November 1, 2014; Ultimate Athletics
By Briggs Seekins, #BriggsfightTalk on Twitter
Amateur MMA returned to Ithaca, New York on the first day of November, as Gladius Fights hosted their 13th card at the Ultimate Athletics Gym in the Ithaca Mall. After a busy day at UA, featuring a pee-wee wrestling tournament in the cage and an amateur boxing card that included several Central New York boxing gyms, the main event of the day kicked off at 8 p.m.
A capacity crowd of over 500 packed into UA’s rows of rented seats. Once again, it was completely obvious that the common people of Central New York support the sport of Mixed Martial Arts and are willing and able to generate revenue around it, even at the lowest levels. If not for the oppressive ban, unique in the nation, being perpetrated by Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver and his allies like local Assembly Person Barbara Lifton, communities throughout the economically hard-hit upstate region could be enjoying the boom of hosting professional cards.
Fortunately for aspiring fighters looking to break into this tough sport, cards like Gladius allow them to do so close to home, with friends and family easily able to attend and lend support. When I first got involved in the sport nearly a decade ago, not even this was possible. So the sport has come a long way, despite the obstacles presented by politicos like Lifton and Silver.
Fight 1: Isaiah Johnson vs. Will Reynolds, 135 lbs
Representing Geneva Boxing, Isaiah Johnson was a lanky bantamweight fighter. Cortland native Will Reynolds of Ultimate Athletics was a decidedly more compact physical specimen. He came to the ring with a thumping and grinding, death metal cover of L.L. Cool J’s “Mama Said Knock You Out.”
Johnson looked to use his length, but Reynolds forced a clinch to the cage and landed a nice hook. Johnson showed smart counter wrestling by working to double underhooks and taking Reynolds down with a body lock.
In the guard, Reynolds worked for an armbar or triangle before scrambling back to his feet against the cage. Johnson pressed hard and sunk his level to take a single leg and drive the action back to the canvas. Reynolds secured a tight hold on the neck and worked to sink the guillotine deeper as Johnson tried to pass guard.
Johnson made noises that the referee Forrest Hobbick interpreted it as a potential snore, an indication that the fighter had passed out. A choke is not a dangerous submission hold, unless it is held too long, in which case it can be very dangerous, so the referee reacted quickly to stop the fight. Afterward, Hobbick told me he felt conflicted about potentially stopping the action too soon, but at the amateur level, especially, felt it was important to err on the side of fighter safety, if an error was to be made.
Will Reynold’s by guillotine submission, 2:32
Fight 2: Stephan Whitman vs. James Chaplin, Heavyweights
Stephan Whitman from Norwich was a smallish heavyweight. He gave up a significant size advantage to James “Freight Train” Chaplin of Ultimate Athletics, Syracuse, who tipped the scales at 263 pounds.
Chaplin landed heavy leg kicks as the fight started, and the crowd responded by “oohinng” with appreciation. As Whitman attempted to counter, Chaplin hammered him with hooks and overhands, driving him back towards the cage. Whitman tried to fight back but only got hit more.
After a couple of seconds, a clearly overwhelmed Whitman actually turned his back and attempted to run away from his surging opponent. Chaplin walked him into a high kick that Whitman mostly blocked, though the sheer pressure drove him to the canvas, where he instinctively turtled up.
Chaplin swarmed and unloaded brutal, heavy punches. The referee called a halt to this mismatch in short order.
James Chaplin by TKO :50 of Round 1
Fight 3: Doug Miller Vs Ahmad Burks, Light Heavyweight
Representing WNYMMA from Buffalo, NY, Doug Miller was a well-conditioned 6’1” and 200 pounds. His opponent from Ultimate Athletics Syracuse, Ahmad “The Black Bear” Burks was a slightly shorter and more compact fighter, but equally lean. Burks came to the ring to AC/DC, which always earns an extra bit of appreciation from me, since it’s what I used to listen to before my wrestling matches back in the 1980s.
Burks drove Miller backwards with a jab-cross-roundhouse kick combination. After another straight punch, Miller forced a clinch. The clinch broke, but Burks lowered his level and lifted Miller up high and deposited him in a slam.
Miller grabbed for a guillotine choke, but it was not tight and only slightly slowed down Burks’ advance into mount. With no chance to possibly sink the choke, Miller continued to squeeze hard while Burks pounded his body.
Finally Burks pulled his head free and then unloaded a flurry of ground and pound from the mount. Miller tried to buck him off, but Burks held a very good position. Miller managed to at least tie up Burks hands to slow down the assault and finish out the round.
