By. James McDaniel
Despite storms, power outages, and illness, I am finally back to recap Monday night’s IFL debut on My Network TV: IFL Battleground.
I want to start out by questioning the idea of putting this show on from 8-10 EST on Monday nights. My TIVO can only record or view two shows at once, and the IFL is placing itself against not only the blockbuster Fox show 24, but also the first hour of Monday Night Raw which I would imagine would draw much the same audience.
The show begins with Coach Frank Shamrock saying his fighters “are ready to fight to the death for their team.” This is followed by some nice fight footage and then the beeping of a heart monitor turns into a “flatline” and we see a fighter laid out going into convulsions. We aren’t a minute in and they already seem to be mimicking everything that got the UFC banned back in the mid to late 90’s. Let’s hope this is a one time thing.
We now move on to a graphic opening showing fighters highlighted against a backdrop of crumbling columns and monoliths reminiscent of the UFC’s Roman themed opening. This is then followed by what appears to be another separate opening. In this we see Carlos Newton standing over what appears to be a dead body, howling to the heavens. The announcer informs us there will be a grand total of 9 fights tonight in two hours. If that is the case, I foresee us bearing witness to some heavily edited fights.
So far the show is very repetitive; introducing us over and over to the INTERNATIONAL FIGHT LEAGUE…they just used the phrase “crippled carcass.” Boy I hope John McCain is watching 24 right now. We now are told we are going over the rules of the IFL; a good idea for the first MMA show on broadcast TV. They cover the team concept, they cover that the fights are MMA and a bit of what MMA is, but never actually mention the rules of the fights. Considering the officiating of the last IFL show I reviewed, this may be to their benefit. Okay, “so those are the rules of the IFL.” What did we learn? They are on teams, they use various fighting styles, and unlike “those guys that fight in cages and domes, they are not actors.” I don’t know of any wrestling shows that fight in cages, so this must be directed to the UFC. Domes though? Are they talking about Thunderdome? I for one am picturing a circular wrestling mat encased in a giant plastic bubble~! That would be fantastic. So far Lori the ring girl is the best thing I have seen tonight. We now have a gutsy fighter calling out….yes, you heard it, King Kong.
In case the last paragraph confused you, the entire show so far has been like a manic, random infomercial which…oh lord…they just informed us that by the end of the night someone goes home on a stretcher. They are really digging themselves into a hole here. As they said that, they showed a man down on a stretcher with officials, police, and trainers standing over him as he is being strapped in. This is just what you need parents seeing their kid watching in prime time on Monday nights.
They are now doing a clip on how Quad City Silverback’s star Rory Markham is an emerging actor as well as a fighter. During this clip we see former UFC Heavyweight Champion Tim Sylvia at ringside of an IFL bout, WEARING HIS UFC BELT. I cannot see this sitting well with UFC President Dana White. Yet again they promise the fans that tonight a man will leave on a stretcher. We are now 24 minutes into a 2 hour show and it has been just one long infomercial; no fights, no commentators, nothing.
Finally, the matches begin. Tonight we are going to be seeing various matches highlighting the first season of IFL competition. We start with what we are being told was the first ever bout in IFL history. The Quad City Silverback’s lightweight star Bart Palszewski (22, 5’9”, 155) facing off against the Los Angeles Anaconda’s John Shackelford(24, 6’0”. 156)
Rampage Jackson and Stephen Quadros are on commentary. The sound levels are way off and the crowd noise is really drowning out Rampage’s commentary. It looks like tonight there will be no time clock on screen and no graphics during the match delineating one fighter from the other. The fight begins with lots of circling. There is a brief exchange of which Bart gets the better. Rampage calls for leg kicks, but instead we get Bart with a powerful takedown slamming Bart on his head; a takedown of which I am sure Rampage approved. Bart is pounding away at Shaq (Shackelford). They are on their feet and Bart’s striking is clearly superior as he is getting the better of every exchange. Shaq ducks his head to the right as he throws a left jab as Bart circles right and nails Shaq’s exposed head. They are now in a Thai clinch in the corner, with Shaq landing a knee. Bart lands blow after blow and Shaq is hurt. Bart follows with even more combos and knees. Shaq tries to close the distance but gets pummeled and then tossed aside. The end of Round 1 is marked with no bell of signal of any kind.
