4/15/2008 4:06pm, #1
Bullshido Fight Report: April 15, 2008: Yamma
Bullshido Fight Report:
Yamma Pit Fighting: The Cherry or Just the Pit?
Edited By Stephen Koepfer
Written by Reilly Bodycomb and Stephen Koepfer
April 15, 2008
In this Bullshido Fight Report we take a look at the long awaited return of UFC creator Bob Meyrowitz to Mixed Martial Arts with Yamma Pit Fighting. During the last several months Meyrowitz has been aggressively promoting his new event and the impending MMA revolution it would initiate. He even attended a local NY area Sambo tournament with Oleg Taktarov to promote the show. Yamma t-shirts were everywhere! Every Sambo club in the New York/New Jersey Area got free tickets. Meyrowitz was clearly hoping the Taktarov – Sambo connection would put butts in seats.
According to Meyrowitz, the old tournament style MMA event was back with a vengeance, with a new cage (the Yamma), and with a tournament format would ensure fast paced exciting fights. I first heard about Yamma about two years ago while having lunch with Oleg Taktarov. So, this was an idea long in the making. Back then, Oleg had little detail to offer about the show except that he was working on this new event called Yamma. So, when it finally came to fruition, I was excited to see what it was all about. April 11, 2008 the Yamma revolution would begin.
Rather than a simple rundown of fights, I wanted to offer a more comprehensive look at Yamma from the diverse perspectives of a ringside ticket holder, a pay-per-view buyer, and fighters in the organization. So I enlisted Reilly Bodycomb to collaborate with me and bring you this report.
We start this piece off with Reilly’s experience as a ringside spectator and his recap of the fights. I will follow up with my added views as a PPV buyer. Lastly, I will offer some insights from Yamma insiders Oleg Taktarov, who fought Mark Kerr on the card; and Oleg Savitsky, who fought Lamont Lister on the undercard.
So let’s find out if Yamma delivered on its promises. Did we get the cherry or just the pit?
View From Ringside and Fight Recap
By Reilly Bodycomb
I received a call about three days ago from a man who said he was handing out free tickets to local Sambo clubs for the inaugural Yamma Pit Fighting event. He was targeting Sambo clubs because Oleg Taktarov and some other Sambo fighters were on the card. At first, I had no intention of taking the tickets. A few months prior I started hearing the buzz about Yamma and the super secret new surface that was going to change MMA forever. When I found out it was simply the World Combat League 'frying pan' design with a cage around it, I was disappointed. I suppose deep down I was hoping for a bed of spikes or alligators or something.
The fighters on the card seemed B-Level at best and I was not inclined to go out of my way to see the show. But, the man on the phone convinced me that it would be fun and it was free, so I told him he could drop off some tickets. So, fight night comes along and three of my students and I pack into a 2 door VW for the long trip to Atlantic City. I was starting to get excited. I had never been to Atlantic City and none of the others had ever been to a live MMA show. It was kind of cool to be a part of something that was potentially historic. We arrived at the Trump Taj Mahal about an hour before show time. The arena was less than half-packed. We had already missed the undercard bouts!
If you are not familiar with the Yamma pit, let me explain: Essentially, you have a round cage with a flat 24 x 24 canvas mat in the middle. Surrounding the mat you have an upward slope toward the cage. The slope is three feet deep and peaks at 19 inches of elevation. This sloped area is called the ‘warning track’. The idea is that when a fighter is backed up to the warning track, they will have a height advantage over the fighter in the center and this would feed the action down into the middle of the cage causing less stops in action. According to this theory, there should be less stalling and stuffing against the cage as in typical MMA.
The event is a tournament structure with quarter-final and semi-final fights consisting of one 5 minute round each. The finals would consist of a typical three 5 minute round fight. To attract attention to this event, Yamma managed to get a few notable MMA veterans including Mark Kerr, Oleg Taktarov, Ricco Rodriquez, and Pat Smith. Butterbean, not an MMA legend, was also on the card. The Yamma event has been discussed all over the internet during the past several months and the card changed several times. People first wondered what the surface would be like, then made jokes about all the crazy things they imagined it to be, and then discussed whether or not it would make a difference once it was revealed.
