“Call of the Wild” was an apt name for the women’s MMA event that took place this past Thursday. What was witnessed in the ring in over a dozen fights was primal fury in a controlled, competitive domain.
When it comes to women’s MMA, a connoisseur could starve between fights, so it was a delight to witness this buffet of fights for a fight-hungry populace. The main event featured a championship battle between Roxy Modafferi and Vanessa Porto. Modaffericame in at 11-4 with a championship belt in hand. She entered the ring wearing glasses and pigtails and the uninformed observer might have thought she was a computer geek—that is until the bout began, because she didn’t fight like one. She was sharp and strong. Vanessa Porto entered at 7-2 and hoped to take the belt from Modafferi, but it was not to be. Round one began with an exchange of strikes between the two fighters. Porto then rammed Modafferi into the cage and took her down. Modafferi slipped out and reversed the takedown, moving on top and striking Porto from that position. Porto responded with her own reversal and then the two fighters were separated. The round ended with no clear cut vantage for either fighter.
Round 2 opened with Modafferi unleashing some great kicks to Porto’s head and strong punches to Porto’s face. She hunted Porto around the cage, looking for the advantage. Modafferi put Porto against the cold steel and landed sharp knee strikes.. Porto struck back, lifting Modafferi and sending her to the ground. Modafferi answered, fighting back from below, getting Porto in a triangle lock to her head, then reversing position and taking control from the top. Modafferi pressured Porto, squeezing tight as the round ended. Clearly, Modafferi had begun to take control of the match. A tevery point in the round she had had an answer for whatever Porto threw at her.
In round three, Modafferi unleashed an assault that Porto could no longer defend against. After an exchange of strikes, Porto began to weaken. She was bloody and tired and Modafferi pounded her against the cage, sending strike after strike to Porto’s face. Porto was dazed and defenseless and the referee stepped in. At 0:53 of the third round, the fight was stopped and a Modafferi cried tears of joy at retaining her belt in a brutal battle. Modafferi’s style was somewhat unassuming, but it’s effect was devastating. She was quite a champion. Billed as a “co-main event, ” Carina “Barbie” Damm and Sofie Bagherdai went at it in the fight prior to Modafferi’s, and it was sensational. Damm is an extraordinary fighter to watch. They could just as well call her a “Puma” as they could “Barbie” because of the stealthy and ferocious style in which she fights. She seems still and tightly coiled until she strikes out of no where with sharp, fast, vicious punches and kicks.
Round 1 began with a very pro-Bagherdai crowd rooting loudly. Damm was the aggressor
from the outset. She executed a beautiful spinning back fist to start the round and continued with sharp, hard, hand strikes. Her punches whipped out violently at Bagherdai, but Bagherdai showed very good footwork and movement as she avoided damage. Damm’s aggression was impressive and she pressed the fight, pinning Bagherdai against the cage launching knees and punches right up to the end of the round. In fact, Damm was so aggressive that she actually slipped launching
oneof her knee attacks as the round ended. Damm began round 2 just as she had the first round—fiercely. Bagherdai was game, but she could not withstand Damm’s fury. Striking hard against Bagherdai against the cage, Damm executed a beautiful takedown, then maneuvered Bagherdai into a tight arm-bar. It was all over. Bagherdai tapped out and the fight was history. Damm’s pulsating fighting energy was like a force of nature.
Lana Stefanac was also quite a force. If Damm is a tornado, Stefanac is a hurricane. In a heavyweight bout, Lana Stefanac made quick work of Teyvia Reid. Stefanac, a 5’11, 235 pound powerhouse simply entered the ring, stalked Reid, swatting aside punches like flies, and took her down to the canvas and into an arm-bar. Game over. Just like that. The fight was stopped at 0:36 of the first round. Stefanac was a sight behold. She seemed to know she had won before the fight had even started. An irresistible force, she calmly smashed through Reid’s defenses and took the victory. Earlier, Tayako Hashi took on Amanda Buckner in a lightweight bout. Hashi entered the ring stylish and showy. She had traveled all the way from Tokyo for this fight and that, for some reason, seemed to get the crowd behind her. Amanda Buckner came in from Maine—a pretty long drive as well. She looked sharp and focused, her short haircut making her look like a G.I. Jane ready for action.
