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Hungry for Vengeance at Lion Fight 17

Mashantucket Reservation, CT- 8/1/14:  A series of storms rolled up the east coast from the Bahamas up through New England.  Harsh winds and strong rain softened up the surfaces for a big blow from hail much like a series of jabs can set up a strong power punch.  The harsh weather outside reflected what was going on inside the Fox Theater at Foxwoods Resort in Connecticut.  Lion Fight 17 had brought a thunderstorm of Muay Thai action that few who saw it will forget.  I must say, if you are looking for awesome action, exciting techniques, and awesome aerial displays you don’t need to go to Glory, you can definitely get your fill from the high-class Muay Thai in the Lion Fight Promotions!

This night’s line-up featured some great matches and re-matches, and if you had never seen an actual Lumpini Champion in action live, this was a great opportunity.  Scott Kent and Christine Toledo had brought Malaipet Sasiprapa to the States for a second match-up against Philadelphia’s Justin Greskiewicz.  Also on the card as the co-main event, Brazil’s Cosmo Alexandre was matched-up against Atlanta’s Jo Nattawut.  The professional undercard had great talent in the likes of Brett Hlavacek and Cyrus Washington, Carlos Lopez and Rami Ibrahim, Victor Saravia and Andy Singh, and Tim Amorim versus second time last minute replacement, Pedro Gonzalez.  Even the amateur preliminaries were exciting, entertaining bouts pairing local talent and some tough out-of-towners.  

In the Main Event, a confident and energized Purple People Eater aka Justin Greskiewicz started well, as he came out jabbing, and probing Malaipet’s defense.  Everything was going according to plan until thirty seconds into the fight, when Malaipet countered a probing low kick with a solid overhand right that landed flush on Justin’s temple sending him clattering to the canvas quickly.  Running on auto-pilot at this point, Greskiewicz returned to his feet, wobbled on his rubbery legs, and then pulled himself together in time to beat the count and continue.  The dazed Greskiewicz reverted to his hard-wired programming; advance and attack.  As he came forward, trying to reassert himself and recover the fight if not the round, Malaipet circled and moved around and countered Justin’s punches with hard shin kicks to the ribs and underarms.  Somehow, Justin made it through the first round and back to his corner for a refresher.  The minute rest helped a lot, as Greskiewicz came out back in form for the second.  Although by no means dominant, Justin was more accurate and effective with his boxing.  He landed some hard shots to Malaipet’s head and body, pushing the thickly muscled Thai backwards and into a circling pattern, but not hurting him.  At the same time, Sasiprapa continued to pepper Greskiewicz with hard punches and more kicks to the body.  By the end of the second round, Justin’s latissimus muscles had turned the same dark purple hue of his trunks.  Malaipet had tasted Justin’s power in the first two rounds and seemed to be unimpressed as the third round started.  He began to clown around, sticking out his tongue and shaking his head when hit.  He was baiting Justin to come at him, like holding a fat steak in front of a hungry dog’s eyes.  Undaunted, Greskiewicz advanced, landing a clean 1-2 combination.  Malaipet shrugged it off, again clowning.  Justin pressed forward, closing the distance and trying to land some elbows.  With some smooth footwork, the thick Thai avoided the attack and swept Justin to the ground loudly.  Now behind three rounds and an 8-count, Greskiewicz would have to sell out in the last two stanzas if he was to stake any claim on victory.  He came out of the corner under control but more intense with a more consistent pace.  He had mentioned to me previously that he expected Malaipet’s conditioning to be a weakness in his game, and that he would fade as the rounds went on.  Attacking with good boxing skills and combinations, Greskiewicz managed to cut Malaipet in the corner of his eye.  Malaipet’s reaction to the more oppressive Greskiewicz was stolid, more serious now, with no clowning.  I was briefly reminded of Ivan Drago in Rocky IV when he got cut, or James “the Grim Reaper” Roper in The Great White Hype, taking a good shot as an insult and hitting the switch to really turn his game on.  Going into the final stanza, Justin knew he was behind on the cards, at least 3 rounds to 1 and that pesky early knock-down.  Still under control, knowing that Sasisprapa was looking for that over-aggressive movement to counter hard, Greskiewicz attacked from distance.  He landed a clean high teep to Malaipet’s face, snapping his head back, and giving notice that Justin wasn’t ready to admit defeat just yet.   It seemed as if Justin’s comment about the older Thai’s conditioning was ringing true as Malaipet threw less and less, and defended more and more.  This allowed Justin to rack up points in the round.  However, when Malaipet felt Justin taking too much momentum, he would fire back effectively and not just coast through the round.  The final decision was a Unanimous Decision in favor of the Lumpini Champion, Malaipet Sasiprapa.

