Baltimore, MD - It's Spring time in Baltimore and that usually assures you two things in downtown Baltimore, the start of the Orioles season at Camden Yards and the arrival of Shogun Fights at Royal Farms Arena. Since I know nothing about professional baseball, I made my way cageside on Saturday to check out the next edition of Baltimore's homegrown MMA product, Shogun Fights XVI.
Shogun Fights has been producing mixed martial arts contests in Baltimore since 2009. They've become a staple for local fans seeking a live MMA performance and a destination for local fighters attempting to break into the sport. Earlier this year Shogun was acquired by Alliance MMA, a publicly traded (NASDAQ: AMMA) mixed martial arts promotion company, that has been scooping up regional promotions across the country in an effort to allow each of these individual franchises to benefit from the scale of national banner. This arrangement should also benefit aspiring fighters with standout talent, raising their profile quicker by fighting with different promotions under the same umbrella.
Shogun's card this evening featured four title bouts. Two inaugural titles at 125 and 135lbs. and two at 145 and 170lbs. Greg Fischer and Martin Davila would meet for the 125lb title. Jesse Stirn and Mike Easton would scrap for the 135lb title. Francisco Isata would defend his 145lb belt against Binky Jones and Micah Terrill looked to battle against champion, Chauncey Foxworth for the 170lb title. Special celebrity guests included former Baltimore Raven, wide-receiver, Jacoby Jones and UFC's #1 women's strawweight, Claudia Gadelha.
Francisco Isata of Pedro Sauer BJJ in Silver Spring and Binky Jones of Ground Control, Baltimore would do battle for the featherweight title as the 8th fight on the 12 fight card. This would be a rematch of their contest at Shogun XIII where Isata was able to take home the win. Typically when you see fighters who have faced each other before, there is some initial study between the two before engagement. You saw a little of this at the start of this match. In the first round, Isata yielded the center of the cage to Jones and began the bout with leg kicks to the orthodox lead leg of Jones. Isata would circle in both directions in an attempt to disrupt the footwork of Jones and perhaps to avoid being timed himself. Jones entered this fight at 47 years of age. Admirable that he's still competing and he looked in good physical condition. But one of the tell tale signs of an aging fighter is his decaying footwork. While Jones still has functional skills, he is a step behind with this feet and Isata's movement was meant to expose this. After Jones attempted a left hook, his body opened wide for a takedown by Isata and the fight moved to a grappling match. This would seemingly be a good place for Jones who is an instructor at Ground Control in Baltimore. As the fight moved to the second round, Jones was able to bring the match closer with a guillotine choke attempt and a bit of nifty scrambling that would see both men reverse positions before Jones was able to close out the round on top. It was clear that some in the Baltimore crowd, weren't overly impressed with a grappling affair and grew restless while other more seasoned mixed martial arts spectators recognized the hand, hook and head position battles that were taking place on the mat. Isata managed to grind out a unanimous decision victory of 29-28; 29-28 and 30-27 to retain his featherweight title.
Next up to decide who the new flyweight titleholder would be were Greg Fischer of Method MMA in Forest Hill, MD and Martin Davila of the renowned American Top Team in Coconut Creek, FL. Davila couldn't really get going during the fight. Fischer was the busier fighter throughout the match, taking the fight to the ground and piling up points with strikes. When they were on their feet, Fischer would jab and use his length advantage to make Davila respond. Nothing wrong with this if you're a counter puncher but Davila was slow on responses and didn't want to lead. Fischer won by unanimous decision, 30-26 on all judges score cards.
Jesse Stirn of Ground Control would win the inaugural bantamweight title over Mike Easton from Team Lloyd Irvin in Temple Hills, MD. These two fighters come from two of the areas better grappling schools, so I was prepared to watch a battle of wills be contested on the mat. What we got was a display of two well matched individuals pushing each other by their performance.
In the first round Easton played hunter and Stirn would stay on the outside looking for points of entry. After very little action initially, Easton was caught with a right hand from Stirn that sent him sprawling across the mat. Stirn jumped on him immediately. Easton didn't seem to be hurt from the strike and managed to wall walk his way back to his feet, connect his hands and pour Stirn onto the mat. Stirn regained his feet, responded with a reversal of his own and was able to take Easton's back just before the end of the first round. Rounds 2 and 3 resembled the first but Stirn now became the aggressor. He would back Easton to the cage, close of his exits with strikes and a grappling exchange would ensue. Stirn fought in fairly upright stance for most of the match so I was surprised that Easton wasn't going for more take down attempts. When he finally tried is first single leg late in the 2nd round, he completed it successfully but was unable to keep Stirn down. The remainder of the fight would continue in much the same manner. Stirn remained the aggressor and both would trade shots and thwart each other's advantage. The judges had a tough call to make and they awarded a split decision to Stirn, 29-28; 28-29; 29-28.
The last title fight of the evening at welterweight, Micah Terrill of Conquest BJJ in Crofton, MD vs. Chauncey Foxworth of Off the Chain MMA in Hot Springs, AR. This bout proved once again why fight competition math doesn't add up. Micah Terrill previously lost the Shogun welterweight title to Jon Delbrugge at Shogun XIV. Chauncey Foxworth took the title from Delbrugge at Shogun XV. So Foxworth should easily beat the man that lost to the man he beat, right? We got our answer at 2 minutes and 55 seconds into the first round.
Coming into the headline fight, Foxworth has been on a good run. He has won 3 of his last 4 fights and has held main card status in nearly all of his events. Terrill has been on a tear of his own. Also, winning his last 3 of 4 fights and but closing out each one in severe fashion with first round knockouts.
At the start of the fight, one of the things I picked up on immediately was the contrast in the fighters movement. Foxworth fights with a fairly herky-jerky movement of his hands, head and feet which he seems comfortable with but looks as though he can be off-balance at some points. While, Terrill had a rooted but flexible stance. He seemed well balanced. While they both exchanged strike attempts at the outset, Terrill's shoulders never got beyond his hips. His feet were controlled not wandering and his demeanor was all business. Foxworth has decent hand speed and I was waiting to see if he would take advantage of Terrill's habit of carrying a high chin by setting up some early combinations. Not sure what Foxworth's game plan was coming into the fight but most of his movements seemed random. Superman punch here. Couple of leg kicks. High kick. Lead right. Foxworth never established anything Terrill had to think about. Meanwhile Terrill patiently waited for his opportunity, never threatened by anything and only having to wait for his opening. Then it came. Foxworth attempted an ill-advised spinning back punch which Terrill smothered with an overhand right and that started the end Foxworth. The overhand right dropped Foxworth immediately and as he tried to get back up, Terrill drove him back down by his head. As Foxworth attempted to rise again, Terrill greeted him with a left hand that sent him down once more. Foxworth again got to his feet only to be pinned against the cage with an avalanche of strikes by Terrill. Again Foxworth went down and it was obvious he was hurt now. Instinctively he lunged and reached for a clinch while Terrill peeled away his hands to deliver more blows. At this point, Terrill turned to look for the referee asking the question with his expression, "Do I have to hit him again?"
One more left hand by Terrill sent Foxworth down for the third time and referee, Fernando Yamasaki had seen enough. The fight was waived off and Micah Terrill regained his Shogun Welterweight title.
Shogun's success lies in the fact that they place a premium on people having fun. People definitely come out to have a good time and I'm pretty sure they enjoy the show. But they really enjoy attending the show!
Shogun Fights XVI RESULTS
For more information on future Shogun Fights, visit www.shogunfights.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 with additional training in Combat Jujutsu, Boxing and Muay Thai.