The between round replays are marked by cheesy punching sounds added in post-production.
The round begins with a brief exchange and Bart taking a hard left to the nose. His hands are low and it is evident that he is giving Shaq very little respect. Bart fakes a shot to the head and instead delivers a left hook to the body. Shaq responds with a weak right leg kick. Bart responds with the same. Bart launches a sweeping high kick that misses. The two engage again with Shaq finally landing some hits. Shaq is making a slight comeback. Though his shots aren’t landing with very much power, he is connecting now with a higher frequency than Bart. Bart launches a left leg kick and follows by landing a big right. Shaq no-sells it, Bart responds with a big L-R-L combo followed by two hard right legs to the body. Shaq’s comeback is officially over. For a man with Jiu-Jitsu tattooed prominently on his upper back, you would think he would attempt a shoot or a takedown instead of just standing here getting hammered on his feet. Bart is stalking his opponent then lands with a big R,L combo that puts Shaq on his backside. Herb Dean steps in and ends the fight. Bart Palaszewski wins by TKO at 1:31 of the 2nd rd.
Our next fight is in the Heavyweight division between Silverback fighter Ben Rothwell (24, 6’5”, 264) and Los Angeles Anaconda fighter Krzysztof Soszynski (28, 6’1”, 225).
The fighters touch gloves as we witness Roth (Rothwell) keep the big gawky Militich heavyweight tradition alive. The fighters are feeling each other out, measuring the distance. The first exchange of the fight sees neither big man land anything of note. Sos (Soszynski) is a lefty which seems to matter little to Rothwell. Roth keeps lurching forward and launches a sloppy R-L-R-L combo with only the first right connecting. Roth tries for a Muy Thai clinch, but Sos immediately broke away. Ben fakes both a left and a right leg kick. Sos throws a right straight then backs Roth into the ropes with a series of body (belly) shots though not many connected. Sos is holding his hands low…throws looping lefts and rights to the head. Ben throws a right, Sos moves to avoid it and takes a clean left to the jaw. Sos is down! Roth pounces, pounding on his head. Sos begins to stand, Ben gets him in a front headlock and throws a knee to the head (Legal?). Sos gets some separation and Roth runs, clinches and begins laying in right body shots. Sos now has Roth’s head in the guillotine position, while Roth has his arms on Sos’s left leg positioned for a takedown and, yep, Roth with the slam into half guard trying to pass. Roth gets side control but Sos scoots back and gets on his knees, now standing Sos eats a knee. Roth unleashes a flurry, Sos is down again, Ben is still throwing, and the Ref steps in. Ben Rothwell wins by TKO at 3:59 of the 1st rd.
At this point the IFL interrupts to inform us that we are witnessing 3 uninterrupted bouts in a row.
The next fight of the night will feature Los Angeles Anaconda welterweight Mike Pyle (30, 6’1”, 170) facing off against Silverback star Rory Markham (24, 6’1”, 170)
The fight begins with lots of footwork from Pyle. He initiates the action but is rocked by Rory’s counterpunches. Pyle lands a couple of decent shots but again is rocked with counterpunches. Pyle…well he doesn’t shoot as much as he ducks and grabs Rory’s legs, gets nothing and is back on his feet in a clinch. Pyle lands a right and the fighters get some separation. Pyle lands a left kick to the body followed by a right low kick. Pyle fakes a right while Rory fakes a beautiful flying knee, causing Pyle to drop his hands and get tagged by a huge right hook bringing him down in the corner. He tries to hold of Rory with up-kicks but ends up eating at least 15 punches before Herb Dean jumped in. Rory Markham wins by TKO at :44 of the 1st rd.
