honey Badger” Smith made his amateur debut against Ithaca’s Corey Kenerson.
Smith jabbed his way to a clinch and took Kenerson down quickly with a headlock, then secured a tarantula arm bar from the side headlock position for the submission just 43 seconds into the round.
Fight Three: Billy Windrum vs. Jason Lance, 125 lbs
Coming in with an amateur record of 2-0, Billy Windrum of WNYMMA faced Jason Lance of Polaski, NY in a flyweight bout.
Fights at 125 pounds are usually fast-paced and exciting, but this one started with a feeling-out stage as Lance looked to establish leg and straight kicks and Lance looked for an opening to close and engage. Lance made a sloppy high-shot attempt and Windrum easily secured double underhooks and drove Lance to the cage. After a period of being tied up, Lance attempted to force a headlock throw and Windrum easily sunk his weight and took Lance’s back. From there he flattened Lance out and opened up with some hard ground and pound, forcing a referee’s stoppage at 2:11 of Round 1. Windrum stayed undefeated, improving his record to 3-0.
Fight Four: Josh Taylor vs. Kyle Blancke, 145 lbs
Representing Rochester and sporting a 2-0 record, Josh Taylor faced Kyle Blancke of Premiere MMA, who was making his amateur debut. This fight was in the featherweight division.
Taylor looked to threaten with the leg kicks as Blancke circled, looking for an opening. He shot early in the round and landed a smooth takedown into the guard. Taylor threatened an arm bar, but the rugged Blancke postured to his feet, lifting Taylor off the mat as he did. From waist high, Blancke slammed Taylor hard to the canvas, knocking him out cold and securing the victory just 48 seconds into the fight.
Fight Five: Mitch Miller vs. Mike Grillo, 170 lbs
With a 1-0 record and representing the Southern Tier’s Five Element team, Mitch Miller of Elmira faced Bombsquad fighter Mike Grillo of Ithaca.
Grillo is a compact, powerfully built fighter who looked to press into range for a takedown and caught a jab. Miller sprawled well and took Grillo’s back, but Grillo trapped the arm and pulled him over the top to take the dominant position in the guard. Miller tied up Grillo’s hands and brought a leg over the top of one arm, securing a triangle choke attempt. Grillo was able to posture up and avoid it, eventually lifting and slamming Miller to loosen the choke. Miller hung on gamely, looking to tighten the choke back up. Grillo slammed Miller again and broke the choke, ending the round in the guard. I scored the round 10-9 Miller, on the basis of greater activity on the mat from the guard.
Miller opened the second round establishing the jab. Miller continued to exploit a technical striking advantage as Grillo pressed forward looking for the shot. A sloppy low-shot attempt by Grillo gave Miller the opportunity to sprawl all his weight on Grillo and further wear him down. Grillo was dogged from the bottom position, but Miller eventually worked to back control. Miller was weight was too high on Grillo’s torso, though and the Ithaca fighter was able to roll him over the top and come back to his feet. Back on his feet, Grillo opened up with his fists aggressively. Both fighters traded leather, with Grillo’s power forcing Miller backward. Grillo caught Miller with a hard shot that rocked him against the cage and then took him down into a full mount position to finish the round. It was another back-and-forth round but I thought Grillo clearly won it based on his flurry of offensive activity in the closing 30 seconds.
Both fighters showed obvious and understandable fatigue as Round 3 started. After touching gloves, Miller looked to control the striking as Grillo pushed forward. Miller landed some nice straight punches and hooks and Grillo dropped his level and attempted to shoot. Grillo stalled out on bottom but kept grinding and eventually worked his way into a takedown inside of Miller’s guard. Grillo was unable to improve position or get much offense going from the guard and eventually Miller was able to roll out from beneath Grillo and take his back, landing some heavy shots to the side of Grillo’s face. Grillo stood up and continued to batter Grillo, busting him open. Grillo continued to work doggedly for the takedown, but Miller forced the fight back to standing and continued to pick away at Grillo. Both fighters were staggering a bit as the fight ended. This was a true, back-and-forth war with both men showing a lot of determination and heart. I scored the final round for Miller. Though both men had their moments in the round, I felt Miller deserved the 10 points based on inflicting more damage.
But in a very close, split-decision fight, the judges gave the victory to Mike Grillo. I with in agreement with the dissenting judge Mitch Miller deserved the victory, two rounds to one. But it was the sort of extremely close fight where either man deserved to have his hand raised.
Fight Six: Amanda Trevail vs. Jackie Micale, 119 lb Women’s Fight
Making her amateur debut, Amanda Trevail of Cortland Elite MMA faced 1-0 Jackie Micale of Ultimate Athletics and Pin2Win Wrestling.
