It's beyond me why the Rose Garden Arena isn't completely packed for SportFight 24. For four and a half hours fighters pounded it out in an evening filled with action, sport and blood. What more could you ask for from a Friday night out!? It's hard to imagine what kept the Rose Garden from being as full as a match up between the Winterhawks and The Seattle Thunderbirds. Is it the expensive $8 a cup Rose Garden beer that kept people away? The 7pm Friday night early start time? Or the fact that it was broadcast live on HDNet? Whatever the reason, many Portlanders missed out on a fantastic, unmediated top class sporting event that can be experienced by watching it on TV. Fans who opted to watch the matches at home on HDNet missed some of the best action of the night as the untelevised under card fights proved to be stronger and more exciting than some of the main bouts.
Sportfight 24 started with a bang with two extremely strong under card fights. Marques Daniels made quick work out of Joshuah Lagrange with a rain of punches that caused the ref to jump in and stop the fight (one of the few fights of the night stopped this way). That fight was followed by the much hyped Colt Toombs and Colin Porter bout. Toombs is "Rowdy" Roddy Piper's son and he clearly had the support of the crowd (who chanted "Piper, Piper"). Early on in the fight Toombs got into trouble, taking a number of hard shots, his face began to well early. Toombs then got caught in a rear naked choke that looked it was going to end the match and put a damper on some of the the hype surrounding Toombs. Choke well set Toombs gave the ref a thumbs up and then proceeded to find his way out of the choke, he then reverse it into a dramatic choke of his own to win the fight. It was one of the more explosive moments of the evening and it kept the buzz turned way up for Toombs.
After the first two solid fights things stayed on the ground for several of the middle matches. After an arm bar win by crowd favorite Tyson Jeffries, four of the next bouts went the full three rounds and almost all of them ended by decision. It wasn't until the fight between DJ Linderman and Mychael Clark that things started to heat up. Clark displayed flamboyant martial arts styling with spin kicks, supermans and other 'showy' moves, but it was Linderman's consistent strength both on his feet and on the ground that made him a clear contender for the win. Linderman looks pudgy, but after three rounds he barley seemed winded. Taking a solid unanimous decision Linderman showed he's a fighter not to be underestimated.
My favorite fight of the evening was the Mark Miller, Mike Pierce bout. Mike Pierce, who fights out of the Braveheart Gym didn't find much support in the pro Team Quest crowd, but even his harshest critics couldn't help but notice the absolute precision in Pierce's fight. I saw Pierce fight in a previous Sportfight and it's clear he's put his time in training and refining his skills. Like a surgeon Pierce took Miller apart. One blow opened a huge cut on the top of Miller's head and blood streamed out in a flow that made Miller look like something out of a Rob Zombie movie. The fight was stopped so that they could assess Miller's injury and much to the surprise and delight of the crowd they let the fight continue. Step by step Pierce pushed the fight in the direction he wanted it to go, with control of almost every position on the mat Pierce showed that he was clearly the better trained fighter. In the end Pierce won by TKO and Miller's cuts became too severe for him to continue. Of all the fighters who fought at SportFight 24, it's Pierce who showed the most promise and his fight was worth the price of admission.
The feature title bout between Enoch Wilson and Brian Gearahty wasn't as exciting as the Pierce/Miller bout. Gearahty gave Wilson a lot to handle for four rounds, locking him up and pressing submission attempt after submission attempt. Four rounds into the fight it was clear that Gearahty had done just enough to win a few rounds but not enough to take Wilson's title away from him. Ultimately Wilson prevailed with an earth shattering, late fourth round, punch that left Wilson dazed in the corner. Wilson gave a gladiator roar as he pounced around the ring, sticking around long after the bout was finished to celebrate.
It's exceptional to live in an area with such easy access to high quality Mixed Martial Arts and a shame more people aren't taking advantage of it. The athletes fighting out of Team Quest and Braveheart gyms have the foundation to carry them to national attention, and for just a few bucks you can catch them live and in person.