As Team Militich stormed the ring to celebrate the victory, Markham grabbed and hoisted up Pat Militich himself in what I was hoping would be a heel turn, only to see my hopes dashed as Rory sat him safely back down mere seconds later. In any case, Markham looked really good in this fight.
They are now leading into every commercial break with promises of a man leaving the ring in a stretcher. They are mixing it up though. Sometimes it is accompanied by “911…what’s your emergency?”, and at other times you hear the beep, beep, beep, of a heart monitor followed by the sounds of someone flat-lining. Sigh.
Bas briefly discusses his Anaconda’s losses to the Silverbacks in the initial IFL show being the result of his team not training together and thus having no real “family bonding.”
The next match pits lightweight Eric Owings of the New York Pit Bulls against Chris Horodecki of the Los Angeles Anacondas. I don’t believe any stats were given, but what you really need to know is that Horodecki is Rutten’s new 18 yr old phenom who looks no older than 12.
Chris comes out striking and the two men move into a clinch. Owings tries to take it to the ground but Chris exhibits great takedown defense. Owings lands two solid punches, but Chris totally no sells them, responding with a right leg kick. Owings throws a high kick which is caught by Chris as he sweeps Owings other leg for a beautiful takedown. Chris waits for Owings to get back up. As the action resumes with Owings landing a nice kick followed by a flurry on punches. Now Chris’ kick to the body is caught but he stays on his feet thanks to the ropes. The fighters separate with Chris backing Owings into a corner where he lays in with a good combo. Owings clinches and Chris starts throwing knees, one of which is a low blow about which he is warned by the ref. Now they clinch again for a long while until the ref restarts them. Owings throws a big left but is rocked by Chris’ counterpunches. Owings tries for another takedown, but is foiled yet again. After a brief exchange Owings connects with a kick to the body but is immediately met with two hard rights. This is followed up with a pretty even exchange of hands in the corner. Now in the center of the ring, Chris lands a patented Shonie Carter spinning backfist~! Owings blocks the backfist with his arm, and goes for the clinch trying to bring Chris down into his guard, albeit unsuccessfully. Chris gets some separation, then runs forward delivering a big right that puts Owings on his rear. Owings doesn’t want to get up, but the ref seems to feel otherwise. With both men now standing, and 10 seconds left in the round, there is a brief exchange in the corner. Chris lands a powerful overhand right, followed by another, then, supporting himself with the top rope, lays in a flurry of vicious high kicks. The ref steps in calling the fight. Chris Horodecki wins via TKO at 4:00 of the 1st rd.
With Battleground the IFL brass are obviously trying to establish a couple of recognizable stars as is evident by the next fight also featuring Horodecki. This time he is facing off against Ryan Schultz of the Portland Wolfpack.
Rd.1 The fight begins with lots of movement by both men leading into a brief uneventful exchange. Schultz lands a hard leg kick, and Chris responds in kind. Schultz is being very aggressive, staying on the attack. Chris lands a good L-R-L combo leading to a clinch in the corner. Schultz gets the takedown. Chris stands right back up though Schultz has him in a front head lock and throws a knee to the head before Chris makes the escape. Schultz throws a left, but Chris ducks under and fires a nice body shot followed with a left hook and a right leg kick. Every time Schultz throws a punch Chris responds with a solid combination of punches and knees. Now the two are just teeing of on each other with both landing a multitude of solid blows. Schultz just tucks his head, rushing in for body shots, trying to get the clinch. Chris just goes rubber armed, just slides out and starts throwing hands, lands a left leg kick which is caught. But before Schultz can do anything, Chris spins out and lands a solid spinning back fist followed by a couple of nice combos. Schultz clinches again but Chris lands some good body shots and gets separation. Chris is now moving in and out landing shots at will. Schultz is now carrying his hands low, plodding about, and checking his nose. Schultz clinches, pushed Chris against the ropes where they chill until the bell.
