Archive for The Ultimate Fighter

Hawaii Sweeps TUF 11 Finale 3-0

Posted in Breaking News, Live Event Reports, The Ultimate Fighter with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on June 23, 2010 by jaytan716

Story By: Jay Tan- MMA Hawaii Staff Reporter – Photos by Silton Buendia

Chris1Despite the fact that three different fighters came from three different camps, Travis Browne, Brad Tavares, and Chris “The Crippler” Leben all gave the Islands proud reason to celebrate last night, as each won their respective matches decisively at the UFC’s 11th “Ultimate Finale,” at the Palms Hotel & Casino in Las Vegas.

The event was the “Ultimate Fighter” season 11 finale, and was headlined by Court McGee vs. Kris “Savage” McCray, in a match to determine the reality show winner. In the end, McGee submitted McCray by rear naked choke at 3:41 of round two, earning him a six-figure contract with the UFC.

In the opening match, Honolulu-native Travis “Hapa” Browne defeated James McSweeney by TKO. Browne, who currently resides and trains in San Diego, was making his UFC debut with the match, riding in on a nine-match win streak, including victories in King of the Cage, Bellator Fighting Championships, and Gladiator Challenge.

The fight itself started out slowly, with both men sizing each other up and trading occasional strikes. Midway through the round, Browne dropped McSweeney with a left hook and pounced on top to fire a series of lefts. He worked briefly for an Americana, but transitioned to full mount and ground-and-pounded with punches until referee Kim Winslow stopped the action at 4:32 of the first round, awarding Browne victory by TKO.

The match that Hawaiians were perhaps buzzing most about was Hilo-born / Kailua-trained Brad Tavares vs. Seth Baczynski, both members of the TUF season 11 cast. The fight was in fact a rematch from a quarterfinal bout between them, which ended when Baczynski hit an illegal strike (kick to the head of a grounded opponent) on Tavares.  Because of the kick, Tavares was awarded the win by DQ and advanced to the semi-finals.


Despite the illegal strike, there was no bad blood between the two. In SpikeTV.com bonus footage, after the match, Baczynski was shown chasing after coach Chuck Liddell and Tavares, apologetic and repeating “I’m not a dirty fighter.”

Both men were all business in the first round, as Tavares hit his trademark hip toss off Baczynski trying for a takedown. Baczynski did later threaten with a triangle choke, as he would again in the third, but Tavares was dominant in the first, riding the back for most of the first and some of the third. Round two saw Tavares get the takedown and punish on the ground until Baczynski would escape to his feet, where Tavares would repeat the process. Baczynski came alive in the third, shooting for takedowns, throwing punches from bottom, and cinching what seemed like a very tight triangle, but Tavares weathered the storm and walked away with the unanimous decision victory.

Despite the triangle chokes, Tavares maintained that he was not going to give up voluntarily, saying he was “never close to tapping.  Close to going out.  I didn’t expect him to get it.  He’s got skills.”

Finally, Oahu-transplant Chris “The Crippler” Leben defeated wrestler Aaron Simpson by TKO in the first round.

Simpson scored two takedowns in the first round, the second of which he peppered Leben’s head with punches, but to no seeming effect. Around 1:20 in the second round, Leben and Simpson came alive with flurries, with heavy “Leben” chants emanating from the crowd. After taking several shots to the head, Simpson shot in for a takedown, but Leben caught it and fired lefts from a front facelock. Simpson escaped and ran, falling forward and off balance, at which point referee Josh Rosenthal called a stop to the action.  Leben was awarded the match by TKO / referee’s stoppage at 4:17 of the second round.

After the match, Leben simply said “You know what, that’s what I do.  What am I supposed to say, I hit him in the face because that’s my job.”

For his efforts, Leben was awarded $25,000 for Knockout of the Night.

This article originally appeared under National MMA News at MMAHawaii.com on June 20th, 2010.

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Court McGee wins TUF honors, Hamill Edges Jardine in All Out War

Posted in Breaking News, The Ultimate Fighter with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on June 23, 2010 by jaytan716

Story By: Jay Tan- MMA Hawaii Staff Reporter – Photo by Silton Buendia

_MG_8731Camaraderie and career crossroads may have been the universal storyline for the top headlining matches at the 11th “Ultimate Finale,” held at the Palms Hotel & Casino in Las Vegas, NV.