After some audio glitches the promoters decided to simply broadcast the live Pay-Per-View show on the big screens in the arena, ringside commentary and all. This struck me as very odd as the fighters could hear the commentary (not always complimentary) being spoken about them while they were fighting. The ring announcer, Scott Ferrall of Sirius radio fame, had the most irritating voice. He sounded like Karl Childers (from Sling Blade). Furthermore, he seemed to improvise fighter introductions that were so arbitrary and silly that the audience and commentators couldn't help but laugh at him. But, I tried to look past this and the odd live audio broadcast. I wanted to be blown away by this 'New Breed' of MMA event.
The Heavy Weight Tournament Quarter-finals:
The first match was between Sambo fighter/Red Devil team member Alexey Oleinik and Miletich Fighting Systems fighter Sherman Pendergarst. When both fighters entered the cage it was immediately apparent that the sloped surface was not familiar to them. They both looked like they were trekking down a steep hill. They prodded at the mat with their feet as if to get a feel for the surface. It was apparent that they had not had much time to become accustomed to this new type of cage. When Ferrall announced Oleinik, it was answered with lots of booing from the crowd. Sherman, however, received a slightly warmer response. The fight started, they touched gloves and almost immediately Oleinik was backed into the warning track. The second his foot touched the raised orange surface he slipped down to his butt. They stayed stuck against the slope for a bit, Pendergarst in Oleinik's guard. Pendergarst pressed Oleinik against sloped edge just as one would against the cage wall and the action pretty much stopped before it could start.
In the very first round, Yamma’s premise seemed to go up in smoke. This type of situation would be repeated over and over again throughout the night. Fighters stall along the warning track, the crowd yelling for the referee to stand them up. After a standing restart, Oleinik comes on strong with an overhand punch followed by a clinch. He backs Pendergarst into the warning track and this time it is Pendergarst who slips down to his butt. It appears that anyone who gets backed into this thing is most likely going to lose footing and fall. Oleinik is now in Pendergarst's guard and the crowd soon calls for them to be stood up again. They referee eventually responds and Oleinik is given a penalty for some reason not apparent to any of us watching. Once they resume fighting, Pendergarst comes in with a strong overhand right and then follows up with several punches and into a clinch. He gets backed up to the slope and manages to walk up the slope this time but is soon taken down by Oleinik. After some time on the ground, and 4 minutes into the fight, Oleinik finishes Pendergarst with a forearm choke from inside Pendergarst’s half guard. This first fight will turn out to be the mold for the rest. A slow paced fight littered with small slips, takedowns, and sloppy ground work against the slippery sloped warning track.
The second quarter-final fight pitted Tony Sylvester against Chris Tuchscherer; two wrestlers with comparable experience and records. After some mediocre striking, Sylvester is backed up to the warning track and slips down to his butt. It was clear at this point that it is a disadvantage to be on this slope. Nevertheless, they soon end up stuffed against the cage! Something that we were told the Yamma would prevent. Sylvester works his way to his feet only to be taken down again. All of the ankle pick type 'takedowns' thus far have been underwhelming because the fighter simply falls or slips a foot or so before their butt slides down the warning track.
After his takedown, Tuchscherer passes Sylvester’s guard and works to side control. He attempts a guillotine and pulls Sylvester into his half guard, but Sylvester escapes. Sylvester attempts his own guillotine but fails. It is clear that being on this slope is not something that can easily be taken advantage of for either fighter. Sylvester spends the rest of the match climbing up the slope and slipping back down. Sylvester suffers several head punches while he is held by Tuchscherer in a sort of a standing referee's position. Tuchscherer attempts a few more takedowns, but only really succeeds in making Sylvester slip down the warning track again and again. The fight ends and Tuchscherer wins by unanimous decision. Thus far, it is clear to most of the spectators that the Yamma pit was having the opposite effect on the action than it was intended to. Once the fighters hit the slope the snooze fest begins.
