The Cage (via LPByrne)
I'm surrounded by the smell of tiger balm and vast humans who look at me as if they're trying to decide whether squashing or throwing me would be the best course of action, though thankfully they choose neither. When I originally arrived cage side I had the intention of maintaining a stoic demeanour and keeping a low profile, after all I'm basically an interloper here. Or at least not present in an official capacity, yet I've been allowed near the action because I waved my DSLR around and did my best to give the impression otherwise.
So for a minute I shake the feeling of being a mild charlatan and get caught up in the moment. The Brazilian crowd's energy and enthusiasm have worked their way in and make for a heady blend when combined with the visceral excitement of being right next to the action. I find myself bellowing along with the crowd at a rather odd call made by the judges. Only my exclamations are in English and they attract the afore mentioned quizzical looks.
Despite the crowd numbering only in the hundreds, such congregations of Brazilian fans certainly imbue sporting events with a good deal of raucousness. Their overall knowledge of the goings on in the cage is matched only by the resoluteness with which they support their own. Nor is it a crowd entirely composed of men with shaved heads, it's instead a seemingly even distribution of men and women of varying age groups. Together they exude an infectious energy which distracts me from my objective of attempting to grab a few photos; after all it's more difficult to enjoy the action through a 50mm field of view.
As I arrived at the Muay Thai and MMA event here at Academia Striker's House in Curitiba, I was slightly bemused at the price of admission, it's by no means a large event, but it's a big card with both amateur and professional fighters. As the price tag came in at a less than hefty twelve dollars, my hopes of seeing some technical displays of martial arts were somewhat dampened. From previous experience I knew that paying a similar (price adjusted) amount in England would most likely lead to you watching some less than stellar fights and potentially clumsy brawls.
I quickly found that my fears were misplaced. Although the venue bore some of the standard tropes of such events; overly bass heavy sound, slightly unhappy looking ring girls and cheap fold out chairs were all present here, my concerns quickly gave way as the undercard started. The fighters on this section of the card were all amateur, but they turned up looking grim, focused and in shape.
Pre Fight (via LPByrne)
The first two fights were female Muay Thai bouts; the competitors took the octagon with a startling display of proficiency and savagery that continued throughout the undercard. Even at this early stage of the event, clean striking, violent exchanges and ambitiously dramatic kicks were on display.
The men's bouts were a mix of tidy strikes and Wandy-esque flurries, perhaps it was just my proximity, but it seemed that every competitor prowled into the cage with the genuine and firm intention of sending their opponent straight to sleep. Indeed as proceedings advanced and the fighters got heavier, the bouts got shorter. I was not surprised to see that by the fifth amateur fight there was a clean knockout less than two minutes in, full headgear and shin guards notwishstanding.
The undercard came to a close with two amateur MMA matches. The fighters were trim looking light weights who wasted no time in taking the fights to the ground. After seven striking battles I thought it would make a nice change of pace to see some Brazilian MMA and maybe some extended grappling matches, however it was not to be.
It seemed that at this event at least, the rules for amateurs were no different to those used for the pro bouts, the only visible distinction being that the former wore head gear. As the fights hit the canvas the amateurs were allowed to throw strikes to the head and body as per a regular MMA bout. It proved to be too much for one fighter who tapped as his opponent took his back and unleashed a a barrage of ground and pound just over a minute into the first round.
The second contest went a similar way; it differed only in that the ground and pound was used to set up a slick submission, The total time of the two fights together was less than three minutes.
Grapple (via LPByrne)
After a short pause the main card kicked off with an impressive three round Muay Thai bout in which a man with the (perhaps unfortunate) namesake of ‘Anderson Silva' battled with the clear crowd favourite Maximiliano Lima. The fight was an exciting back and forth affair which saw Maximiliano recovering from a first round knockdown to seemingly, in the eyes of the crowd at least, do enough to earn the victory.
As the judges call for a fourth, I find myself voicing my displeasure with the rest of the spectators. At this distance I can the see the bemused look in Lima's face (pictured below). His coaches were already celebrating the win, but instead they file out of the cage, their heads hung low, as the fighters limber up for a final five minutes. Lima looks tired but shrugs off the fatigue and comes out blazing. It's a blistering fourth round where Lima knocks Anderson Silva around the cage and earns the judges' nod (not a sentence I thought I'd be writing any time soon). As the round and fight come to a close I notice that I've forgotten to even raise the camera to my eye.
One More Round (via LPByrne)
Are you ready? (via LPByrne)
With the exception of the co-main event, the last four fights on the card are all professional MMA bouts. It's possible however that they are slight mismatches as none of the bouts last longer than a few minutes. Each contest sports a fighter whose physique wouldn't look out of place in the UFC, and another who seems a little more relaxed in their attitude towards strength and conditioning. Subsequently in each matchup it's the more powerful looking fighter who runs through his opponent. All three bouts finish on the canvas, one by submission, the other two by crushing ground and pound.
The co-main event is falsely announced as a welterweight match taking place at 77kg, but the two fighters who rumble out are clearly heavyweights. Cleiton Macieski , a fighter representing the gym in which the event is held, stomps into the cage on elephantine legs to thunderous applause from the home crowd. His opponent Leandro Alves is also imposing, but doesn't quite look like his head is in the game.
As the action gets underway the fighters quickly start trading some heavy leather. The slaps and concussive thuds that heavy weight hits carry with them are almost difficult to watch from this vantage point and I find myself wincing through my camera's viewfinder.
The fighters and coaches around me bawl advice that sounds something along the lines of 'hit him!' and Macieski obliges by smashing Alves over with a highlight reel knockout in under three minutes. The decisive shot is a punishing right hook that causes Alves to topple like a felled tree. As his head bounces off the canvas the crowd bellows their approval. I must confess that from only a afew feet away it's an unsettling sight. Thankfully Alves is quickly up and walking again, within moments he seems fully recovered.
KO (via LPByrne)
I manage to get a couple of snaps before the jostling and bear hugs of the mountainous men surrounding me make it impossible take any further pictures. It gives me a moment to consider that all in all, it's been a pretty well spent twelve dollars.
I've posted the other shots of the event below, I've noticed that they can lose some of their impact when shrunk down to the size that bloodyelbow's fanpost editor demands, so for larger and colour versions of the pictures please feel free to check out my flickr photostream. From now on I'll also be posting such write ups and pictures on twitter, so if you have a moment please follow me @LPByrne84.
Suiting Up (via LPByrne)
Body Kick (via LPByrne)
Uppercut (via LPByrne)
Duck and Weave (via LPByrne)
Duck and Weave 2 (via LPByrne)
Exchange (via LPByrne)
Exchange 2 (via LPByrne)
Check (via LPByrne)
What am I doing here? (via LPByrne)
GnP (via LPByrne)
Pre Fight 2 (via LPByrne)
GnP2 (via LPByrne)
The Trip (via LPByrne)
Victory (via LPByrne)