November 3, 2006
New episode of FCF Radio
In our latest broadcast,
IFL World Team Championships Semifinals: Portland Wolfpack vs. Los Angeles Anacondas, Toronto Dragons vs. Quad City Silverbacks
Report by Steven Marrocco – Photos by Jim Berry
Two New Coaches, Teams Announced
On a dreary Northwestern night, the IFL returned to the MMA friendly market of Portland, Oregon for the semi-finals of the second season. Fresh off his loss in Florida to Tito Ortiz, Ken Shamrock further solidified his retirement from active competition by announcing he would become the eleventh coach of the IFL, taking the helm of the newly formed Northern California Lions. Sitting on the other end of the press conference table sat the future twelfth coach, Ian Freeman, who will be captain of the British Bulldogs.
One thing became clear throughout the night as the four teams faced each other: The team that lives together, wins together. The Quad City Silverbacks once again dominated their competition, going 4 wins to 1 against the new team on the block, The Toronto Dragons. Hometown favorites, the Portland Wolfpack scored their second victory in a row, inching out the Los Angeles Anacondas 3-2.
In the superfight action of the night, Mike Whitehead rocked legend Mark Kerr early in the first, hitting him with a hard right that Kerr said gave him a flash knockout. "I looked back at the tape and you can see I couldn’t get my bearings back," Kerr said after the fight. Though Kerr was able to shoot under one cavalcade of punches for a takedown, the punch left him laying and praying until Whitehead was able to get back to his feet and resume punching. Whitehead showcased a far more refined stand up game than he is known for, catching Mark with a combination of punches from the inside of the clinch that sent Kerr teetering to the mat, turtled up in defense. After a solid 30 seconds of unanswered punches had Whitehead staring at the ref for a stoppage, the bout was called at 2:41 of the first round. Prior to the fight, Whitehead had proclaimed he was training for the old Mark Kerr, but admitted he did not meet that person this night. "To be honest, no, he didn’t feel as strong," Whitehead said afterwards. "I was a little surprised." Winning under the same roof as the one he had captured a state wrestling championship, Whitehead could not hide his joy at the outcome of the fight.
The ghost of Maurice Smith inhabited the body of Allan Goes for his bout with Daniel Gracie, as he put on a kickboxing clinic that dominated his fellow Brazilian. Claiming a score to settle, Gracie surprised all by choosing to stand and trade with Goes, as he lunged forward with big overhand rights. For his part, Goes stayed patient and methodical as he clinched repeatedly with Gracie, grabbing the back of his head and firing short upward punches at him from the clinch. By the end of the first round, Goes’ dirty boxing had already left its mark, as Gracie’s nose bled and his eyes began to swell.
Meeting at the center of the ring for the second round, the two resumed their punching war, Gracie again swinging for the fences as Alan clinched with him again. This time, Alan connected with a beautiful right uppercut that knocked Gracie onto the mat, where he followed with a series of punches and hammerfists from the top position, calling out to the ref "he’s out!" until the ref finally stepped in. Later at the press conference, Goes gushed over the training prowess of Smith, whom he fights clean up for in the Tiger Sharks. "He is the best ever," Goes cried. "He drives me crazy sometimes, he tells me so many things, my head feels like it’s going to explode. But he is the best, and I am a good student. I just listen."
Quad City Silverbacks vs. Toronto Dragons
In the first team fight of the night, Bart Palaszewski scored big points by dropping Canadian lightweight Ivan Menjivar in the first Dragon/Silverback bout. At the brink of stoppage, Menjivar kept his composure and managed to get back to his feet, where he resumed an onslaught of spinning back fists and kicks that frustrated Bart. Although he was able to land quite a few of the showpiece strikes, Bart got the better of many of the standup exchanges, walking away with a split decision. "I was surprised it was a split decision," Palaszewski said later. "I dropped him and I did all the damage, and that’s what I think a fight should be judged on, damage. I did feel I earned the decision."