As is customary, the event was headlined by the “Ultimate Fighter” final, between Court McGee (Team Liddell) and Kris “Savage” McCray (Team Ortiz). The co-main event, at one point the headliner, was “The Dean of Mean” Keith Jardine vs. Matt “The Hammer” Hamill, in a light heavyweight bout that saw both men at a crossroads in their careers.

For Jardine, the bout represented a rebirth, as the Jackson’s MMA fighter claimed in a conference call interview that after three losses in 2009 and 2010, he had reworked and refined his fight skills.

“Me and Greg Jackson. . . We looked at all of my fights, from my first UFC fight until my last. And we started breaking down when I’m doing good stuff, when I’m doing bad stuff. And now there’s a little bit more rhyme and reason behind what I do. Like I can be – I can get back to my old style, if I want to, or I can get real clean and crisp and do new stuff, if I want to,” he explained.
“But it’s just I feel like I’ve come full circle, and I’ve needed these learning pains to get to where I am right now. And I’m excited now to show off a little bit and make another run for the top.”

Conversely, Hamill said he felt he was continuing his way to the top. In the post-fight press conference, Hamill stated that his goal was to crack the top 10 fighters in his weight class, and to do that, he had to beat fighters the caliber of Jardine.

The match was a back-and-forth war of attrition, almost exclusively on the feet. Jardine seemed to want to keep the fight standing, escaping Hamill’s clinch and keeping the former Utica wrestler at bay with low kicks and overhand rights. Hamill found himself chasing Jardine for much of the match.

In round two, the exchange of combos continued, though Hamill reached for more takedowns. Midway through the match, Hamill took several fingers to the eye, for which referee Herb Dean eventually penalized Jardine one point. The poke was apparently bad enough that Hamill spun away from Jardine and even fell to the ground, off-balance, but ringside physicians allowed the match to continue. At this point, Jardine was a house of fire with combinations, perhaps frustrated by the point deduction. Hamill’s reply was just as strong, taking Jardine down and throwing fast rights off a front facelock, then knees from a Muay Thai clinch. Jardine had a nasty deep cut in the middle of his face. Hamill scored a takedown early in the third round, and tried for seve_MG_8585ral more, though Jardine, who was visibly gassed, evaded most shots.

Judges award the match to Matt Hamill via majority decision (two wins, one draw), off scores of 29-27, 29-27, and 28-28.

One of the most interesting yet understated aspects about the McGee x McCray finals was the fighters’ mutual respect and admiration for each other. In numerous interviews surrounding the fight, both men demonstrated a mutual bond and friendship that was more characteristic than any pair of TUF finalists in any of the past ten seasons.

“I support him 110%, and he’s gonna do the same for me. I know he is,” McCray declared in the post-fight press conference.

Even before the opening bell, “Let’s Go Savage” chants resonated throughout the crowd. Both men started out with fast flurries in the center. McGee took the fight to the ground twice early, with McCray escaping to his feet both times, with McCray firing headshots the second time. McCray pushed the action with strikes, though McGee was never one to shirk from the challenge, forcing McCray to the fences. In round two, McCray stayed heavy with the striking and worked some dirty boxing from the clinch. McGee grounded the match again and worked a modified side choke / arm triangle. McCray escaped, but after another big double-leg takedown, McGee got the back and sunk in a rear naked choke until McCray was forced to submit at 3:41 of the second round.

After the match, McGee dedicated his victory to recovering addicts and people who faced drug and alcohol problems. McGee, himself a recovering addict who once overdosed to the point of near death, said “when I broke up like that, that’s seven years, man. All in one minute. I dedicate that fight to anybody who’s in the struggle, tonight. If you’d have come from where I came from to where I am today, man, you’d have been the same way.”

This article originally appeared under National MMA News at MMAHawaii.com on June 20th, 2010.

