In the Books: Fight Night Challenge 9/20/14

*Fight card subject to change.

Every promotion, no matter how big or small, lives by that disclaimer. It is as natural a part of the sport as it is a source of copious amounts of stress for fighters to pull out of fights. As I was making my way to the Main Street Arenain Charlottesville last Saturday, September 20th, I ran into David Morris, one of the promoters for Fight Night Challenge. In conversation, he explained he had a tough time putting together this card. He had around 20 different fighters pull out of their fights for a plethora of different reasons. Even at that time (two or so hours before the show started) they had a fighter apparently driving from West Virginia set to fight Randy Fitzgerald, but had not heard from him thus far.

The card as it stood was slated for 10 amateur fights. Five Muay Thai matches and five MMA fights. At the start of the event, announcer Jay Colligan brought up the aforementioned Fitzgerald with the news that his opponent would not be fighting that night, cutting down the card to 9 bouts.

The opening contest showcased Rodney Jackson (MMA Institute-Charlottesville) in his Muay Thai debut against Ricky Brown. Jackson took this fight with only 24 hours notice and still managed to put up an impressive performance for it being his first fight. Jackson demonstrated a good clinch, accurate kicking techniques and halfway into the second round managed to back down Brown against the cage and land a series of strikes in combination that dropped his opponent to one knee. Referee Shaun Spath counted out the downed Brown and called the fight when Brown was not able to continue the fight. 

The sixth fight of the night between Dylan Martin (MMA & Sport) and Dakota Dunivan (8 Corners) coupled excitement and let down in just one round of action. The two youngsters came out firing on all cylinders, early in the first round, Dunivan found a double leg take down and managed to stay in top position for almost the whole round. Dunivan demonstrated some good ground and pound, pinning up his opponent against the cage and landing heavy fists. In between the first and second rounds, Dunivan felt ill, and after several check ins with his corner and the ref, he decided he could not continue to compete.

The fight of the night came in the form of two other young amateur fighters, Antonio Ortega (MMA & Sport) and Corey Champion (8 Corners). The fight had all the right components. Take downs, near submission attempts, good technique, and two fighters that were game from bell to bell. Towards the end of the first round, after being on his back for a while, Ortega managed to bring one of his legs completely over Champion's head and put his shin to his opponents neck while squeezing down on his head towards him. Had he had more time, Ortega might have fully finished the gogoplata attempt, but unluckily for him the bell rung. The second round was competitive, and it found Champion being able to target take downs with more accuracy and frequency. By the the third round Champion had finely tuned in his take downs and made proper adjustments, moving to a stacked position any time Ortega attempted to attack from his guard. The final bell rung to a multitude of cheers. The judges favored Champion unanimously, awarding him the win a couple of days before his 18th birthday. 

The night ended with a heavyweight Muay Thai bout between Raheim Turner (MMA Institute-Charlottesville) and independent fighter John Calloway. Turner moved around considerably well for a heavyweight. He managed to land several nice kicking strikes, one in particular that caught Calloway either in the liver or the ribs. As he bent over from the shot, Turner wasted no time landing a knee to the same side before Calloway took a knee. Badly hurt from the strikes, Calloway was not able to return to action, awarding turner the TKO victory in the first round. 

Fighters dropping out of cards affect many aspects of an event. The promoter has to scramble to try to find a replacement, the opponents (who have been training and cutting weight) have to deal with additional stress of planning for a new fight, and ticket-buying friends and fans can't get accurate information until the last second on who's going to fight. With amateur fighters, right now, there isn't much in the way of punishment for fighters who agree to a fight and then back out of their commitment. With no financial disincentives available and multiple amateur promotions at the ready throughout the state, it's hard to come down with any punishment for fighters that don't have a legitimate excuse for backing out.

This card certainly showed some, if not all of those symptoms, but while it was a relatively short card, the fighters that did show up gave it their best regardless of their level of experience, and that must be respected.

Fight Night Challenge returns back to the Main Street Arena on November 22nd. 

Results:

MMA

Corey Champion def. Antoino Ortega by Unanimous Decision

Dylan Martin def. Dakota Dunivan in the 1st round by TKO (did not answer bell)

Eric Throckmorton def. Tommy Mason in the 2nd round by TKO (strikes)

Stirling Bell def. Donte Garnett in the 2nd round by TKO (strikes)

Muay Thai

Raheim Turner def. John Calloway in the 1st Round by TKO 

Todd Houlshouser def. Jon Hillis by Unanimous Decision 

David Gladfelter def. David Darr in the 1st round by TKO 

Rakeem Fox def. Ebrima Jawara by Unanimous Decision 

Rodney Jackson def. Ricky Brown by TKO in the 2nd round