In the Co-Main Event, Jo Nattawut took on Cosmo Alexandre in what looked as much like a professional fight in Thailand as almost any fight I’ve seen in the US.  They both took their stances and bouncing rhythms early and began the slow feeling out first round typical of fight in the big stadiums in Thailand.  Once in a while one of the combatants would land a sharp strike, countered equally by the other.  It was the slow steady build up that the true fans of Muay Thai can appreciate, much like the Ram Muay/Wai Kru.  Unfortunately, not everyone in the crowd was an educated fan of Muay Thai.  It was one drunk asshole, who just wanted to see some violence who repeatedly shouted silliness into the ring, things like “kill ‘im”, “rip his fuckin’ head off”, and other lame standards.  Undaunted, and not acknowledging the idiot, the fighters moved on, and in to the second round.  Cosmo seemed to be testing Jo’s power, taking a couple of shots, in order to land a hard on in return.  The pace had picked up a tick, as both fighters used quick punches to set up leg and body kicks, and both countered well when hit.  As the rounds progressed, so did the action and amount of power shots.  More knees from both fighters, more kicks to the head from each marked the passage of time.  In the third and fourth, Cosmo’s Defense First style allowed Jo to dictate the pace and get off clean shots consistently over the two rounds.  Alexandre did take the opportunity to explode in a few well-placed flurries and aerial attacks.  It seemed to me that Nattawut was, however, starting the exchanges and finishing them.  The fifth round was somewhat less than exciting.  A strong throw by Jo early was equalized by one from Cosmo towards the end, with not too much in the middle.  The Split Decision went to Nattawut, 48-47, 47-48, 48-47.

In a very interesting rematch, Cyrus Washington would take on Brett Hlavacek.  Brett had very recently taken Cyrus’ WBC title in a hard-fought battle at Chris Tran’s great Warrior’s Cup promotion in New Jersey.  Although the belt was not up for grabs, a shot at vengeance was.  This type of rematch is often great motivation for the guy who had lost the first.  They often rededicate and refocus themselves, pushing to another level during training.  However, it appeared that Brett had counted on that and trained harder and more effectively than ever before.  Brett came out in the best shape I have ever seen him in, and looked not only confident, as he usually is, but also focused, and serious.  Cyrus came out toned and ready as ever.  At the bell, Cyrus came out swinging for the fences, trying to punish Brett and possibly hurt him early.  Brett, however, was on his defensive game, blocking or evading most of Cyrus’ shots.  In a short clinch, Brett grazed Cyrus’ eyebrow with a rising elbow.  It didn’t land hard and flush, but just enough to open a cut and start a trickle of blood between Cyrus’ eyes.  The fight progressed with an intense pace, with both fighters flashing elbows and power kicks.  At one point, Brett landed an elbow and went to finish the combo with a jumping knee, Cyrus spotted it coming, and stepped around into a safe position and swept the already airborne Brett, flipping him upside down, landing in a heap on the back of his neck.  Brett smiled, picked himself up, and a moment later landed a straight right hand flush to Cyrus’ chin, sending Washington to the mat for an 8 count.  The rounded ended with Brett pinning Cyrus to the ropes and peeking over his shoulder to watch himself on the big screen.  He landed a few lateral knees to Cyrus’ flank then pushed off and landed a nice elbow at the bell.  This caught Cyrus’ attention.  From then on, Cyrus would try to press and push the pace, desperate to even the score and take the victory.  As Cyrus pressed forward, he was stepping into Brett’s range.  Brett used his quick hands and good movement landing some flashy and effective blows, including a teep to the face, some good elbows, and a nice double round-kick going from Cyrus’ body then quickly up to his head.  The fourth round slowed the output a bit, as each man seemed to be resting up for the final showdown.  In that final round, Cyrus’ used a savvy right feint to set up and land a hard left hook to Brett’s head and followed that trying to take the momentum, round and possibly the fight.  Brett tried to smother Cyrus’ attacks, but didn’t go on the offensive in return.  He seemed to be shutting the engines down and relying on the rounds he had banked as well as that knock down.  The decision was one of the only weird ones of the night, as one judge had it 47-47, one 48-46 and the last 48-45 for a majority decision for Hlavacek.

