With the stage set at the prestigious Indigo o2 in the nations capital and another show that we were pleased to be invited along too for yet another night of Muay Thai & K1 action , the MTGP team and Lion Fight didn’t disappoint.
The prelims were already well under way and the venue was full, the atmosphere was buzzing inside as the live show was about to start.
Rob Hayward v Lewis Childs
This fight was very entertaining to watch because it gave the audience a prime example of what it’s like to leave your heart in the ring. The first round started off very calculated. Right from the get go the obvious size and reach advantage went to Childs. He tried to impose this by utilising strong overhands, forward flurries and a long southpaw left kick. At first this made Hayward fight with a lot of apprehension because Childs was making his presence known. Lewis’s attacks were most definitely destructive but also became predicable for the more experienced Hayward. After a shaky first round for Hayward he came back and worked towards his strengths. He started wrapping Childs up in the clinch where there was no comparison. Hayward showed master class skill in manoeuvring Childs into various positions where his head would be forced down in order to have an unfortunate meeting with Hayward’s knee. Childs using sheer strength and will would muscle his way back up only to be rudely greeted with Hayward’s elbows. This caused a very aggressive reaction from Child’s which meant that there were many times where Hayward narrowly avoided danger, however, for a retired fighter making his comeback his reactions were still intact. By the Third round Hayward was able to slow down the beast in Child’s by his experienced clinch, wrapping him up into a Pandora’s Box of consistent knees and elbows that he could not get out of. Hayward took home a decision win that he can be proud of.
Nicolas Mendes v Steve Primrose
This devastating fight was over before it had even began both fighter started confident and composed with Mendes having a very obvious reach advantage. That reach advantage came in handy when planting his fist through Primrose’s face and striking him as he went down. From that point on Primrose had no more say in the fight. He got up and was met with a flurry of strikes to which he had no response. The referee stepped in and ended the fight therefore Mendes won via first round TKO.
Evan Jays v Aaron McGahey
Speed demons Evan Jays and Aaron McGahey reinforced the notion of ‘don’t blink’ in a literal fashion when it came to their bout. They made taking notes very difficult because looking down to scribble a single word meant that I would miss entire exchanges of truly class Muay Thai. Starting off McGahey looked the stronger out of the two. He was pushing forward and posing problems for Jays, often making him look rattled and out of his comfort zone. It became quite obvious that this was Jays just shaking off a little ring rust because coming into the second round Jays became the body snatcher himself. Jays’ boxing speed was absolutely incredible, throwing such accurate yet rapid shots and finishing off with a clinical body shot or switch kick left many of us with our jaws wide open. Talking about jaws, McGahey showed that his was diamond as he seemed like he was still holding centre ring regardless of the punishment he was taking. However, he did start to slow down significantly, especially when Jays started to utilise the switch kick. It would completely distrupt McGahey’s rhythm and equalised his advantage in power. Moving into the final round Jay’s was completely composed and McGahey was equally aggressive but he couldn’t match the volume that Jays was putting out. Thus leading Jays to take home the decision victory.
Miguel Martinez Molina v Daniel Terry
This was one of the more controversial fights of the night. Both fighters walked into the ring and their demeanours alone showed that they both held considerable amounts of power. The fight, like many others started as most other elite level fights do. Both fighters composed, engaged in the feeling out stage. Somewhere within that feeling out stage Molina wanted to do more than just weigh up Terry and threw a solid right hand which put him down. Terry was definitely hurt but he got up, and walked back to his corner where he began recovering. He was recovering with his arms on the ropes facing his corner men, taking long breaths in order to regroup. He looked conscious and was listening to his corner men. At this point the referee who was standing behind him started the standing eight count but hadn’t even done so much as even tap Terry on the shoulder to tell him he had begun counting. Just as Terry started turning around the count was up and the referee had ended the bout. In my eyes the fight could have easily continued if the referee had made his instructions clearer, made his presence more known and just grabbed the attention of Terry. Terry could have also been better informed by his corner men to turn around before they started to instruct him but in the middle of a fight all composure tends to give way to chaos. Like how Terry lost his composure in light of Molina’s chaotic right hand.
John Scott v Michael Pham
Our only draw of the night came between these two gentlemen. Their three round bout seemed as if you had chosen the exact same video game character to face off against itself. Both fighters held centre ring in a traditional stand and bang type fight. Whether it was in the clinch, boxing or throwing kicks almost every significant strike was matched by the opposing fighter. Pham was definitely coming forward throughout the middle of the fight but then was equalised by Scott’s counter switch work. The final round was definitely the most entertaining to watch as it almost seemed like a conditioning drill with both fighter taking turns lumping in destructive strikes at each other and also sharing the occasional smile acknowledging each other’s work. The judges couldn’t agree on a winner but the audience definitely agreed that it was a great fight to watch as they cheered after each strike as thrown.
