In the Books: Elite Warrior Challenge 8

by Ryan MacDonald

All eyes were on Salem, VA on Saturday night, October 10th, as Elite Warrior Challenge held their 8th show at the Salem Civic Center.  Not only was this slated to be the biggest and best show that EWC had put on, but this was to be the first MMA event held in VA since a new law went into effect where amateur MMA was overseen by a State approved sanctioning body.  

The State of Virginia’s Department of Professional and Occupational Regulation (DPOR) has so far approved three sanctioning bodies to oversee amateur fights.  The last of the three to be approved, Virginia Combat Sports Sanctioning (VCSS), was the first to sanction an event, under the new law.  VCSS would oversee the amateur portion of EWC 8, which included 7 amateur MMA fights and an amateur Kickboxing fight.  The event also put forth 10 professional MMA bouts and 1 professional kickboxing bout, which were overseen by DPOR, per the usual process.

The first two bouts on the amateur portion lasted a total time of 21 seconds, between them, as Stevana Shouvely dispatched Anne Okes, via TKO in 13 seconds and Tony Wilson dispatched his brother Will, with an 8-second head kick knockout in a kickboxing bout.  Greg Jones and Julius Brown were victorious in their respective Bantamweight debuts, with a 2nd round and 1st round TKO, respectively.

Freeman vs. Harris - Photo Credit: Kel'z Dream Photography

The amateur portion of the card also featured 4 title bouts.  The first of which saw undefeated Lightweight, Chris Fisher defeated previously undefeated Luke Canady by 1st round TKO.  Fisher captured the vacant EWC amateur Lightweight belt.  Another vacant belt was the EWC amateur Heavyweight title.  Team Rockbottom’s Caleb Harris took on undefeated Joshua Freeman, which meant that someone’s 0 had to go.  Both fighters engaged in a stand-up battle for the duration of the fight and the judges saw the bout for Harris, via Unanimous Decision.  Harris used great movement and utilized his reach advantage to stay just out of Freeman’s reach for the majority of the fight.  The current Welterweight champion, undefeated Andrew Clement was set to defend his belt against former champion, Kyle Johnson.  Kyle Johnson was forced to relinquish his title, due to injury, and Clement captured the belt at EWC 7 with a win over Eric Belcher.  The cardio of Johnson proved to be the deciding factor, as Clement gassed in the first round and simply didn’t have the ability to utilize his ground game.  That gave Johnson an opportunity to take over the fight in the 2nd and 3rd rounds on his way to a lopsided Unanimous Decision victory, with scores of 30-27, 30-26 & 30-27.  Lastly, Flyweight champ, Todd Monroe defended his title against Phillip Adams who was all heart in this fight.  Coming back from the brink of defeat on several occasions, Adams was able to stay in the fight with a combination of grit and spinning back fists, but succumbed to Monroe, via TKO at 4:36 of the 2nd round.

Here’s a note to fighters for the next EWC event.  Try to get in the blue corner!  Blue corner fighters won 18 of the 19 bouts.  American Top Team fighters went 2-0 on the night, fighting out of the blue corner.  Victor Flor, who must have been releasing the frustration of having numerous fights fall through at EWC 7, used a lighting quick flurry of punches, including a debilitating liver shot to finish debuting pro, Rafael Morel.  His teammate, Brandon Sandford need a bit more time than Flor to finish Ardit Hysa, via TKO in the 2nd.  

Reggie Barnett, Jr. returned in a big way.  After suffering a 9 second submission loss at EWC 7, he was back to take on North Carolina veteran, Shane Tyner.  Barnett worked through some takedowns early, didn’t panic and showed some good escapability to get the fight back to it’s feet, where his superior hands shown through and delivered a 2nd round TKO.

Gravely vs. Wigginton - Photo Credit: Kel'z Dream Photography

Tony Gravely, making his Pro debut took on Chad Wiggington, who was coming off his pro debut victory at EWC 7.  This bout was a matchup of two great wrestlers, Tony who wrestled at Appalachian State and Chad who was a decorated high school wrestler at Bassett High School.  Many thought this bout would turn into a stand-up battle, with Wiggington having the reach advantage.  However, each fighter was determined to show their opponent the wrestling credentials that saw them to many victories in their wrestling careers.  As a matter of fact, there was virtually no stand-up in this bout, as Gravely got Chad down in the first and maintained top position for the majority of the round.  Round 2 was a different story, however, as Wiggington was the one who dominated, even coming close to having the fight stopped, while having Gravely’s back, flattened out and laying down head strikes.  With each fighter having to know that Round 3 was the make or break round, Gravely capitalized first and scored the initial takedown and maintained the most time in dominant position, although Chad had his moments.  The judges saw the Unanimous Decision victory for Gravely.

Shaun Spath moved up to Featherweight in his second pro fight and dispatched last minute replacement, Brian Dawson, via submission.  Similar to Ronda Rousey, early in her career, Spath’s takedowns and relentless pressure on the ground are akin to Rousey’s armbars.  The opponent knows they are coming, but can’t stop them.  Two pro wins, in the span of three weeks.  Not too shabby for “Bloodbath.”

