Off the Hook - By Joe Reilly

OTH: Ring Of Truth 3: Old Skool Review

With the UFC on Bravo TV in Ireland and the UK, MMA is getting constant exposure to the masses. The top UK events like Cage Rage are starting to flourish with TV deals and great stars to boot. Ireland is following their neighbours, as interest for the sport is growing, but we still have very few MMA events to speak of. Bushido Rings Ireland a few months back was the biggest Irish event to date according to ticket sales, but for sheer entertainment and action, Ring Of Truth 3 stepped up a notch and held its own as the pinnacle this side of the Irish Sea…

With the UFC on Bravo TV in Ireland and the UK, MMA is getting constant exposure to the masses. The top UK events like Cage Rage are starting to flourish with TV deals and great stars to boot. Ireland is following their neighbours, as interest for the sport is growing, but we still have very few MMA events to speak of. Bushido Rings Ireland a few months back was the biggest Irish event to date according to ticket sales, but for sheer entertainment and action, Ring Of Truth 3 stepped up a notch and held its own as the pinnacle this side of the Irish Sea.

The event took place last Saturday 2nd of July and was organised and overseen by SBG (Straight Blast Gym) Ireland. I attended the first two Ring Of Truth shows and both were enjoyable, but I felt they missed certain qualities. The first instalment was indeed an experiment for the new promoter John Kavanagh (SBG Ireland director) with good fights. The second show was quite short, but you know what they say, the third time’s a charm. This show had all the ingredients for success. The fans were treated to eleven fights that were fought under amateur, semi-pro and professional rules. This insured that up and coming fighters of all levels could test their skills and most importantly the show catered for a mixed audience.

The Amateur Fights

These bouts consisted of 2 four-minute rounds with no head shots allowed on the ground. It was a smart idea having these fights first, as it allowed for a slightly lighter introduction into our great sport. Only ever so slightly though, as all the competitors in this division came out to make an impression. The first fight was contested at 66kg (145.8 lbs) and Anthony Costello and Owen Drummond came out to the ring eager to please. Costello was representing SBG Northside and Drummond was fighting out of SBG Harold’s Cross.

If you think two affiliated camps were showing any love in this fight, you couldn’t be more wrong. Costello was swinging for the fences right off the bat with extreme prejudice and landed some solid leaping hooks to the head of his opponent. Drummond tried to change the tempo early on however with good legs kicks set up by his counter punches. Costello wasn’t interested and boxed his way into the clinch. After landing few strikes here, he backed out once again and unleashed the fury on Drummond knocking him down with a hard right hand.

Costello rushed to the mat and took Drummond’s back, but Drummond recovered well however and managed to avoid the rear naked choke. Drummond went on to scramble to his knees and then took Costello down. Costello countered with a Guillotine choke, but the bell rang before Costello could work the choke. In the second round, Costello was looking to resume an attack, but Drummond tumbled him to the mat with a sweet takedown. On the ground, Drummond managed to take Costello’s back, but Costello managed to spin out and land on top in Drummond’s guard.

Drummond immediately reversed his opponent and began pummelling Costello with punches to the body. The strikes worked beautifully to distract Costello and Drummond took his back and soon had Costello tapping from a rear naked choke. A great come back by Drummond in an entertaining battle put on by both competitors.

The next battle was fought at 75kg (165 lbs) between Anthony Broxson of Waterford Vale Tudo and Shane Courtney of SBG Harold’s Cross. Broxson initiated the first attack landing some effective punches, but Courtney defended well by clinching his opponent. Broxson then took Courtney down landing inside his guard allowing Courtney to quickly secure a slick Triangle choke submission in the first round.

Next up was Shika’s Alan Seery against Tralee Vale Tudo fighter Paddy Carmody at 80kg (176 lbs). Carmody towered above his opponent in this fight and used his reach advantage well at the beginning landing a nice high kick and following up with a hard leg kick. Despite having no problem on the feet up until this point, Carmody then took Seery down with a nice leg trip from the clinch. Carmody tried to pass Serry’s guard right away, put Seery held on to a Guillotine choke.

