Not a knockout
Hard Knocks 15 entertains fans, but suffers from promotional problems
On Friday, Oct. 7, Regina mixed martial arts fans were treated to live MMA action as School of Hard Knocks 15 was held at the Turvey Centre. Eight amateur bouts were featured on the card, and although the event was not sold out by any means and was held back by some questionable promotional decisions, fans in attendance witnessed some fantastic mixed martial arts action nonetheless.
Hard Knocks Fighting Championship, a promotion primarily based out of Calgary, was taking its first steps into the Regina mixed martial arts scene. Normally, the promotion deals with both professional and amateur fighters, but due to a law that forbids professional MMA competition in Saskatchewan, the event was an amateur-only night.
Although most of the amateur talent was capable of providing solid action for the fans, the fight card included three independent fighters: athletes who had no affiliation with any recognized training facility. Thunder Bay Ontario native Lloyd Valley (1-1), who scored a unanimous decision win over Winnipeg product Steve Froom (0-0), claimed to be training out of his back yard when questioned about his training regiment in a post-fight interview.
A stable of independent fighters is rare for most fighting cards. However, when visiting the Hard Knocks Fighting Championship official website, it appears that one only needs to fill out a quick forum to become eligible to fight in the promotion.
While it seems simple to sign up for the show, all of the fighters on the card were well-trained and fit for competition. The result was an impressive night of fights that gave the small crowd in attendance their money’s worth. Five of the eight bouts didn’t go the distance and three of the five stoppages were first round submissions.
Unfortunately, it could have been very easy for the quality mixed martial arts bouts to be overshadowed by some of the less-than-professional promotional decisions that were made, presumably, to “enhance” the show.
The event started close to 30 minutes late, seemingly to allow more fans to arrive, as the stands were blemished with large regions of empty seats.
The breaks in-between fights were often extended to allow for other promotional displays. At one point, the ring announcer called upon two Saskatchewan Roughriders who were in attendance to enter the cage. He then asked the Riders how much beer they could chug, and after several moments of less than witty debate, the two players were awarded complementary Hard Knocks beer mugs.
Other delays in the event included the promotion of future events within the promotion, a 50/50 draw that saw the winner called on stage to the tune of cuss-filled boos from the less lucky fans in attendance, the CEO of Hard Knocks Fighting Championships was also called onto the stage to say a few words.
The ring announcer was also poorly chosen. Often overly enthusiastic, he would frequently jump around the cage as he bellowed his announcements, while the lukewarm crowd paid little attention. The questions he asked fighters post-fight were often irrelevant to the action in the cage, or too vague to produce enticing answers from the combatants.
However, with all of the promotional flaws aside, the bouts themselves were excellent.
In the third fight of the evening, Ren Bessara (1-1) faced Mitchell Carlson (0-3) in a quick, hard-fought battle that saw both men exchange heavy blows before Carlson finally fell victim to a rear-naked choke at two minutes one second of round one. Bessara directed most of the action with a calm and methodical approach – controlling the cage and using an impressive array of kicks to keep Carlson at bay before taking him down and pulling off the submission.
The sixth bout of the night saw Winnipeg native Jules Beardy (2-2), who has developed a sizable following in Regina, lose to Rylee Jaasund (1-0) by rear-naked choke in the first round.
Beardy, who is known for keeping the fight standing, was taken to the ground early in the fight when Jaasund caught his attempted body kick and tripped him to the canvas. After establishing the top position, Jaasund made quick work of Beardy, submitting him quickly to the dismay of many fans in the audience.
In what was probably the best bout of the evening, Calgary product Riley Molyneaux (3-1) scored a crowd-pleasing victory over Saskatoon born fighter Randell Martell (2-3) in the co-main event. Within the first few seconds of the fight, Martell locked in a tight-standing guillotine choke and looked to finish the fight, but Molyneaux was able to escape the apparent night-ending submission. After exchanging more heavy blows to the roaring approval of the crowd, Molyneaux and Martell crumbled to the canvas, where Molyneaux was able to take the top position and quickly work his way to full mount, where he administered some heavy punches and eventually locked in an armbar for the win.
The crowd was cheering after the exciting back-and-forth co-main event. However, the buzz from the crowd was quickly replaced with embarrassment during the post-fight interview inside the cage, when the ring announcer complemented Molyneaux on his ability to actually finish the fight with a “real martial arts move”.
Hard Knocks 15 was a success for people who wanted to see quality MMA action live in their hometown. The tickets were reasonably priced and the fights were solid. However, there were several moments during the show that reminded fans this is an amateur event, not the big leagues.