It was a clear 10-9 round for Burks.
Round 2 began with Miller coming forward, looking to even up the score. Burks threw a spinning heel kick that caught Miller’s thigh and drove him into the cage, where the two pummeled. Miller attempted to drop for a single leg, but it allowed Burks to sink his own underhook deeper and execute a hard hip toss into side control.
Burk dropped some hard shots on the body with his hand and knee. Miller did little but hold on as Burk slowly drove him against the cage. Once Burks shoved him against the cage, he was able to open up with even harder shots, forcing Miller to scramble and give up his back. Burk sunk both hooks and finished the round slamming some brutal shots to the side of Miller’s head.
Awarding a 10-8 round is always hard to determine in MMA, but in my opinion, Round 2 of this fight was a 10-8 round for Burks. Miller got up clearly dazed and he’ll most likely have a cauliflower ear from this one.
Burks started aggressively in Round 3 and landed a straight kick that the referee judged to be slightly low, which forced a stoppage to the fight clock, as Miller was given the opportunity to recover.
With time called back in, Miller immediately drove forward to establish a clinch on the cage. Burk reversed the position and drove Miller into the cage. Burks broke the clinch and landed a brutal hook. As Miller looked to retreat across the cage, Burk landed a big uppercut and straight push kick.
Against the cage, Miller made a desperate attempt to grab a guillotine choke, but it only ended up allowing Burk to settle on top of him. Clearly winning the fight, Burks did not look to push the pace, though he did do much more to improve his position than Miller did, who was clearly just trying to hold on at this point.
The least action-packed round of the fight, but still clearly 10-9 for Burks.
No surprise in this one. All three judges had it for Ahmad “The Black Bear” Burks
Fight 4: Kate Riley vs. Casey Garland, 150 lbs
In the only women’s fight on the card, Binghamton’s Kate Riley of Five Element faced Ultimate Athletics’ Casey “The Honey Badger” Garland of Ithaca. Both fighters seemed to have sizable crowd support. Fights like this one show how completely absurd Barbara Lifton and the Women’s Lobby in Albany are when they throw slurs like misogyny at the sport of MMA. I know of no other sport where female competitors get such equal love and respect from the fans and male competitors.
Riley was the lankier fighter and Garland more compact. As Riley attempted to stay on the outside, Garland looked to press forward. After a slow start to the round, the two traded jabs. Riley landed a nice overhand right. As Garland attempted to close distance near the cage, Riley flashed a quick 1-2 combination to create distance and circle. Near the end of the round the two engaged in some good exchanges, with Riley doing a nice job at exploiting her length and landing the much more solid punches.
Late in the round, Riley began to become more aggressive initiating the flurries. Garland showed herself consistent with her nickname, and she did continue to badger her way forward gamely.
A slow round, but 10-9 for Riley based on much cleaner striking.
Riley once again looked to circle on the outside, but Garland came forward much more aggressively, forcing a clinch and scoring heavily off from it with an overhand right. Shaken by the punch, Riley let go aggressively with her own punches, but with the exchanges opening up, Garland was able to exploit her strength advantage and muscle Riley into position for some big overhands and hooks. Riley dropped hard to the canvas, in no position to defend herself, and the referee quickly halted the action.
Winner by TKO :19 of Round 2, Casey Garland
Fight 5: Cameron McClaney vs. Brad Vargason, 185 lbs
Fighting out of Rochester, New York, 3-3 Cameron McClaney of Victory MMA faced off with 1-0 Brad Vargason of Shogun MMA.
McClaney opened up a quick combination and forced the action back against the cage. In short order, he took Vargason down against the cage in side control and landed some shots. Vargason rolled and forced a scramble and ended up on top, in McClaney’s guard. McClaney attempted an Omoplata, which Vargason blocked, but it created a scramble that allowed McClaney to work back to his feet and take Vargason down against the cage, where he took mount.
Vargason tried to roll out, but gave up his back. After landing some shots on the side of Vargason’s head, McClaney transitioned back into mount and landed some more shots. As McClaney transitioned back to side control, Vargason threatened a kimura lock, though he didn’t really have the angle to complete it.
A lot of fast paced action in the round, but it was clearly a 10-9 round for McClaney.
Vargason landed a stiff, straight punch to start Round 2 and pushed McClaney back towards the cage. Vargason lowered level and took McClaney down with a high double. McClaney scrambled and worked back to his feet, with Vargason against the cage. Vargason landed a knee in the clinch and McClaney responded with a short hook.