The next fight wass between Travis Wiuff (IFL, UFC, and Pride veteran) and relative newcomer and BJJ practitioner Marcelo Pereria. Wiuff comes out with heavy hands and lands a nice takedown in the middle of the cage. Pereria establishes and works his guard for the majority of the fight, slowly setting up submissions, but never committing. He is clearly playing his game as if he were in a Jiu-Jitsu match and not factoring in the fact that this fight is only five minutes long. The crowd boos at the slow pace. The fighters are eventually restarted standing in the last minute of the fight, but Wiuff scores another quick takedown. The fight continues where it left off, with the Pereria trying to work from his guard in a slow, patient manner that is sure to earn him a loss in this style of fighting. Wiuff lands a few elbows from the top and the fight is over. Wiuff wins the quarter-final by decision.
The next quarter-final fight is between George W. Bush III (no joke!) and Ricco Rodriguez, former UFC heavyweight champion. Ricco, a local favorite, receives a huge welcome from the fans. This fight proved to be more exciting as Rodriguez is a higher level fighter than the rest of the card thus far. After a small exchange, Rodriguez shoots in and forces Bush down against the warning track. The fighters work their way back to their feet and Rodriguez scores a nice pick-up, dropping Bush in the center of the Yamma. Again they work to their feet and Rodriguez gets Bush's back in the standing position. Rodriguez breaks and throws a nice high round kick to Bush unprotected head. After another exchange of punches, Ricco shoots and lands a huge double leg slam in the center of the mat. Bush manages to get pull a full guard and then works his way back up to his feet. After some more exchanges Rodriguez takes Bush’s back again, breaks the hold, pushes Bush away for a another high round kick. Following up on his kick, Ricco scores another patented Yamma slippery butt flop takedown along the warning track. After getting back to his feet in the last few seconds Bush dives off the top of the warning track with a superman punch, landing right in Ricco’s guard. Ricco immediately takes Bush’s back just as the round ends. Ricco wins via unanimous decision.
The First Superfight: Taktarov vs. Kerr
After the tournament quarter-finals are complete, the first of the two 'superfights' is announced. This was the fight I was most looking forward to: Mark Kerr vs. Oleg Taktarov. Kerr was the first to enter the ring and his appearance was shocking. He looked terribly tired and bloated; his body looked misshapen from what I can only assume was the result of years of misuse and abuse. It was sad to see him in this state. Taktarov, on the other hand, looked in good shape as he walked in with Sambo and MMA veteran Victor Tatarkin holding up the Russian flag behind him. The fight starts, they touch gloves, and Kerr land a big right hand. He then takes Taktarov down to the canvas with a clean single leg. Oleg keeps Kerr in his open guard and after a small striking exchange, Taktarov works his way to Kerr’s legs…the beginning of the end. At one minute and fifty seconds into the fight, Oleg wins in typical fashion, with a very tight knee bar. For me, this was the first and last satisfying moment in this show.
The Tournament Semi-finals:
After Taktarov’s win, the tournament resumes with the first semi-final fight between Alexey Oleinik and Chris Tuchscherer. Soon into the fight, Tuchscherer works Oleinik up the warning track and locks in a standing guillotine. He releases it and achieves another butt flop takedown on the sloped warning track. Oleinik tries to work for submissions from his back, including some lack luster leg attacks and triangle choke attempts. The fight ends with Tuchscherer achieving side control and winning by decision.
The second semi-final fight is between Travis Wiuff and Ricco Rodriguez. Wiuff and Rodriguez clinch after a series of exchanges. Wiuff takes Rodriguez to the canvas at the top of the warning track. Nothing much happens and they are restarted standing. Ricco runs in with a sloopy flying knee that lands square on Wiuff's groin. After a short pause, the fight continues. Rodriguez again gets taken down hard in the middle of the ring. The match ends with Wiuff in side control and earning the victory by decision.
