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August 29, 2016

ASAP Fight League 3: Sleeper Card of the Summer

Every once in a while there happens to be a card that gives a strong impression on paper, but that blows the roof right off the venue.  I'm happy to say that Peter Rogers Jr. and Sr. surprised us at with such a card.  While every other Combat Sports Media blog was attending the Cage Titans event in Plymouth, MA we at split up to cover both events.  Huge thanks to our team for being so versatile.  Todd Selva kept the record straight in Uncasville, CT in the heart of the Mohegan Tribe's state of the art facility Mohegan Sun Casino.  I was there providing a video record of the event and though we weren't able to get a stable stream out to for the fans at home we did provide them with the video afterward.

Let's talk about why I felt this was "The" sleeper card of the summer 2016.  For starters there was a real lack of recognized names stepping in the cage.  So much so that it was nearly impossible to find out enough information on the matches to provide you with a teaser before hand.  We pride ourselves on knowing 90% of the teams and the mixed martial artists around New England in some capacity.  This one left us scratching our heads.  The game is the same leading up to an event for all promotions.
  • find the talent and match them well
  • keep the talent and keep the matches as more competing events come up
  • make sure talent gets required documents and medicals submitted so that the matches hold
  • advertise, promote, keep fingers crossed that matches hold a little longer
  • watch 20 matches drop to 10 matches
  • watch 10 matches drop to 5 matches
  • scramble to bring 3 more matches back to the thinned card
  • advertise, advertise, advertise
  • add what you can the day of weigh ins and hope for the best on fight night
This is the general progression of the promotional side of a mixed martial arts event and was very much the case for ASAP.  The Roger Jr. and Sr. know this and while the level of stress is through the roof their professionalism is even greater allowing them to push through and bring great events to the masses.  For the full card and the review visit Todd's post, here.  

Allow me the time to tell you about three matches that I was extremely impressed with.  
  1. Frank Cortina (0-0) Rogers' Academy of Martial Arts (RAM) Norwich, CT vs Steve Pinard (0-0) Team Link Northampton, MA  in the Amateur Lightweight division.  Under the Mohegan Tribe's Amateur Combat Sports Rules and Regs. there are no knees to the head, elbows of any kind, and for most matches where the fighters have less than 3 fights a piece on their official records no strikes to the head of a downed opponent.  This last rule is often a show killer and I've seen it suck the energy out of audiences many times over the years.  Most trainers ignore this rule in their training and send their young athletes in the cage without a solid plan for this scenario.  It wasn't the case in this match nor any of the other 3 mma matches on the card.  Steve met his opponent head on despite the fact that Frank was clearly the crowd favorite and the larger of the two men.  The action from both men was intense.  There were a few areas that you could tell are the weak spots in their game, but in a strange way they complimented each and gave the match a draw that had the crowd on the edge of their seats.  Frank missed an opportunity to capitalize on a big sweep showing his submission game is in need of attention.  Steve took a pounding and weathered the storm more than once as he was repeatedly picked up a meter off the mat and Frank did his best to drive him back through the mat and into the floor below the cage.  Steve had more foot movement and some good angles on his punches.  Frank had a granite chin and some serious strength.  Both men brought a huge amount of supporters.  It felt like one side of the room was for Frank and the other was for Steve, but in reality they were all there for both men no matter who won.  The effort took them into the second round where Steve, on the bottom once again, kept a very active guard going with the kind of hip action and posture breakdown that makes a BJJ coach very proud.  The second year student under Team Link Brown Belt and former UFC TUF competitior, Jon Manley, saw his opportunity to climb the guard up and drop over the left shoulder of Cortina the first part of the triangle choke he fastened on in stages.  By the time Cortina realized he was yoked Steve-O, as he is affectionately known to his teammates and coaches, had locked on and was angling for the finish.  Frank gave a momentous effort hoisting both himself and his passenger off the mat and into a free fall where he hoped he'd cause the triangle to be released.  He learned an invaluable lesson in the process.  Triangles only get tighter on impact unless your attacker is knocked unconscious from the impact.  Very hard to do when you are on a padded floor.  It's like the saying goes "it's not the fall that will kill you, it's the sudden stop at the end"  It only took two seconds once both men were back on terra firma for Frank to tap.  The crowd went crazy and I was entirely engrossed in the event excited for what would come next.
  2. Next thing that got me excited was the fact that we had some variety to this event with it being a truly Mixed Martial Arts card featuring 3 forms of combative contests.  MMA is a broad term and one I use to describe most cage fights with rules, but in this case MMA refers to the type of event.  Peter and his son brought in some very skilled gi BJJ practitioners who thrilled the crowd.  I'd say that ordinarily you'd never see this being popular especially with how methodical and seemingly inactive a match can be when you see two black belts or equivalent skill get on the competition mats.  They know that any move could be the last if it gives even a fraction on an inch advantage to their adversary.  The crowd will groan and moan and boo the men right off the mats in the wrong setting.  This wasn't the case on this evening.  Watch these two Gracie trained Brazilian Jiu Jitsu fighters put it on the line in front of a packed house.  Hats off to Justin Baillargeon and Tim Lafrancois.  They made some new fans and prove that BJJ is an exciting sport even in the cage.  Gracie should be proud and their coaches at America's Best Defense should get a ton of credit for preparing them so well.