McClaney tried to pull out of the clinch and Vargason took him down into guard. McClaney went to work and threatened a triangle, but Vargason was able to posture out. McClaney again threatened a triangle and used it to roll Vargason and end up in mount position. As the round came to a close, McClaney landed some ground and pound.
10-9 round for McClaney.
Both fighters sized each other up as the third round began. Vargason landed a couple of good leg kicks and then took McClaney down into guard. McClaney once again made good use of his long limbs and flexibility to work an active guard and sweep Vargason into a mounted position. Once on top, he methodically looked to land hammer fists and short punches. Vargason tied up his hands and eventually bucked out of position, but McClaney was able to recover and grab a front headlock and transition it into an arm bar attempt. In quick order, he had Vargason’s arm completely extended, forcing the tap. To judge from the crowd reaction, I would bet that 70 percent were not sure what they had seen.
McClaney by slick arm bar submission at 2:13 Round 3
Fight 6: Corey Bowhall vs. Nick Olson, 170 lbs
3-2 Corey “Bad Company” Bowhall from Jiu-jitsu nation in Watertown was a very lanky welterweight, standing 6’2”. Living up to his nickname, Bowhall came to the ring to the song “Bad Company,” though not the classic original from the 1970s. I am not familiar with this version, but the lead singer on it frankly sounds like he has a wounded inner child. Representing Ultimate Athletics in Ithaca, Nick Olson was a slightly shorter, but still very lean, fighter.
Both fighters came forward quickly, looking to exchange at a fast rate. Bowhall landed a nice leg kick, but when he tried to go higher, to the ribs, Olson caught the kick and attempted a take down. Bowhall defended it and reversed, taking Olson down into side control. Bowhall tried to get the fight back to standing, but Olson took him down with an ankle pick.
After a scramble, Bowhall ended up on top in guard and then transitioned to back, then mount. Olson bucked hard and Bowhall transitioned to an armbar, then a triangle, demonstrating impressive chain grappling. After softening up the helpless Olson with a couple of strike, Bowhall sunk the choke and secured the tap.
Winner by triangle choke 2:15 of Round 1, Corey “Bad Company” Bowhall.
Fight 7: Mark Murray vs. Jerry Bradley, 158 lbs
2-1 Mark “Hurricane” Murray of Auburn Boxing Club faced Ithaca Ultimate Athletics’ own Jerry “Juggernaut” Bradley. Bradley was another fighter coming into AC/DC, so the card was already a great one in my book.
Bradley was the longer fighter and looked to move forward behind straight punches. But Murray lowered level and secured a dynamic slam takedown into side control. Bradley managed to force it back to standing, while Murray secured a body lock from behind.
Bradley connected with an accidental elbow, not a legal blow in the amateurs, forcing a brief pause for Murray to recover. With action waved back in, Bradley again looked to score with the straight punches. Murray lowered level and grabbed another double leg takedown, bringing Bradley down against the cage.
Bradley tried to force a scramble, but ended up giving up his back. As Murray attempted to secure the rear-naked choke, Bradley tucked his chin well and worked two-on-one to straighten Murray’s arm and break the choke. The round finished with no position change.
10-9 round for Murray on the strength of the takedown and the choke threat.
As Round 2 began, Bradley landed some low leg kicks and looked to score with straight punches, but Murray again lowered level and took him down. This time, Murray quickly transitioned to Bradley’s back and once again worked to sink the rear-naked choke while Bradley attempted to keep turning and work into a guard position. After defending the choke well, Bradley finally managed to turn in and end up on top in guard.
Bradley looked to posture up and land hooks from inside the guard, while Murray did very little from the bottom. Bradley continued to posture and land shots and eventually worked back to his feet, where he scored with leg kicks to Murray’s quads.
10-9 round for Bradley, the far more active fighter in the round, who scored the more effective striking.
With the fight possibly equal on all the judges’ cards going into the final round, Bradley came out and threw a hard roundhouse kick that unfortunately landed too low and struck Murray hard in the groin. Murray was given a long break to recover. Once the referee waved the action back in, Bradley again looked to back Murray up with straight punches. Murray dropped level and took Bradley down, but Bradley rolled with it very well and ended up in mount, then took back and secured a rear-naked choke for the tap.