Chris Horodecki comes out floating like a butterfly! Schultz s coming in pretty game himself as he immediately lands a solid combo and shoots for the takedown. Chris stuffs the takedown, lands a left high kick, then a right-left combo, a right high kick, then another, then a third. Schultz is just crumbling to the mat, a 4th right high kick on the way down. Schultz is down face first as Chris pounces. Schultz tries to stand but is pummeled unmercifully. The ref finally stops in and ends the fight. Replay shows Schultz was out on his feet before he ever started going down. Chris Horodecki wins via TKO at :24 of the 2nd rd. He looked like a monster. I can’t imagine this kid in his athletic prime considering that is still 10 years away.
For the next fight Rory Markham is back facing Keith Wisniewski of Carlos Newton’s Toronto Dragons.
Rory initiates with good combos. Keith responds with a big right that doesn’t seem to faze his opponent. Keith lands a solid left jab, but maybe foolishly, is carrying his chin very high. Rory throws a huge L-R-L-R-L combo, landing about half. The two men enter a short exchange with neither landing much. Rory is now measuring Keith with his jab then ducks for a left hook to the body. Keith lands a few solid knees to the body followed by a brief clinch and separation. Rory begins backing Keith up with a series of well measured, controlled jabs. Keith clinches, throwing a solid knee. Rory attempts a superman punch and misses, leading Keith to clinch and finally get the takedown. He comes down in Rory’s half guard and promptly moves to full. Rory is defending with outstretched legs but Keith lands a hard overhand punch. Rory draws him back in, grabs the head and lays in a series of rights from the bottom, then grabs Keith’s arm. Keith stands to get away and is almost caught in an armbar and is, in fact, caught with a powerful up-kick to the face. The ref stops the action because, apparently, even though Keith was on top, since his knees were down, he is considered a downed opponent and therefore cannot be kicked. After the restart there is a bit more positioning on the ground and the bell signifies the end of the round.
The two fighters circle with Rory pressing the action and connecting with a left high kick. Keith clinches and has Rory trapped in the corner. Keith sweeps for the takedown and immediately begins fighting for side control. Rory defends well with his legs and keeps his opponent in half guard. Rory pushes away and Keith fights to regain position. Both men regain their feet, and Rory lands a front kick that is initially caught then released. Rory again presses the action with body blows. Keith tries to clinch again but falls. At this point the commentary reveals that we are not in fact seeing the 2nd round, but the 3rd. Keith stand up and Rory lands a right jab, then a left, then a left hook to the body, right shot to the head, and finishes with a big left haymaker that misses its target. He comes back again with a right and a solid left. Keith attempts a takedown, but Rory demonstrates his excellent sprawl and ends up on top with Keith in a front head lock. Rory stands, but Keith sits and chills until the ref makes him get up. The crowd is NOT happy…I am guessing their ire rests with the sitting. Keith gets up and lands a solid left hook. Rory is measuring with e jab and lands a good combo. Keith shoots again, Rory sprawls again. With 30 seconds left Keith just sits and chills, hoping to run out the clock. Rory stands laying in leg kicks until the ref makes the man stand up. Rory is now laying in blow after blow eventually connecting with what might have been a knockout punch had the bell not rang just a half second before. Keith Wisniewski was saved by the bell. Or maybe not. Wisniewki got hit after the bell rang ending the third AND LAST round of the fight. Markham though gets the win for Wisniewski not answering the bell for the FOURTH round of a fight that was scheduled to go three rounds. There is never any attempt to explain this, and multiple rewinds shine no light on the situation. All I can figure is that the match was called a draw which would then possibly call for a 4th deciding round. Who knows. Rory Markham wins via TKO at 4:00 of the 3rd
This fight is followed by the most confusing video package I have ever seen all time, all my life. It starts out looking like a Frank vs. Ken clip, asking if there has ever been more blood spilled in a family rivalry. The answer of course is yes, but the problem is it never again broached the subject. It went to a clip of Ken talking about one of his star fighters, then goes to Frank talking about himself. Then it jumps inexplicably to Matt Lindland, and then to Carlos Newton talking about one of his star pupils. Then we get another swerve as it jumps to discussion of a rivalry between the Portland Wolfpack and the Seattle Tigersharks, though they never say why there is a rivalry or give evidence of such. The package went on that way for a while and was just completely Russo-rific from start to finish.
