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A long ago night at the Underground Combat League

The Underground Combat league was such an exciting show! Undoubtedly one of the most exciting shows I’ve ever attendedparticipated in. During this show we were treated to flash knockouts, lightning fast submissions, controversy, no shows, celebrity actors, celebrity directors, hip hop music, and even some breakdancing!

It starts pretty much the same as any other UCL show. You walk into the somewhat empty location, grab a seat on the bleachers, and you wait. On this day, due to the time change, we were a bit late in starting the show. Anyway, what do you expect yo, it is the underground…!

The matches take place at any one of several gritty locations. UNDISCLOSED…!

As I observed my surroundings, I see the dirty ring, bits of the ceiling falling in all around, remnants of past fights, posters on the wall of boxing’s greats. As I make the rounds I see various cliques hanging out and socializing. I run into my former opponent, my former Sensei, various training partners and friends from throughout the years. It’ is very hot and stuffy in here. As I walk around some more, I hear lots of talk about past matches.

As time passes, and people start to arrive, I see the who’s who in NYC MMA. Most of the Underground’’s legends have come through to watch, or to support their respective team members. Others come in to work, just ask referee and MMA workhorse Andrew Montanez.


As I look around I see a gentleman walking around the floor with a rather tight, black Clinton Wrestling team sweater, red fitted jogging pants and the hood over his head. He will turn out to be one of the fighters.

It appears that we are not the only ones who are excited for a fight, as we sit there I see a cat jump into the middle of the ring. The cat is in predatory elusive mode, it looks and looks and at the first chance it runs across the ring and hides. As I look away I notice one of the fighters also looking at the cat. In his hands he is holding the book “Catcher in the Rye”. Yes ladies and gentlemen we are more than just brutes, we also read….

As we wait for the show to start, the DJ is either late or a no show. The organizers speak with UCL Vet Angel Ortiz to see if he can help. Ortiz delivers and goes home to retrieve his DJ equipment. Shortly there after the gym is flooded with hip hop, reggaeton, and a wide array of musical entertainment for the crowd. To start off the musical festivities, we were all completely caught off guard when Angel blasted some 50 Cents tunes!

angel rodriguez fight

Well without further delay, the announcer for the evening Bruce Kivo steps out and gets the show on the road. He announces the fighters and the rest is history…!

Fight 1

Jayson Rodriguez representing Team United was pitted up against Team Latin Athletic’s own Mario Pantua. This was a pretty exciting fight, it started with a few wild high kicks coming from Jayson. However, one of these wild kicks led to a slip and fall were Mario took quick advantage and went to work on ground. They spent some time on the ground, there were a few turnovers, rolls and submission attempts. For the most part I would have to say that this match was pretty much all Jayson. By the 2nd round he was getting the better of his opponent on the stand up, and except for a few moments were Mario was on the top position, Jayson also dominated the ground work. The fight ended with a bloodied and bruised up Pantua losing the decision to the more dominant Rodriguez. As is customary in our beloved sport, the 2 fighters hugged it out and shook hands in a show of class. Mad props to Mario for putting a tough fight and never giving up! Congratulations to Jayson on this tough win.

Fight 2

New Generation Karate’’s “American Freestyle Team” Andrew Ilardi against Henzo fighter Steven Kain. This was a fight in the 130pd division, damn these guys are fast. Right from the bell Andrew favored striking, but as expected from a Henzo fighter, Steven quickly took it to the ground. Not to be outclassed, Ilardi started raining down powerful elbows even as he was falling down. Staying busy, once on his back he continued striking with elbows and punches. I don’t think I’’ve ever seen so many quick strikes come from somebody’’s back. For most of the round they remained on the ground with Kane on the top position. After a few minutes of rolling Kane managed to get a rear naked choke. From the seats everyone was screaming “DON’T TAP, the round is almost up”.” Truer words have never been spoken as Ilardi was saved by the bell! Wow, that was intense!

Round 2 more or less went the same way. A little circling but before long both fighters were on the ground working for position. Each gained the top position for a few moments and there was a quick reversal of the same. Within moments Kane secured a triangle choke on Ilardi, it was a deep choke but Andrew fought hard to escape. They ended up rolling over, Ilardi’’s body was twisted in a weird position while Kane continued to apply the triangle choke from the top position. It was only a matter of time before this fight was over. Kane gets the win via triangle choke. Again amazing efforts from both fighters.

Grappling Match

This fight as was originally slated had to be cancelled due to an injury or something to that effect. So we got a grappling match of sorts. Due to the switch ups, I don’t have the names of these fighters, and they are not listed in the fight books. I do remember one of them saying “He ain’t ready.” While the other said “freak that, I’m ready.” The winner was a break dancing champ who showed us that his talents are not limited to break dancing! He’’s also pretty good at choking his opponents, and doing it very fast! The fight was won via rear naked choke in round 1.

