Someone asked me how my blog and newspaper column came to be titled "Bleachers Brew". It's like this, it's an amalgam of sorts of two things: The bleachers area in the stadium/arena where I used to sit when I would watch baseball, football, and basketball games and Miles Davis' great jazz album Bitches Brew. That's how it got culled together. I originally planned on calling it "The View from the Big Chair" that is a nod to Tears For Fear's second album, Songs from the Big Chair. So there.

Sunday, June 2, 2013

Bleachers' Brew #375 A jarring reminder (my post One FC: Rise to Power thoughts)

This appears in the Monday June 3, 2013 edition of the Business Mirror.

A jarring reminder
by rick olivares

I came away from the One FC: Rise to Power Mixed Martial Arts event last Friday all bummed out. All five Filipino fighters lost.

You could say that it’s just one of those days but really, it wasn’t. We were outclassed and the deficiencies were glaring.

Let’s recap the results:
Andrew Leone defeated Geje Eustaquio by unanimous decision.
Kamal Shalorus defeated Eduard Folayang by unanimous decision.
Yasuhiro Urushitani defeated Rey Docyogen by split decision.
Masakatsu Ueda defeated Kevin Belingon by unanimous decision.
Koji Oishi defeated Honorio Banario by knockout with 1:45 left in Round Two.

You can throw in Fil-Canadian Ryan Diaz into the mix only Russian Yusup Saadulaev forced him to submit at the 2:57 mark of Round Two.

It was nice to see Geje Eustaquio not make it easy for Leone to force him to submit as he would land telling back punches while the American attempted to slip a rear naked choke. But Eustaquio has to remember that he’s a mixed martial arts fighter and not an entertainer. Twice during the fight, he smiled at the camera and give it the thumbs up sign. Only the result was a thumbs down for him.

Saadulaev was on the verge of calling it a career after three loses in his last four fights including back-to-back defeats in the One FC. Pressed into service one more time, he got his 10th win in four bouts (he also has one draw). This guy wasn’t even on the original fight card. How long did it take for him to even get mentally into the fight?

Kamal Shalorus is 35 years old. After a promising start to his MMA career, he lost three straight in the UFC earning a one-way ticket out of the world’s top fight circuit. He last fought more than a year ago and yet, he too topped Eduard Folayang for his eighth win in 13 fights. Granted that we’re not sure if the effects of Folayang’s loss to Lowen Tynanes has gone away, it was even more galling that the Filipino crowd favorite lost in almost the same manner – to a wrestler who had his way once the game went to the mat.

The Iranian patiently waited for Folayang to commit to a spinning kick before rushing him while unguarded for the takedown. Three times did Eduard commit the mistake and he eventually paid for it.

One might say that it was highway robbery committed against Docyogen for losing to Yasuhiro Urushitani. Yes, Docyogen got his licks in and then some. Urushitani, with a face built of granite looked none the worse for wear as he, like Robocop, kept attacking and going at the Filipino who backpedalled and ran away. This is some way reminded me of American Brock Larson running for dear life against Melvin Manhoef in One FC: Kings and Champions last April in Singapore. Only Larson fought back and garnered a unanimous decision.

If the last images of the three-round fight with Urushitani was Docyogen getting his nose bloodied and the Japanese chasing him, then it is no wonder the judges awarded him the win.

Masakatsu Ueda (22-2-2) is another 35-year old fighter. Yes, that means he has a world of experience. Belingon rocked him but like Docyogen before him, he couldn’t finish the job as he gassed out. The last seconds of the fight were telling. Ueda mounted on Belingon and threw hammer strikes. He did more than enough in the first few rounds to win the Bantamweight Grand Prix trophy.

And then there was Banario. The result reminded me of Juan Manuel Marquez’ jarring right that dropped Manny Pacquiao. Banario took one in the first round but immediately got up and put the living hurt on the Japanese fighter. In Round Two, that right saw Banario fall flat on his back and Koji Oishi has to be torn away from raining more strikes on the fallen and stunned Filipino.

Like everyone else at the MOA Arena, I sat stunned. Two hours later, I was still stunned and couldn’t sleep. I felt hurt not just because I am a Filipino fight fan but hurt because I know several of these guys well and have followed them literally both here at home and abroad in their pursuit of a championship and a big pay day that will lift their families out of their current state.

Three days later and when I remember the fight, I still shake my head and spit. I wondered, these are five of our best MMA fighters and we all lost in one night on our home court. How does this impact the sport in the country and in the eyes of advertisers?

For sure this is just a setback and not the end of Philippine MMA as we know it. There are several things we can take away from the fight.

One, four of the five fights went the distance meaning Filipinos can compete. It’s just the finishing that needs work. Lots of it.

Two, in addition to the finishing, we need to really work on the game plan. Two of the opponents (Saadulaev and Shalorus) were contemplating calling it a career. They should have been pummeled early on so they’d question themselves inside the cage. You sow that doubt then they’d be a little easier to defeat.

Three, MMA is serious business. Filipino fighters are entertaining. You can never question them for style or even heart. But Geje, the next time you think of playing to the cameras, it’s the win that gets you in the highlight reel and not goofing off.

And four, we need to work on takedown defense and our wrestling skills. Unfortunately, wrestling isn’t something we are good at. Pinoys are good stand up strikers. Sure a knockout makes you famous but MMA isn’t just like that. Wrestling gives one a good base for the ground and pound game.

What we need to do is find a darn good wrestling coach to help local fighters learn the tricks of the trade as well as to make one’s takedown defense a whole lot better.

Once we master that, hopefully then, we’ll see a real rise to power.

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