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Breaking Down YAMMA Pit Fighting’s Debut

First things first. The Yamma fighting surface did not remotely live up to its hype or serve its conceived purpose. Anyone who witnessed the event could tell you that the Yamma pretty much did the exact opposite of its intended function, as it only created less exciting fights if anything.

A novel idea, to create a fighting surface that pushes the action which in turn will help give fans a better show- I’m all for it. But that is not how it went down. The incline border of The Yamma indeed made it so clinching against the fence was fairly impossible. But it also meant that instead of the fence-clinching, you had the fight go almost immediately to the ground once the fighters starting treading on that incline. So the Yamma actually caused more ground fighting, which isn’t a terrible thing, but with the caliber of fighters competing it certainly wasn’t anything to write home about.

While I can’t comment on the pay-per-view production which some of you may have seen at home, I can tell you that the Yamma structure made live audience viewing a battle in itself. Since the Yamma used a recessed platform which was very close to ground level, it made my cage-side seat pretty much worthless unless of course the fight stayed standing…which none of them did. In fact, at the Arena inside the Trump Taj Mahal on Friday night your best bet was a cheap seat higher up in the stands. Suffice to say that once things went to the ground I had to crank my neck and look at the monitors just like everyone else sitting in the floor area.

If promotion founder Bob Meyerowitz has any plans of putting on yet another Yamma show, he needs to assure the fans that they will at least get their moneys worth the second time around.

Step 1: Re-think the Yamma surface completely, or at the least make the cage more accessible to the live audience, otherwise no ticket will likely ever be sold for a Yamma event again. If I were a paying ticket holder Friday night I would have been pretty irate about my viewpoint. Those floor seats went for something like $350 and for that kind of money, no fan should have to look at the monitor all night.

Step 2: Get a new ring announcer. I do not know the gentleman’s name and I could care less about looking it up, but this guy’s voice was just painful. Scratchy, raspy, and awful. No way do I believe that there wasn’t someone better which Yamma could have chosen for their inaugural show. To make matters worse, the announcer added odd and unnecessary commentary to the fight introductions. Simply a poor choice in my opinion, that guy should have been doing anti-smoking commercials with his vocal chords.

Step 3: Get better fighters. And by better I don’t necessarily mean more famous, just better prepared and more in-shape. Perhaps delve into promising up and comers as opposed to the older, fatter and desperate for money fighters. I swear Yamma 1 could have been dubbed “Out of shape flab-fest” and no one would have known the difference. Not that a fighter needs to be magazine-cover jacked to compete (just look at our boy Fedor) but not one of those heavyweights on Friday save for maybe Travis Wiuff had anything close to the physique of a tell-tale athlete. Actually I apologize, I just remembered that Mark Coleman was in attendance cornering his fighter George Bush. Mark Coleman is pretty diesel for a guy his age, sadly he wasn’t competing on the card …

Step 4: Make the rounds longer. Though many of the tournament bouts were tiresome as it was, at least with another round or two we could see if maybe a knockout or submission would turn up. With only one-five minute round, fighters didn’t have a chance to out-wind their opponent and possibly provide a more entertaining manner with which to end a fight.

Step 5: Start the show earlier if you are going to try to put on a tournament complete with “super-fights.” Is the tournament idea silly for this day and age in MMA? Perhaps, but personally I really don’t care one way or the other as long as the fights are solid. However if a promotion is indeed going to go the tournament route I would suggest starting things off a little before 9:30. By the time we finally got out of the Arena it was well after 1:00AM and at that point most of the post-fight personnel, reporters, etc. were just tired and burnt out from the nights festivities. How about starting things off around 7pm next time and saving us some of those red-eye hours.

While Yamma’s first show had many, many aspects which need to improve, there were a couple of things that were done well which I feel also deserve some attention.

I don’t know how things looked on television, but the show actually seemed to have a decent amount of fans in attendance. The venue was by no means even close to sold out with various pockets of empty seats, but there were definitely enough people attending to make the inaugural event look respectable. I never once got the feeling that I was wandering through a soft crowd, as the audience was loud and roaring whenever action inside the pit kicked up. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been to MMA shows where the people in the seats don’t even make a face when someone gets knocked out, so its always reassuring to see the audience get into the swing of things. Though it sounds strange, it’s actually harder than some might think to get legitimate MMA fans to come out to an MMA show. So good job to Yamma’s advertising team. Whether the end result is glowing or negative, it is their job to market an event, and I feel they did that very well.

It was also pretty cool to see Bob Meyerowtiz himself walking around, talking to random people during the event. I even said hi to him myself for a quick second as he chatted with various members of the crowd. It was nice to see the owner of a promotion be so approachable, as some other MMA figure heads don’t exactly walk around at shows and chat with the fans. Normally a hard fought interview has to be snagged to get word out from a promotions president, but at the Yamma event anyone really could have walked up to Meyerowitz and asked him a question.

Lastly, the ring girls. This is obviously not a crucial point, but you might remember in my IFL write up that I had criticized the IFL for choosing some less than impressive ring girl talent. However I can tell you first hand that the ladies carrying the cards Friday night were above and beyond any ring girl standard that exists today, so way to go on that one, Yamma.