James Ronsick, a veteran of 57 amateur fights decided to make his pro debut at 37 years young and went right for what worked for him in the ammys, his ground game.  17 of Ronsick’s 22 amateur wins came by submission and his first pro win would be no different as Timothy Wade tapped to an armbar at 4:20 of the 1st.  Another amateur veteran, Kaine Tomlinson, made his pro debut at age 40.  Unfortunately, his opponent Eric Belcher, also making his pro debut, was set to spoil the debut of the Roanoke native.  Tomlinson didn’t get much of a chance to get going as the ground game of Belcher was too much and Belcher caught him in a triangle choke at 1:58 of the 1st.

Chris Piriz overcame early adversity to end his two fight losing streak.  His opponent, Thomas Hodge III came out like a house on fire and secured a takedown of Piriz.  In an attempt to solidify his top position, Hodge grabbed the cage with both hands to set himself in better position, a move that was not seen by referee Mike Doleman.  Piriz went on to fight through and escape from a submission attempt and make Hodge pay with some vicious ground and pound that ended the fight at the 2:44 mark of the 1st.

In a fight that was originally scheduled to be a part of the cancelled Draka 17 event, on November 7th, Gustavo Machado BJJ’s Alexey Kokush and Ground Control Academy’s Scott Noble made their pro debuts against one another in a matchup of two high caliber fighters.  Noble, who was set to make his Pro debut at Draka 15 in May of 2014, until his fight fell through, was chomping at the bit to get his pro career started.  Noble, who held Cagezilla’s Light Heavyweight and Middleweight titles simultaneously, made the cut to 170 pounds for this fight.  On paper, Kokush and Noble were mirror images.  Both had identical 5-1 records, with each fighters’ only losses coming by decision.  Both had similar finishing rates and both come from top notch schools.  Noble began the fight with his normal stone breaking strikes, but seemed to get tired near the end of the first, potentially an effect of the weight cut.  Kokush, who delivered just as good as he received in the razor thin first round, seemed to maintain the same level of cardio freshness throughout the fight, which allowed him to begin to out-produce Noble in the striking department and also allow for takedowns.  That difference propelled Kokush to the Unanimous Decision victory.

Mountain vs. Coleman - Photo Credit: Isaac Vaughn Photography

The Co-Main Event featured a Pro Kickboxing battle between Kaizen MMA’s Brad Mountain and Synergy Combat SportsMatt Coleman.  Coleman had been in semi-retirement from combat sports as it had been about two years since he had been in the cage.  However, it didn’t show.  These two Middleweights did everything in their power to get their opponent out of there early.  Coleman, whose career is in the construction industry must have replaced his jaw with cinder block and Brad Mountain must have done something similar.  Once these two fighters got lathered up, the fight started to look like Rocky Balboa vs. Ivan Drago with sweat flying off each fighter with each punch.  In the end, neither warrior could be finished.  Unfortunately, at the end of this fight, somebody had to come in second place.  The judges saw the fight for Brad Mountain, via Unanimous Decision.

The main event, featured two local fighters, with a vast knowledge of each other in a rematch where fighter records can be tossed out the window.  Nic Bleser and Noe Quintanilla ran back a rivalry that saw Quintanilla knock out Bleser in 2010.  Fast forward 5 years and Bleser was bound and determined to even the score.  Bleser entertained the stand-up early in each round, but went to his bread and butter, taking Quintanilla to the mat in the first, gaining back control and holding it for the majority of the round and doing the same thing in the second, this time doing enough to get the submission at 2:43 of the 2nd.  The victory snapped a 13-fight slide for Bleser and extended the losing streak of Quintanilla to 17.  These two may get an opportunity for the trilogy at EWC 9 in January.

Bleser vs. Quintanilla - Photo Credit: Isaac Vaughn Photography

The overall summary of EWC 8 is that EWC is a promotion on the rise.  The Salem Civic Center is a top notch venue that they can grow into and grow they should.  The production value of the event was outstanding, from a lighting and staging perspective.  The 30’ monster cage is a nice playground for the fighters.  The walkout songs were clean, which maintained a family friendly environment.  The night ran long, as any night with 19 fights would do, however unlike EWC 7, virtually every fighter made weight and virtually every fight went on as scheduled.  Matchmaker Jeremy Boardwine has realized what fighters to avoid and focuses on bringing in fighters who actually want to fight.  Cage announcer Giovanni Lemm did a good job of keeping the night moving forward, even at the fast pace that came with trying to speed up the night so that the concession stands wouldn’t have to serve breakfast.  His shoes may have seen better days, however, after Kyle Johnson regurgitated prior to his post-fight interview and Todd Monroe might request that he not knock on his cup during their next interview.  There is much reason to be excited if you are Bruce Abramski and Dan Lineburger, as they are in a venue that fans will want to come to, they are in a geography that will allow them to not only pull top VA talent, but talent from States like NC, KY, TN and WV and they have a production value that makes everything look and sound great.  EWC 9 is scheduled to be back at the Salem Civic Center in January of 2016.  

You can view the full EWC 8 results on the EWC 8 event page, at Tapology.com.

MMA in VA’s “of the Night” Awards

Fight of the Night:  Brad Mountain v. Matt Coleman

KO of the Night: Victor Flor

Submission of the Night: Nic Bleser