In other notable pro action, Rami Ibrahim suffered a tough loss to the taller, longer, quicker and stronger Carlos Lopez by Unanimous Decision: 49-46, 49-46, 50-44.  An acrobatic aerial attack from Andy Singh was shot down by the grounded, steady approach of Victor Saravia.  Saravia won by TKO in the fourth round.  In his second pro fight, Tim Amorim learned a valuable lesson; don’t sleep on last minute replacements.  The always game Pedro Gonzalez kept up his usual bull-rushing style, driving Tim to the ropes and dropping him with a right hook.  The game Amorim played matador as well as he could, but the ring was not big enough for him to keep a distance.  He was eventually bullied into a TKO loss in the fourth round.

The amateur bouts were exciting and good match-ups, although I would like to see them lose the head-gear and shin pads.  The pro fights were top notch, and the Main Event did not disappoint.  It was a great night that showed not only great Muay Thai technique, but the heart, discipline and character of Thai-boxers that help build the reputation and mystique of our beloved Art of Eight Limbs.  

-CHOK DEE!

Amateur Results:
Jared Tipton def Jose Rivera by UD
Billy Keenan def Chanon Kuldaree by SD
Bryce Lawrence def Stephane Smarth by UD
Nicole Scimeme def Jessica Palencar by UD
Patrick Rivera def Nate King by UD

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As Glory Content on Spike Expands, It’s Time to Start Thinking Bigger

Glory has long accumulated enough content to provide regular programming on SpikeTV, but the extent of its presence has largely been limited to 2-hour live or tape delayed events as well as 30 minute countdown shows. Ratings, while stable overall, have varied the most between long hiatuses with Glory finding it difficult to sustain the momentum generated by a successful event. This is why we’ve maintained that having Spike air Glory content on a more regular basis would help keep the product on the radar of combat sports fans.

Well, it seems like this may be coming to fruition. On July 25, SpikeTV aired a one hour-long special consisting of some of the best Glory fights and highlights thus far. If you tuned in, you might have noticed a small caption reading that the Glory Last Man Standing tournament will be airing Friday, August 8, at 10/9c. In case you missed it before, Glory and Spike are going to bring you the greatest combat sports PPV event of the year for FREE on August 8, filling a relatively quiet night of programming (unless Cops and Jail is your idea of quality prime time entertainment) with must-see TV. While we’re waiting to hear more about Glory’s plans for the second half of 2014, airing the historic LMS event on free TV is more than enough to satisfy Kickboxing fans in the meantime. By the way, if you have friends or know someone who would be interested in Kickboxing, this is the event they need to see.

Could these programming changes possibly signal deepening ties between Glory and Spike? While we don’t know for sure, it is likely. Consider that the once-known “First Network for Men” has lately struggled with its identity as more original programming has been replaced by syndicated content. Its association with the UFC once provided hours of original daytime programming as well as an exclusive live sports entertainment product for primetime. However, it has yet to convincingly compete in this space again, with Bellator achieving only a fraction of the UFC’s former presence. TNA, while not considered a leading brand, has provided steady ratings for Spike with an average of 1-1.2 million viewers every week (as reported on wrestling sites). However, by ending its relationship with TNA, Spike will need to rededicate its efforts to making its original sports programming successful. Bellator and Glory have yet to perform strongly enough on their own, but with the combined strength of these two brands in a co-promotional arrangement, Spike may able to reestablish itself as an outlet for combat sports.

