RECAP: Mixed Striking Championship 1 an exciting and successful lateral step for MMA
It’s safe to say that competitive, professional full-contact martial arts took as exciting a lateral step as it possibly could on Saturday, April 18th, and the mixed martial arts community of the world stands to benefit substantially from it. Despite several cancelled bouts and various other setbacks, Wayne Bermudez and Dave Zalewski’s Mixed Striking Championship 1 was a tremendous success, leaving the attending sold-out crowd at the Miccosukee Resort & Gaming Entertainment Dome chomping at the bit for the announcement of their next show.
For those uninitiated, Mixed Striking Championship (MSC) is the promotional force behind mixed striking arts (MSA), an MMA offshoot that takes almost all of the grappling elements (besides trips, throws, clinches and leg sweeps) and throws them away. Everything that’s left (kicks, punches, knees, elbows, forearm and shoulder strikes, and so on) can be used. If a fighter hits the canvas, they’ve got to get back up. Basically, if you’ve ever yelled at the referee on TV to stand two inactive fighters up while watching an MMA event, this is the answer to your frustrated combative prayers.
Much had changed between the time I first spoke with Zalewski about MSA and MSC 1, however. (You can read my interview with him HERE.) For starters, Bermudez was no longer fighting. A lifelong Kenpo practitioner whose one-off flirtation with MMA had left him unsatisfied, he had dreamed up MSA to allow students of traditional striking-based martial art forms to compete on even grounds with other like-minded fighters. While he did appear at the show in a professional capacity, supporters who’d voiced their admiration that MSA’s creator was “putting his money where his mouth is” were disappointed he wasn’t stepping into the ring himself.
Then there were the cancelled fights. All but one of the four scheduled amateur bouts, TJ Wardell vs. Luis Miranda, had fallen through and both the event’s opening pro bout and its main event were scrapped at the last minute as well. That left seven fights in total—seven fights to properly convey Bemudez and Zalewski’s vision to the world. Sitting in the press area at 6:30 p.m. surveying the ocean of empty seats surrounding the boxing ring, I’ll admit I had a fleeting moment of doubt.
But by the time Wardell and Miranda entered the ring, wearing the patented MSA EVO gloves, sporting the only shin pads worn that evening and having their names announced by Rodolfo Roman, any doubt I had was gone entirely. The venue was packed to capacity with combat sports devotees, curious passersby and friends and family who had come to support their favorite fighters. There was an unmistakable buzz in the air that something remarkable was about to occur.
Wardell and Miranda deserve credit for putting on a terrific show and setting the tone for the evening. Their match also served to dispel any unrealistic expectations. Although MSC’s slogan is “No Tapouts. Just Knockouts.” there was a second possibility: a hard-fought decision that no one—not the crowd, nor the fighters and their coaches—minded.
Whoever thought up the Pride FC throwback at the beginning of the pro card—where every fighter competing had their names announced and lined up on stage so the crowd could see them before they fought and take pictures—is an absolute genius. That minor touch elevated the prestige of the event, broadcasting clearly both to the crowd and to the fighters themselves that something special was indeed taking place.
There were some other unexpected moments—pleasant ones, such as the ringside arrival of celebrity sponsor Paul Teutul Sr. of Orange County Choppers (who later came into the ring to congratulate Vinney Pantaleone after his unanimous decision victory over Jesus Madrid); and unpleasant ones, such as the unfortunate melee that took place near the stage, forcing Zalewski himself and members of security to oust the inconsiderate offenders.
All in all, however, MSC1 went off brilliantly and there is little doubt in my mind we’ll be seeing another show in the not-so-distant future.
At the bottom, you’ll find the complete results for the evening. That’s the “what happened” portion of this article. However, “what happened” isn’t nearly as interesting as “how it happened”—and that’s what I aim to cover with these, my Mixed Striking Championship 1 FIGHT NIGHT AWARDS.
Fight of the Night – Gabriel “Stunna” Varona vs. Dave Gomez
Originally scheduled as the co-main event, this absolutely brutal featherweight set-to truly delivered main event-quality violence after being promoted to the top of the card. For three straight rounds, Gomez tagged Varona up—his refined Muay Thai attacks just tenderizing the CFA veteran who, though effective in his own offensive output, seemed at times at a loss for what exactly to do against his rangier, versatile opponent. Somehow, in the fourth and final round (the lone amateur bout went for three three-minute rounds, while all the pro matches went for four three-minute rounds), Varona came roaring back like a phoenix reborn from its own ashes, connecting with heavy leather on a visibly wilted Gomez and flooring his opponent several times. When the final bell rang, the entire crowd was on its feet, cheering deafeningly. But, unfortunately for “Stunna,” it proved too little, too late. Although he came close, he was unable to put Gomez away and lost a hard-fought decision. Both men held their heads high—and deservedly so; it was a brilliant affair that perfectly encapsulated what fighting spirit and MSA is all about.
Knockout of the Night – Alan Arzeno vs. Whitney Waddell
Alan Arzeno is a monster. There really is no other way to say it. He put an absolute thrashing on Waddell, at one time hoisting him high into the air and slamming him violently onto the canvas—a grey area in the rules, since throws are allowed by slams aren’t; which paused the action so Waddell could recover and continue. The fight technically lasted only 46 seconds. However, it felt considerably longer because of the number of times the ref had to reset the action. Waddell looked terrified. I was terrified. I’m home now, it’s a day later and I’m still terrified. I also can’t wait to see Arzeno compete again inside the MSC ring. A brilliant showing.
Holy $#iT Moment of the Night – Alan Arzeno vs. Whitney Waddell
That slam. It was almost cartoonish how Waddell crawled across the canvas afterwards, as if he was unsure as to whether to roll underneath the bottom rope and out of the ring or just lay down, play dead and hope Arzeno became distracted by other prey.
Pro Wrestling Moment of the Night – Aaron Rajman vs. Sky Moiseichik
The beef between Rajman and Moiseichik has been well-documented here on MMA Owl (read the full story HERE), but little could have prepared us for how the fight would actually go down. Both fighters seemed affable ahead of their matchup, content in the fact that the time for talking had come and gone and that they were within hours of settling their differences in the ring. But after the two touched gloves, all bets were off. Rajman played a little dirty on a few occasions, at one point hitting Moiseichik after the bell and receiving a point deduction for his actions. By the fourth round, Rajman’s adaptable offense both at distance and in the clinch (where he worked superbly with elbows and knees) had worn Moiseichik down until he was falling to the mat with little or no force put upon him. But after the bell, he was a suddenly reenergized, moving about the ring in protest, seemingly calling out people outside the ring to come in and fight him. It was a fun, entertaining spectacle. Moiseichik, whose name was announced to a chorus of boos, was in full-on heel mode. If I’d just wandered in from outside and didn’t know any better, I would have sworn this was a pro wrestling match. Both men were charismatic in their own ways and drew reactions from the crowd more than any other pair of fighters that evening.
FULL FIGHT RESULTS
Mixed Striking Championship 1
Dave Gomez def. Gabriel Varona – unanimous decision
Aaron Rajman def. Sky Moiseichik – unanimous decision
Alan Arzeno def. Whitney Waddell – TKO – R1, 0:46
Abraham Estacio def. Jason Somchay – TKO – R2, 2:55
Murc Jones def. Joey Rodriguez – unanimous decision
Vinney Pantaleone def. Jesus Madrid – unanimous decision
Luis Miranda def. TJ Wardell – unanimous decision
If you missed the fights, you can watch them online HERE.