The Battle at the Ballroom in Irvine provides both boxing and mma knockouts for fight fans

Irvine, CA- You hear the same argument over and over again. On mma forums such as Sherdog or The Underground you often see diehard fans bashing the sport of boxing whenever they are given the chance. They see it as the “old guard,” something their father and grandfather watch. They try desperately to establish any sort of distance that connects their generation to their elders in an effort to disassociate from anything seen “un cool.” It’s a known fact that mixed martial arts does cater to a younger audience, while its combative forefather, the pugilistic art of boxing has had a hard time winning over boxing converts. They are on the other side of the spectrum when it comes to mma; they dont understand it and they bash it just as bad as those on the online forums. I always ask myself the question, why can’t us fight fans all get along? I for one am a fight fan. I’m a fan of people punching their brains out with 4ounce gloves and inside a cage and a fan off two fighters beating their brains out with 8 ounce gloves inside a squared circle. To be quiet frank, I like a good ass whooping. Roy Englebrook does as well, the promoter of The Battle of the Ballroom which puts together Orange Counties only hybrid mma/boxing show. This concept has always intrigued me, so when I had the opportunity to see and experience what type of operation Mr. Englebrook I could not pass it up. I ventured out deep into the heart of Orange County and was surprised and please with what I found.

Englebrook is not a newcomer to the promoting game, he’s been in the fight business for 26 years, and was the first promoter in California to be licensed and approved by the California State Athletic Commission to put on a mma show. It’s no wonder the people at Affliction went to Roy to use his license to put on their two shows. When I arrived I was taken aback. I’ve been to many local mma shows in the area and this one by far had an impressive set up with a beautiful venue. Full on spotlights and a welcoming staff greeting everyone outside, the extra touches left a good impression on me. As I went to check in for my credentials I ran into a old friend, MMA veteran Brian “Mr. Unbreakable” Warren. Brian has fought some big names inside the cage including Tiki Ghosn and Cung Le whom he broke his nose. We exchanged pleasantries and he let me know he had one of his fighters from his Unbreakable Gym in San Bernardino was on deck to fight. I took a look at the card myself and saw the scheduled bout sheet; four boxing fights and two mma fights. Not bad I thought, though I would of liked a even mma to boxing ratio. When I stepped into the ballroom itself it was a really gorgeous site. Chandeliers everywhere, huge ample space, big name sponsors likes Tecate and SC Fuels plastered everywhere and beer stations. In every possible direction you looked there were beer stations. Mr. Englebrook knows his audience, I counted five beer stations throughout the whole ballroom, smart guy.

After doing a walk thru I decided to go into the fighters warm up areas to go take a peak. The first mma match of the night pit Bantamweights Vincent Martinez (1-5) and Marcus Kowal (1-0) and I paid each a visit. Martinez was being cornered by Brian Warren, I asked him how he felt his fighter would do he responded by saying, “Vince has good head movement and good striking. We know he’s going up against a good dude so lets hope for the best.” After watching them hit the pads for a bit I made my way over to Kowals corner. I opened the door and Bam! Right in front of me stands Strikeforce heavyweight contender Fabricio Werdum. He smiles and I watch him consult Kowal before he walks out to the ring. I myself finally make my way to my press section and I notice a strange dichotomy among the audience. Half of the crowd are what you usually see at mma shows. Your eighteen to thirty something’s, while the other half are…you guessed it, your working professionals and boxing’s old guard, the people that grew up with the sport when it was relevant in the United States. Martinez put up a good fight but was stopped via rear naked choke in the first round by Kowal, much to the delight of Werdum. The card continued with a few more boxing matches and I was pleased to see some of the younger fans in attendance actually appreciating those fights. The second mma match of the night pitted last minute replacement Billy Terry (4-16) against Buena Park native Chris Saunders (3-1). Terry was no match for Saunders, who worked takedowns to set up ground and pound damage to eventually get the win in the second round via TKO on his turtled up foe. The crowd cheered Saunders wildly, clearly appreciating the early stoppage. The night finished off with a four round boxing fight that pitted a Mike Tyson look a like against a young up and coming heavyweight that oddly resembled Lennox Lewis.