Recent 10th Planet News

Posted in 10th Planet Jiu-Jitsu, Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on February 25, 2010 by jaytan716

To say that 10th Planet Jiu-Jitsu has started the year off with a bang would be an understatement. Only six weeks into the year and not only has Eddie Bravo’s network of schools competed and placed in several major tournaments, but they also saw the promotion of Bravo’s second black belt in the 10th Planet solar system – Sean Bollinger (Riverside). Denny Prokopos (San Francisco) became 10th Planet’s inaugural black belt in September last year.

Denny Prokopos & Sean Bollinger become 10th Planet’s first black belts ever

“We’ve got a lot of resistance going on from the traditional community, which is kinda crazy. I never meant it to start that way. I was trying to improve jiu jitsu for jiu jitsu. . . Having Denny represent, that’s where we need to be right now,” reflected Bravo in a video interview after the promotion.

For Prokopos, receiving his black belt “was like graduating college, with a Ph.D., and to be the valedictorian of my class. And I’m also graduating from one of the finest jiu jitsu universities in the word.”

That 10th Planet degree was put to the test six weeks later, as Prokopos competed in the World Jiu-Jitsu No-Gi Championships in November, taking third place in his Black Belt Adult division against jiu jitsu masters such as Rodrigo Ranieri and Baret Yoshida.

“Right off the bat, I proved that I’m a world-class black belt. . . It’s one thing to know about the style. It’s another thing to be able to use it and apply it at the highest levels.”

Of his mentor, Prokopos said “it’s one thing to have a jiu Jitsu coach, it’s another thing to have a jiu jitsu coach, somebody that you love, somebody that you respect so much as a person.”

On the heels of Prokopos, Sean Bollinger was also recognized for his skills and expertise with his black belt in late January. The young head instructor of 10th Planet Riverside was apparently caught off guard with the promotion, saying “Eddie was all like ‘you need to win first place in a big tournament’ . . . I was thinking I’d have to go do a NAGA or Grapplers’ Quest. Go get a gold real quick and then I’d get my black belt. So when he came out and gave me [my belt], it was definitely a surprise. But I think I’ve put in the work. I do feel good about it.”

Both Prokopos and Bollinger face new responsibilities as the sole 10th Planet black belts, not just for that level of recognition, but also as they spearhead their own school branches. With Bollinger’s school taking the 10th Planet reach into the Southern California Inland Empire, Prokopos’ San Francisco dojo has stood for the past two years amidst other noted grappling schools like Cesar Gracie and Jake Shields’ respective Gracie Fighter academies, as well as MMA gyms such as Fairtex and American Kickboxing Academy (AKA).

Additionally, Bollinger is training for an MMA fight against second-generation star Ryan Couture, scheduled for March 26th at Tuff-N-Uff Amateur Fighting Championships in Las Vegas. Bollinger is currently 2-0 in amateur MMA competition.

“It’s a win-win situation for me. That’s how I look at it. I just feel blessed with the opportunity. . . Because I think I could build a good name in that whole organization. Especially after this fight, when people know what’s up.”

Additionally, a group of students from Headquarters and Burbank were also recently promoted, including new blue belts Will Allen, Mel Blanco, Alex Branom, Steve Cox, Matt Dempsey, Scott Elkin, Karen Ferguson, Michel Francoeur, Juli Fung, Tommy Gavin, Carlos Hernandez, Matt Horwich, Alan Jouban, Howard Lee, Richard Mattke, Kyle McGough, Anthony Nealy, Rachel Tan, and Wade Thomas.

Congratulations to all the recent 10th Planet promotions for the deserved recognition of their hard work and spirit.

10th Planet at Gracie Nationals

One of the bigger annual jiu jitsu tournaments, the Gracie US Nationals, took place as part of the Los Angeles Fitness Expo in Los Angeles in January. Among the placers were silver medalists Juli Fung (Burbank / Headquarters; Female Beginners 135 lbs.), Miguel Orozco (Burbank; Male Beginners 135 lbs.), and John Bottello (10th Planet Arizona head instructor; Male Advanced 145 lbs.).

“I feel fantastic. I learned so much, I can’t wait to do the next one,” said Fung after her win.

Amir Allam (Burbank / Headquarters) had a particularly busy day, not only claiming gold status in the Men’s Advanced 206 lbs. division, but also treating fans to an impromptu special exhibition match against MMA fighter Josh Barnett, who showed up only to discover that there were no other opponents in Barnett’s division. Faced with clocking out early for the day, Barnett asked Allam to roll in an exhibition match, to which the purple belt agreed. The scrap itself was competitive between opponents until Barnett caught Allam with a leglock.

