Ashburn, VA - CageZilla Fighting Championship resumed their schedule in 2017 with an eight fight card that would only see three fights go to the judges scorecards for a decision. The main event pitted Sunni Imhotep of BETA Academy against Sall Yero of Ground Control for a 155-pound title bout. Co-headliners were Andrew Kim of Kaizen MMA vs. Shawn Brooks of Royal Martial Arts.
CageZilla is an extremely fan friendly event that has a strategic advantage with location and venue. Ashburn, VA is situated close enough to Washington D.C. and the Maryland area that travel here is like a typical Monday through Friday work commute for some people. That is, without the traffic. However, it's also far enough south that folks in nearby Fredericksburg or Richmond don't have to feel like they're going out of their way to attend a fight. As for the venue and local support, we gave kudos to the set-up with the CageZilla 43 post in December.
Tonight's action got off to a quick start with Roman Muradi of Kaizen MMA going hard against Nahom Demisse of BETA Academy. The fight would be under Glory Kickboxing rules and was held at the 165-pound weight class. Demisse began the fight in southpaw stance, switching to orthodox when it suited him and leading with aggressive leg kicks to the torso and front leg of Muradi. In the second round, Muradi came out more determined and was taking wild swings at the head of Demisse who would either fade or duck under his punches. Muradi was more successful in the round when he packaged his combinations with hands and kicks. But was caught in a mental lapse at the end of the round and knocked down by a push kick from Demisse. In the 3rd round, neither fighter seemed to be able to mount much sustained offense but Demisse seemed to handle the distance better and was having the last word with strikes. It was a close match but in the end, Demisse was awarded a unanimous decision victory by the judges.
Vincent Striker of LevelUp Boxing in Bowie, MD had a strange affair against Trevor Smith of King George, VA. At 125 pounds, speed is generally the hallmark of this weight class and so it was no surprise to see early flurries and quick movements from both fighters at the start. While Smith came out with a mix of heavy attacks, throwing hands and rear leg kicks. Striker settled in, moving out of harm's way and attempting a guillotine choke when the fight went to the ground. The stand up afterwards is where things went a bit awry. A brief exchange between the fighters saw Smith breakaway, grimacing in pain and favoring his right shoulder. The referee called timeout to inspect the injury and a spectator at cageside went ballistic. He was calling out the referee for stopping the fight based on an injury and all indications seemed to prove him right. The match officials got together to sort things out and Vincent Striker was awarded a TKO due to verbal tap by Smith. Disappointing for the fans who wanted to see these guys continue to scrap, but the right call.
Eduardo Brito of Kaizen MMA put on a fine performance against a Roe-Mar Blacknell at 125. Blacknell fighting from southpaw stance was stung early with jabs from Brito. That would be the tale of this fight as Brito delivered on all of his weapons, setting up everything behind his jabs. The finishing strike was a rear leg, round kick that landed to Blacknell's head after he had been hurt by a combination cross finish. Brito ended the fight by KO at 2:47 in the first round.
In the 145 bout, John Kermon of Capital MMA faced off against Joshua Oxedine of Pembroke MMA. While Oxedine seemed to do better standing, he appeared willing to go to the ground with Kermon even when it was clear early on that Kermon had the advantage on the mat. In the second round, before Oxedine could adjust his strategy, Kermon pressured the fight inside pushing Oxedine to the fence and securing a double-leg take down, where he was able to maneuver Oxedine in place for a rear-naked choke submission at 2:16 in round 2.
The decision bout of Christian Salinas of Kaizen MMA vs. Simon Gnotsavath of Southern Maryland Jiu Jitsu at bantamweight was a fairly one-sided for Salinas. But Gnotsavath showed incredible heart, refusing to quit in several situations where he was nearly finished. Salinas was looking for a ground fight and had his way with a resistant Gnotsavath who fought off several real-naked choke submission attempts, taking lots of damage along the way. Salinas won the fight by unanimous decisions 30-27.