Rory Markham’s intensity gradually wore down Dragon vet Keith Wisniewski, as his cardio kicked in to high gear in the third. Taking the fight on three weeks notice, Wisniewski showed an impressive counterpunching game as he picked his shots while moving back from Markham’s flurries. As the fight wore on, Wisniewski’s relaxation in the ring turned to exhaustion, as his feet flattened and his bounce disappeared. Markham was able to capitalize this, scoring with a huge left hook that wobbled Wisniewski at the conclusion of round three and left no doubt the bell had saved him in the third. "I was basically out on my feet at that point," Wisniewski said of the conclusion. According to the judges, the night was not over for Wisniewski. With a 29-28 for the Silverbacks, a 29-28 for the Dragons, and a lone judge scoring it an even 29-29, the judges had called for a fourth round, making it the IFL’s first overtime round in its short history. Hanging on the ropes in his corner, Wisniewski declined to come out for the round and Markham took home the win to make it 2-0.
Silverback Ryan McGivern was out of his league when Canadian Joe Doerksen caught a kick attempt and swept him to the mat, quickly gaining the mount. Transitioning between the mount and McGivern’s back, Doerksen bided his time in working for the finish. "He held off really well," Doerksen said later. "He had me a little nervous there." Unable to improve his position, McGivern tapped as Doerksen sunk in the rear naked choke at 3:04 of Rd. 1. The Dragons were finally on the board.
Their jubilance was cut short when light-heavyweight Mike Ciesnolevicz took advantage of a sloppy shot from Dragon Brent Beauparlant, sinking in a guillotine that put the Dragon in survival mode as he desperately tried to push Ciesnolevicz’s leg down to relieve the pressure from the choke. Undeterred, Ciesnolevicz kept control of Beauparlant’s head and cranked the guillotine shortly after, getting the choke from a near sitting position at 2:31 of the first round, clinching the trip to the finals for the Silverbacks. Later at the press conference, Ciesnolevicz described it as "probably the greatest moment I’ve had in fighting. I had the opportunity to clinch before and it didn’t go my way, so it was great."
Silverback Ben Rothwell was dominant in his clinch work against Dragon Wojtek Kaszowski, firing off knee after knee in response to the Kaszowski’s flurries of wild punches. Staying calm under fire, he threw an uppercut that was too much for the Dragon, sending him cowering to mat on his side as Rothwell hammered away. When it became obvious that the ref was giving Wojtek a little too much time for his taste, Rothwell grabbed his right arm and cranked a keylock, stopping the bout at 3:14 of Round 1. Of the Silverbacks plans for the upcoming finals, a pleasantly bear buzzed Rothwell told the press, "We’re going to pick up the intensity and bring it, because we want those rings."
Los Angeles Anacondas vs. Portland Wolfpack
Chris Horodecki went a step further in establishing himself as a star of the IFL, taking on the hard hitting veteran Ryan Schultz in the opening bout of the night. In his toughest test yet, Horodecki traded punches with a game Schultz, throwing quick three punch-kick combinations that pushed the Team Quest fighter back. Refusing to go quickly into the night, Schultz hit Horodecki midway through the third with a series of knees to the young fighter’s head, holding him in a front headlock. Coming out for the second, Schultz had clearly gotten the word to take this young gun down. As Schultz lunged forward for a shot, Horodecki nailed him with no less than three head kicks, severely dazing Ryan. Following it up with a clinch and a hard knee to Schultz’s head, the ref saw he was out on his feet and stopped the bout at :24 of the second round. For his troubles, the 19 year old won a trip to a Sandals resort. Seizing on the opportunity to taunt the partisan crowd, coach Bas Rutten held up a sign that said, "Don’t hate us because we’re good looking."