Especially worthy of note was the Davila family’s accomplishments, as young Victor Jr. and his uncle Jose (both Burbank) claimed gold in their respective divisions.

Headquarters’ purple belts Ralf Warneking, Ian Quinto, and Dave Callaham also competed at this tournament, as did a large contingent from 10th Planet Phoenix, which included (beside Botello) Annie Jamarillo (Phoenix), Joe Montoya, and Ruben Garcia.

“It was great competing alongside people from Headquarters and Burbank. After the tournament, we celebrated my birthday. Eddie’s show the night before was great too. Just a fun time all around,” said Botello.

“I thought it was great that Arizona came all the way out to compete and trained with us all the week before,” noted Fung in the days after the event.

Scottie Epstein coaching Team Liddell for TUF 11

As reported previously on the Legends MMA blog, brown belt Scottie “Einstein” Epstein (Headquarters) will be featured as Chuck Liddell’s jiu jitsu coach for the 11th season of “The Ultimate Fighter,” which is anticipated to debut on Spike TV in April.

Regarding the show itself, Epstein is bound to confidentiality, but when asked if he was enjoying the experience, the enthusiasm was obvious: “it’s been a great experience. . . I was led to believe it was the worst thing ever. I’m like ‘what are you, kidding me?’ I get paid to train motherfuckers. I’m a roommate with Chuck Liddell. All our food is covered. Anywhere we want to go; just one phone call and we’re red carpeted. I wish my whole life could be like this.”

Epstein also spoke positively about the fighters themselves, noting “all the guys that I teach really want to learn. They pull me to the side and ask me how to do something. They’re very open-minded.”

Filming is scheduled to end in early March, at which point Epstein and Liddell will focus on preparing for a second rematch against Tito Ortiz, scheduled for UFC 115 in June.

10th Planet at Grappling X No-Gi Tournament

Finally, you could say that this year, February 14th was for lovers and fighters, as the Grappling X No-Gi tournament took place that day in Long Beach, CA. Of the several different 10th Planet schools representing at the tournament, Burbank in particular shined brightly, with gold medals for Kim Ferguson (Women’s Advanced 130 lbs.) and Richard Mattke (Men’s Beginner 180 lbs.), silver for Ronnie Castro (Men’s Novice Absolute Division) and Aren Asefi (Men’s Novice 145 lbs), and bronze for Miguel Orozco (Men’s Novice 135 lbs.), Rachel Tan (Women’s Beginner 115 lbs.), and Michael Pack.

This being his freshman tournament, Castro particularly impressed his teammates. Purple belt Dustin Shaw (Headquarters) noted “entering the absolute division is a big step for anybody, especially if it’s their first tournament. And he was doing really well against all these guys that are just as big as him and competing for years. So I think he’s going to be a really good competitor, very quickly.”

Headquarters member Erik “Compella” Cruz also noted Orozco’s steady and rapid development, noting “he put his opponent to sleep. That kid’s gonna be a force to be reckoned with. He’s already really smooth.”

Not to be overlooked, Burbank’s Michael Fausto battled through five bouts in a stacked division to a laud-worthy fourth place finish, finishing most of his opponents with triangle chokes.

Headquarters earned their fair share of battle bling as well, as Steve Cox (Intermediate 145 lbs) and Drew Springer took gold. Dawna Gonzales (Women’s Beginner 130 lbs.) and Conor “The Hurricane” Heun (Men’s Advanced 175 lbs.) placed silver in their respective divisions. Dustin Shaw claimed bronze in his Advanced Men’s 145 lbs. division.

Of his own debut in the Men’s Advanced 175 lb. bracket, Compella said “at first, I was nervous going in, but once I got through it, I was like ‘I can do this again.’ I really thought – one or two changes here or there, I can easily win. I don’t see it too far in the reach.”

Also competing were Headquarters members Scott Palmer, Sanni Wehbe, Jr., and Jason Eisner.

