I had always wanted to be into kickboxing.
I liked K-1. As I got into K-1 via tape trading years ago, I found myself seeking out ISK/AK-1 USA shows on ESPN(2). The first fight I saw on ESPN was a semi-famous corker between Kit Cope and the late Alex Gong, which got me even more excited about following this sport.
I tried to catch the shows whenever they were on and record the ones that aired at odd hours. Soon, I noticed a pattern:
Most of the fights weren't really any good. Cope vs Gong was an aberration and American-style kickboxing, at least in its most visible form, tended to suck, K-1 branding be damned.
There wasn't a huge selection of K-1 in the communities where I traded tapes and teenaged me didn't really want to spend much to buy them, so I mostly gave up and stuck with MMA. Nowadays, netween now being older(/having more money that I could buy used K-1 DVDs with at Japanese book stores) and changes in technology, I started to follow things a little bit more.
When I heard about about TaKe-On Muay Thai, I got very interested. Actual Muay Thai! In New York City! How could I pass it up?
And so, Saturday night, I heading to The Theater at Madison Square Garden (formerly the Felt Forum & the Paramount Theater, a "proscenium" (traditional/not in the round) theater in the same building as the main arena that has hosted a number of fight cards in the past. The setting made it TaKe-On's biggest event to date, with 3,203 passionate fans packing the place.
The card consisted of nine amateur bouts followed by five professional bouts, and went as follows:
1. WKA NY State 120-125 Lbs. Women's Title: Prairie Rugilo (Girl Fight MMA) defeated Angie Babel (3-0, Five Points Academy) by majority decision to win the title. Decent opener made better by the VERY passionate support of Rugilo from the Girl Fight contingent in the crowd. Rugilo made a pretty impressive showing to earn the decision, although it was a lot closer than some of the other fights.
2. 141 Lbs.: Chris Mauceri (6-4, Black & Blue MMA) defeated Tim Schmeier (5-3, Sitan Gym NY) by unanimous decision. Schmeier had one of the more awesome ring robes of the evening. Both guys came out swinging and it was a hell of a first round, but they were winded coming into the second, which was highlighted by Mauceri's flying teep. Mauceri clinched the decision in the third round with solid punches.
3. 155 Lbs.: Rich Brattole (4-2, Weapons 9/Strategic Combat) defeated Evaristo Hernandez (4-2, Camp Undefeated) by TKO at 1:59 of the second round. Both paced themselves better than Mauceri and Schmeier. Hernandez dominated the first round with excellent clinch work. In the second round, he got cocky, going for a flying spin wheel kick and dropping his hands to taunt Brattole. It backfired, as Brattole pounded him to the point he couldn't continue. It looked like Hernandez conceded between rounds, but the official result is the one given above.
4. 145 lbs.: Joey Hernandez (2-2, Mushin MMA) defeater Brandon Poindexter (2-1, Evolve Ohio) by TKO at 1:59 of the second round. Yes, two fights in a row ended at the exact same official time. Hernandez was super over with this crowd. The first round was fairly even, with both doing well in the clinch, Poindexter landing some nice punches, and Hernandez getting a nice throw from the plum. Hernandez took Poindexter aparter in the second round, knocking him down with knees from the clinch and securing the TKO with a knee to the body. Crowd loved the finish, as you'd expect.
5. TaKe-On Rising Stars Tournament Finals; WKA/TaKe-On NY State 157 Lbs. Title: Freddy Cheung (Sitan Gym NY) defeated Andrilo Suarez (American Killer Bees) by unanimous decision. Cheung got the biggest crowd reaction coming in so far but looked very relaxed during the fight. Suarez seemed completely out of his depth, as he punched himself out and seemed lost in the clinch. Cheung dominated with leg kicks & trips in the first round, clinch work in the second (including dominating with knees to the thigh while in Suarez's plum), and liver kicks(~!) in the third. Very obvious decision.
6. 125 lbs.: Rudy Felix (4-1, Sitan Gym NY) defeated Cornell Ward (4-1, Five Points Academy) by unanimous decision. Felix (who wore an amazing red cape to the ring) controlled the first two rounds with kicks and superior footwork. Ward clearly knew he needed to finish and made a much better showing in the third, but Felix still did well so he was able to get the decision.
7. TaKe-On 165 lb. Supermiddleweight Champion Nick Vaughan (13-1, The Wat) defeated Brian Hutchings (5-4, Megalodon Georgia) by TKO at 1:08 of the third round to retain his title. First 5 round fight of the night. Vaughan got a big reaction, and since he's a Wat fighter, we got our first Phil Nurse sighting of the evening. He was very Phil Nurse-ish, always vaulting over the top rope into the ring between rounds and doing his Phil Nurse thing in the corner. Also, I think the guy behind me was from The Wat and not licensed as a cornerman because he was screaming at Vaughan like a cornerman throughout.
