Special to Bloody Elbow by Jim Genia.
It was right around the third nose-smashing suplex - a brutal but spectacular move that left the white canvas stained with blood - that it became clear this night was going to be a fun one. And why wouldn't it be? As the first-ever event to bring MMA fights to the hallowed halls of Madison Square Garden, Victory Combat Sports had managed to assemble a card of the best and most promising of New York City's aspiring fighters. Never mind that the 1997 ban on the sport left pro fighters across the state stuck on the outside looking in, or that Zuffa's lawsuit against New York had forced the State Attorney General to admit in 2012 that amateur MMA was legal, thus making for a scene that was just shy of three years old. Tonight - Friday, November 21 - history was being made, and fighters from every corner of the Big Apple wanted in. And they brought their family, friends, and seemingly everyone else they could to cheer for them.
The crowd screamed and howled for Thomas Doyle and Mike Kelly, the opening bout of the evening on a card that featured nine MMA fights and 11 of the Muay Thai variety. After Doyle secured rear naked choke and won via tap out early in the first round, they screamed and howled even more.
But the aforementioned suplexes and blood, courtesy of 2012 Olympic wrestler Ibrahim Farag and the unwilling nose of Renzo Gracie-trained Chris Borders, made them crazier. Farag took his foe down at will and tossed around like a rag doll, and battered him with fists to the face and knees to the body in an onslaught that would've gotten MMA banned in the late ‘90s for sure if the UFC and Extreme Fighting hadn't done the job. Borders showed a world of heart, but when you spray the ringside photographers with blood, heart usually won't be enough to win the fight.
"Oh my God, this is amazing!" yelled an audience member at the violence.
The hits kept on coming.
For Chike Obi, a Brooklynite with a penchant for shameless self-promotion but a knack for backing it up, that hit came in the form of a stunning jab that caught his kickboxer opponent off guard. They had, until that point, been grappling throughout the first two rounds of their skirmish, so the sudden knockout left everyone pleased - Obi especially.
As the reigning champ of another New York City-based MMA promotion, Katalina Morales had already established herself as one of the best - if not the best - female fighter in all the Five Boroughs. Her performance at Victory VII only further cemented that notion.
Taking on Krav Maga specialist Victoria Marakova, "Kat" did her best Ronda Rousey imitation, eliciting the tap out after much scrambling.
The kickboxing bouts didn't disappoint when it came to thrills and action, but since Madison Square Garden has already hosted two Muay Thai events, the evening's "shine and luster" was definitely centered around the MMA fights. Will MSG host more of them? With the official attendance of 3,872 setting a Madison Square Garden record for a combative sports event, it's a safe bet that answer is "Yes!