In the Books: Draka 15

I visited the Richmond Coliseum on Friday, May 30th, for the DRAKA 15 weigh-ins knowing only a handful of details about the show. I knew that some of the scheduled contests were going to be under DRAKA rules – three, three-minute rounds in length and if at any point the fight goes to the ground, both fighters have 30 seconds to finish the fight before being stood up – and I knew that Alan Stephenson, a friend of several friends of mine, was making his professional debut.

I attempted to engage several people when I got there, but my questions of whether they were fighting the next day were almost always responded to with a resounding “maybe.” It took me a second to realize that a great deal of these fighters had not met their opponents face to face yet. They did not want to divulge any sort of information about themselves until it was completely necessary, knowing that the person they would be attempting to punch in the face a mere 24 hours from then was probably in their vicinity.

In the moments leading up to weighing in, Ran Weathers, an out-of-state fighter who accepted his fight on two days notice, was busy trying to make sense of the Virginia paperwork he needed to fill out and the logistics of his stay. MMA Institute’s Sam Eure seemed in high spirits, proudly sporting an American flag hat in subtle defiance of the Russian promoters putting on the event. On one side of the room three Russian fighters (two of them dressed in matching Team Russia sweat gear) and their trainer stoically stood by unfazed by the commotion of people running around filling out paperwork and double checking their weight on an unofficial scale. On the other end of the room, Louis Johnson, fighting out of Virginia Beach, was calmly sitting; rotating two Baoding Balls in his hand in an endless zen-like fashion. 20 year old Abdiel Velazquez, who had just driven from Florida with his trainers, seemed excited to be there but, like many others, doubly excited to get the formalities over with, step on the scale and get back to hydrating and getting some food in his system.

The fighters finished their paperwork, went over rules and regulations with the commission, weighed in, stared down, graciously let me take several “tale of the tape” pictures for the Russian TV re-broadcast, and were finally able to go make their final preparations for the next day’s event.

On Saturday, I arrived at the coliseum as last second production details were being ironed out. People were painstakingly scrubbing down side mats with goo-gone and disinfectant. Two men were inspecting the cage making sure that the floor mat was even and had right amount of give for the fighters to perform. Cameramen white-balanced their lenses and made sure their battery packs were charged and ready. Ring card girls showed up and dutifully defied the cold coliseum temperature in their tiny outfits. Jay Colligan and Ryan MacDonald were going over details of their broadcast duties, rehearsing production cues, and researching interesting bits of trivia on the fighters that may come up during their commentary – I remember Colligan being particularly excited to find out that D’Juan Owens had at some point been a chess champion of sorts.

What looked like a small crowd slowly trickled into the arena right before the start of the show. I’m not sure if the attendance was as lackluster as it seemed or if the fact that the coliseum holds a capacity of roughly 12,000 seats that even a decent turnout (considering it is a debuting, foreign MMA production on a day that the UFC offered two back to back fight cards) would make the building look somewhat empty.

Regardless of the circumstances of any external forces acting upon DRAKA 15, one thing holds true: it was a great night of fights.

Three amateur fights started the card off with back to back to back finishes, capped by a flurry of emotions demonstrated by Luke Hunsaker after sinking in a triangle choke on Keith Whitehead in the first round. He jumped, he screamed, yelled from the top of the cage, and quite literally got carried off on Rick McCoy’s shoulder.

The pro fights did not disappoint either.

Abdiel Velazquez demonstrated a decisive ground game, finishing his fight with beautiful transitions from mount, to back control, to ground and pound, to ultimately cinching up a rear naked choke on Arthur Parker in the first round.

Alan Stephenson and Joseph Bayer went the distance in a closely contested, very evenly matched fight which ended up going Alan’s way in the eyes of the judges.

Louis Johnson endured two and a half rounds of constant take-downs and bad ground positions before quickly turning things around and submitting Jon Peters with a lightning quick triangle choke transition.

The last three fights of the night were all under DRAKA rules and featured the three Russian fighters that traveled all the way from Vladivostok to Richmond to compete. They did not fly approximately 22 hours and about a dozen time zones in vain. Alexander Matmuraov won a unanimous decision over Jonathan Hughes who noticeably hurt his left hip in the first round but still remarkably managed to persist through the end of the remaining two rounds. Maxim Shtepenko and Andrei Koshkin finished their American counterparts, Jeremy Carper and Mike Wade, in impressive fashion – both landing momentum changing liver shots followed by enough strikes to have the referee step in and stop the fight.

I don’t know if DRAKA will ever come back to Richmond. That is up to the hands of the people like Alexey Yakovlev and his partners to determine whether the investment, travel, partnerships and profits/losses are worth it. I hope that between tickets sold, live streams purchased and the additional value of re-broadcasting the event in Russia that they are able to come back. Especially with local competition of the caliber I was able to watch last Saturday night.

MMAinVA’s “Of The Night” Awards

Felix Falcon:

Fight of the Night: Alan Stephenson vs. Joseph Bayer

Submission of the Night: Louis Johnson

KO of the Night: Maxim Shtepenko

Ryan MacDonald:

Fight of the Night: Alan Stephenson vs. Joseph Bayer

Submission of the Night: Louis Johnson

KO of the Night: Andrei Koshkin


Professional Results:

Andrei Koshkin def. Mike Wade in the 2nd round (2:25) by TKO (strikes) – Draka rules

Alexander Matmuratov def. Jon Hughes by Unanimous Decision (30-27, 30-27, 30-27) – Draka

Maxim Shtepenko def. Jeremy Carper in the 1st round (1:35) by TKO (strikes) – Draka rules

George Sheppard def. David Derby in the 2nd round (0:25) by TKO (strikes) – Draka rules

D’Juan Owens def. Ran Weathers in the 2nd round (2:19) by TKO (strikes)

Matthew Messer def. Dusty Shaw in the 1st round (1:04) via submission (rear naked choke)

Louis Johnson def. Jon Peters in the 3rd round (2:16) via submission (triangle)

Sam Eure def. Donald Williams in the 1st round (0:52) via submission (rear naked choke)

Alan Stephenson def. Joseph Bayer by Unanimous Decision (29-28, 29-28, 29-28)

Abdiel Velazquez def. Arthur Parker in the 1st round (2:24) via submission (rear naked choke)

Amateur Results:

Luke Hunsaker def. Keith Whitehead at 2:11 of the 1st round via submission (triangle)

Tevin Cooke def. Damien Hatcher at 2:03 of the 2nd round by TKO (strikes)

Matt Indiero def. Brett Barney at 1:11 of the 1st round by TKO (strikes)