Monday, July 8, 2013

King of the Cage: Fight Night at the Mall of Asia Arena

It was one hell of a crazy night at the Mall of Asia Arena last Friday, the 5th of July, where all the kids came out to play. King of the Cage was pulling out all the stops with the special appearance of Quinton "Rampage" Jackson, Herb Dean, and the headline fights of Sean "Tarzan" Strickland, and Yuske Sakashita, to name a few.

What was impressive, for me at least, were the 10 undercard matches that featured 20 Filipino fighters from all over the Philippines, debuting into the world of MMA (and each with a five-year contract, mind you) thanks to KOTC's Founder and President, Terry Trebilcock.

All the excitement started the day before fight night at the weigh in, with Quinton Jackson saying a few words while Terry Trebilcock, Herb Dean, and Ray Young looked on. Rampage really is built like a frickin' bull - this is one guy you wouldn't want to cross inside or outside the octagon.

Another highlight of the event were the KOTC Round Girls, of course. Strickland especially seemed to be very, very happy with the Filipina ladies. We're happy you're happy, sweetie. The pretty ladies werked the event, handing our free shirts and invites to Rampage's after party at Solaire as well as strutting their stuff around the ring between rounds.

It would be too long for me to go into details of each fight, but needless to say I had a few favorites:

Dean "Pacman" Bermudez vs. Rex "T-Rex" Tanduyan

I was cracking up over the crowd cheering Bermudez on chanting, "Manny! Manny!" during the fight - he could seriously pass as one of Pacman's brothers! Don Allado was seated next to me, and couldn't understand what the crowd was shouting, but cracked up with his dad once my brother explained it was a Manny joke.

Bermudez proved to be too spry for the Las Piñero, using his boxing background to his advantage and eventually immobilizing Tanduyan in a guillotine choke in the second round, forcing his him to tap out.

His victory was well deserved, and I watched from ring side as he got the medical attention he needed after the brutal fight. I'd see him later again that night, getting his picture taken with the fans. Tanduyan fared far worse, and was wheeled off in a gurney. This definitely isn't a sport for those without the stomach for it.

Mike Bunag vs. JM Figueras 

This was  one of my favorite fights of the night! The trainer and Kru at F.I.S.T Gym, Mike Bunag, played it incredibly smart in the ring and clearly the aggressor, putting out very calculated kicks and jabs, and staying as far away as possible from the fence. Figueras, who has a longer reach, was no match for his cool-as-a-cucumber opponent and as much as he tried to turn the tables on Bunag, lost via unanimous decision. Kasi naman, JM, ni-yoga flame mo nalang sana siya. Good show.

Other than this being one of my favorite fights, Mike is also such a cutie patootie! I was surprised at his grappling technique, I didn't think he'd be as good as he was on the floor. But then again, I also thought Figueras would dominate because of his longer reach, but I was pleasantly proved wrong.

Carlos Tiongson vs. Fadi Alhamoui

This was what I'd like to call the Jordan Herrera vs. Georges St-Pierre fight. I was rooting for the St-Pierre look-alike to win this, but a right straight to the head was all it took to have Alhamoudi’s mouthguard flying off, and Tiongson struck him some more as he fell down on the ground, winning by KO in the first round. Lesson learned: Never cross Jordan Herrera.

The crowd started singing happy birthday as the announcer let everyone know that it was also Tiongson's birthday that night. What a great birthday win for Carlos!

Reign Sotto vs. Uno Legaspi 

This was another awesome fight, with the peacocking pretty boy Reign going against the down-to-earth, Uno. Of course the heckling crowd couldn't help themselves but shout "Hadouken!" every time Reign would throw a punch. Haha! He looks more like Jin Kazama than Ryu though. Everyone let out a sign of disappointment when ref Chino Yulo popped Sotto's mouthguard back in - they were all hoping he'd loose a few of his teeth in the scuffle. Haters.

Needless to say, Sotto got his ass whooped hard by Legaspi, winning via a split decision in their welterweight fight after holding down the ab-mazing Sotto with a rear-naked choke in the third and final round. At least hindi siya na-Silva.

Kaleo "Lights Out" Kwan vs. Joe "The Technician" Condon

This match was for the King of the Cage Junior Welterweight #1 Contendership Bout, with Condon dominating in the ring against Korean Kaleo Kwan by unanimous decision, earning him a crack at the world welterweight championship held by Filipino, Lowen Tynanes.

There were a few good kicks and punches thrown in the ring, but Kwan ultimately fell short of Condon's better grappling technique, pinning his foe on the mat every chance he got.

Sean "Tarzan" Strickland vs. Yusuke Sakashita

The fight was for King of the Cage Middleweight championship, and although everyone was rooting for Strickland, I couldn't help but go for the underdog, Yusuke Sakashita. This guy is built like Taguro - I have never seen a Jap built like a black man! Holy pectorals, Batman!

The main event started at 1 o'clock in the morning, and the crowd was keeping themselves awake by shouting the funniest (and at times, offensive) things. Harking back to our childhood days of watching Ghost Fighter and Flame of Recca, the crowd would chant, "Tapusin! Tapusin!" every now and then, and the odd, "Kaya mo 'yan, Sakuragi!" Yes, our love for anime kept us together as we watched the final match being played out in front of us.

Strickland got Sakashita in the eye, and as Herb Dean came to inspect the cut, another heckler in the crowd shouted, "Singkit talaga 'yan!" Have any of you ever noticed how Filipinos are so damn sensitive when it comes to defending our country, yet also the most blatantly racist? I don't know whether that last jab was supposed to be funny or rude. I mean really, some of the guys in the crowd remind me of summer. They have no class.

I would like to thank every Filipino who came out to watch my fight. Thank for the support for our sport. I didn’t know that the sport is so big here. I would be willing to fight again in this country. - Sean Strickland
The night ended on a high note, with Strickland saying how this was one of this favorite fights yet, and complimenting Sakashita on how he was built like a frickin' tank (he's like Taguro at 50%, I tell you), and how one of his punches almost left him blind.

I hope King of the Cage comes back to muck around the Philippines next year, as this weekend's fights were epic! Congratulations to the fighters that won, I'm looking forward to seeing them develop their talents and represent our country for the next five years and make Pinoys a force to be reckoned with in the octagon as well as the boxing ring.

Just mucking around Manila,
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Images taken by Jericho San Miguel of The Pixel Project Manila