Every now and then, coming back from commercials they have Bas, seemingly on Muscle Beach in Venice Beach, Ca giving a disclaimer that people should not try this at home. All the while, behind him is a HUGE bodybuilder ambling about in nothing but leopard print bikini bottoms.
The next matchup is in the heavyweight division between the Silverback’s Ben Rothwell and Devin Cole (30, 6’4”, 237) of the Portland Wolfpack.
The announcers make sure we know, in this championship finals match, that Rothwell is undefeated in the IFL, and Cole has lost two straight. That really builds the suspense.
The fight begins with a brief exchange followed by Cole shooting. Rothwell clinches, pushes off, and Cole starts throwing hands until Roth catches him with a BIG right uppercut. Cole tries to clinch again, but Roth pushes off again. Cole connects with a right, but Roth lands a big left jab. Cole begins getting the better of a couple of exchanges until Rothwell starts rocking him again, cutting him over the left eye. Cole eats more punches, tries to clinch but Roth defends well. Cole lays in a good left jab, clinches again and gets hammered with some big knees. They get separation, but Roth keeps trying to lay in big uppercuts. Roth lands a left jab, and Cole connects with a right. Now Roth has a bloody nose. Cole throws a combo but nothing lands. Rothwell throws a slow, plodding “flurry” of tight inside jabs that seriously rock Cole, bringing him to his knees with Roth holding him in a front headlock. Roth begins laying in punches again…Cole is lacerated~! Now against the ropes Cole is poised for a single leg, but releases and lands a nice left hook.. Rothwell answers with a big uppercut and a hard knee. Cole is looking like Terry Funk after 30 minutes in the barbed wire cage with Dusty Rhodes; just covered in blood. Rothwell comes in with a big Tim Sylvia high kick leaving Cole unconscious on the mat. Ben Rothwell wins via KO at 3:16 of the 1st.
The following fight, it is being said, is for the championship. At welterweight it will be Chris Wilson of the Portland Wolfpack taking on Rory Markham.
The fight starts out with lots of dancing and each guy measuring the distance. After a brief clinch Rory lands a big combo. Wilson responds with a front kick, then a flurry that Rory ducks under. Wilson comes back with a strong knee, a left leg kick, and a big sweeping left hook that goes too high and a front kick combo that also catches air. Rory lands a quick jab. Oh man, Wilson drops Rory with a devastating L-R combo, both dead on the jaw. Rory is down but not out. Wilson pounces, throws a right to the back of Rory’s head. Rory is on his back, curling up, getting blasted. Rory is blocking about half of Wilson’s strikes but is really getting killed. Rory starts making his way to his feet and gets drilled with a big knee. Rory is back on his feet and dancing around. Wilson immediately lands a right leg kick and gets a big sweeping takedown into side control and begins landing big right crosses. Rory is barely defending but manages to get into half guard. Rory manages to get his feet onto Wilson’s hips and just LAUNCHES him backwards by way of his crotch. The man are now standing and circling until Rory takes a knee to the body and eats a solid L-R-L-R-L-R combo putting Markham back down on the ground. Wilson lands a blow to the top of his head on the way down and begins laying in totally undefended hammer fists. Mercifully, Mario Yamasaki ends it. ,b>Chris Wilson wins via TKO at 2:14 of the 1st.
Now they are saying the NEXT fight is the one that will decide the title. The ensuing package involves some discussion of a fighter’s “bloodstained fists.” You would think the gloves would prevent such an unfortunate circumstance as that.
The final match of the evening will feature the Silverback’s lightweight Bart Palaszewski facing off against Ryan Schultz..
