Mixing Martial Arts in Shuriken Shore Showdown
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SHORE SHOWDOWN - 24 July 2010
With very little prior knowledge of one the world's most popular ring sports, it was with interest and excitement that I found myself at Shuriken Mixed Martial Arts' second installment of the Shore Showdown on Saturday, July 24. The gym at AUT's North Shore campus had been transformed and an already noisy crowd warmed a ring of seats around the well-lit canvas. Screens the size of house walls displayed some of the finest MMA bouts of recent times, throwing life-sized fighters at each other with televised intensity; exceptional skill and sportsmanslike, competitive brutality appeared to be the order of the day in the clips.
As the night changed gears and the first fighters rolled out to the sound of their personalised fight track, it looked as though sponsor Evolution Supplements had done their bit to ensure the people at Shuriken were wielding a hefty fight card of fighting-fit martial artists in prime condition.
Padded up and calmly collected, T Amuru (Gracie Barra) and Kai France (Strikeforce) circled, threw down some rapid punches, lashed out with some side kicks, then dropped to the mat with a shuddering body slam - exploding all my preconceived notions of MMA's similarities to Muay Thai. Writhing, grappling, locking and blocking: the skill and technique required to master this feverishly supported combat sport became apparent. And in this case it was Amuru's experience and skill that won him the bout by majority decision.
Savage knees, wild whoops of delight, and vice-like locks filled the ring, giving the assembled fans just one more reason to sling their support into the ring with their fighter. Interrupted only by a high quality Thai Boxing match between Sam O'Loughlin (Shuriken) and Daniel Scott (The Zone) - won by Scott in a unanimous decision - the MMA (B Class) bouts continued with pace, revealing new and interesting things about how to bend your opponent into submission, how to lock them in like a limpet, and how to put months of training into successful action on the red-stained canvas.
A brief interval gave fans a chance to breathe some fresh air and soothe their excited muscles before Rob Farquhar (Gracie Barra) Rear Naked Choked Tye Meek (Shuriken) into submission in round one. Also known as the Sleeper Hold - a familiar move in the WWE wrestling circles I ran in in my primary school days - it takes care of the business of winning with stunning directness: your opponent passes out, the referee sees you struggling for air and calls it a day, or you tap out with your remaining strength, and the choker wins. A hard move to argue with for any fight judge.
Winning Fighter of the Night, Victor Kalolo (Shuriken) continued the trend by forcing a round two stoppage in his bloody, well-matched fight against Kemp Salmond (Auckland MMA). Without ever dropping into a lock, hold, or even a Rear Naked Choke, Salmond kept Kalolo at bay with plenty of his own moves, before having to call it quits because of a severely puffed eye and a profusely bleeding nose. Consummate sportsmen to the end, Salmond and Kalolo embraced with respect, Salmond peering birdlike for direction through the enlarged lids of his right eye.
Next in the ring, Brandon Ropati (Gracie Barra) took the fight against Sam Ball (Carnage MMA) with equal speed, but very little blood, in round one with an Arm Bar that Ball couldn't escape from. Treating the cameras and the riled spectators to some technically harmful and elaborate moves, Ropati looked in control for much of the shortened round, despite some overzealous knees to Ball's cranium.
Last of the night, and most intense, was the MMA A Class main event fracas between Sam Gascoigne (Gracie Barra) and Mark Abalerdo (Strikeforce). Showing what skill, power, speed and technique can do when applied in the ring, the two martial artists took the fight to another level by incorporating everything seen in previous fights, including the now-familiar Rear Naked Choke.
Cutting back and forth between traded punches, swapped kicks and explosive body slams, Gascoigne brought the bout to the brink in the second round with a prolonged Sleeper Hold on Abalerdo that showed the former's skill and the latter's heart; Abalerdo weathered the move without tapping out, or passing out, and finally gained his feet with enough time to turn the tables on Gascoigne before the bell. Round three ratcheted the intensity up so high that the fight couldn't be contained within the ropes, and both fighters found themselves slung between the ropes before the final bell rung for Gascoigne in a majority decision.
So, for anyone like me who has yet to be educated about the draw of MMA, you will not regret it. Punches, kicks, locks, chokes, bars, slams and more await the curious and the bold wanting a taste of a well-regulated, sportsmanlike blood sport. Sanitised carnage to the uninitiated, highly skilled global sport to those in the know.
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