In what resembled the real life Lewis/Tyson fight his doppelganger look alike closed the night with a first round KO victory. Soon after I stopped by with Mr. Englebrook and asked him why have a hybrid card like this one. “I saw MMA and knew it was a hot thing to be honest. I thought to myself, I know how to promote, I know how to get butts in seats, why not give it a shot.” He certainly does know how to put butts in seats as the 1,412 seat Irvine Marriott Ballroom was completely sold out for the Wednesday night show. “I noticed that Fans that come just love the action. They love seeing fights and I’m glad I can offer just enough to please both mma and boxing fans,” says Englebrook. I was one of those fans and the 1,412 in attendance were shown when done right mma and boxing are not enemies, but can co-exist with one sport educating the old guard and the other highlighting the striking traditions of generations pass.

Hector Lombard “I’m ready to fight the best!”

I had a chance to interview Hector Lombard, the current Bellator Middleweight Champion on a variety of issues. He speaks on wanting to get recognized more in the US, how he would like to rematch both Gegard Mousasi and Akihiro Gono, his take on Machida/Rua and much more. I for one, agree with Hector in not being recognized the way he should, I believe he is a top ten middleweight, but with due time the attention and recognition he seeks will come to him.

enjoy folks!

Couture submits Coleman for win a decade in the making

Las Vegas, NVRandy Couture, the timeless legend of the octagon etched another chapter in his storied hall of fame career as he bested and ultimately choked out Mark “The Hammer” Coleman via rear naked choke in the second round of their UFC 109 main event. The two former UFC heavyweight champions had been itching for over a decade to finally see who was the better of the two. Though both fighters are in the twilight of their careers Couture is the rare gem that can still give fighters twenty years his junior a run for their money. He started the bout almost immediately landing stiff jabs that sent the former Pride GP winner’s head bouncing back. Coleman did not look good as if aging in the cage, keeping his head straight up like a chicken each time he would get hit or step back in a attempt to strafe Couture’s advances. Coleman ate all of Randy’s best shots and was never knocked down, displaying an iron chin. He was able to get off two hooks that momentarily held back Couture, but the pressure would prove to much as Couture would force Coleman into the cage dishing out nasty uppers from the clinch. He would work dirty boxing tactics the rest of the first round, with Coleman seemingly having no answer to what was being thrown at him. The second round might have been the last of Coleman’s UFC Career and certainly was the last of the fight. Couture secured a Greco body lock and took the fight to the ground. He took his opponents back and slapped a rear naked choke that put Coleman on his way to an appointment with the sandman.

Couture seems to be still growing as a fighter the older he gets. “I feel at 46 I still am getting better, ” said the former champion. Taking the fight to the ground was something Couture had worked on in the gym and it paid off. Coleman was visibly disappointed after the fight with thoughts of his future swirling in his head. “He beat me to the punch, Randy is a great fighter,” Said Coleman

Underdog Sonnen uses wrestling for the decision win

24 and 10 Chael Sonnen, the last WEC middleweight champion used his Olympic level wrestling to blow out what is seen as the second best middleweight in the UFC; Nate Marquardt. The Team Quest based fighter put Marquardt on his back for three rounds to gain a unanimous decision on the judges scorecards. Marquardt was confident that everything Sonnen did he could do better, but after the bout admitted that he did not stand or utilize his foot work to off set Sonnen’s takedowns. Marquardt did have some high points in the fight though. Cutting Sonnen on the forehead while on his back with a big elbow. It affected Sonnen so much so that he constantly kept thinking about it through out, “I was hurt from that first round, I was scared that they were going to stop the fight because of that cut,” Said Sonnen. He resiliently kept fighting on, taking Marquardt down at will and imposing some serious ground and pound, racking both points and damage. By the third round, Marquardt looked very wobbly but would make some major headway when compared to his first two rounds. First locking in a guillotine after a Sonnen takedown that almost had the fighter submitting, “It was deep. I was counting in my head when he had that guillotine in,” Sonnen said. Marquardt would finish the round strong transitioning a sweet sit out switch that had him now landing hard shots on Sonnen in his guard. It was too little, to late though as Sonnen was awarded the win. He now extends his UFC win streak to three with wins over Marquardt, Yushin Okami and Dan Miller.

Thiago takes down another AKA fighter in Swick

Paulo Thiago beat another American Kickboxing Academy fighter and almost mirroring his spectacular win over Josh Koshcheck. The Brazilian choked out a game Mike “Quick” Swick via D’arce choke that was set up by a wild right hook in the second round. Both fighters were cautious in the first round, with Swick changing levels and mixing in punch/kick combinations while Thiago would counter and press forward as the aggressor. The two fighters seemed much looser in the second round, with their body language telling how much they had relaxed. Swick planted Thiago with a right hand that moved him back and may have possible stunned him; Thiago countered almost immediately with a wild hook that sent Swick down. Thiago went in to finish, but Swick recovered his senses working in a under hook while Thiago was on top. This was a gift to the skilled Jiu-jitsu black belt as he immediately sunk in a tight D’arce choke for the win. Thiago now improves to 13-1, as he welcomes all challengers and maybe a possible rematch with Josh Koshcheck.