The Second Superfight: Butterbean vs. Smith
After the semi-finals we reach the second superfight of the night. Sling Blade calls UFC veteran Pat Smith and 416lb Butterbean into the cage. The fight was over before it began and looked more like a side show attraction than a legitimate bout. The second Butterbean walked into the cage it was clear that he was terribly out of shape and all the training he received at American Top Team was not going to be of much use if he ended up on the canvas. His arms could barely move and it looked like he couldn't even turn his head to look left and right. The fight starts and Smith’s strong punches and inside leg kicks wear Butterbean down quickly. Finally, an inside leg kick causes Butterbean to slip and fall to the canvas under his own weight. There was no way Butterbean would be able to get back up without help. He rolls around trying to get some sort of guard but can't. Smith takes side control and beats on Butterbean for far too long before the referee stops this joke of a fight. Smith then goes on to thank every person he has ever trained with and gives grandiose shout-outs like he just won the PRIDE Heavyweight belt.
The Tournament Final:
Finally, we reach the last fight of the night and all I can think about is how nice it will be when it's over. The final tournament fight is between Chris Tuchscherer and Travis Wiuff. After a few exchanges, Wiuff clinches lands a huge lateral drop on Tuscherer, which was easily the biggest and most exciting throw of the night. Wiuff takes side control. Tuchscherer makes his way back to his feet and Wiuff lands some more punches until Tuchscherer slips on the sloped warning track. Tuchscherer works his way back to his feet, but Wiuff lands some well targeted punches, putting Tuchscherer back on the canvas. Wiuff follows Tuchscherer down, lands a few more strikes, and busts open Tuscherer's nose. Tuchscherer is literally saved by the bell.
Round 2 begins and Wiuff backs Tuchscherer into the warning track. Again Tuchscherer slips down to his butt. They soon get stood up. Some slow standup ensues and then the bell rings signaling the end of the second round.
In Round 3 both fighters come out strong and clinch. Once again, Wiuff forces Tuchscherer to the slope and he falls down. They get stood up. Tuchscherer turns Wiuff around and this time Wiuff slips down onto his butt. They work back up to standing again. Tuchscherer lands some hard punches, but Wiuff scores another takedown to finish the round with Tuchscherer on his back. Wiuff wins the final fight and the first Yamma Heavyweight Title.
Last edited by sambosteve; 4/15/2008 9:43pm at .
4/15/2008 4:08pm, #2
View from the couch.
By Stephen Koepfer
Ok, so I knew Reilly was going to be at the show in Atlantic City to report for Bullshido, but I wanted to get an armchair quarterback’s view. So I coughed up the $34.95 for the Pay Per View and settled in for a night of fights. Good thing I am writing this off on my taxes!
Well, what can I say? The Yamma fights were as Reilly described: lack luster to say the least. I did enjoy the Rodriguez and Taktarov bouts, but they were pretty much the only fights worth watching. I also enjoyed seeing some of my Sambo buddies on the big screen. I have trained and worked with many of those guys in the past and it was nice to see Sambo getting out there more. I also liked the fact that fighters from relatively unknown camps were getting a shot at the big time. However, rather than restate the play-by-play, I will offer some general impressions.
I don’t completely blame the fighters for the poor quality fights and slow action. The Yamma pit clearly had an effect opposite than intended. It encouraged stalling. The five minute rounds of the quarter and semi-final bouts facilitated a slow pace. The format also favored wrestlers who could put a guy on his back and keep him there for five minutes. The rules clearly need to be changed for these tournament bouts. I honestly believe that with some tweaking of the rules, the fights could be much more exciting and fast paced as intended.