Winner by rear-naked choke :37 of Round 3, Jerry “Juggernaut” Bradley
Fight 8: Matt Jensen vs. Armus Guyton, 185 lbs
Representing Premiere Martial Arts, Matthew Jensen of Newark, New York faced Armus Guyton of Ultimate Athletics Ithaca. Guyton was the longer fighter and landed a stiff right hand as Jensen attempted to force his way into range. Jensen briefly forced a clinch, but caught another straight punch on the break.
Guyton mixed straight punches and uppercuts well as Jensen attempted to land a big overhand right and force a clinch. Jensen kept coming forward with aggression, but was consistently taking the worst of the exchange.
Guyton grabbed a guillotine attempt, but never had it deep and Jensen was able to force him into the cage. Guyton eventually forced his way out and landed a couple more good shots on the break.
Then, with Guyton getting the better of the striking consistently, Jensen suddenly landed a hard straight shot that buckled Guyton’s knees. Guyton attempted to fight back gamely, but he was badly rocked and was soon in a turtle position on the mat. Jensen flurried aggressively, landing a series of unanswered punches that forced the referee to halt the action with just two seconds left in the round.
Winner by TKO 2:58 Round 1 Matt Jensen
Fight 9: Billy Windrum vs. Sam Micale, 125 lbs
Fighting in order to earn No. 1 contender status for the Gladius flyweight title, 3-0 Billy Windrum of
WNY MMA faced 2-2 Sam Micale of Ultimate Athletics Syracuse. Both fighters entered the cage amped up and the action was fast paced from the start. Micale backed up Windrum with a series of flashy spinning kicks followed by a spinning punch, then grabbed a headlock and tried to force a throw. But Windrum sunk his weight and took Micale’s back, sinking his hooks and working for the rear-naked choke.
Windrum did a good job working the two-on-one defense for awhile, but Windrum was relentless and continued to work a tight figure-four on the body as he tried to sink the choke. Eventually Windrum appeared to get too high and looked in danger of being rolled, but he went for a triangle attempt. Micale postured out to his feet and after a scramble, Windrum ended up on top in guard.
10-9 round for Windrum.
Micale landed a hard inside kick to start the second round and drove Windrum backward. Micale continued to be the aggressor with the striking and forced Windrum back towards the cage, where he pinned Windrum and threw uppercuts to the head.
Windrum made a slick standing armback attempt. Micale defended and through a scramble eventually ended up on top in the guard. Windrum went for another armbar attempt and this time sunk it very tight and quickly had Micale completely extended and with no choice but to submit.
A very slick display of grappling for Windrum, who will be challenging for the flyweight champion on the next Gladius card.
Winner by armbar at 1:49 of Round 2, Billy Windrum.
Fight 10: Dustin Bertch vs. Luis Chalas, Flyweight Title
Fighting out of Syracuse and representing Ultimate Athletics, 3-3 Luis “Game Over” Chalas faced the reigning champion, 6-3 Dustin “The Wolf” Bertch of Combat Sports in Jamestown, New York.
Bertch dropped Chalas briefly with a straight right early in the round. Back on the feet, the champion quickly lowered level and took Chalas down into the guard position. Bertch landed a couple of good body shots, but Chalas did a good job tying up his fists. Eventually Bertch improved to half guard, then side control and then mount. Chalas rolled onto his stomach and Bertch took the back and landed a few hard shots to the side of the head as the time expired in the round.
10-9 round for Bertch.
Chalas looked to land a leg kick and force a clinch, but Bertch worked patiently and controlled distance behind a good guard. The fighters exchanged low kicks, and then an aggressive rush by Chalas gave Bertch his opportunity to lower level and secure the takedown. He passed quickly into half guard and worked on short hooks to the body. Finally Bertch took mount. Chalas panicked and rolled to his stomach, giving up his back. Bertch landed some hard shots to the side of the head and slowly sunk in his hooks and flattened Chalas out and looked to sink a rear-naked choke. He was getting very close to sinking it when the round expired.
10-9 for Bertch.
Chalas snuck in a nice uppercut to start the third and then rocked Bertch with a quick flurry of hooks, driving him to the cage. But the champion stayed calm and once again dropped his level and took Chalas down into guard. Bertch methodically worked to improve position. Eventually he passed into side control, then full mount, where he threw short hooks on Chalas. When Bertch postured up, Chalas once again rolled to his stomach. Bertch sunk the hooks and worked on stretching Chalas out, while also hooking to the side of the head. Once again, the round ended with Chalas defending the rear-naked choke.
10-9 for Bertch.
