In the Books: SFL17-War Zone

Spartyka Fight League XVII: War Zone filled Norfolk’s Ted Constant Convocation Center with excitement Saturday night. The league’s action-packed show did not disappoint as competitors fought to challenge 3 title-holders and fill a vacant title. In the end, all 3 champions were successful in defending their titles and a new Light Heavyweight champion was named.

The night began quite one-sidedly. Five of the first six fights ended in the first round and all fell short of two minutes.

The fight between the independent, Tony White Moye, and Andres Encinales, of Gustavo Machado's, lasted until 1:29 in the second round, when Encinales sunk a rear-naked choke on Moye for the win. Moye impressively used his length and reach advantage, scoring with kicks and overhand rights. It was Encinales’ ground game, however, that proved most successful. Taking Moye to the ground twice, Encinales used his power to gain top position, finally submitting him.

The following match was one of the more unique fights of War Zone. Independent fighter Ramon Hurtado defeated Moy Yat Ving Tsun Kung Fu of Norfolk’s Blake Rogers in a fight that contained unconventional techniques, the night’s worst injury and an incredible display of one fighter's strength.  Lasting only until 1:42 in the first round, the fight began with Rogers stalking his opponent in full Kung-Fu style. Hurtado gained an advantage with strikes and when he took the fight to the ground, landed on Rogers’ leg, which had been tucked behind him. The angle of the leg and the pressure of the takedown forced Rogers’ knee to appear as if it dislocated.  Rogers was intelligently defending himself, but with the inability to get up and the sight of his knee, referee Todd McGovern called a TKO.  In a true display of strength and courage, Rogers walked out of the cage, barely assisted by those in his corner. 

The eighth fight of the night was the only fight that went to decision. Juston Campos of Eastwind Academy of Martial Arts battled Gustavo Machado’s Greg Walker, a proficient Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu practitioner. Walker didn’t hesitate to take the fight to his comfort zone and secured a takedown almost immediately. Skillfully working passes and transitions, Walker almost securing an arm bar on Campos in the first round. Campos was able to take the fight back to a standing position, but was almost instantly taken back to the ground by Walker, where the round ended. Walker continued to dominate the second round with skilled groundwork. Campos had his best opportunity in the third round, when the fight stayed in a standing position, for the first minute or so of the round. He appeared to be hesitant to throw any strikes, as he appeared to be anticipating yet another takedown, however. Walker secured a final takedown on Campos, finishing the round on top. The judges’ voted unanimously to award Walker the win (30-27, 30-27, 30-27). 

The first title fight of the night between Thomas Blair of Bushido MMA and Reggie Barnett Jr. of 757 Boxing put Blair’s SFL Bantamweight Title on the line. Fighting hard to defend his title, Blair eventually became the victor thanks to an impressive head-kick he landed on Barnett. 15 seconds into the third round referee Todd McGovern stopped the fight, declaring it a knockout.

This match-up was particularly special because for Blair, Barnett was not simply an opponent - he is someone that Blair looks up to, as a veteran of the sport. The high level of respect Blair has for Barnett was clearly visible as he proudly clapped upon Barnett’s introduction. The moment became more profound when Barnett clapped at Blair’s introduction, returning the gesture of respect and good sportsmanship.

The feel-good moment disappeared quickly, however, when the start of the first round brought intense attempts from both fighters to take the first dominant position. Control in the cage went back-and-forth. Blair was unable to make much of his first round takedown and Barnett lost his dominant position when he allowed the fight to stand up. A pivotal moment that may have given Blair an advantage was between rounds, when Blair employed psychological warfare by maintaining composure and standing tall and not taking his stool as his opponent struggled to catch his breath, on his. Looking fresh and confident, Blair seemed un-phased by Barnett’s blows. Blair briefly lost control in the second round however, after a punch Barnett landed to his left eye momentarily left his vision impaired. The fighters maintained a high level of respect for one another between rounds, touching gloves before the start of each. 

The night’s second title fight put up for grabs the SFL Featherweight Title. MMA Institute’s Michael Lawrence came to Norfolk to defend that title. He did just that and in spectacular fashion. Representing Team ROC, Anthony Wright challenged Lawrence for the title, with vigor. It was a loud, intense head kick at the 1:22 mark of the second round that ended the fight in a knockout and proved Lawrence victorious.

After an intense grappling match dominated the first round, both Lawrence and Wright started the second, somewhat fatigued. Lawrence first dropped Wright and the fight was quickly brought back to a standing position. The moment Wright separated from him, Lawrence landed the head kick that ended it all. 

The third title fight of Saturday night put SFL’s Light Heavyweight Title on the line. Cedric Smith claimed the previously vacant title, after he beat Naheem Maldonado only 78 seconds into the first round. In an extremely lopsided affair, for a title bout, Smith retained full control throughout the short round, effortlessly tossing Maldonado around the cage. Seeing that Maldonado was virtually defenseless, Referee Todd McGovern stopped the fight, declaring it a TKO. 

Saturday's main event allowed Team ROC’s Mike Pagano to challenge Brandon Pennington, of 757 Boxing, for the SFL Lightweight Title. Pennington defeated Pagano at the 4:02 marker in the first round, defending his title. Pagano, the former Champion, hoped to have it restored to him. Securing two takedowns on Pennington early on gave Pagano an advantage, but an inability to capitalize and a great amount of energy exerted, in trying to do so, led to him tiring quickly. Pennington proved resilient, securing two takedowns of his own. In the latter, Pennington sunk a rear-naked choke, submitting his opponent to hold on to his title. 

MMAinVA’s “Of The Night” Awards

Monica Hunsaker:

Fight of the night: Michael Lawrence v. Anthony Wright

Knockout of the night: Michael Lawrence

Submission of the night: Andres Encinales 

Ryan MacDonald:

Fight of the Night: Reggie Barnett, Jr. v. Thomas Blair

Knockout of the Night: Michael Lawrence

Submission of the Night: Brandon Pennington

Felix Falcon:

Fight of the Night: Reggie Barnett, Jr. v. Thomas Blair

Knockout of the night: Michael Lawrence

Submission of the night: Andres Encinales

Complete Results 

Kenneth Rankins d. Derek Bracey, Submission (Neck Crank), Round 1, 1:50

David Nelson d. William Haney, Submission (Guillotine Choke), Round 1, 1:38

Chris Garner d. Giovanni Aromin, Submission (Rear-Naked Choke), Round 1, 1:03

Andres Encinales d. Tony White Moye, Submission (Rear-Naked Choke), Round 2, 1:29

Ramon Hurtado d. Blake Rogers, TKO, Round 1, 1:42

Jeff Burgess d. Kristian Chacon, TKO, Round 1, 1:21

Kedrick Harris d. Daniel Nwoke, Submission (Guillotine), Round 1, 2:16

Greg Walker d. Juston Campos, Unanimous Decision (30-27, 30-27, 30-27)

Thomas Blair d. Reggie Barnett, Jr., KO, Round 3, 0:15

Michael Lawrence d. Anthony Wright, KO, Round 2, 1:22

Cedric Smith d. Naheem Maldonado, TKO, Round 1, 1:18

Brandon Pennington d. Mike Pagano, Submission (Rear-Naked Choke), Round 1, 4:02