Saturday Night Fights V: Continuing the MMA Tradition in Saskatchewan
Saturday Night Fights V took place this past Saturday and once again treated Saskatchewan MMA fans to some of the best mixed martial arts action that they have viewed all year.
The next five slides are a collection of some of the best bouts of the night and highlight some of Saskatchewan’s best MMA talent.
Although the event did have its ups and downs, the final showing was strong for SNF, which has emerged as Saskatchewan’s premier mixed martial arts promotion.
If you missed the bouts on Saturday, please use this as a means of reliving the experience through the eyes of a spectator. There was controversy, excitement, skill and blood. Saturday Night Fights V was another example of why MMA fans should take the time to view fights live.
*Unless otherwise noted, all quotes were acquired by Bleacher Report contributor Dietrich Neu.
Evan Isbester (0-0-1) vs. Cory Chambers (0-2-1)
The first bout of the evening involved Team Ring Shark prospect Cory Chambers (0-2-1) against Evan Isbester (0-0-1), who is a student of Legends BJJ, an affiliate of Regina’s Complete Martial Arts and Fitness.
In a match that would turn out to be a back and forth battle, the first bout of the evening set the tone for the rest of the night. The bout was indeed so close that one judged scored it a draw.
In the first round, both men attempted to gauge the distance and feel each other out while circling around the outside of the ring. Eventually, Chambers began to achieve limited success landing kicks to the body and legs.
Early in the opening round, Chambers attempted to take Isbester to the mat but was stuffed, and eventually relinquished his effort as Isbester capitalized on the situation and aggressively took side-control.
After both men spent some time struggling for positioning on the ground, Isbester eventually made his way to the full mount as the crowd cheered in approval for the Prince Albert product. While Isbester did attempt to do damage from the mount, most of his time was spent maintaining the position as Chambers was anxiously trying to escape and lock up Isbester’s body to prevent him from posturing up and throwing shots.
Chambers’ effort was not in vain, as he was able to wiggle his way into half-guard without taking tremendous damage from Isbester. From there, both men struggled to improve their respective positions on the ground.
The fight began to pick up midway through the first round when Isbester attempted to regain the mount, but was reversed by Chambers, who now found himself in the dominant mount position ready to do damage, which he did. Chambers began to blast Isbester with punch after punch on the bottom. The ring trembled as shots would land and the cheers from the crowd began to intensify.
Realizing the danger of the situation, Isbester eventually managed to force Chambers off him and move to side control. From side control, the struggle continued and Isbester eventually managed almost to lock up a triangle from the bottom. The two athletes struggled in the position for some time, with Isbester attempting to tighten the choke, and Chambers desperately trying to escape.
The cheers from the crowd turned into all out mayhem as Isbester attempted a Kimura on top of the triangle choke that he had already applied. At this point, fans were standing and cheering in applause as the fight appeared to be near its end. Isbester noted that attempting submissions was more difficult than he expected.
“In the gym it is easier because guys are not as sweaty,” he said. “I thought that I had it, but I was not prepared for the greasiness, it was really, really slippery.”
However, Chambers managed to escape what looked to be a fight ending submission, and, after a scramble, Chambers found himself in the top position, and proceeded to throw heavy shots downwards at Isbester as the crowd roared in approval.
Although Isbester appeared to be in a fair amount of trouble, he managed to mitigate the problem by attempting another Kimura from the bottom, which prevented Chambers from continuing his assault.
Right before the end of the round, Isbester managed to use his submission attempt to reverse Chambers and regain the top position as the bell sounded. The crowd was left buzzing as the two fighters walked to their respective corners.
The second stanza, despite being another back and forth round, was a little more decisive than the first.
After the opening bell, both fighters were cautious and took their time to look for openings to engage. Chambers was the more active of the two on the feet, attempting several kicks to the body and head. Eventually, Chambers managed to catch one of Isbester’s body kicks and take him to the mat.
From there, Chambers primarily focused on maintaining the position and avoiding the continuous submission attempts from Isbester on the bottom. Chambers did manage to land some power shots on Isbester in an attempt to flog the submission barrage, but he eventually lost the position, as Isbester was able to sweep him from the bottom and gain full mount.
Isbester’s time in the dominant position was limited, however. Chambers managed to pull off a reversal from the bottom and initiate a scramble that ended with Chambers lifting Isbester up and slamming him to the mat before things settled down in full guard.
From there it was more of the same, Chambers would attempt to land power punches while Isbester looked for submissions and came very close to sinking in a Gogoplata.
After the action on the ground stalled, the referee instructed both fighters to stand up. While on the feet, both men swung wildly and threw a couple of head kicks to mix things up. Neither fighter landed any significant shots, but Chambers was eventually able to catch one of Isbester’s kicks and take the fight to the ground once again.
