In the Books: Ready 2 Fight: Battleground

Ready 2 Fight, a Chesapeake-based amateur promotion, returned for it’s second endeavor on Saturday, September 5th.  Housing the promotion’s sophomore event was the Norfolk Masonic Temple, a 60-year old stone structure that sits proudly on Granby St.  Inside the temple, was the Ready 2 Fight ring, not a cage, as most modern-day MMA fans are accustomed.  The venue was cozy, with not much room for vendors, but there was food and drink available to fans and the crowd seating was elevated off the floor, so fans had a bird’s-eye view of the ring.  VIP tables were set up around the ring and some on the stage, where the fighters would come out.  The fighters made their way from the stage to the ring via a ramp that went right to the ring itself.

The mantra of the promotion is taken from it’s namesake, matching up fighters that are indeed ready to fight and want to fight.  On this night, that was the case for some but far from the case for other fighters. R2F is the only promotion in VA that still holds one-night tournaments for their titles.  In their first event, R2F crowned their welterweight and heavyweight title-holders, in Damon Minor and Donte Stith, respectively.  This time is was the lightweights and middleweight’s turn to go after the hardware, in tournament style.  Each tournament matched up 4 fighters, holding the tournament finals as the final two fights of the night.

The lightweight tournament had some movement within the competitors but ended up featuring known names from the area, with a debuting fighter thrown in.  Freddie Henry, who was supposed to compete in the tournament was unable to make weight and ended up being matched up in a welterweight encounter, later in the evening.  Taking his place, after receiving the invite at 8:55 the morning of the fight was Maurice Tolliver.  Tolliver, who had Hybrid Training Center’s Brandon Pennington in his corner had never competed in an MMA bout before.  “The Executioner” would be matched up against Eric Griffiths in the first fight of the night.  Griffiths dropped Tolliver with a right hand, right off the bat and pounced on Tolliver, looking for a quick finish.  However, the punch seemed to act as an on switch for Tolliver who recovered and TKO’d Griffiths at the 29-second mark to not only win his MMA debut, but to move on to the lightweight tourney finals.

The second semi-final match pitted Tony White-Moye vs. Chris Garnes, of Team Hollow Point.  White-Moye won the takedown battle in round 1, 3-1 by the MMA in VA tally.  Garnes simply wasn’t able to mount any offense from his back.  More of the same occurred in rounds 2 and 3 and White-Moye won a convincing Unanimous Decision victory and would be paired up against Tolliver in the lightweight final.

Another Team Hollow Point fighter would fight next, as Zach Filer made his MMA debut in the Middleweight tournament’s first fight.  Filer’s opponent would be Coastal Combat’s Jonathan Mulder.  The heavily muscled Filer didn’t take long to unleash the “Infamous Rage” against Mulder and breezed to a TKO win after just 23 seconds.

The next middleweight semi-final had MMA Institute’s Tyus Thomas, at 6’2” taking on 5’7” Franklin Jones, from Hybrid Training Center.  A matchup between two of the top gyms in the State should have meant a competitive matchup, but Thomas was simply too good on this night and submitted Jones with a guillotine choke at the 42-second mark of the first round.  

Following the tournament semi-finals, 7 more fights were provided for the fans viewing pleasure.  There would have been 2 more, however, there were some fighters slated to fight that apparently were not ready to fight.  More on that later.

Team XCWT was the busiest gym of the night, as they had fighters competing in 4 fights, two of which were for titles.  XCWT’s Malik Greene won his MMA debut after battling a “case of the nerves” and Antony Cornish to a Unanimous Decision victory.  Both fighters may have been battling those nerves as Cornish was making his debut as well.  Cornish showed great movement and ability to stalk and corner Greene, throughout the fight, but simply wouldn’t engage, costing him the win.  Randy “Scott Davis” Bucsok remained undefeated by TKO-ing West Virginia’s Brett Barney in the 2nd with a dominant ground game.  Ryan Parker remained on a tear, TKO-ing Derek Bracey at 1:34 of the first, to capture the R2F Light Heavyweight belt.  Jahmaal Benford, who was supposed to battle for the Flyweight belt, had his opponent, Cody Turbitt, turn in his gloves and decide he didn’t want to fight.  So, Matchmaker and Co-Owner Reggie Barnett, Jr. awarded Benford the Flyweight belt, with the caveat that he would have to defend it at the next Ready 2 Fight event, on February 13th, 2016, to which Benford agreed.  XCWT’s only loss came as Michael Wolford was unable to find an answer for the suffocating ground game of MMA Institute’s Ben Allen.  Allen,  a BJJ Black Belt, got the fight to the canvas early and worked masterfully to secure an Americana, which also secured him the R2F Featherweight title.  So, Team XCWT went 3-1 on the night.