“I think everybody did really well. It was amazing to watch Conor roll his first competition back after knee surgery. . . Compella put on a rubber guard clinic. . . Loved watching the other advanced guys – Justin, and Jason Eisner. . . It was beautiful to watch, and it was exciting to watch all the beginner people just go for it. There was not one person on a 10th Planet team that I watched that I was not just absolutely thrilled and proud of, because everybody pulled off something that we worked on every day. And you can’t ask for more than that, and us being an incredibly supportive team, cheering each other on,” said Gonzales.

“There was a time I can remember where 10th Planet would have four or five people in a tournament, and that was a pretty good turnout. . . and [people were] constantly saying that we never competed, and all this stuff that we did never really works and whatever. Now we’ve got all these up and coming people coming in there and winning their divisions. First and second place all over the place,” reflected Shaw.

Other 10th Planet / Pro MMA Fighter Notes

Congratulations to traditional black belt / 10th Planet member George Sotiropolous for his dominant victory over Joe “Daddy” Stevenson in his homeland of Australia at UFC 110. Sotiropolous employed every bit of his 10th Planet repertoire, on top and from bottom, to threaten and thwart Stevenson, himself a black belt under Robert Drysdale. The native Aussie walked away with a 30-27 unanimous decision.

And speaking of 10th Planet students in the UFC, kudos, props, and best wishes go out to Burbank’s Alder Hampel and Dan Hardy (Headquarters), as they prepare for Hardy’s March 27th challenge for George St-Pierre’s UFC welterweight title.

Check back here for more 10th Planet news.

Scottie “Einstein” Epstein to join Team Liddell on TUF 11

Posted in 10th Planet Jiu-Jitsu, Breaking News, The Ultimate Fighter with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , on January 3, 2010 by jaytan716

Scottie "Einstein" Epstein will be Chuck Liddell's assistant coach on the next season of "The Ultimate Fighter."

By Jay Tan

10th Planet instructor / brown belt Scottie “Einstein” Epstein will be Chuck Liddell’s assistant coach on the next season of “The Ultimate Fighter,” which will debut on March 31st and run through June.

“This is a great opportunity. . . It makes 10th Planet Jiu-Jitsu go to a whole other level of respect. It legitimizes it more and more,” said Epstein.

Season 11 of “TUF” begins shooting this month, and will feature 16 middleweight fighters competing for the traditional “Ultimate Fighter” three-year contract. This will be Liddell’s second tour of coaching duty, as it will be for his opponent, Tito Ortiz. Liddell coached the inaugural season of the show in 2006, against Randy Couture, while Ortiz coached season three, against Ken Shamrock.

“This show is a show that I watch. . . ‘Dexter’ and ‘The Ultimate Fighter’ are the only shows that I’ll watch every fuckin’ episode. So I get to be a part of that. So that’s exciting for me. What really will be exciting is, hopefully, guys that I’m teaching use the shit that I’m teaching. . . It excites me to corner, it excites me to fuckin’ get paid for it, and to get recognition for it.”

This won’t be Epstein’s first exposure on national cable TV, as he previously was featured on an episode of “TapouT” two years ago, in connection with his 2007 match against Sergio Quinones. This time, however, “Einstein” is all too happy to defer the limelight to Liddell and the 16 competitors, explaining “[with] the TapouT show, there was pressure on me. There’s no pressure on this. . . So this is a lot more fun for me, and I get to fuck around a lot more . . . live my life and not really worry.”

Although the announcement that Liddell and Ortiz would coach season 11 and subsequently face each other in a third match was met by many MMA fans with anti-climactic disappointment, Epstein is one of the vocal enthusiasts for the match, believing that this will be the opportunity for Liddell to reinvent himself as a ground specialist.

“I’m training him 3-4 days a week. He flies down to train with me. That makes me feel good about myself. That that guy trusts me that much. . . Which is why I want him to submit Tito immediately. I want Tito to be taking him down, he sprawls . . . smash, choke him the fuck out. That’ll be his first submission ever in his professional [fight career].”

This will be the second 10th Planet / Legends MMA member to coach on “The Ultimate Fighter,” as Chris Reilly served as striking coach for Team Rampage on season seven (Quinton Jackson vs. Forrest Griffin).

Best of luck to Einstein and Team Liddell.