Micale landed a solid shot early and then swarmed into the clinch for a take down. Briefly bewildered, Trevail gamely adjusted and adopted a purely defensive position, attempting to limit the damage she was taking. Micale pounded at the side of the head and body while improving her position to back control. Trevail showed tremendous physical strength to muscle her way to standing, but Micale pushed her into the cage and secured a rear-naked choke, then brought her back to the mat and flattened her out, securing the tap out at 1:55 of the first round.
Fight Seven: Ryan Balintfly vs. Lushima Kuajo Lumba-Kasamango, 170 lbs
Syracuse’s own Ryan Balintfly of Tai Kai faced Lushima Kuajo Lumba-Kasamango of Ithaca in a welterweight bout. Neither fighter showed an ounce of extra weight, but it was a classic case of a stout, powerfully built fighter in Balintfly against a lean, athletic fighter in Lumba-Kasamango.
Lumba-Kasamango looked to use his length to fight on the outside, but Balintfly forced a clinch and muscled a takedown against the side of the cage. Balintfly improved to a half guard and looked to mash Lumba-Kasamango against the cage while setting up his ground and pound, but Lumba-Kasamango managed to retake guard. Lumba-Kasamango attempted to sweep but Balintfly postured up and rolled back into guard. Balintfly crammed Lumba-Kasamango back against the cage and tried to open up with his offense while Lumba-Kasamango held on in a purely defensive position. This round was clearly a 10-9 round for Balintfly.
Lumba-Kasamango looked to circle and kick as the second round began, while Balintfly pressed forward. Lumba-Kasamango landed a thudding body kick but Balintfly took it in stride and pushed him into the cage, taking him back to the mat. Lumba-Kasamango rolled through, briefly reversing position, but could do very little from the top and Balintfly quickly reversed back to top position again, where he pounded on Lumba-Kasamango’s body. Balintfly pushed him to the cage and landed some bombs to the head along the cage in the last seconds of the round. The round clearly belonged to Balintfly and was close to being a 10-8 round based on the heavy shots he landed late. Lumba-Kasamango was staggering as he returned to his corner, earning him a long and close look from the referee between rounds.
As the third round started, Balintfly secured a quick double underhook in the clinch and slammed Lumba-Kasamango to the mat. Balintfly worked from the guard, landing a couple of heavy shots as he worked to push Lumba-Kasamango into the corner. Lumba-Kasamango was extremely game made a nice sweep attempt, but Balintfly postured up and blocked it easily to finish the round in guard. All three judges were unanimous in awarding the decision to Ryan Balintfly.
And then came the rains…
A fight for the vacant Gladius Flyweight title managed to get underway and go an entire round, with Dustin Bertch using strong wrestling and grappling to maintain dominant position for most of the round. During the minute break between rounds, though, the sky opened up and action was called to a halt.
Fans crowded back into Sharkey’s bar and underneath the canopy of their outdoor bar and a festive atmosphere reigned. Most of the evenings fights had been completed and fighters from across Central New York tossed back adult beverages while celebrating a hard fight camp completed.
The remaining fighters stayed in the warm up area in the basement, as the Gladius promotional team attempted to wait out the storm. It was an odd storm that seemed to hang over Liverpool exclusively. The floor of the cage turned into a mini pond.
Eventually the decision was made to hold the final three bouts at the Ultimate Athletics training facility at the nearby Great Northern Mall. This reporter had to return to Ithaca before that decision was made, in anticipation of a busy day ahead on Sunday.
Late Results from the Ultimate Athletics Facility:
–Dustin Bertch captured the vacant Gladius Flyweight title by Round 2 submission
–Alex Henry retained the Gladius welterweight title by Round 1 KO
-In a 195-pound catchweight fight, Yusuf Jami beat Ryan Nesbitt by Round 1 KO
Knockout of the Night: Kyle Blancke over Josh Taylor
Submission of the Night: Jackie Micale over Amanda Trevail
Fight of the Night: Mike Grillo over Mitch Miller
I will conclude by noting that there has been a certain amount of complaint on social media over the late-night change in venue. While it was not an ideal situation, I would think any fighter would consider it a preferable alternative to completely scrapping the fight he has spent weeks and months preparing for. I have personally spent an entire training camp preparing for a fight, nursing all the inevitable injuries and aches, only to have my opponent disappear the week before the card. I would have far preferred to spend an entire evening waiting and then driving a few miles at the last minute to completely losing the opportunity. Unforeseen snags happen in the fight game and all the fighters who competed on Saturday night did so under the exact same conditions as their opponents. I have also seen major, championship level prizefights at outdoor venues unfortunately marred by poor weather. The promoters of this card did not allow anybody to compete on a dangerous surface, which is better than many big time promoters have done over the years. These are also amateur fights, primarily for the purpose of getting neophyte fighters experience. They have no impact on a fighter’s professional career, if he happens to be one of the few amateurs who will go on to have one.