Fight 3

Peter Storm vs. Kirkland Campbell. This fight had some standup action, some good groundwork, and overall was a pretty exciting match. Peter came out in his customary blue Gi. His opponent, as stated earlier is the gentlemen with the Clinton wrestling shirt. One can conclude that Kirkland’s background was that of a wrestler. During the fight, judging from the fact that Peter could not get or maintain top position I am convinced that this guy is a pretty good wrestler. I can personally say that it is pretty damn hard to get or keep Peter Storm on his back.

During this fight Peter spent a lot of time on his back utilizing the guard position. Storm did a pretty good job of avoiding too much damage from his back, but Campbell continually took the match to the ground. When the fighters were striking, Storm was definitely at an advantage. At one point Kirkland was hurt badly from one of Peter’’s right hooks, but he quickly shook it off and continued the ground assault.

This fight ended by a referee stoppage due to strikes. I think that exhaustion had something to do with the outcome of this fight. At the end both fighters looked completely drained. This was a good fight for both fighters and they gave it their all. A true test for both competitors.

Fight 4

Matt Montgomery vs Adam Nadler. In the outset of round 1, Adam landed some hard punches and kicks. Matt did the wise thing and tied him up. However, they were quickly broken up and the stand up match resumed. Adam landed a body kick that had Matt fall back, he immediately pounced and attacked with some vicious ground and pound. Matt survived and they got back to their feet, the rest of the first round was both fighters mostly circling and feeling each other out. Adam’s aggression seemed to slow down.Though he did taunt Matt when he attacked, and he did a little bit of showboating. Matt weathered that early storm and survived to the next round.

In the beginning of the second round they immediately tied up. Matt caught Adam with a nice knee to the leg, and moments later I saw Adam tapping on Matt’’s back signaling to the ref that he was done. Everyone was shocked, what the hell just happened? I am not clear on exactly what happened, but I think it was conditioning on Adam’s side. I heard Adam saying that he was vomiting and swallowing it, or something to that effect. “He said “the hits didn’’t hurt me, but my body was killing me”.” So, even after taking a beating, Matt won the match. This was a surprising end to a fight that based on that first round, we all thought Adam was sure to win.

Fight 5

Josh Candon out of New Generation Karate’’s “American Freestyle Team” went up against James Funaro fighting out of Vamos Jiujitsu. Both of these fighters were in spectacular shape, quite impressive in their own rights. I didn’t think that condition was going to be an issue here. However, this fight was over pretty quickly. From the outset Candon lands a shot that clearly stuns Funaro, they get into a clinch and Candon lands some dirty boxing uppercuts. Funaro intelligently decides to go for a take down. The take down ended with Candon on top and he managed to secure a full mount. He began to mercilessly rain down heavy strikes until Montanez had no choice but to step in and stop the fight.

Funaro was dazed and must not have realized that the fight was over because he continued to attack even after the fight was over. He actually grazed Candon with a shot as he attempted to fight back. He soon realized the match was over. That early hit which stunned Funaro spelled the early defeat for him, he was unable to recover fast enough after that hit.  He had a good instinctive reaction, but Candon capitalized on it.  Both of these fighters are very talented and and I firmly believe that this fight could go either way on any day of the week. I am sure Funaro will come back stronger, while Candon will continue to train just as hard. Very good showing from these 2 sportsmen.  Of course, it goes without saying, dealing with such classy men that they shook hands and made nice.  I even read on the underground forums where Funaro made a few jokes about the fight.  “At the end, Montanez asks what night is this?  Funaro replies: Fight night!”

Fight 6

The final fight was Sekou Mau Mau vs Ruben Rivera.  Sekou went to his corner, took off his shirt, gold chains and prepared to fight. Ruben and Tattoo go to the center of the ring, Ruben offers to tap gloves with his opponent, but for some reason Tattoo refuses to shake hands with Ruben. Ruben shrugs his shoulders and returns to his corner. Immediately after the bell they meet up at the center where Ruben starts to strike fast, hard, and he lands them all! Mau Mau is hit with one big shot after another, over and over! Sekou starts to drop when Ruben catches him with a swift head kick and proceeds to attack his opponent while he is on the ground. Boom, boom, shot after shot and of course Montanez steps in to protect the downed and nearly unconscious fighter. After the stoppage, Sekou gets up and wants to continue fighting. Ruben goes over to shake his hand and Sekou refuses! He paces around and screams “”I’’m still standing!””… The crowd reacts to this with “boos” and “taunts! They screams “Sore loser!”

It is not our place to judge, we don’t know if there is some history, or something going on in the background that we are unaware of. However, in this sport of MMA, a lack of sportsmanship is not well received. We all pride ourselves on accepting defeat, victory, and any other result with pride and class. The “booing” and insults came from individuals who values respect. It is not a “requirement” that we show our opponent respect, but it is the sign of respect. I believe that we should always maintain that respect in the cage or ring.

After the show I went around and shook a few hands, said some goodbyes, and headed out into the cold night.

And so ends another UCL show.

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