So, yeah, the fight: First round was pretty even, Vaughan dominated the second, and knocked Hutchings out with a hook in the third. Hutchings was up quick but it was a good stoppage.
8. 190 lbs.: Ariel Abreu (4-0, Camp Undefeated) defeated Steven Hernandez (7-0, PinPoint Muay Thai) by majority decision. Hernandez's nickname is Big Daddy Yum Yum. I'll give that a minute to sink in.
Ok, are you ready? In the meantime, as I was writing this, Rudy Felix retweeted my comment about his cape from Saturday night.
First round saw a flurry by Abreu and then some even, but exciting work in the clinch. Hernandez took round two, controlling the clinch and busting Abreu open. Round three was incredible, maybe the best of the night. Abreu kicked the hell out of Hernandez's legs, welting him up and getting a knockdown. Crowd booed Abreu's decision win, as Big Daddy Yum Yum was more spectacular, but Abreu was very consistent with the low kicks.
9. 147 lbs.: Delroy McCoy (2-0, Camp Undefeated) defeated Vinny Hui (3-3, Five Points Academy) by majority decision. First round was fun with McCoy ducking a REALLY hard high kick attempt by Hui. And then came the second round.
McCoy acted as if he got kneed low. I couldn't see exactly where the shot landed (though I later heard it didn't look low on the Go Fight Live broadcast), but with the height difference, it happens. Then it happened again. From where I was sitting, it sure looked like he got hit in the gut, but Hui was docked a point. McCoy made a big show out of shaking his balls into place. Then he appeared to be baiting low blows via his positioning in the clinch as he lifted his left leg up for a while for no apparent reason.
By the third round everyone was just annoyed by the fight other than Hui dropping McCoy on his head with a throw that someone nearby compared to a pro wrestling DDT. Delroy McCoy, if you really got kneed in the balls, then I apologize, but it sure looked like you faked a foul to outpoint your opponent.
10. 168 lbs.: Brett Hiavacek (3-0, The Wat) defeated Chris Clodfelter (4-3, Sommai Muay Thai North Carolina) by knockout at 1:40 of the first round. First pro fight and a five rounder. Phil Nurse returns! I want his silver tracksuit that says "MUAY THAI" on the back instead of his name. Quick domination. Lots of hard kicks by Hiavacek leading to the KO from some clinch knees followed by a head kick. Crowd loved the finish.
11. 120 lbs.: Eric Ruiz (0-1, Progessive MMA) defeated Athony Demaio (1-1, Staten Island Muay Thai) by unanimous decision. Most graceful fight so far and just plain awesome. Ruiz and his Dan Hardy fauxhawk got a knockdown off a teep to a big reaction. Demaio hit a nice throw, but he got nailed in the face with a front kick. Ruiz had a hell of a third round, nailing a head kick, another Steven Seagal kick, a spin kick to the chin, and then going in for the kill with the flurry at the ten second warning. A well-earned decision.
12. 155 lbs.: Deshawn Robinson (2-1-1, America's Finest Kickboxing) fought Sean Hinds (15-5, Mushin MMA/C3 Athletics) to a majority draw. It seemed like almost everyone in press row had a joke about the name "America's Finest Kickboxing." Most of the fight went as follows: Hinds tries a leg kick, Robinson sweeps him. Robinson also had impressive cardio and hit really hard, including getting a knockdown off a teep. Hinds went for the kill in the third and got a knockdown, skewing the scores to the point of the fight being a draw.
13. 209 lbs.: Brian Collette (0-0, Eastern Academy) defeated Marcus Taylor (Performance Muay Thai) by knockout at 1:30 of the first round. Taylor looked at least a weight class bigger than Collette. It didn't help him. Epic finish: Taylor is knocked down by a knee and a right hand. He gets up to answer the standing 8 count, puts on his tough guy face, lifts his gloves...and this his knees buckle, causing him to fall flat on his face as the referee calls it off. That got the biggest reaction of the night.
After the fight Taylor lifted Collette into the air all celebratory. Sportsmanship, yay! Then something happened in the crowd where Taylor got into a fight with a fan as I was looking down and Cat Von C tried to fill me in as everyone around them tried to break it up.
14. 183 lbs.: Ryan Madigan (24-6, Evolve Ohio) defeated Rigel Balsamico (26-6, Cool Hearts Muay Thai) by knockout at 2:21 of the first round. This was apparently Balsamico's retirement fight and he did a REALLY long wai khru before the fight. Madigan dominated him and the referee seemingly let it go way too long, as it was called off during the count for the third knockdown and Balsamico was non-responsive when he was answering the count after the first.
Aside from a few uncomfortable moments, it was a hell of a card. The on-demand replay on Go Fight Live is well worth going out of your way to see. I'm totally hooked and hope to attend all future TaKe-On cards. If you're in the NY area, you will be, too.