In my opinion, if the bouts are going to be limited to five minutes, fighters will need to be restarted quickly in the event of stalling in the top position on the ground. The current rules foster a lay and pray approach to fighting: take the guy down, hang out on top, and win the decision. In fact, of all the bouts that evening only two were finished by submission (both by Sambo fighters by the way). One undercard fight was won by TKO. If a stand up rule were instated where, for example, after 30 seconds of lay and pray the fighters are restarted standing, we would see more action and more opportunity for fighters to actually fight each other. I also think that part of the problem with the quarter and semi-final bouts was that the fighters did not change their strategies to reflect a short 5 minute fight. So, with some rule changes from the Yamma organization and strategy changes on the fighter’s end, Yamma could offer up some fast paced action worth a $34.95 Pay Per View buy.
Production wise, the whole show seemed like a flashback to 1993. Aside from UFC founder and Yamma creator Bob Meyrowitz, the show boasted many UFC veterans inside the ring like Pat Smith, Mark Kerr, Ricco Rodriguez, and Oleg Taktarov. Outside the ring was no different with veteran UFC commentators Jeff Blatnick and Bruce Beck offering play-by-play and analysis. The telecast team was rounded out with former UFC matchmaker and Battlecade Exteme promoter John Perretti.
Unfortunately, the old school nature of the show was not a pleasant flashback. The fighter intro videos had an amateurish, home video quality. The commentary seemed as ignorant to MMA fighting, technique, and strategy as it did in 1993. The problem is, that uneducated commentary was acceptable in 1993 because MMA was new and nobody knew what to expect. But, in 2008, I would have expected some evolution in the analysis by Blatnick, Beck and Perretti. It was clear that they had little knowledge of modern MMA and could not keep their analysis relevant to today’s fight scene. As nice as it was to see some old faces on the screen, they clearly have not kept up with the evolution of the sport during the past fifteen years. Furthermore, the televised play-by-play was just about as boring as the fights themselves.
A few funny notes: The entrance music Yamma used was the same cheap royalty free music I have used for my youtube videos. The headsets and microphones Blatnick and crew wore were those vintage ear muffs used back in the day...circa 1990 or so. And perhaps one of my favorite funny moments was when Alexey Oleinik entered the Yamma pit wearing a BodogFight t-shirt! Come on guys, let the fighters choose their own entrance music and spend a little cash on ear pieces and better microphones. And, for God’s sake, make your fighters wear Yamma t-shirts. Spend some money of better production.
In the end, I do feel that there is some potential for Yamma, but Meyrowitz has many serious kinks to work out.
View from the Yamma
By Stephen Koepfer
To get a behind the scenes view of Yamma Pit Fighting I took some time to chat with Oleg Savitsky who fought on the undercard against Lamont Lister. Lister won via TKO due to strikes. I also had a chance to speak with Oleg Taktarov about his win over Mark Kerr and his thoughts on the Yamma show. It was clear talking to both Taktarov and Savitsky that they agreed there needs to be some changes in the quarter and semi-final fight formats; though they did have some differing opinions.
According to Savitsky, the biggest problem with the preliminary bouts was the way they favored wrestlers and specifically how the referees allowed inactive grappling to go on for too long in such a short bout. Unlike Taktarov, who felt five minutes is much too short for a fight in general, Savitsky thought that with modifications in restart rules, the five minute fights could work and lead to a fast paced exciting fight. Taktarov, suggested that the preliminary bouts should be at least ten minutes or two rounds long, but agreed that the fighters were allowed to lay and pray for much too long.
While Taktarov did acknowledge that wrestlers dominated this event, he felt that their dominance and the slow pace of the fights were due to the poor quality fighters in the show, and not the short length of the fights themselves. Taktarov also commented that if the show is to grow, they will have to get better quality superfights. He noted the fact that if Butterbean was a main event it was a sad statement about the show in general.
When it came to the Yamma’s fighting surface, Taktarov and Savitsky had differing opinions. Savitsky felt the unpainted canvas was too rough on the skin for grappling and the warning track was too slippery. Conversely, Taktarov felt comfortable in the warning track and loved the unpainted canvas as he felt he had more stable footing than on other ring or cage surfaces he has been in. They both agreed that the pit is poorly designed for live spectators and better suited to television. The upward slope of the Yamma’s edge essentially blocked the spectator’s view of the fights. It is typical for floor level spectators at live fights to have to look up into the ring or cage, however the sloped edges of the Yamma pit accentuated this problem and essentially blocked the view of any action that was not standing up. Taktarov commented that he originally thought the pit was going to be lowered into the floor so spectators could look down into the Yamma in order view the fights.