No surprise with the decision as all three judges had 30-27 for the winner, and still champion, Dustin “The Wolf” Bertch. Bertch vs. Windrum should feature some good grappling.
Fight 11: James Briggs vs. Christian Torres, Lightweight Title
Fighting for the vacant Gladius lightweight title, 6-1 James “The New York Nightmare” Briggs of Jiu Jitsu Nation out of Watertown faced 3-2 Christian Torres representing Asylum MMA out of Endicott.
Briggs used his reach to land some hard strikes early, while Torres pushed forward with determination, attempting to exploit a strength advantage. Torres landed a big right hand and was able to bull Briggs against the cage, where he landed a series of big right hands flush to Briggs’ head. Briggs attempted to work into underhooks, but had trouble improving position. He dropped for a single leg, but Torres sprawled out hard, forced the action back up against the cage and landing another big right hand that got the crowd “oohing.” Torres continued to press his strategy of pushing Briggs onto the cage and then backing up just long enough to land the big right hand.
Torres suddenly fell towards the mat and Briggs quickly dropped on top of him and worked to sink a rear-naked choke and grab a sudden submission victory. Torres got up slowly and indicated to the referee that he had been hit hard in the groin.
Winner and new champion by rear-naked choke at 2:48 of Round 1, James Briggs.
Torres was extremely angry after the fight, forgoing the customary handshake between opponents, which is more often actually an embrace. He vowed to “be back.” It was clear that something strange had happened to make Torres give up a dominant position quickly, but he gave no indication of having been hit in the groin at the moment it would have happened and Briggs’ quick reaction, grabbing the choke, kept the action flowing. I would not be surprised to see a rematch of this fight as Torres was winning a competitive, but clear, round at the time of the sudden turn of events.
Fight 12: Joseph Goyette vs. Anthony Jerome, vacant featherweight belt
Former Binghamton University wrestler and 5-2 amateur fighter Antony Jerome came into the cage to some outstanding old-school soul music. Not AC/DC, but pretty darn good. His opponent was 10-6 Joseph Goyette of WNYMMA in Buffalo.
Fighting for the vacant belt, Goyette landed some crisp striking before Jerome lowered his level and worked for a single leg takedown. Goyette defended well and worked out of a clinch. Goyette tried to force a clinch and Jerome worked into an underhook. In the clinch, Goyette landed some hard knees to the body.
Goyette threw a jab and a big overhand right that dropped Jerome against the cage. Goyette sprang into action and stacked Jerome up against the cage and unloaded a barrage of heavy ground and pound to force the stoppage.
Winner and new by TKO 2:22 of Round 1
Fight 13: Luke Visingard vs. Yusuf Jami, light heavyweight title
Representing Five Element, Luke Visingard of Maine, New York brought a 3-1 record to the cage against 1-0 Yusuf Jami of Syracuse, in a clash for the vacant Gladius light heavyweight belt. Standing 6’5”, Visingard had a significant length advantage on Jami, which Jami promptly looked to negate by landing a big, overhand right as soon as he closed into range. Visingard tried to use the cage to move to a more comfortable distance behind his jab, but Jami was relentless, and landed a second big shot. Clearly rocked, Visingard threw back his own heavy punches.
Suddenly, both big men were throwing haymakers for all they were worth as the crowd exploded in excitement. Visingard grabbed for a Muy Thai clinch so he could slow the action down and land some knees, but countered with a series of uppercuts to force his way out of the clinch. The wild exchange continued and Jami connected again with a heavy shot that sent Visingard to the canvas, where he turtled up defensively. Jami swarmed him, pounding away and opening up a cut over Visingard’s eye. Referee Forrest Hobbit waved off the action.
Winner and new champion by TKO at 1:22 of Round 1, Yusuf Jami.
Submission of the Night: There were a number of very good submissions on this card, but when you pull one off so quickly that most of the crowd didn’t even follow it, you’re employing some pretty slick grappling, so I’m giving it to Cameron McClaney for his armbar of Brad Vargason.
KO of the Night: There were again a number of worthy candidates for knockout of the night. But Joseph Goyette’s combination of crisp striking and defensive wrestling to keep the fight where he wanted it led to an outstanding TKO of Antony Jerome and allowed him to capture the Gladius featherweight belt.
Fight of the Night: I am a big fan of outstanding technical fighting, but sometimes you just can’t beat an old fashioned donnybrook for excitement. Yusuf Jami’s TKO win over Luke Visingard for the Gladius light heavyweight title was 1:22 of mayhem.