While on the ground, Isbester attempted more submissions while Chambers struggled to avoid the oncoming assault.
When the final bell rang, it appeared that the fight was going to be a tie. It looked as if Isbester had won the first round, and Chambers had won the second round in a closely contested match.
However, upon receiving the scorecards, several of the judges at ringside had an unusually long discussion regarding the results. Afterwards it was announced that Isbester had actually won a split-decision and picked up the first win of his career.
Isbester was humble and fatigued in the dressing room post-fight as he reflected on his first ever amateur bout.
“I’m never eating soup before a fight again,” he laughed, as he referred to losing his lunch in the locker room after the bout.
It was really slippery out there when we started rolling. It is a lot harder than you think. The only way you can train for this is by actually going in the ring and finding out for yourself. It took a lot of hard work and dedication. I have a good group of guys to train with at Legends.
As Isbester revealed in his post-fight interview, his game plan was more aggressive in nature.
“We wanted to do everything intelligently,” he said. “But I also wanted to make sure that I didn’t back to far away from him, because we felt that he could charge at me if I did that. Takedowns weren’t the focus of the game plan, but I was told to use them if I needed to.”
When asked about his plans in the sport, Isbester’s answer was concise: “More fights, more training.”
*Due to an error is reading the judge's scorecards, this fight has been declared a draw.
Justin Sander (2-0) vs. Ryan Starkell (1-1)
The next Regina product to take the stage was Justin Sander (2-0) out of Complete Martial Arts and Fitness, who took on Ryan Starkell (1-1) in what turned out to be one of the more thrilling fights of the night.
As Sander walked to the ring, the hometown fans at the Turvey Centre stood on their feet and cheered for the Regina prospect as he made his way to the ring. They would not be disappointed.
After the opening bell, Starkell aggressively moved forward and attacked with wild punches. Seeing an opening, and admittedly succumbing to his emotions, Sander immediately shot in for a takedown and forced Starkell to the mat.
“If I had to do something differently, I would say I need to calm down in there,” Sander said post-fight. “I wanted to keep it standing, but when I got in there I just got mad. I just saw him there and I thought, ‘get him.’”
Starkell did manage to pull Sander into his guard, but unfortunately for Starkell, Sander just used that as an opportunity to throw heavy punches and do damage. In the effort of self-preservation, Starkell began to hold Sander’s head and attempted several times to perform reversals.
However, his attempts were in vain as Sander was able to escape each time and landed some heavy punches from the top in the process. The crowd at the Turvey Centre roared with excitement every time Sander would land a crushing blow.
Looking to end the fight quickly, Sander passed the guard and moved to side-control. From there, he almost immediately attempted a Kimura submission, but Starkell escaped the attempt. Unfazed by his failed submission attempt, Sander quickly moved from side control to the north-south position, then back to side control, and eventually took the mount.
From the mount, it was all Sander, who rained down punch after punch on the bewildered Starkell. Virtually every spectator in the arena jumped to their feet as it seemed that the end of the fight was near.
In one last attempt to save himself, Starkell rolled over to protect his face. This exposed his neck, providing an opportunity for Sander to lock in a rear-naked choke and finish the fight midway through the first round.
With the win, Sander improves to 2-0, and does so in exciting fashion in front of his home crowd.
“You have to feed off the crowd to some extent,” Sander said in a post-fight interview. “But you can’t let it consume you, you can let it control the tempo of the fight. You have to stick to your game plan and set your own pace.
“Because if you listen to the crowd you are just going to stand in the middle of the ring and slug it out,” he laughed.
The future certainly looks bright for Sander, who thanked his sponsor To-D-Dump Hauling, and said that his future plans are simply to get more experience fighting and continue to improve his fighting skills.
Sam King (2-0) vs. Adam Zarrillo (1-1)
After an exciting fight from Sander, MMA fans at the Turvey Centre were treated to yet another thrilling bout. In what might have been the most anticipated fight on the entire Saturday Night Fights V card, Sam King (2-0) squared off against Adam Zarrillo (1-1).
Coming off an exciting knockout win at Saturday Night Fights IV, one that could easily be considered knockout of the year in Saskatchewan, there were a lot of eyes on King, who was looking to lock up the second win of his career.
King, who looked like he had put on some size since his last bout, made quick work of the clearly overmatched Zarrillo.
In the opening moments, Zarrillo attempted several leg and body kicks with little success. King quickly went for a takedown, and succeeded in bringing the fight to the canvas.
Almost immediately after getting the fight to the ground, King grabbed a hold of Zarrillo and elevated him in the air. As Zarrillo rose in the air, the crowd went silent as they waited for the slam. King then smashed Zarrillo on the floor as the crowd went nuts and the ring trembled.
