Philly’s emerging MMA industry maintained the momentum with Matrix Fights 1, which took place at the Arena in South Philly last Saturday night. Greg Sirb, the PA Athletic Commissioner finally gave me some feedback on how the local scene is progressing from his vantage:
“I knew it was going to be popular, but I didn’t know it would be this popular… its just taking off.”
Sirb's enthusiasm is warranted for a few clear reasons:
While this wasn’t the first MMA fight at the Arena (Arena Assaults 1, last August is often overlooked), it is a milestone to report that a decent card was delivered in a traditional fight venue to a sell out crowd (1300 according to promoter Phil Migliarese). This distinction was most clear in the conduct of the crowd. Fans at the previous fights were a well behaved mix of MMA fans and fight fans- the latter being less likely to enjoy an intricate ground battle and more likely to yell out ‘stand those cunts up’ to the ref. This says little about the actual participants- and more about the environment. A proper venue, with all that entails- glossy promotional materials, quality audio, and a proper press area (because I too am susceptible to throwing out the C word) sets the mode for appreciation of a sport and not just the fight.
The pro-fights on this card had less prestige then previous events but luckily the competitors showed out. Semper Fi MMA put themselves on the radar with back to back wins from Julio Rosario and Will Martinez.
Rosario battled Steven Baker who trains out of Delaware. Looking crisp on the feet and in the initial trade off, Rosario cradled a kick from Baker and let his other arm unhing landing sequential right hands. Baker didn’t shrink and ended up answering back as the trade-offs got a little wild before they went to the ground. Rosario landed on top and rode it into a Kimora for his second pro win.
Martinez went up next against Mitch Lyons, hailing from Ohio. The two had a loose but exciting first round when some questionable shots had both fighters looking more aggravated then calculated. Martinez ended up mounting Lyons at the bell and started the second round by getting Lyons turtled-up and breaking him down with knees. Lyons rolled out and into a flailing attempt to isolate a limb. Martinez kept all his appendages in check and pounded down with hammer punches. In a tough spot up against the cage and absorbing strikes Lyons either couldn’t or wouldn’t get himself unstacked. The ref finally stopped the fight and raised the hand of Martinez for his first pro win.
Fight Factory and Balance Studio’s hybrid Aaron Meisner took on Virginia product Francios Ambang in a battle that was much more competitive then is suggested by the unanimous decision that came down on Meisner’s side. Meisner showed improved striking skills but also ate plenty of shots; one kick in the second round dropped him and while Ambang went all in for the finish Misner stayed cool and managed to regain his guard and composure. Meisner’s saving grace, aside from a calm demeanor was his cage control. Throughout the fight, he was able to lean in- smothering Ambang’s follow up attack and come out of the clinch scoring with strikes. Both fighters looked tired after the second round but neither visibly wilted. The third round played out like the previous two with the notable exception of Meisner landing his first takedown of the night- a hard-fought double leg off the cage which he failed to capitalize on.
Also surprising for its unanimity, Daddis Fight Camp’s Matt Makowski took a decision over Levon Maynard. Well matched, both fighters were able to sneak their shots but Makowski dominated at closing the distance, occasionally lighting up with sharp combinations. He also demonstrated a dominate takedown defense; Maynard paid for each attempt in a peppering of knees to his ribs. Both fighters were dangerous but while Maynard occasionally penetrated, Makowski was dialed in winning the first two rounds by slim margins.
This all went out the window in the third round where Maynard finally landed a takedown. Landing in Makowski’s butterfly guard, he kept heavy hands coming down before mounting and taking the fight dangerously close to a ref stoppage. Makowski managed to escape, eating plenty of hard strikes on his way back to the feet. Amazingly- out of danger, he lunged back in with a sloppy takedown that delivered him almost immediately back under Maynard’s mount. He desperately gave up his back and spent the last tense moments fighting off Maynard’s rear naked choke.
In between these two close fights was Philadelphia’s brief encounter with Cole Konrad. The subject of much buzz looked very business oriented on his way to the ring. His intro music crapped out (one of management’s only loose ends of the night) and he ended up entering the ring to 3 seconds of Bob Marley’s Jammin. He didn’t seem to mind; the abrupt ending of the hippie anthem couldn’t have been more appropriate. Now infamous as 'The training partner of Brock Lesner,' Konrad looked every bit of 6’ 5” 265 pounds, although he is no young David Hasselhoff and is going to need to tighten up his pasty rolls- a sword tattoo would look pathetic on his facade.
When the bell rang he descended on Joel Wyatt (a brazilian jiu jitsu purple belt from Virginia) and looked not only focused on standing and striking but efficient as well. Wyatt didn’t seem especially apt at dealing with this and clumsily backed up, making the decision easy for Konrad to fall on him. Some short ground strikes quickly finished off Wyatt.
There was some confusion if the doctor stopped the fight or Wyatt opted out. Sirb confirmed that it was Wyatt that said the magic words, leaving the ref no choice:
“We saw a jab, he said he had trouble seeing, [the ref] called it. As soon as he said he couldn’t see, [the ref] called it.”
It is now well reported that Konrad was scooped up by Bellator whose CEO Bjorn Rebney was seated front row. His first fight under the promotion is scheduled for May according to fiveouncesofpain.com. Hope you enjoyed your 2 minutes in Philly Konrad.
Check out Matrix's site to see video snipits of the event.