The fight started out in Buckner’s favor. She was the aggressor and landed some hard strikes against Hashi. It looked early on like Buckner might have too much power for Hashi, but Hashi was experienced and slick. Whenever it seemed Buckner would take control, Hashi slipped out of harm’s way. At one point, Hashi tried to take Buckner down, but Buckner fought it off and stood her up. Hashi then responded with a few high, swooping kicks which wowed the crowd. Buckner continued to look strong, but it appeared that she was starting to lose the advantage of aggression towards the end of the round as Hashi began to frustrate her with movement.
In round 2, Buckner attacked with a sweep against Hashi, but Hashi’s quickness was marvelous and she bounced up before Buckner could take advantage. Hashi threw a high kick to back up Buckner and keep her at bay, then moved in on Buckner, backing her against the cage and landing a few punches of her own. Hashi’s hand speed became evident as she landed fast jabs against Buckner, clearly stinging her. The tide was turning towards Hashi as swelling and redness began to appear under Buckner’s right eye.. Hashi was bloodied too, but by this point, she was the one landing the most damaging of blows. Round 3 continued as round 2 ended, with Hashi striking and landing and Buckner somewhat flustered and frustrated. Hashi opened with a series of impressive and powerful kicks to Buckner’s head, keeping her at bay.
The fight went to the judges and they came back with a well-deserved unanimous decision for Hashi.
Yet another incredible and brutal match took place, this one between Ashley Sanchez and Sarah Schneider. Round 1 opened with Schneider letting fly with her ferocious spinning backfists and Sanchez answering with hard strikes of her own. Schneider went in for a takedown on Sanchez, slamming her to the canvas and striking at her face. They exchanged hard punches until the end of the round, with Schneider seeming to get the best of it, though it was she who ended up bloodied.
In round 2, Schneider again started out with hard blows and back fists and continued to press the fight. Her strategy was to go for the takedown and work at striking from the top. She used that maneuver throughout round 2 and was mostly successful. Sanchez, however, was able to hold her off and prevent any damage that could end the fight for her. The referee separated them with a few seconds left in the round, and then Schneider tried once more to take Sanchez down to the canvas. The round ended with Schneider in control.
Round 3 was stronger for Sanchez. She seemed to have the crowd on her side and this appeared to help her. Schneider took her down, but Sanchez took advantage this time by executing a choke hold. They grappled on the ground for awhile and then Schneider managed to bloody Sanchez with strikes. Sanchez stood up Schneider and then reversed the pattern of the fight by taking down Schneider to the canvas. The fight ended with Sanchez on top of Schneider and both fighters battling for control. Schneider and Sanchez, both bloody, were brought to the center of the ring to await the decision of the judges. It was unanimous in favor of Schneider. A brutal, beautiful and hard-fought fight.
In other bouts, Sally Krumdiak (3-0) defeated Jamie Lynn(1-2) by unanimous decision in a fight that featured a lot of ground fighting. Emily Thompson (2-0) defeated Breanne Vickers (0-0) by stoppage at 0:57 ofround 3. Jenn Babcock (0-1) defeated Tammie Schneider (0-3) by submission fromstrikes in the first round. In her debut fight, Michelle Roody stopped Franita Gathings at 2:54 of the first round with a brutal one-punch knockdown in a heavyweight match-up.
The fight card was absolutely impressive and it was good to see so many strong women fighters go at it at a time when fight fans know that it’s difficult for women to find access to the ring. Perhaps with more fights like this, the sport of women’s MMA will begin to take a deeper hold on the sporting public and more women will have a chance to ply a trade to which so many have dedicated their bodies and hearts. Let’s hope that’s the case because
these fights were fantastic.
Photos by Kataka Gara (katakagara.com)