As a decorated wrestler in high school, King views his wrestling abilities as one of the staples of his game.
“In high school I was a very decorated wrestler,” he said.
I had great coaches all throughout high school in wrestling, and it has really stuck with me throughout my career. When I used to wrestle, I was used to be wrestling guys much heavier than myself. When I went to nationals, I was wrestling guys who were nine kilos heavier than I was. It has really helped me a lot as I developed as a fighter, It really stuck with me.
After the ring-rattling slam, King found himself in side-control. Zarrillo applied a headlock to prevent King from moving to mount. However, this defense would prove to be unsustainable.
Eventually, King stepped over Zarrillo’s body and moved into full mount. To prevent an onslaught of punches, Zarrillo turned to his back, allowing King to wrap up a rear-naked choke that eventually finished the fight.
The crowd at the Turvey Centre was left buzzing after the quick submission win by the hometown prospect who has now improved to 2-0.
“I feel great,” King said in his post-fight interview. “I cut a lot of weight. I trained really hard for this fight and it paid off.”
King admitted that he really didn’t do a whole lot of research on his opponent, and that he was more focused on implementing his own game plan.
“I didn’t really watch any film on him,” he said. “I just knew my game plan, and that was to hit him a couple of times, take him down, and tap him out. That was a game plan, and I executed it just the way we wanted. I know my coach is happy with it, and I’m very happy with my performance tonight.”
Despite his massive KO at SNF IV, the young prospect said he wasn’t looking for a knockout this go around.
“It’s a fight,” he said. “Grappling is where my strength is, that is where I wanted to take the fight, but if I had to stand, then I would have stood with him for sure.”
The future appears bright for King, who is now 2-0 and is simply looking to keep his career moving forward. He said, “I’m just going to keep training. I’ll be back in the gym on Monday.”
Co-Main Event: Kevin Camara (1-0) vs. Tyler Siwak (3-1)
The night’s co-main event saw the experienced Team Ring Shark prospect, Tyler Siwak (3-1), face off against London, Ontario product Kevin Camara (1-0), fighting out of Adrenaline Training Centre.
Although this was Camara’s first competitive bout, it would not have been obvious by his skills in the ring. While he was facing a much more experienced and aggressive fighter, Camara was clam and collected.
The opening moments of the fight saw both fighters exchange blows. Siwak would attack aggressively and seemed to be looking to end the fight early with heavy punches. Camara stayed clam in the pocket and used good movement to avoid the oncoming attack and set up shots of his own.
About a minute into the opening round, Camara attempted a takedown, but was stuffed by Siwak, who promptly used the opportunity to sprawl and take a crack at a guillotine choke. However, after several moments of struggling, Camara escaped the choke and managed to swing to his back.
Form there, Camara was able to land a solid up-kick from the bottom that stifled any attempts Siwak could make to enter the guard. Eventually the referee ordered the fighters to their feet.
Almost immediately after the fight resumed, Camara landed a beautiful switch head kick that should have rocked Siwak. However, the Team Ring Shark product was impressively unfazed by the crunching blow and proceeded to wrap up Camara in the clinch and force him to the corner of the ring.
“I wasn’t discouraged,” Camara said in a post-fight interview. “I knew he was a tough guy, and he had a huge neck, so he would be able to take some shots.”
Inside the clinch, Siwak made several attempts to take the fight to the floor, but was having little success. Siwak did land some solid elbows from the clinch in an attempt to soften up Camara’s takedown defense, but these attacks proved futile as Camara’s defense of the takedowns remained strong.
As Siwak put more effort into securing a takedown, he began to drop his head. This would prove to be the beginning of the end.
With Siwak’s head low, Camara sunk in a tight guillotine choke and aggressively looked to end the fight. Siwak now found himself on the defensive as both fighters struggled to improve their situation.
While this battle for positioning lasted for quite a while, it was Camara who came out on top, forcing Siwak to the ground and tightening the submission hold, which eventually forced Siwak to tap out.
It was the first loss of Siwak’s career, and the first ever win for Camara.
Camara expressed surprise in the locker-room post fight. “I feel pretty good,” he said. “I didn’t think the fight would go the way it did. I think he gassed really quick. I could feel him huffing and puffing in the corner, I saw his neck open and took the choke. That’s what I do.”
According to Camara, although he was inexperienced, his coaching and training partners did an excellent job of getting him ready for the fight.
“I train with some of the best guys,” he said. “I felt that there was nothing he could throw at me that I had not seen before. I just needed to keep my shoulders loose and relaxed, and he wouldn’t be able to handle what I was bringing.”