Carmody avoided it easily and passed to the full mount. From here Carmody landed some solid body shots to set up an armbar. Carmody was unlucky though, as he found himself and his opponent entwined in the ropes causing Seery to fall out of the ring. The fight was restarted on the feet and Seery managed to close the distance with a spinning back kick landing in the clinch. Carmody reacted well and took down Seery at the bell from there.

In the second round, both men exchanged leg kicks initially, but eventually clinched. Carmody once again took advantage with a trip takedown. Seery tried to scramble off his back and attempted a schoolyard choke similar to the finish Chris Lytle used to beat Tiki Ghosn at UFC 47. However, the ropes that saved him in the first round cursed him in the second and led the referee to restarting them in the middle to avoid anyone accidentally exiting the ring.

Carmody used the break of momentum to reverse Seery, which led to Seery countering with a Guillotine choke. Carmody was already in half guard at this point and he used the superior leverage to mount Seery. Carmody then landed several hard body shots from here and transitioned to a beautiful Armbar submission in the second round.

(To John Kavanagh’s amusement I’m sure) The crowd were being well schooled in the art of submission and the good times continued to roll. In the fourth fight, which was fought at 78kg (173.8 lbs) Gerald McNichol of PFS (Professional Fighting Systems) faced ‘Judo’ Mick Kelly of SBG Harold’s Cross. ‘Judo’ Mick was really pumped for this fight and rushed in landing a hard left right combination and wasted no time taking McNichol down with a text book double leg. Kelly got stuck in McNichol’s half guard briefly and the PFS fighter tried to secure a Guillotine choke from here, but Kelly passed quickly to the side mount.

McNichol used the transition to his advantage by scrambling to his feet, but Kelly wasted no time in re-introducing his back to the canvas with another double leg slam straight into side control. Kelly then adjusted to the mount and hammered body shots down and when McNichol tried to defend with his arms, Kelly took advantage and executed a straight Armbar for the victory in the first round. Kelly was composed throughout the short fight and took care of business and later commented that the fight was a bit of a blur up until landing in McNichol’s first choke attempt and that he just went on from there.

The next duel was an 80kg (178.2 lbs) bout between Mikey Clifford of Tralee Vale Tudo and Adrian Costigan of SBG Harold’s Cross. Costigan immediately tried to clinch, but Clifford countered with a Thai clinch and landed a solid knee to the face of Costigan. Costigan then grabbed Clifford in a headlock and secured a Judo throw. Once on the ground, the referee noticed that Costigan was bleeding from the nose and stopped the fight briefly to allow the doctor to check the cut. The doctor cleaned the cut and allowed Costigan to continue as it was on his nose and was quite small once it was cleaned.

The fight was resumed on the feet and Clifford landed some nice leg kicks trying to make Costigan think twice about coming forward. It didn’t work, as Costigan relentlessly sought after the clinch. Costigan’s all out aggression allowed him to get tagged with a few punches to the face, but Costigan returned fire landing some bombs of his own. Costigan got in close once again pulled off a nice Judo trip on Clifford. Costigan wasted no time in passing Clifford’s guard and locked in a textbook side choke scoring the submission victory in round one. Costigan showed his heart in this fight not allowing the cut to deter him from gaining the victory.

The Semi-Pro Fights

The next fight moved down in weight to 65.8kg (144.7 lbs), which was the first Semi-Pro fight on the card. The only rule changes from the previous fights were that headshots were allowed on the ground and the rounds were five minutes long. PFS fighter Micky Young battled it out with SBG Harold’s Cross fighter Pearse Stokes. Both fighters reserved the first minute or so as a circling game feeling each other out. Young got things started landing a leg kick, but he only grazed Stokes, who countered with a right straight.

Stokes was moving around appearing extremely composed. He quickly changed the tempo by enforcing a clinch on Young allowing him to land a series of knees to the legs followed by a takedown. Instead of following Young to the mat, Stokes stayed on his feet and landed some heavy leg kicks on his downed opponent. After a slight break in the action, the referee stood Young up and the stand up exchange resumed.