  3. Finally I have to talk about the fight that could have and might have been the Main Event in many folks opinion.  It's usually not a good thing when the Co-Main event upstages the Main Event, but it never hurts to have an action packed fight.  A young man I've met a few times down in Northampton at Team Link Northampton named Nate Ghareeb stepped up to fight one of Peter Rogers' Sr. and Jr.'s fighters named Darryl Mayer.  Nate has fought twice before in South or North Carolina.  I can't remember.  He won both matches.  He has an athletic build and a cock sure attitude that can be mildly off putting if you don't know him well.  I don't know him well, lol.  However, throughout this match I realized that he is not faking confidence.  It's legit.  He sees himself as the Alpha because he is the Alpha.  Darryl is no stranger to the cage and has a solo win on his amateur record to his credit.  He came into the cage looking to send the out of towner back with a loss and a boat load of pain for coming into his house.  It was apparent from the start that Nate had no intention of being the loser.  Darryl did his best to avoid the powerful strikes Nate threw, but after he tasted a few too many he was looking to get the fight on the ground where he could employ some wrestling and keep Ghareeb still long enough to damage him.  Nate's wrestling was better and he drove Mayer into the mat face first every chance he could as he sprawled on the shots.  The fight went two rounds with the first clearly going to Ghareeb.  Darryl's corners must have told him he needed to get it to the ground quick because he wasted little time going after the legs of his quicker, more powerful opponent.  Ghareeb was in great shape and didn't slow down between rounds.  Mayer however could not keep the pace and became nearly statuesque it times during the second round.  Mayer also ate some hard shots from both the kicks and the multitude of punches being hurled at him from nearly all angles.  Nate seized an opportunity to submit Darryl off of Mayer's failed takedown attempt late in the round.  Nate had Darryl on his back and began to put an "armbar" together, but like the skilled jiu jitsu player he is that was just the first stage of the actual submission yet to come.  Nate could sense that Darryl would roll up and try to stack to defend the attack and it was at this point Nate sprung the finishing move.  He slid his left leg through the interconnected arms of his opponent and with Darryl in mid roll, head off the mat, Nate's right leg slipped behind the head of Mayer, he brought the left leg across the carotid artery, and slammed the Triangle home before Mayer had time to react.  The tap came moments after Ghareeb took control of the head pulling everything in to a crushing conclusion.  The crowd was electric and the space quickly filled with cheers and celebration.  Jon Manley and Tom Gomes had much to be happy about with both their fighters taking victories for the team and representing it well.  

I'd like to thank Peter Rogers Sr. for always welcoming us to the events.  He certainly one of the most humble men I know.  He and his son work tirelessly to promote combative sports and then to put together events that highlight those martial arts that provide entertainment and education.  I hope you will take the time, spend a few dollars, and watch the entire event on  They provide every kind of Combative event you can think of and they do it with you in mind.  I want to also thank Mike Mazzulli and his staff at Mohegan Sun Casino for providing the best technical and logistical assistance anywhere when my crew comes to film these events.  Funny though it seems like every dept head I've met has the first name, Michael.  Haha.  Wonder if that's their real names.  Thanks to Jon Manley and Tom Gomes for giving me unparalleled access to Team Link and it's fighters, for always allowing me to film their fights, and allowing to write about them even when it hasn't always been in a favorable light.  Hats off to Marco Alvan and his program that transforms the average joe and makes them capable killers.