Thursday, November 21, 2019

Thoughts On BKFC 9

One of the biggest stories throughout all of combat sports over the last year has been the reemergence of Boxing in Bareknuckled form. As has been discussed by yours truly here at The Boxing Truth®️ over that time, this reemergence has seen several Bareknuckle Boxing promotions launch, each with its own unique presentation and in some cases, their own specific rules.  Although the influx of Bareknuckle Boxing promotions has seemed to adopt a similar approach in terms of a business model to that of the sport of Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) with fighters being exclusive to one promotion and rules varying on promotion, modernized Bareknuckle Boxing has certainly drummed up interest. 

A promotion that has been front and center in the resurfacing of Boxing in Bareknuckled form has been the Bareknuckle Fighting Championship (BKFC). In the relatively short period of time since its inception, the BKFC has staged cards in Wyoming, Mississippi, and Florida. BKFC 9 took place on November 16th at the Mississippi Coast Coliseum And Convention Center in Biloxi, MS. The card featured two marquee bouts in what was called co-main events. In the final bout of the evening, a highly anticipated rematch took place in the Jr. Middleweight division between UFC veterans Artem Lobov and Jason Knight. A rematch of a highly competitive and entertaining bout that took place at BKFC 5 in April of this year, which was won by Lobov in a close five round unanimous decision.

A question that I had going into this rematch was what type of fight would it be. The first encounter between the two was near non-stop toe to toe action from the opening bell. While such fights will almost always earn unanimous praise from fans due largely to the entertainment value they provide, it is illogical to expect those types of battles to take place on a regular basis especially in bouts that are fought under Bareknuckle rules. Regardless of the form of Boxing whether amateur or professional, there are times however, where two fighters respective styles will mesh well to produce similar battles no matter how many times they are pitted against each other.

As is the case with most rematches, it is always of interest to see which fighter can make the necessary adjustments that may need to be made from their performance in the previous encounter. Although most fights fought under the Bareknuckle format are known for being fast-paced and rarely go the distance, there have been flashes of technique in several bouts since the sport in Bareknuckled form has reemerged. With the final bout on this card being a rematch, it wasn’t a stretch to think that this encounter might kook a little different in terms of the pace of combat given that the fighters have faced each other before.

What was immediately noticeable at the start of this fight was not only the healthy respect the two fighters had for each other, stemming from their battle earlier this year, but also both appeared more measured in their approach this time around. I was impressed particularly with how well Jason Knight used head movement and worked behind a consistent jab. This led to not only the forming of a mouse under Lobov’s right eye as a result of the jab Knight was able to execute, but also a knockdown in the second round with a right hand.

The primary difference in this fight compared to the first encounter was Knight’s ability to time Lobov with lateral movement and avoid being put into a toe to toe war. He accomplished this by controlling distance and being an elusive target. Artem Lobov just couldn’t seem to find a way to get in a consistent rhythm due largely to Knight’s movement and varying his attack to the body and head. A short left hook to the head sent Lobov to the canvas for a second time in round five, but this time the fight would be stopped. 

While the rematch between Lobov and Knight was not as filled with back and forth action as their first encounter, I feel with one win each, it is logical to think there will be a third bout between the two at some point in the future. Whether or not that third fight takes place in a relatively short time as the rematch took place following the first fight is anyone’s guess, but I feel after two grueling battles in such a short period and keeping in mind that these bouts were fought under the Bareknuckle format both fighters need time to recuperate.

Although I don’t want to go through each individual bout that took place on the undercard of Lobov-Knight 2, I do want to share some thoughts on the two Heavyweight bouts that took place. First, a bout between MMA veterans Wes Combs and Adrian Miles was over almost as quickly as it began, but did have an element of controversy that should be discussed.

As the bell rang for the start of round one, Miles immediately charging Combs and unleashing a barrage of punches that sent Combs down. Miles however, landed one punch to the head of Combs while Combs was down on the canvas. Combs managed to get to his feet, but the fight was waved off in an indication similar to a knockout/technical stoppage. This created some confusion at the time because the referee Bill Clancy had ruled a disqualification against Miles and awarding the victory to Combs.

The reemergence of Bareknuckle Boxing in its modernized current form has opened further s for fighters across all combat sports disciplines including MMA fighters. While the foul against Combs in this fight was clear and the ruling of a disqualification under Boxing rules was correct, one should keep in mind that a punch strike from a standing position to a downed opponent is legal in Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) fights and it seemed to be a mental lapse by Miles. 

Even though understandable to a degree as some fighters compete in multiple combat sports depending on whatever opportunities might be available to them, the ruling of a disqualification was indeed the right call. Some may feel however, that Clancy perhaps should have given Miles a warning rather than disqualifying him outright. I believe one reason why Clancy made the call he did beyond a clear foul having taken place was even though Combs was able to make it to his feet, he was in no condition to continue thus making the ruling of a disqualification the appropriate call as the foul was not accidental.

The second bout of the co-main event was a battle for the BKFC Heavyweight world championship between champion Chase Sherman and Joey Beltran. Much like the other half of the co-main event, this encounter pitted two MMA veterans against each other. Although bouts that are fought under the Bareknuckle format are known for often being quick and brutal, it is always of interest to me to see which fighters can implement Boxing skill and strategy though competing in a different form of Professional Boxing than traditional.

In this fight it appeared the fighter who would be able to execute an effective Boxing strategy was the champion Chase Sherman. What stood out in my eyes was how well Sherman was able to use side to side movement along with a good jab and mixing in short combinations to offset the consistent pressure of Beltran. Sherman used his longer reach to accomplish much of the success he was able to have offensively and from my perspective, he was able to control the tempo of combat for the first three rounds of the five round world championship bout.

Beltran however, did have his moments early on particularly when he was able to land on the inside and fight effectively while in clinches, which is legal under Bareknuckle rules. As the fight progressed, Beltran’s pressure and heavier blows gradually took their effective on the champion.

The challenger took over the tempo in rounds four and five, forcing Sherman backward and unable to use the movement and combination punching that worked in his favor in the first three rounds. It was clear that both due to the constant movement, the pace of the fight, and Beltran’s overall aggression that fatigue became a factor for Sherman.

At the conclusion of five rounds, the judges turned in a unanimous decision in favor of Joey Beltran making him the new BKFC Heavyweight world champion. Although the exact scoring for this fight was not announced, I felt the decision was correct. My reasoning is based on Beltran’s seemingly harder punches and greater activity over the final two rounds. Despite my feeling that Sherman was in control after three rounds, the ebb and flow was starting to turn in Beltran’s favor by the end of round three after landing some flush hooks and it is understandable how that might have been enough to sway opinion for Beltran as having won round three before clearly winning rounds four and five. A rematch between the two would not be a bad idea for the BKFC to try and make sometime in 2020, in this observer’s opinion.

With now nine cards in its existence in the books, the BKFC finds itself in a great position heading into 2020. While it remains to be seen whether or not any other notable world champions in traditional Professional Boxing will test the Bareknuckled waters as Paul Malignaggi did earlier this year, the BKFC as a promotion is likely to continue growing going forward.

“And That’s The Boxing Truth.”

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