What would be the next step for Glory and Spike? I would personally like to see the 17 or so unaired Super Fight cards that Glory has taped make their way to cable TV. This is ready-made content that could fill any weekend or weekday with solid combat sports action. While The Ultimate Fighter was a breakout promotional vehicle for Spike and the UFC, I would argue that the afternoons full of UFC Unleashed were equally as important because it gave casual and incidental viewers the opportunity to discover the product. The possibility of doing a reality show depends on the viability of the format today; for Glory, I see greater value in developing a television platform for Eldar Gross’s excellent documentary filmmaking than I do for a game show with an uninspired gimmick (Enfusion Reality included). If you doubt this, just consider the star-making impact of Eldar’s documentaries on Alistair Overeem and Tyrone Spong and imagine this in the format of a serious multi-part series with AMC/HBO-style marketing--there’s a chance to reach a wider audience here. This would be the type of promotion that Glory has been looking for with a cast of excellent subjects who have already been chosen.

We’re at a point now where the Glory product itself is in need of no further major refinement. The challenge now is making a connection with a television audience, and while this is a daunting task, there are a few things that we might consider. Let’s think about a time in combat sports when big fights made big news and big names mattered to little people. We talk about combat sports legends like the often-named boxers of bygone generations--men who became icons not only because of their accomplishments (after all, what cultural value do these accomplishments have if no one knows about or appreciates them?) but because of how they were sold to the public. The legend of Muhammad Ali had as much to do with the man as the people who promoted him and publicized him. Television in the cable era is far more fragmented than it was in the broadcast network era, but every now and then, when talent, interest, and marketing come together at the right time, a figure is able to transcend the boundaries of their medium. Far less well-spoken people who compete in sports more obscure than kickboxing get made into national heroes every Olympics; what stops our champions? Is the story of some dopy middle class suburban kid who spent all of their free time swimming more compelling than that of Zack Mwekassa? NBC sells the hell out of stories like that. Maybe it’s time to stop waiting for the mainstream to find us--let’s go after their hearts. This product and the people who compete are just as compelling as anything that could get sold on TV; it’s time to market the product with inspiration and creativity. It’s time to think bigger.

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Shin on Shin Series: Episodes 1 - 4

Our bud Steven Wright has always made it clear how much he loves the sport of kickboxing. He makes his money by helping out some of the best MMA fighters in the world to hone their standup, but his passion has always been kickboxing. For about as long as I've known Steven he has been talking about his documentary. Steven is a lot like me in the regards of he always has a lot going on, but he always stuck to his guns; he was going to release his epic kickboxing documentary at some point. 

So we waited and waited and I at times wondered if he had forgotten about it. He hasn't, not at all. Here is the first four episodes of Shin on Shin Series, with the focus on Europe. 

Shin on Shin Series: EP1 The Fall, Hated Dominance, Unappreciated Brilliance

Shin on Shin Series: EP2 Alexey Ignashov The First Next Big Thing, Badr Hari The People's Champ

Shin on Shin Series: EP3 The Wages of the Wars, In Honor of those we lost...

Shin on Shin Series: EP4 They Call it a War

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Fight Night Saint-Tropez II Fight Card Changes.

Fight Night Saint-Tropez II will be taking place August 4th 2014 in Saint-Tropez, France but will be broadcast Aug 7th on the French channel L'Equipe 21. We will get to see big names like Jerome Le Banner, Peter Aerts, Filip Verlinden and Freddy Kemayo. It looks as though Daniel Sam was supposed to be facing Le Banner but it seems to have changed to Colin George who also trains at Mike's Gym. Peter Aerts will be facing Freddy Kemayo, who will be a tough fight considering Aerts got a draw with Dewey Cooper his last fight.

Fight Card

Jerome LEBANNER ( France ) vs Colin GEORGE ( England )

Peter AERTS ( Holland ) vs Freddy KEMAYO ( France )

Vladimir MINEEV ( Russia ) vs Mikahail TUTUREV ( Russia )

Nicolas WAMBA ( France ) vs Arnold OBOROTOV (Lithuania )

Yohan KONGOLO ( Switzerland ) vs Nicola GALLO ( Italia )

Jessy PETITJEAN ( Belgium ) vs Maneenoi EKKARIT ( Thailand )

Correntin JALLON ( France ) vs Filip VERLINDER ( Belgium )

Kevin EIBERG ( Germany ) vs Samsamut KIETCHONGKAO ( Thailand )

Irina MAZEPA ( Russia ) vs Taehiran CHOMMANEE ( Thailand )

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