Young came out swinging wild, but Stokes covered up well and landed some leg kicks in retaliation. Young fought back with his own leg kicks and some good punches to the head. Stokes briefly interrupted the attack by clinching, and after some inactivity in close quarters, the referee separated the fighters. Young then landed some good punches, which were short lived, as Stokes clinched once again just before the bell signalled the end of the round.

In the second round, Young scored a couple of leg kicks at range, but Stokes countered with a good jab to get back into the clinch. It was Young, who scored the takedown though and he quickly took the back of Stokes. Stokes tried to scramble back up, but Young scored another takedown. Stokes didn’t stay on his back long and managed to scramble to his feet finally. Stokes then clinched with Young again, but Young escaped his grip with a good one-two boxing combination. Stokes decided to throw his hands after his lack of success in the clinch and landed two nice consecutive right crosses. The combination left Stokes over exerted and allowed Young to secure a single leg takedown, but Young was unable to impose himself, as forcefully on the ground. Stokes scrambled back to the feet again and instantly scored a nice double leg takedown. Stokes landed inside a Guillotine choke attempt from Young, but Stokes escaped and landed hard punches to the body.

After another break in the action, the referee stood both men up, but from then on Stokes became the unmatched aggressor. He landed several punches to his opponent’s head and scored another sweet double leg. Stokes stood back up and landed more heavy leg kicks on Young, but to mix it up he dived back in on Young, which allowed the PFS fighter to attempt an Omoplata shoulder lock, but Stokes avoided the submission and landed good head shots on Young at the end of the fight. After the bell, it was a hard fight to call either way, but I was edging with Stokes based on more effective aggression inflicted throughout the fight. The judges ruled in favour of Young however, by a razor sharp close split decision that resulted in a mixed reaction from the crowd.

The next fight was lighter again at 65kg (143 lbs) between ULK’s Tim Murphy and Colm O’Reilly from SBG Harold’s Cross. From the get go, O’Reilly rushed forward looking for the takedown and it wasn’t long before he got Murphy on his back. However, Murphy was able to tangle up O’Reilly well inside his half guard. The referee wasted no time in standing the fight back up. O’Reilly immediately scored with another takedown. Murphy tried to work a Guillotine choke, which O’Reilly easily avoided, but O’Reilly yet again was unable to take advantage of the top position and the fight was again stood up.

From here, Murphy landed a barrage of solid combinations mixing things up well with punches and leg kicks, but the spell of aggression gave O’Reilly an opening and he secured another takedown. Murphy tried another Guillotine choke from the bottom, but O’Reilly easily avoided once again and landed some good head shots. O’Reilly then took a risk and rolled for a Guillotine choke of his own, but could not finish it, but he managed to finish the round strong regardless with more solid punches to the head.

In the second round, Murphy landed a hard high kick to the head of O’Reilly, which left the SBG fighter rocked. O’Reilly recovered with a takedown and quickly advanced to side control. O’Reilly switched to north south, which succeeded in entertaining the crowd. O’Reilly managed to land a few body shots, but could not create enough distance to muster up enough power in his strikes resulting in the fight being stood up again.

Murphy then caught O’Reilly with a hard right knocking him down to the canvas. Murphy followed him to the mat landing consecutive strikes, but O’Reilly covered up and scrambled up to the feet, which resulted in him being knocked down again and this time Murphy made no mistakes and landed enough strikes to warrant a TKO stoppage from the referee late in the second round. This was an action packed fight, which was very much a stronger striker against a stronger grappler. I’m sure both competitors came away from this bout learning more about what they need to work on, but their styles matched up for an entertaining clash all the same.

The next fight was at 70kgs (154 lbs), which I was anticipating the most. Kickboxer Stuart Edwards came into this fight looking to mix it up in an MMA fight and mix it up he did against SBG fighter ‘Sissy Boy’ Mick Leonard. Leonard came out confident fresh off his submission win at the Bushido Rings Ireland show a few months back and the crowd were behind him.