The fan favorite fight of the evening was John Csoka of Vanguard MMA vs. Hart Bottorf. Csoka had come into this bout with 3 straight losses and looked as though he may have aged out of the sport. But he came out game against the young Bottorf with lots of energy early, putting on a display of several spinning kicks and round kick attempts to give Bottorf something to think about. Late in the first round as Csoka slowed, Bottorf seemed to be gaining momentum. He was able to get the fight to the ground and inflict a cut near Csoka's left eye, just as the round was ending. As fate would have it, the start of the second round was delayed as medical personnel examined Csoka's cut. This seemed to allow Csoka to get his second wind and he started round 2 with a renewed determination. Bottorf backed away but in distance of one of Csoka's spirited round house kicks that landed to the head and dazed Bottorf who was now in clear retreat. Csoka pursued with strikes and as Bottorf fell to his knees, he turned back to the referee not looking to inflict more damage to his younger competitor. The referee stopped the fight at 44 seconds in the 2nd round awarding a TKO victory to Csoka as the crowd went wild. Csoka soaked up the moment and was joined by his lady in the cage, receiving a standing ovation from the crowd. Csoka may never make it to the UFC but he'll remember the feeling of this win for a long time.
In the co-main event, Andrew Kim of Kaizen MMA had a fight of the night and show stealing performance against Shawn Brooks of Royal Martial Arts, at the 170 pound weight class. Brooks was the more experienced MMA fighter but Kim comes from an amateur boxing background and was accustomed to tough competition having been a sparring partner at one point for former middleweight boxing champion, William Joppy. At the start of the fight, Kim extended a lazy front kick from his southpaw stance. Brooks caught the kick and stepped in to sweep the rear leg for the take down. Kim quickly pulled guard and was able to work his way to his feet. After some circling and a bit of hand fighting, Kim again attempted a poorly executed front kick, which was again caught. But this time Kim took advantage of the inside position, grabbing an over hook on the left arm of Brooks before swimming both hands inside for a plum clinch. Before Brooks knew what hit him, he was on the receiving end of two quick succession left knees, two more right knees, right hook, left hook and down he went with Kim still swarming over the top of him. Brooks went out at 56 seconds in Round 1 with Kim winning by KO. It was indeed a spectacular performance. The packed house on hand yelled their approval as audience members were asking nearby strangers if they'd caught the action on video.
In the final fight of the evening, well-matched opponents, Sunni Imhotep and Sall Yero would determine who would go home with the 155-pound title belt.
Both fighters were relaxed and focused in the early rounds. Imhotep had decided early on that his chosen strikes would come from kicks. Push kicks to the top of the thighs, sidekicks to the body and round kicks to the legs. While many of Imhotep's kicks found their marks, his problem seemed to be the lack of set-ups with his hands. This prevented him from landing anything clean and allowed Yero to either absorb the blows or step-off to dampen the impact. While the two would occasionally switch roles, for the most part Yero provided most of the pressure during the fight. When Imhotep did throw punches, he would choose to counter allowing Yero to determine where the engagements would happen. Not an altogether bad as strategy for Imhotep but it required him to deliver quick responses and precise delivery. He seemed to be a bit hesitant with his hands throughout the fight. This was a close tactical fight but I had Yero winning all 3 rounds not because of any kind of special performance but because he appeared to be the aggressor throughout the fight. Two of the three judges agreed with me and awarded Yero a 29-28, 28-29, 29-28 split decision win. Post fight we learned that Yero had separate his left shoulder in the first round. Adrenaline and will to win goes a long way.
If you would like more information on CageZilla's upcoming fights, visit their website at http://cagezilla.com/.
About the Author:
Darryl Keeton is an avid striking, grappling and wrestling fan living in Upper Marlboro, MD. He holds a black belt in ITF Tae Kwon Do and is also a practitioner of Combat Jujutsu, Boxing and Muay Thai.