Locked In The Cage 3 (LC3), which went down last Saturday night at the John Perzel Community Center in Mayfair, was another success for the local MMA scene. It packed in 1200+ people and showcased 14 competitive fights without triggering a South Street style flash mob — which is continued movement in the right direction for our beloved but ill aligned scene. To be a little more discerning, LC3 demonstrated two important things about the current scene as it grows into whatever it is growing into.
Number one — A promotion can fill a card with guys that are very light in the record department (9 of the 18 amateurs made their debut, only one pro had over three fights) and still earn their admission money, if a good matchmaker is genuinely trying to pick talent. Number two — The promotion needs to be detail oriented, less the show breakdown and potentially turn into something that — in this incubatory period of Philly MMA — could scar the local scene and stunt, possibly permanently, its legitimacy.
The second point first:
While this show kept everything cool — Commissioner Greg Sirb, who is my personal thermometer, seemed happy at the end of the night — it was the loosest of the legit shows so far. The venue — a newly constructed community center next to a park in Northeast Philly which seems to be LC’s official stomping ground for the foreseeable future — is a decent hall (it is roomy with clean facilities, decent parking etc.) but it is not a traditional fight venue. This doesn’t mean a great event can’t go down there, just that fans, especially the passionate supports, have one less trigger to remind them that they are watching a pro sport and not a street battle. This was exaggerated by a couple legit foulups on the part of the promotion, most notable was a reoccurring lighting interruption that lead to many boos. Foul ups like this are dangerous as it leads patrons to think a little more creatively about how they will get their money’s worth (being a lifelong NEP kid, I can attest we are particularly creative when prompted to that endeavor). The lights were thankfully sorted out before the pro fights. To be fair, there was also some definitive improvements over past events — they hired a legit ring announcer and pumped out a clear clean sound.
Oh and LC consistently produces the hottest ring girls, pic at the end of the review-
So, again, we can call this fight a success — another example of why MMA fans should consider it safe and worth the money to come out and enjoy the local scene. BUT, it should give all promoters a pause: a little bit of slippin can abort the legitimacy of this scene in utero , so everyone involved best be set about the task of minding their Ps and Qs.
Now, the first point-
A promotion can earn its $40-65 without showcasing established talent. It is exciting to watch amateurs vie for the chance to be pros, it is exciting to watch pros vie to get into the big time — and that is the future of this scene. Philly is going to launch fighters onto the national stage — Wilson Reis, Tara LaRosa, Eddie Alvarez, Tommy Morrison; these are not going to be the last Philly-affiliated names you hear connected to the big time promotions. This card was a great example of that-
The amateur bouts were greener then Shamrock Shake puke on St. Patty’s Day — no one had much experience except Justin Jenkins (7-2) who scored the only KO of the night in the first round over Darrell Horcher. The remaining fights were surprisingly competitive though and put a few names on the radar.
The opening fight set a good pace and introduced Adam Roberts to the scene, training out of Rocco MMA. He got an easy decision over an outmatched Pedro Torres. At 26, he is a little older then the preferred prospect age but he showed the benefit of maturity. He looked calm and balanced in the ring with a stand-up style closer to a deep Karate stance then the loose Muy Thai or boxing stances that dominate the ranks. We didn’t get to find out what he is holding standup wise though as he used solid takedowns to put Torres to the floor and keep him there. From the top he showed his distinction by staying tight and unleashing vicious elbows to the body. The bass reverbed of the community center walls and definitely demonstrated the killer instinct of this prospect. Lets see where he takes it.
Tom Backman out of Philly Jiu Jitsu debuted at 170 pounds vs Shawn Massey who came in 0-1. Both fighters looked a little timid — Backman, frankly looked a little too calm to be stepping into the cage. But things heated up off a fouled-up opening glove-touch in which Massey appeared to forgo the routine in favor of a surprise swipe. Backman went hulk and when Massey appeared to offer an apologetic tap, Backman turned it away. The two got in and out of some scrapes with Backman edging out an advantage. But more distinguishing was his emotional displays; yelling and beating his chest, he got visibly pissed before each exchange. He would eventually stumble in on an ill advised takedown but work out to recover into position for some ground striking before gassing out on an rear naked choke that brought him the win; had it not, he looked to be in trouble. Backman definitely has the anger to justify being in the cage and if he can tamp it down with a little more calculation, he might be dangerous. His physique also indicated he could probably come down to 155, which would accentuate the reach advantage of his lanky 5’ 11” frame
In the first female fight since Tara LaRosa won the LC 1 headline match, local Kasey Mathews, training out of Revolution Academy, debuted against Kylie Knoll, from Drago MMA , in a 140 pound contest. Both ladies came out with good form but devolved into the wild haymaker style the plagues female fighting. On the ground both showed decent technique with Knoll getting the better via uncontested shots to Mathew’s side. Mathews, to her credit, ate the shots without wincing and also worked out of a tight guillotine demonstrating she didn’t show up to tap out. In the end, it came down to a split decision that called the fight closer then my count by still in agreement that Knoll had the win. The crowd, as usually for MMA, — showing a fairly even-gendered mix for any sporting event — gave a lot of energy for these two and invited the question: why is this only the second female fight we have seen locally? More on that in the works…
Daddis Fight Camps fielded a few fighters that evening, the biggest standout was a 160 pounder named George Hibbs who won his third fight and remained undefeated, over NY’s Anthony Giacchina. The fight went to decision, surprisingly, as Giacchina who had a visible edge on the ground got close to finishing early with a flurry of submission attempts from inside his guard. Hibbs has able to play good defense, wear his opponent down and, by the end of the fight, completely turn the momentum. While Hibbs made it happen in the ring, this was a pretty good illustration of proper coaching by Brad Daddis.
The preeminent coaching style at amateur fights often resembles a drunken stepfather screaming a kid out. The torrents of abuse and over-simplified instruction are sometimes accompanied by cursing and demoralizing verbal disappointments. “Get out from underneath him!… awe shit” is much easier said then down when “him” is a 205 pound fighter with a solid mount. “Put your arm under his face and throw him off,” might sound like good advice if you ever find a fighter with the ability to launch someone of their chest, using their arm, while laying on their back. (These excerpts are real quotes from an unnamed amateur coach). In reality, a good coach is calm — trying to keep his fighter calm — and illustrating the correct move based on the available factors.
Daddis demonstrated this well, calling out his fighter to stop, look at him and then physically illustrating the correct way to, in this case, neutralize his opponents superior guard by posting his hands against the opponents biceps. For his thoughtfulness he got to see his fighter with his hand lifted in the cage.
There is no telling where any of these amateurs will end up, and they don’t need to go anywhere to affirm my statement that they do their part to make this show worth the ticket price. All they need to do is get in the cage, work their asses off and make hack writers and drunk spectators believe the can make it somewhere, which they did.
Stay posted for the rest of this review covering the full pro fight card and giving a heads-up on whats coming down the pipe in the next couple months.