Rd.1 The fights starts with a nice exchange seeing both men hitting very hard, and was followed by a flurry of exchanges with neither fighter landing much of anything. Bart misses with a right high kick and Schultz responds with a strong R-L combo to the jaw. This is followed by lots of careful measuring until Bart throws a flying knee that never really takes off. A clinch ensues as Bart takes a hard knee to the ribs. The two men brawl in the corner, clinch again and Bart takes more knees to the ribs. Still clinching, Schultz gets the takedown and almost gets side control but instead ends up in a half butterfly guard, then to full guard. Nothing much happens in the next 30 seconds and the bell ends the round.
Rd.2 Bart lands a right leg kick which is followed by some brief exchanges until Bart lands a solid knee. Schultz throws a wild cross leaving himself open to two hard rights and a left. Bart throws another right leg kick, but Schultz counters by rocking him with a hard right jab to the temple taking Bart off his feet. Bart gets back up and there is a flurry in the corner with both men connecting and Schultz getting the better. A clinch ensues as we learn Schultz is bleeding from above his left eye. Bart starts landing inside knees but the ref restarts them. The first exchange after the restarts sees Schultz getting the better until Bart lands a right leg kick, followed by another with the left. Schultz throws a left leg kick that is blocked. Bart lands another leg kick and then lands a solid combo, but is then rocked by a big left. The announcers are really bragging on Bart, though he is getting schooled at the moment. Schultz lands a big right hook while Bart misses with two right high kicks. Schultz gets the easy takedown into half butterfly guard. The camera cuts away for about a 30th of a second and now Schultz is in a high on the body, closed, full guard. Schultz lays in a few body shots while Bart gets a front head lock before starting work on a kimura right as the round ends.
Rd.3 Schultz comes out on the attack with a right body shot, left hook, and a right hook knocking Bart into the ropes. As Bart rebounds he throws a right high kick that Schultz catches. Schultz lands a right and Bart responds with a left and pulls his leg free. Schultz lands a brief flurry and the ensuing exchange is pretty even. Bart lands a left leg kick but ends up eating a pretty good right jab. Bart lays in a mini-superman punch. Perhaps a superboy punch. Schultz responds with some solid counterpunches. Bart moves in closer but eats a right and begins dancing a bit. Schultz throws and misses. Bart lands a right leg kick, and again Schultz catches the leg and throws some big right counterpunches. Bart clinches and no one really attempts anything. The ref makes them break and they begin circling until Schultz throws a big right, ducks and runs, circling left, throwing and missing as he goes. They engage in a brief exchange of which Bart gets the better and begins building a tiny bit of momentum. Schultz counters by landing a solid L-R-L-R combo in the midst of which Bart lands a big right hook, right on the money, sending Shultz crumbling to the ground. He was out before he knew what hit him. Bart throws two hammer fists before the ref can step in and call the fight. Bart Palaszewski wins via KO at 2:16 of the 3rd round, and the Silverbacks win the 1st IFL team Championship.
As it turns out, Schultz is the man leaving on the stretcher, and they make sure to follow it all the way out of the building as the credits roll.
Overall the show had some serious ups and downs. The graphic presentation was good, but the in fight production was spotty from match to match, due to some being from earlier cards than the last few matches. The match quality was very good overall. They did a good job of building names in Rory Markham, Chris Horodecki, Bart Palaszewski, and Ben Rothwell.
The two biggest negatives in my mind were that the first half hour was all infomercial and very repetitive while never really building towards anything cohesive. The second, and biggest, complaint, as everyone well knows by now, is the fact that they marketed this the entire night as an overly sensationalized blood sport. They used the exact same strategy that SEG did in building and ultimately collapsing the UFC. We can only hope that it is a one time thing that did little damage in that I am guessing that not many people actually saw this show.
Well, that is it for the inaugural episode of IFL Battleground. These last two IFL recaps are the first I have ever done, so I would love some feedback. Unless any of you really enjoy the play by play I will likely cut it down to brief round recaps due to it taking forever to compile.
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