Maia gets the judges favor, while Serra takes out Trigg

Damian Maia continued improving his striking game as he mixed both his boxing and Jiu-jitsu for a unanimous decision win over Dan Miller. Miller, who is a black belt in Brazillian Jiu-Jitsu under Renzo Gracie was hoping he could use some of those skills but his game plan would not pan out the way he wanted. After eating a knee to the groin in the first, Miller would fight the advances of Maia, never really able to land committed strikes on his opponent. For Maia’s part, he would mostly land his lead left hand, landing cleanly throughout the bout. Miller’s underrated ground game would come into play as in the third he was taken to the ground but popped back up just as fast. He would work in his guard for the close of the third round, not taking much damage from Maia to the surprise of everyone. Damian Maia now improves to a record of 12-1 his only loss coming to Nate Marquardt, who lost earlier to Chael Sonnen.

The Frank Trigg/Matt Serra grudge match came to an explosive end in Las Vegas, with Frank Trigg suffering a first round knock out. The loss will probably end the comeback run of the once dominant welterweight. Serra came out working effective strikes in his brief night of work, making Trigg guess as to where he would place his shots. The head, body and legs of Trigg was open game as repeated strikes would eventually set up the end for him and his UFC career. With the two fighters finally deciding to engage full on in the center of the cage, Serra threw a wild over hand right that landed and sent Trigg down. Serra followed up with three shots that had Trigg out and forced the stop of the bout at 2:23 of the first. It would be the first win in almost three years for the former welterweight champion, as Serra celebrated trademark cartwheel and all while his opponent was being attended to. “I wanted to work the body and make my way up there, ” said Serra reflecting on his game plan. “I’m very happy, I really have a lot of respect for Frank; I really do. I’m not the prettiest guy on the pads, but I got the job done. I believe in my stand-up. It’s not pretty, but (when) I land it, it hurts.”

In the un-televised under card:
Mac Danzig def. Justin Buchholz via unanimous decision (29-28, 29-28, 29-28)
Melvin Guillard def. Ronys Torres via unanimous decision (29-28, 29-28, 29-28)
Robert Emerson def. Phillipe Nover via unanimous decision (29-28, 29-28, 29-28)
Phil Davis def. Brian Stann via unanimous decision (30-26, 30-26, 30-27)
Chris Tuchscherer def. Tim Hague via decision (29-28, 29-28, 28-28)
Joey Beltran def. Rolles Gracie via TKO in R2 (1:31)

UFC 109: The geriatric grudge match!

UFC 109 picks:

Randy Couture/Mark Coleman: Couture by KO- Mark Coleman did pretty well in beating Stephan Bonner, but hes still not at the skill level Randy is at. Expect this one to be fought standing as the twos wrestling is going to negate each other. Randy of course has the better hands as Coleman has never been known for having slick hands. Randy might put this away in the third.

Nate Marquardt/Chael Sonnen: Marquardt- Nate is on a roll, i think hes the only guy in the welterweight division that can give Silva some problems. Sonnen has been running his mouth as of late so I believe that Marquardt is going to come out of the gate looking to close this out.

Mike Swick/Paulo Thiago: Swick- For sure Swick gots this. Thiago got lucky with his fight against Koshcheck, and Swick is going to extract revenge for his teammate.

Demian Maia/Dan Miller: Maia- This ones a tough one on many levels. After being brutally knocked out by Marquardt is Maia the same? Fighters usually never are so this well be the standard that we gauge Maia’s future performances on. It’s going to be wrestling vs. BJJ so expect this one to go to the judges

Matt Serra/Frank Trigg: Serra- This ones a grudge match, with both fighters talking alot of shit on each other. Skills pay the bills though, and Serra has more in the toolbag than Mr. Frank Trigg. I’m predicting this one is going to be stopped in the second.

Amir Sadollah “Dan Hardy deserves shot at GSP”

Whats up dude bros! Well this is my first official post but I’ve been writing and interviewing for a few months now. Ill post my older stuff later, but for now check out this interview I did with UFC welterweight Amir Sadollah! He talks Dan Hardy, Georges St-Pierre, the UFC welterweight division, crabs and herpes and the Jersey Shore.