In the oddest fight of the night, Nick Rerras got clipped by 757 Boxing’s Joseph Walker, after circling around the ring for about 4 laps.  Walker finally caught up to him, caught him and dropped him.  Rerras remained on his back, almost trying to bait Walker into his guard.  Walker simply decided to lay down some strikes and Rerras’ corner, having seen enough, appeared as if they were going to throw in the towel, which came in the form of a roll of Bounty paper towels, but held back and referee T.C. Bobbitt intervened, instead, stopping the fight at the 56 second mark. After the decision was announced, Rerras continued having a conversation with Bobbitt, in the ring, as the next fighters were beginning their walkouts, before finally exiting.

Freddie Henry won his rematch against Chris Gardner, as the two met in the Welterweight tournament of the inaugural Ready 2 Fight event.  Henry, unable to make weight for the lightweight tournament, didn’t waste any time in taking the fight to Gardner.  Henry, who was giving up 6 inches in height, closed the distance immediately and forced referee Shaun Spath to step in and waive the fight of, via TKO, after 34 seconds.  

Donte Stith became the first R2F Champion to defend a title, as the Heavyweight Champ needed just under 2 minutes to finish West Virginia’s Buddy Tessling.  Tessling appeared to have the upper hand early on, but made a fight ending mistake when he pulled guard to try and finish a guillotine choke.  Stith was able to free himself and pounded out Tessling, from top position. After the fight, Stith announced that the title defense was his last amateur bout and that he would be turning pro.

The tournament final matchups would be the final two fights of the night and with so many of the prior fights ending in quick fashion, the combatants didn’t have as much recovery time as they may have liked, but nevertheless, they were ready to fight.

In the lightweight final, Maurice Tolliver had a freshness advantage over White-Moye, as Tolliver’s opening fight only lasted 29 seconds, while White-Moye fought for the entire 9 minutes.  These finals rounds would also be Championship rounds, meaning they were 5 minutes each.  White-Moye, the more experienced fighter didn’t actually show much fatigue as the fight started.  He caught Tolliver with some shots, but once again, they were like an on-switch for Tolliver who came back and scored three takedowns in the round, which seemed to wear on White-Moye.  Tolliver’s pressure wore down White-Moye and Tolliver was able to sink in a standing guillotine, causing White-Moye to tap at the 3:00 minute mark.  So, a fighter who had never fought before, who hadn’t planned on fighting until 8:55 the morning of, used sheer will and determination to battle through early adversities in each fight and come out the other end with a 2-0 MMA record and the R2F lightweight title belt around his waist.  Tolliver didn’t have long to celebrate, however, as it was announced that Damon Minor would vacate his welterweight title and move down to lightweight to get the first shot at Tolliver’s title.  YIKES!

The final fight of the night would crown the R2F Middleweight Champion, as the finalists first fights lasted for a combined 65 seconds.  Both fighters were fresh and both fighters employed the same style and strategy as their first fights.  Filer, looking to rush in and use his strength to overwhelm Thomas made one mistake and left his neck exposed in a clinch.  Thomas recognized it and was quick to sink in a standing guillotine choke, a move the fans just saw used to capture the lightweight title in the prior fight, was also effective in allowing Thomas to capture the middleweight title, as Filer tapped at the 32-second mark of the first round.

In summary, it needs to be noted that this is a promotion that is still in it’s infancy.  There will be opportunities as they move through this phase.  The flow and production for the event seemed to run smoothly, which is not easily accomplished by a promotion’s second event.  There will need to be an effort to ensure that the event stays family friendly and walkout songs are edited.  The matchups will need to get better.  Almost half of the fights ended in under a minute.  The fighter pullouts also hurt.  Ready 2 Fight will need to quickly learn what gyms and fighters can be counted on and which can’t.  That statement should apply to all promotions.  Stop holding yourself and your fans hostage by stocking your fight cards with unreliable fighters.  Pullouts happen.  It’s the nature of fighting, but some fighters do it habitually and need to be weeded out.  Perhaps when the State takes on oversight of the amateurs, on October 1st, that will help this epidemic through suspensions, etc.  At least 4 fights dropped the day of the event.  One dropped DURING the event. Cody Turbitt, who was supposed to fight for the Flyweight title just decided he no longer wanted to fight, turned in his gloves and left the venue just prior to his fight.    

Reggie Barnett, Jr. will figure these things out, as the passion he showed for his brand was evident.  Barnett, Jr. did a great job of including the crowd in the event by introducing all the fighters and have them face-off with their opponent in the ring prior to the event.  It was a nice touch that added a human element to each fight, something that a handbill fight card can’t do.  He also explained the tournaments and what they were all about and some of the fighter back-stories, all of which aid in fan buy-in to a fight.  Ready 2 Fight’s next event will be their Saint Valentine’s Day Massacre on February 13, 2016.  Time will tell if R2F can recognize their opportunities and work to improve them.  MMA in VA will hope to be there to cover it.

For full fight results, please visit the Ready 2 Fight: Battleground event page on Tapology.com.

MMA in VA’s “of the Night” Awards

Fight of the Night:  Chris Garnes v. Tony White-Moye

KO of the Night:  Maurice Tolliver of Eric Griffiths

Submission of the Night:  Maurice Tolliver of Tony White-Moye