On the first Tuesday conditioning session I have made it to at
Full Circle in almost a year (with the intention of participating I
mean), James Bergstrom asked if the few guys who showed up wanted
to focus on wrestling. This was a smaller crew than I was used to
seeing on Tuesdays, and I was a bit surprised at first. R.J. Hoyt
and Dustin Praxedes were originally going to accompany me, but Hoyt
is a pipe-fitter at the shipyard, and doesn’t have it all that easy
as far as his schedule goes. Dustin, after a win against Brad Pole
at last Saturday’s Point Casino “Pummel at the Point”, was probably
exhausted from the adrenaline coursing through his veins for nearly
a week. “This is usually how it rolls the week right after fights,”
As for myself, I had been humbled into rethinking my approach to MMA.
I had seen the footage of my bout with Holcomb, and could now identify a handful of things I had done seriously wrong, even from an outsider’s perspective. Tilting my head away as punches came, hesitating after any solid strike, allowing kicking space, failing to throw a right of any sort that landed. I also realized I know nothing about wrestling. I needed a crash course to satisfy my curiosity. Bergstrom was happy to hear that I was up for it, no doubt wanting to have fun as well.
We warm up, to what Bergstrom and his crew must consider warming up, and what I consider a full workout. I was thrilled that I made it through without wanting to die, which if I still smoked cigarettes, I am sure I would have.
Will Montgomery walks in just as the wrestling lessons and activities begin. Montgomery’s fight against Steve Wing of Red Neck Militia, Oregon, was the bout which landed me a published review in Northwest Fightscene Magazine. It was a nail-biter, which could have gone in quite a few different directions throughout rounds. Since then, I have not seen Montgomery fight, but I have seen Wing in a grappling match which he had won. I have an idea of what these two are capable of.
When it comes to the wrestling aspect of cage fighting, I’m clueless.
Bobby Lawrence and Bergstrom give a fellow newbie and I some basic instructions for breaking away from a leg grip which I am still confused about, and maneuvering so that we might eventually end up with our arms locked favorably around our opponent. This is all fun at first, but when Bergstrom sees one of my attempts at mounting for a submission strike… “You look like a pregnant seal trying to dock itself,” he says. I can laugh about this, because it really wasn’t meant as a “fat-joke”, but even if it was, it was a pretty accurate statement. In the grand scheme of all my endeavors with Rougheart MMA Journal, one of my largest irritations is my lack of knowledge about wrestling. After last Tuesday, I can safely say that higher on my list of irritations is that wrastlin aint easy. At least not as easy as it looks.
Bergstrom curled me into a few common positions, and even got me with the “tickle me Elmo” submission. “Yeah, we don’t tap to the tickle me Elmo submission,” he explains, driving his fingers into my armpit as I am unable to escape. This was the most exercise I think that my abdominal muscles have ever had. Trying to escape from these positions seemed close to impossible to me, and the technical knowledge is weighty. Not as simple to write about as Joe punching Sam in the face with a left, and Sam kicking Joe in the ribs with a right. This involves reflective strategy, much like that required in a game of chess.
Bergstrom pits me against a 185’er named Matt, who looks a bit like Zangief from the video game “Streetfighter”. I have a hard time believing him when he tells me his weight-class. I think of Skyscraper Struve, the tallest fighter in the UFC right now, but sporting an over-sized beard. Matt thrashes me around like a rag-doll, and isn’t as friendly as Bergstrom when it comes to pinning someone down. My jaw is still a bit bruised from where he pushed the top of his head down on me against the gym mats. The only reason I didn’t tap at that point was because I couldn’t move my arms. At first, I was actually tapping my own torso, thinking “I know I give up!”
Then I was happy to be pitted against Will Montgomery, who I introduced myself to, and explained why he was one of my favorite fighters in the Northwest. Here is the review I wrote for Northwest Fightscene with him as the main event:
Montgomery, like Matt earlier, also had the courtesy of not going easy on a newcomer. Like a boa constrictor, Montgomery found ways of bending my body until I felt like whimpering. I wanted to tap at one point when he had turned his entire body around to grab one of my legs while he pretty much used my face as a stool. The final position I ended up in would have been morbidly painful if he was in a serious competition and intended forcing someone to submit. I lay down looking up at the ceiling after our session was over, understanding now that there was just one more part of this MMA gig that I needed to get to the bottom of.
Wrestling, and grappling skills in general, can obviously turn a cagefighter into even more of a threat in the cage. If you land down on the mats when you had been hoping for a good stand-up fight, and have your face squashed under Will Montgomery while he ties your legs in knots at your knees and ankles, that could be the end of your bout, easily.
Bobby Lawrence mentioned Landon Showalter’s Arlington Submission Challenge to me, and suggested I should accompany them. I’m taking him up on the challenge, and will be running a feature on it in January. I need the knowledge.