Eddie Abasolo v Jersey Pinto
This was crowned the fight of the night and for a very good reason. This fight encapsulated every aspect of Muay Thai Combat into one. Its ruthlessness, its creativity, its speed, its power, the extreme level to which it pushes the human condition and world class warrior spirit. Abasolo who was also crowned fighter of the night showed a level of composure that was leaps and bounds ahead of anybody else that night. Pinto, a true adversary to Abasolo, showed us the real meaning of warrior spirit as he fought through a gash on his forehead signed by Abasolo that looked as if his brain had started to leak through it. In the initial rounds of the fight we got to see Abasolo’s creativity as he held a very unorthodox stance with his hands low, showcasing very flashy head movement. Pinto looked as if he was on the hunt displaying world class striking that Abasolo beautifully evaded. Midway into the fight and Pinto had become a fountain of blood but was absolutely unfazed by it. Although Abasolo was marching forward he would be hit with a barrage of attacks by pinto, especially consecutive right legs however Abasolo would quickly answer to this with a spinning back elbow. Pinto showed great heart and also, unbelievably so, stayed the same fast pace throughout the entire fight. Abasolo looked like a cyborg in body and mind. Staying terrifyingly calm amongst the madness with a small chilling grin which would signal his menacing intent as he would start to take apart Pinto and enjoy doing it. At the end of the final round Abasolo went home with a win but both fighter went home knowing they left something brutally beautiful in the ring.
James Benal v Ryan Li
The dog fight of the night full taunts, blood and blinding anger definitely went to these two gentlemen. Even though these men embraced prior to and post of the fight they definitely did not like each other throughout it. Coming straight into the first round the taunts had begun as Li started swaying his head side to side mocking Benal’s unorthodox boxing stance. This caused a spike in Benal’s aggression and made him bring the fight to Li where they would tend to slug it out with heavy hands and a lowkick frenzy. This stayed the same coming into the second round with the addition of a lot more elbows being utilised by both fighters as the fight got scrappier in the clinch. Coming into the end of the second round Li picked up a pretty serious injury that seemed to happen to his Achilles heel making it very difficult for him to put any weight on that foot. With this in mind Li came out strong in the third and fourth rounds looking for a quick knockout because his movement had become severely limited but was still doing pretty well whenever Benal came into close quarters with him. Unfortunately this injury got the better of Li as he was completely unable to hold his balance against any oncoming onslaught and had to utilise the corners to give him stability, forcing Benal to come to him and taunting him when he would step back and start to take him apart methodically. In the final round Benal had enough of Li’s taunts and instead of using the advantage that he had with Li’s limited movement, to which he should have attacked him from range while also recuperating when Li couldn’t reach back he fell right into Li’s trap and went into a close contact clinch and brawl. Unfortunately it was too late for Li, he was already too weak from the punishment he had taken in the earlier rounds to fully take advantage of this moment. Thus Benal was able to get the better of him and skilfully walked away with the decision win, becoming the light heavyweight MTGP champion.
Jose Varela v Amine Ballafrikh
The veteran in Varela fought the dangerous Ballafrikh which turned into five rounds of very traditional and technical world class Muay Thai mixed with a lot of nasty aggressive tricks accumulated by the wealth of world class experience that both fighter have. In the initial round of the fight Varela was definitely the much stronger fighter, with a physique that looked like it had been chiselled from granite, he held the centre of the ring with grace and composure. Ballafrikh showed great footwork circling him and evading Varela’s attempt at closing the ring off on him. Coming Into the second round both fighters opened up significantly. Ballafrikh changed approaches and started clashing with Varela head on throwing destructive over hands but Varela, with great strength held his ground and would lock Ballafrikh up in a Rubix cube of a clinch. Skilfully utilising the sweep and the throw multiple times and even at one point letting his emotions getting the better of him and kicked Ballafrikh as he had fallen down from a sweep. This lead to Ballafrikh changing tactic again in the third round. Sitting back and throwing fast paced punches, sometimes using them as faints to throw a kick but once again, Varela, like a star pupil, had an answer for everything. Varela had caught onto Ballafrikh’s rhythm very quickly and was able to time his lean back perfectly in order to evade Ballafrikh’s kicks. Varela also had a very traditional high guard and thus was always ready for Ballafrikh’s awkwardly timed explosive flurries. By the fourth round Ballafrikh was starting to lose composure as he was running out of ideas against what seemed to be the encyclopaedia of Muay Thai. Varela just had an answer for everything and in the fourth round made Ballafrikh know that this wasn’t his first rodeo as he would begin to charge towards him, imposing relentless power in the clinch and showing the crowd why he should be the winner. This was further aggravated by Ballafrikh teeping Varela directly in the face. Varela threw tradition out the window and made way for termination, he most definitely looked the stronger, fitter and more dominant of the two as the fight finished and he walked away with win and the belt.
Chip Moraza-Pollard def. Jordan Smith
This fight highlighted athleticism and raw desire against experience and technique. I could breakdown this fight round for round but that would be pointless as each round was virtually identical. Smith even though he lacked in experience and skill definitely threw the highest volume of strikes by any fighter that night. Not only that but he kept this up for a total of five, three minute rounds. This highlighted his absolute desire to win because no one fought as hard and as relentlessly intense as Smith that night. Unfortunately for him, Pollard, even though he was put through his paces was able to use his superior technique to wrap smith up in the clinch and counter punch Smith with some powerful shots when he would come forward swinging. Testament to Smith’s desire he did not stop regardless of how much bludgeoning punishment he would take at point blank. Pollards reaction speed must also be respected as he dealt with the most volume that anyone had to deal with that night. Coming to the end of the fight Pollard walked away the winner and the champion and smith felt his first taste of defeat but with a heart and desire like Smith’s he will definitely improve as he still has a lot of experience to gain. Smith is definitely one to watch out for and a dangerous future prospect.