Leonard shot in and took Edwards down with his favourite move, the double leg. Leonard immediately transitioned to an Armbar, which he fully extended, but he forgot to cross his feet allowing Edwards to scramble to the feet, but Leonard was still hanging out of his arm looking to finish the submission. Edwards punched his way out and backed off. Leonard shot in once again and secured a nice takedown. From the bottom, Edwards managed to reverse Leonard and land inside his guard and he landed some forceful blows to the head of Leonard.

Leonard wasn’t having that, so he swept Edwards and took up side control. Leonard failed to capitalise however and the referee stood up the fight. Just as quick as the action was stood up, Leonard took it to the ground once again and wasted no time passing to the full mount position. Leonard then landed some heavy punches to the face of Edwards from here and switched to the Armbar looking to finish in the fashion that eluded him earlier.

This time Leonard did not forget to cross his feet, but Edwards still would not tap. It seemed that Leonard had the submission perfect for at least five or six seconds and finally the dreaded inevitability occurred. Edwards’ arm dislocated, which forced him to tap to the submission in the first round. Personally, I thought the fight should have been stopped before the injury was sustained either by Edwards’ corner or by the referee, as Edwards’ seemed to lack the understanding to tap initially. Sometimes, it’s the painful lessons that teach one best. Well, Mick Leonard got another victory and later modestly stated that he didn’t slam his opponent like he normally does.

Thomas Murkias from SBG was up next against Neil Seery from Shika at 72kg (158.4 lbs). Murkias was the aggressor throughout this fight landing good punches from the beginning and aggressively controlling the clinch. The only offensive manoeuvre Seery attempted in the fight was an attempt at a spinning back fist, but Murkias got inside the unorthodox striker landing a knee to the body followed by a funky hip toss. Murkias followed up with a mount and landed some of the heaviest strikes I’ve ever seen from the top position at a live event and I seen Evan Tanner dismantle David Terrell at UFC 51 first hand, this was similarly vicious, which led to Seery’s corner throwing in the towel to give Murkias the TKO victory early in the first round. Murkias came into this fight coming off a close fight with Oliver Ellis at Bushido Rings Ireland and he really showed that he’s a man to be feared at his weight in this fight.

Next up was Tom Haddock of PBS (Point Black Submissions) against Eoghan Gerraghty of SBG and this was the penultimate fight of the night, which took place at 80kg (176 lbs). Both men clinched early and Gerraghty landed some knees to the legs. Both men then traded a kick a piece with Haddock landing to the body and Gerraghty scoring to the leg. Haddock then landed another kick to the body to set up a Guillotine choke from the feet and while he was sinking the submission he landed a hard knee to the face of Gerraghty. A rocked Gerraghty rushed forward and Haddock fell out of the ring. Thankfully Haddock was okay and the fight was restarted on the feet. Gerraghty landed good punching combinations, but then landed an accidental groin strike. Haddock quickly recovered and the fight continued. Both men then traded leg kicks with Haddock fairing off better. Haddock then connected with more punches to the head and continued his barrage with leg kicks and knees to the head.

A staggered Gerraghty returned the favour with a good straight cross combination and knees to the body of Haddock. Haddock then countered with a nasty high kick, which rocked Gerraghty further allowing Haddock to pounce on him with punches and the referee was alert to come to Gerraghty’s aid giving Haddock the TKO victory. Gerraghty acknowledged that he was gassed early in the fight and that he was thankful that thee referee stepped in when he did.

The Main Event (Professional Rules)

This was the only pro fight of the night that was fought at 70 kg (154 lbs) for the Irish title. Owen Dempsey of Next Generation defended his championship against Greg Loughran of PFS. Dempsey landed some body kicks at the start, but both fighters wound up in the clinch allowing Loughran to take Dempsey to the ground to attain side mount. Loughran instantly locked on a Kimura shoulder lock and Dempsey was forced to tap out early in round one. Loughran was no doubt impressive in his victory, but who’s next? My money is on either Michael Leonard or Thomas Murkias, but either way, the sky is the limit for the Ring Of Truth.

I really enjoyed this event and the only critique I can think of as I come to the end of this review is that John Kavanagh needs a bigger venue to meet the growing demand for tickets. Maybe the National Boxing Arena is next, who knows?

Joe Reilly