Photo: David M Singer, MMA on Tap
This past Saturday was BodogFight’s first event in the United States. I took the trip to Sovereign Bank Arena in Trenton, NJ to check it out.
If you’ve tuned into BodogFight on Ion Television, you know it goes through a full round of production before airing. Many camera angles, splashy backgrounds and a full round of editing.
I wondered how this event would be live. Ten fights in one night. A good-sized card taking place with no chance for edits or MTV-style cuts.
The arena is home to the Trenton Devils (formerly Trenton Titans) of the ECHL. It's AA hockey, and the arena is the appropriate size, holding about 8100. There weren't a large number in attendance, but they were vocal, and it didn't take long to figure out that most were there to see Eddie Alvarez, a hometown favorite from Philadelphia. Not Alvarez vs Matt Lee, but Alvarez vs anyone. That night, Matt Lee was playing the role of Iron Sheik, whether he wanted to or not.
Those that were there were loud and not afraid to heckle. If the action slowed or one fighter appeared to be domestic and another foreign, you heard about it (even if it wasn't accurate). Hey, it's Jersey.
The original plan was for John to live blog the event and I would take the role of photographer. As I mentioned in the setup post, we had to deal with an unfortunate incident and John was unable to make the event. Planning on taking over the live blogging, I sat in the press rows. Realizing I'd rather get the shots, I moved to the photographers area after the third fight. There was a good amount of press there, a lot of it web-based. The photographer area was crowded and we switched off being at ringside, usually round-by-round.
The first three fights were pretty good. The initial bout was David Love vs Eben Oroz. It was pretty even, and ended with Love taking a win by split decision.
The next two fights were a bit more explosive. Mark Burch came into the ring against Yoshiki Takahashi with an obvious size advantage. This was a rematch after the previous fight between the two was declared a no contest after Takahashi took a finger in the eye just a minute into the bout. Burch came out looking to wallop Takahashi and a few minutes into the fight Takahashi was down on the canvas for good.
Chael Sonnen was matched up against Amar Suloev in the third fight of the evening. Sonnen looked good, very good. His TKO victory seemed inevitable shortly into the fight.
This one looked like it was going Yves Edwards' way through most of the fight. Jorge Masvidal wound up winning mid-way through the second. When you're on your feet, which they were much of the fight, it's always anyone's game. Masvidal wound up down on the canvas longer than Edwards. It looked like he hurt his ankle, and he hobbled out of the ring.
Branden Lee Hinkle's game here was the take down, plain and simple. Roman Zentsov just couldn't come up with anything to counter Hinkle's ground strategy. The crowd wasn't happy about Hinkle's gameplan either, repeatedly booing. Hinkle took the decision.
Trevor Prangley vs Yuki Kondo was an entertaining fight. Prangley was looking to end the fight with a bang and Kondo was looking to get Prangley to submit. Prangley's blows started to take their toll on Kondo, who had a nice gash above his right eye. After the second round, the doctor called a stop to the contest resulting in a TKO victory for Prangley, and a new BodogFight middleweight belt.
Hey, a real intro! Dan Hawley had a crazy video intro. Looked like he was doing some praying mantis thing, but it reminded me more of hamster style. Hawley wound up giving the crowd to Blair Tugman because of it, but I don't think he cared. It was a ground-heavy match that was very even. Tugman went all-out with about 30 seconds left and it sealed a decision for him.
Nick Agallar and James Jones put on a good show. Back and forth, up and down, this fight was all over the place. Agallar walked away with the second split decision of the night.
The only women's fight of the night was another title bout. Undefeated Kelly Kobold took on hometown favorite Tara LaRosa. Kobold repeatedly pushed forward, punching, but LaRosa would take her down and had a very good ground game. Any lull in the action got a reaction from the crowd, but there wasn't much of that. The five-round title fight made it to the fourth before LaRosa pulled off an armbar, and we had our second champ. This was the only submission win of the night.
The big one. Going into the ring, the crowd treated Matt Lee like Lex Luthor and Eddie Alvarez as Superman. The light crowd was at its loudest and the arena had just the feel you want for a fight night. Alvarez came out strong, feeding off of the crowd's energy. Alvarez was definitely feeding Lee some good shots as they fought continuously through the first two rounds. I kept waiting for Lee to go down, but not only did it not happen, but he seemed to get stronger as the fight went on. Although the third round was very even, the decision going to Alvarez was never in doubt. Current champ Nick Thompson went into the ring afterwards and it seems like we'll get an Alvarez-Thompson title fight in the future. It was difficult to hear what anyone was saying though.
BodogFight was there to produce a tv show. That was very apparent, very early. The pace was slow and ten fights turned into a long night, especially when it felt like someone turned off the a/c in the arena hours early.
The sound system was fuzzy at best. As I mentioned above, Thompson got into the ring and they were talking, but I have no idea what they were saying. There were some other interviews done, but again, no reporting on those either.
The slowness of it all led to the crowd getting very restless and angry at times. You can't blame Bodog for what they'd yell, but if the crowd was catered to just a little more, they might have been in a better mood. Waiting 5+ hours to see the main event is a long time.
However, everyone I spoke with there was very nice. The Bodog crew was very friendly, one of the refs was a very cool dude who wasn't afraid to give his opinion of the fights taking place and one of my fellow photographers, from bloodyknux.com, was also a good guy to boot (and just a subway ride away in Queens).
The fights themselves weren't bad at all. I might have re-ordered them, but you never know how they'll turn out.
Not a bad night, and I think BodogFight has potential for other shows in the States (and Canada) if they cater more to the crowd and leave more of the production to the editing room later on.
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