“I train with the best guys around, we train everything," Camara continued. "I felt that I didn’t want to wrestle with him, because I wasn’t sure that my conditioning would hold up, but I felt like I was ready for anything.”
As for his future in the sport, Camara stated that he wants to continue fighting in all disciplines and continue sharpening his skills, saying, “This is what I do.”
Main Event: Paul Grebinski (3-1) vs. Leeroy Johnson (1-0)
The night's main event featured noted Regina fighter, Paul Grebinski (3-1), and Ontario newcomer Leeroy Johnson (1-0), who was making his mixed martial arts debut.
Grebinski, a product of Regina’s Complete Martial Arts and Fitness, was clearly the crowd favourite. As he walked towards the ring, virtually everyone in the crowd stood up and applauded as they prepared to watch the main event, and indeed, the biggest draw of the entire card.
However, Grebinski had his work cut out for him. His opponent, Johnson, was a mammoth fighter with years of boxing experience. Reports indicate that Johnson cut weight from 285 pounds to make the 265 pound heavyweight limit. Grebinski, on the other hand, weighed in at 250 and didn’t need to cut a single pound.
As the opening bell rang, Johnson immediately attempted to establish his presence in the stand-up game, taking the center of the ring and utilizing frequent jabs to keep Grebinski at bay. Grebinski, who is also known as “The Doctor,” spent the better part of the past year working with the University of Regina wrestling team while attending his classes.
Understandably, Grebinski looked to capitalize on his wrestling advantage by shooting early in the round for a quick single-leg takedown. However, it became evident right away that Johnson had worked extensively on his own ground game. Despite fighting for the first time inside the ring, Johnson appeared well trained, and well prepared for the rapid takedowns of “The Doctor.”
As Grebinski shot in for his first takedown attempt, Johnson quickly sprawled and halted the attack while simultaneously attempting a guillotine choke of his own. Although the choke was unsuccessful, Johnson was able to land some punches before the fighters scrambled back to their feet.
While on the feet, the fight began to develop a constant theme. Johnson would land powerful jabs as Grebinski would back away. Johnson’s accuracy was good as he would utilize his long reach to catch Grebinski as he circled around the outside of the ring.
Grebinski once again attempted a takedown, and again it was stuffed by the sprawl of Johnson. At this point the strength and size disparities became apparent as it seemed Grebinski simply could not move Johnson on the ground. Eventually, the fight once again made it back to the feet.
Johnson began to take over the fight after Grebinski’s second takedown attempt. He aggressively moved forward, attacking with jabs and straights, while Grebinski moved quickly around the outside of the ring trying to avoid the oncoming attack and find an opening for another takedown.
Johnson appeared ready for this and was able to cut off the ring and land punch after punch on the hometown favourite. By this point, Grebinski’s face was visibly damaged as parts of his face started to become discoloured and blood began to leak from his nose.
Sensing that he needed to act quickly, Grebinski shot in for yet another takedown, which was stuffed by Johnson. This time, Johnson applied some weight to Grebinski and held him in place. From there, Johnson was able to take Grebinski’s back and attempt a choke.
While “The Doctor” was able to thwart the submission attempt, he had to roll over to do so, exposing his face. Johnson began to rain down power punches, one after another. Grebinski was having a very difficult time stopping the attack and was taking heavy damage. As Johnson continued to land power punches and maintain his position, the referee had apparently seen enough and stopped the fight.
For Grebinski, it was the first loss of his career, and it was the first win for Johnson.
The win meant that Adrenaline Training Centre won all their fights, going 2-0. There were loud cheers and applause in their locker room post-fight, as the team chanted, “Into the lions den, and out with the mane we come!”
“I feel great,” Johnson said during his post fight interview. “We are from out of town, no one likes us, but by the time we left everyone was cheering for us. That’s basically what we where looking for and what that phrase means.”
Johnson told reporters that he was well prepared for his bout with Grebinski, and had done some homework on him before making the long trip to Saskatchewan.
“I trained hard for this fight,” he said. “I knew he was a wrestler. I worked on my sprawling and takedown defense, and it paid off.”
“Our plan was to keep him at a distance and use my boxing. And if he came in at me, I wasn’t going to let him take me down, I wanted to sprawl and brawl.”
According to the young Ontario fighter, he couldn’t have followed his game plan any better.
“There’s nothing I would have changed,” he said. “We wanted to keep him at the end of my punches, and that is what we did. We knew that if we got him in trouble he would go back to his bread and butter, and that is exactly what he did, and I was ready for it.”
As for his future plans in the sport, Johnson aims at turning pro after his fifth amateur bout, no matter what his record is. If he continues performing like he did at Saturday Night Fights, it is likely that record will be quite good.