Wolfpack fighter Chris Wilson has proven once again that he likes to earn every cent of his paycheck, trading punches with abandon against Anaconda Jay Hieron. In a seesawing battle, the two threw everything they had against each other, with Wilson coming out ahead in many of the exchanges. Although Hieron appeared to be rocked several times, he hung in the fight, continuing to work for a takedown he finally landed in the opening stanza of the second. Investing all of his energy in a losing guillotine, Hieron redeemed himself by landing big left hook that dropped Wilson to the canvas. "It took me a couple of seconds into the third round to hear my coaches again," Wilson said of the punch later. With both fighters slowing in the third, Wilson showed the same resilience he had in his previous fight with Tigershark Brad Blackburn, launching a spinning back kick that landed flush on Hieron’s midsection, following with a takedown that signaled his advance. Ultimately, the judges agreed as they awarded him a unanimous 29-28 decision, evening the team score at one apiece.
Matt Horwich surprised many MMA pundits by taking Mike Pyle’s back midway through the second round. Though Pyle was adept at defending the rear naked attempts by the Oregonian, his luck ran out as his missed Horwich’s arm and succumbed to the choke. "There’s not a whole lot he does besides stick to his game plan, read the bible, and train," a proud Matt Lindland said later.
In a bizarre turn of events, the referee stepped in to stop what appeared to be a fight ending heel hook that Alex Schoenauer applied as a counter against Aaron Stark, instead standing the two fighters up to reset. Reverting to his recent favorite finish, Alex attempted a guillotine in response to Stark’s takedown attempt shortly after the separation, but found himself being choked after Stark popped his head out, using a combination of a neck crank and guillotine that ended the fight at 2:43 of the second. As Alex was sent to the hospital for a painful internal muscle tear, similar to the one sustained by BJ Penn at UFC 63, coach Rutten was both cynical and optimistic. "He tapped," Rutten said of the heel hook. "I know because I saw him scream and slap his leg. But we learned an important lesson today, so it won’t happen again."
With Stark clinching the Wolfpack’s trip to the finals, Los Angeles Anaconda Krzysztof Soszynski made the final statement early in the second round by trapping an overextended Devin Cole in an armbar to round out the evening.
With 7,632 in audience, the IFL set a new company attendance record to gear up for the final installment of the World Team Championships held on December 29th at the Mohegan Sun in Connecticut.
From the event’s promoter:
INTERNATIONAL FIGHT LEAGUE (IFL) NAMES KEN SHAMROCK COACH OF NORTHERN CALIFORNIA TEAM
NEW YORK, November 2, 2006 — The International Fight League (IFL) today announced that MMA legend Ken Shamrock has been named as coach of the Northern California-based Lions. The addition of the Lions brings to 11 the number of teams for 2007, with one more to be added shortly. The inaugural IFL season will begin in the first quarter of 2007.
"This is a great day for the IFL and for fans of Mixed Martial Arts in general," said IFL co-founder and commissioner Kurt Otto. "We have been able to bring one of the sports greatest personalities and champions in Ken Shamrock to our organization."
"I am very proud to be joining the IFL, and believe fully in the concept as a big part of the future growth of the sport," Shamrock said. "The athletes in this sport are some of the best in the world, and I am looking forward to working with the organization to take MMA to the next level and help create the game’s next stars."
Originally one of the most popular members of the WWE, Shamrock has enjoyed a 13 year career in MMA and wrestling that has made him one of the fight world’s most recognizable personalities. He has been an MMA trailblazer, beginning in 1993 with the launch of Pancrase in Japan, and quickly emerged as one of the sports early stars. He brought that star power back to the United States, joining the original UFC group to participate in the first-ever "Superfight" (with Royce Gracie in 1993), and went on to become a star of the highly-acclaimed series "The Ultimate Fighter" on Spike TV. He also began his highly successful coaching and training career, founding the Lion’s Den, a group dedicated to the training of mixed martial arts fighters. Shamrock returned to professional wrestling during it’s late 1990s success as well, competing in some of the biggest WWE cards ever before returning to MMA again in 2000. He competed first in PRIDE before retuning to the UFC in November of 2002. In late November of 2005, he was selected by the UFC as a coach for the third season of The Ultimate Fighter and has enjoyed great success as an author, competitor and coach over the last nine years. He was inducted into the UFC Hall of Fame in 2004.