The Fights:

As I stated above, the fights were generally dull as the Yamma pit seemed to only promote more ground fighting (which I couldn’t see) from either over-the-hill or simply over-weight fighters. Though there were some shining moments in a few of the bouts.

Lamont Lister def. Oleg Savitsky
The very first bout was the fastest to end, but it gave the fans what they wanted right away. This kid Lamont Lister came out and rocked Oleg Savitsky early on, then immediately went in for the ground and pound and it was over right around the 30 second mark. Great way to kick off the evening, my hopes were high.

Bryan Vetell def. Antwain Britt
This one began slowly enough but nearing the end of the first round/entire fight, Antwain Britt scored a top position and began dropping some good bombs before the bell could sound and end his flurry. Britt’s last minute punches were apparently not enough to give him all the points he needed, and Bryan Vetell captured the unanimous decision.

Alexey Oleinik def. Sherman Pendergarst
This was actually a pretty entertaining fight. Started off a little sluggish, but eventually Oleinik gets Pendergarst in a bottom position and applies a forearm choke, which I don’t even think is legal in most MMA promotions any more. A very cool, almost forgotten method to win a fight. I thought things might be looking up at this point.

Chris Tuscherer def. Tony Sylvester
An extremely boring match between two of the most out of shape fighters I had ever seen. Chris Tuscherer went on to prove that he was a tough guy to tangle with, but still this fight spelled boredom with each passing second.

Travis Wiuff def. Marcelo Pereira
Travis Wiuff is definitely an average to very good MMA fighter, and I think he deserves a lot of respect as a classic MMA journeyman. Wiuff however was unable to finish off BJJ specialist Marcelo Pereira before the single round of their bout came to an end. Here’s what happened. Wiuff went in for takedowns, worked from inside the guard and scored enough points with glancing punches here and there. Had the fight gone longer-who knows what might have spawned. But it didn’t, Travis won a unanimous decision, lets move on.

Ricco Rodriguez def. George Bush
I have to say, I was very excited to see Ricco Rodriguez live in action. Sadly the man known as “Suave” looked fatter than ever, but was able to use his size and experience to out grapple George Bush all the way to a unanimous decision. Woo hoo.

Oleg Taktarov def. Mark Kerr-superfight
Pretty much the same story with Kerr as with Rodriguez. I was very curious to see “The Smashing Machine” but like Ricco the man came out looking ridiculously heavy and unprepared to do battle. Oleg Taktarov’s penchant for knee bars is extremely well known and given Kerr’s experience, he should never have gotten caught in one so quickly. Not to take anything away from Taktarov, but Kerr looked like he was better suited for anything other than MMA competition Friday night.

Chris Tuscherer def. Alexey Oleinik
Chris Tuscherer may not be the worst MMA fighter out there, but his style is just so underwhelming to watch. Tuscherer won this one via unanimous decision again, but did not really do anything to convince the crowd that he was an opponent to keep an eye on.

Travis Wiuff def. Ricco Rodriguez
This was actually a good fight. Though Ricco would likely have taken his opponent to school in his heyday, Rodriguez was no match for a well prepared and in shape Travis Wiuff. There was some good back and forth in the bout, but you could tell that Wiuff deserved the decision as he controlled the action significantly better than Rodriguez.

Patrick Smith def. Eric “Butterbean” Esch
A sad yet entertaining fight. Everyone seems to cheer for Butterbean wherever he goes so it was tough to watch him fall (literally and figuratively) to striking specialist Pat Smith. Smith had to do little to keep Esch at bay, as he utilized leg kicks and constant circling to bring Butterbean to the canvas. Once Esch hit the floor I think we all knew that he wasn’t going to get up unless Smith let him…which he didn’t. Of course if Butterbean were to have connected with any of those haymakers he was throwing then Smith would have likely been knocked into next week, but that was never going to happen given the speed of Pat Smith and the severe lack of fluidity of Butterbean. Butterbean also claimed to “love” competing in MMA during one of the night’s vignettes, but given his complete lack of ground competence it’s not difficult to see why many would suggest he return to kickboxing, boxing, or just running his BBQ restaurant.

Travis Wiuff def. Chris Tuscherer
Ironically enough, this final bout was probably the best of the evening for one simple reason- It went for three complete rounds! (only the final tournament bout is scheduled for three rounds in the world of Yamma.) The match started off a bit slow but eventually Wiuff opened up a nice cut on his opponent and began working ground and pound late in the first round until the bell finally saved Tuscherer from a seemingly endless beating. Tuscherer would rack up some points during the second and third rounds and almost looked as if he could get the better of Wiuff in some exchanges, but overall Travis Wiuff still scored more points with crisper punches and well executed ground work, earning a unanimous decision victory and the first ever Yamma Heavyweight Championship.

The Final Word:

If the folks behind Yamma don’t mind performing some serious surgery on their product, then they just might have a chance at putting together a successful sophomore event. However if Yamma proves stubborn and refuses to make the appropriate changes, then they are doomed to be nothing more than another one hit blunder.

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