Both Taktarov and Savitsy had nothing but positive things to say about how they were personally treated by the Yamma organization.
Both fighters felt that despite the shortcomings of this first event, Yamma had potential. Taktarov and Savitsky both felt that with rule changes, better fighters, and more money spent on production, Yamma could develop nicely. Taktarov posited that he understood why Meyrowitz would want to run the first show on the cheap…so as to give it a test run and see where to improve it. However, he also noted that if the first show bombs, people won’t come back for the revised second show.
In addition to getting Oleg Taktarov’s views on Yamma, I took a few minutes to ask him about his fight with Mark Kerr.
According to Oleg, he was much more calm and collected in this fight as compared to his Bodog fight last May when he came out of retirement. At the Moscow Bodog fight, according to Taktarov, there was so much pressure on him to fight well that he was just as, if not more nervous that his UFC debut. The fact that he was fighting in Moscow in front of family and a home town crowd (where he had never fought MMA before); the fact that there were lots of marketing responsibilities he needed to do for Bodog; and the fact that he had not fought in such a long time prior, all weighed greatly upon him. He felt his Bodog performance was not up to snuff, even though he won.
In Yamma, Taktarov felt much more confident and comfortable…able to think in the ring. He had a game plan for Kerr, which he was able to stick to and win with. Oleg explained how he wanted to bait Kerr into going to the ground where he could attack Kerr’s legs. He believed that Kerr was too good a wrestler to attempt his trademark rolling kneebar from standing position. So, Oleg’s plan was to bait Kerr by offering up poor striking and lure Kerr into shooting on him. Taktarov was a bit surprised when Kerr nailed him with that right hand. According to Oleg, that punch was so hard that he has been having headaches since the fight…and that even after he won “his brain was not working properly”. Nevertheless, Oleg got Kerr to the Canvas where he felt he had a better chance at getting to Kerr’s legs. Oleg says Kerr seemed uncomfortable in his guard and that once Kerr got to the mat, he knew his trap had worked. The fight ending kneebar came in at 1:50 into round one.
Last edited by sambosteve; 4/15/2008 9:48pm at .
4/15/2008 6:30pm, #3
Awesome reviews. I read a preview the other day that talked about Butterbean's "awesome" MMA record, which pretty much meant that I assumed the show would suck.
I too was hoping the "secret surface" would involve lava or broken glass.
Oh, and I'm no physicist, but I could have told them the "ramp" was just going to result in guys falling on their ass. Especially after a guy or two sheds some sweat and blood all over the fucking place.
Good job!Jesus loves you. I think you're an asshole.
4/15/2008 8:39pm, #4
Great write up.
Also, I thought this might add some perspective for the readers in relation to Butterbean's lack of mobility:
4/16/2008 7:03am, #5Originally Posted by DeadmeatJesus loves you. I think you're an asshole.
4/16/2008 8:10am, #6
Wow, great write-up. Big thanks to Reilly and Steve here. I actually missed this event and don't feel so bad about it now.
4/16/2008 8:50am, #7
wow. he has to take, like, a few seconds to attempt to steady himself before throwing that kick. wow.
4/17/2008 2:47am, #8
- Join Date
- Feb 2005
- Ontario, Canada
I hope they really do hold these in a pit, it'd be neat to be able to look down on fighters.
4/19/2008 5:33am, #9
- Join Date
- Apr 2005
Heh, funny if his opponent just took that **** kick in the shin and straight punched him in the face. Must be first round :)
4/19/2008 10:37pm, #10
- Join Date
- Nov 2004
He looks like an albino elephant seal attempting to punt a football.