The King of The Cage: Uprising II event last night in Nanaimo, B.C. was highly enjoyable and fairly well-attended despite coming just one week after Armageddon FC: II in nearby Victoria. Interestingly, the two shows mirrored one another in several ways.
First, both shows were chock full of early finishes and each featured one truly devastating knockout. In fact, the two cards both featured first round stoppages in all but two of their respective bouts. Results like that are enough to make one wonder if British Columbia's rapidly-growing MMA scene might soon become known for its apparent utter disinterest in the art of good defense-- not that many fans are complaining.
Easily the biggest knockout of last night's show came when 38-year-old Dan Laughy (2-2) was sent to the canvas at just 0:29 of round one via a punishing right hand (some say elbow) from Port McNeil, B.C.'s newest welterweight-to-watch Zach Bye (2-0). Laughy remained motionless on the ground for several minutes before medical attendants removed him from the cage on a stretcher. Believe it or not, that was only the third-fastest T(KO) at KOTC: Uprising II. The fastest, which simply must have been one of the quickest in KOTC history, came when Ryan Ballingal (3-3 [PICTURED BELOW]), a member of Nanaimo's Impact MMA fight team, stopped Surrey-native George Texiera (0-1) by KO in just six seconds. Both Bye and Ballingal made lasting impressions with the fans, though the latter was already well-known to Nanimo's MMA faithful. Honorable mention goes to Richmond's David Perron (2-0) who did not put his opponent to sleep, but opened a deep gash above the left eye of Surrey's Clint VanRossum (0-1) and pounded him out in just 0:29 seconds.
Another interesting parallel between AFC II and KOTC: Uprising II is that each event's biggest win was claimed by a resident of the other event's host city-- with Nanaimo's Impact Gym being the big winners at Victoria's AFC II when Nick Hinchliffe (12-5) defeated Dan MacIvor (6-1) via that event's most massive KO, while Victoria's Zuma training centre were the big winners at KOTC: Uprising II as main-event fighter Gavin Neil (7-1) claimed the KOTC Canadian Lightweight belt.
It was by no means and easy victory for Neil, however. He had his hands full with Revolution's Charlie Zak (4-3) throughout the fight and ended up with a deep facial laceration to prove it. Zak came out kicking effectively in the early goings, landing a head kick that was followed shortly by a stinging push kick, a decent body kick, and even a cleanly landed knee. At that point, Neil seemed understandably content to try his luck on the ground, as he quickly initiated a clinch and successfully completed a single-leg takedown. Neil would remain in Zak's full guard for some time after that, but was never far from danger as Zak utilized an incredibly active guard. Zak transitioned fluidly from throwing strikes from below, to heaving up a triangle attempt, to trying to force several scrambles. For his part, Neil played a cool game from on top, not being overly aggressive, but still landing enough clean shots from above to avoid a stand-up. After Zak's failed leg-lock attempt near the end of the third minute, he gave up his back and, not long after, Neil sunk in the fight-ending rear naked choke (RNC). It was a gutsy performance by Neil, the newly crowned KOTC Canadian lightweight champion, who took this fight on short notice.
That wasn't the only victory that Zuma had to celebrate at KOTC: Uprising II, either, as their trio of other fighters all came away victorious-- highly-touted lightweight prospect Tarek Gabali (4-0) finished judo practitioner Rob Bastone (2-1) by RNC in under one minute; middleweight Ryan Janes (3-1) coaxed a verbal submission due to strikes from Comox's Gordie McCredie (1-0) in a minute-and-a-half; and Zuma's Greg Church (1-0), who competed in one of only two fights to make it past the first round, made a successful 155lb. pro debut against Impact's Pendragon Smith (0-2) with a TKO at 2:01 of the second stanza. For Zuma, KOTC: Uprising II was, at least, the third flawless event in a row and marks eight consecutive wins by their gym since Sarah Kaufman (11-0) entered the cage to claim the womens' 135lb. world championship belt at Strikeforce: Challengers VI. Next week, Zuma head coach Adam Zugec hopes to continue their momentum with a big win for Ryan Ford (11-2) against TUF 6 finalist Tommy Speer (13-4) at The Fight Club 10 in Edmonton, Alberta.
Easily the highest-level fight of the night, in terms of both advanced offensive manoeuvrings as well as competent ground defense, including complex grappling counters, bridges, and sweeps, came in the night's co-main event. The fight was billed as an International Superfight between Belgian Bastien Huveneers (7-2) and Brazilian copoeira specialist Marcus Vinicios (6-6). The first round was incredibly difficult to score. Much of the action took place on the mat, but both men spent time controlling the action and each also pulled off impressive escapes from below. I gave a slight edge to Huveneers after the first, but the fight's defining moment came midway through the second round when Huveneers blocked a high kick attempt by Vinicios then held the Brazilian's foot above his head as he drove him to the canvas. From there, Huveneers unleashed an absolute barrage of at least thirty shots, though it went on for upwards of a minute and could actually have been more in the range of fifty unanswered strikes. To his credit, Vinicios blocked many of the incoming blows, but eventually the referee had seen enough and called a stop to the action at 4:00 of round two.
Other victorious fighters at KOTC: Uprising II included Dynamic's Garrett Davis (12-10) and Brendon Kornberger (1-1) who each scored a first round TKO's and, in the night's opening bout and sole amateur match, their own Dan Ring (1-0) pulled off a RNC, set up by strikes, at just 0:41 of the first round. Congratulations to that Vancouver-based team on their success-filled night. Bastien Huveneers also currently trains out of Dynamic.
If upcoming MMA events on Vancouver Island prove to be as thrillingly fast-paced as last weekends AFC II and yesterday's KOTC: Uprising II, a mandatory check of each patron's heart-health at the door may need to be instituted in the interests of public safety. In all seriousness, they were a pair of action-packed events that none who attended either one or both of are ever likely to forget.