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November 29, 2010

TaKeOn 4-Man Tournament and Superfights Featured in MMA Expo!

As I went down the escalators and into the entrance of the MMA World Expo at the Jacob Javits Center, I was quite disappointed at how empty it looked. Of course, it was a Friday afternoon, and a lot of people were still at work, but there weren’t even any fighters on hand. With the exception of a couple of booths employing some very attractive women to pull in spectators (Take On Productions was one of them!), most of the booths were bland.

After exploring the venue, I walked over to “The Ringmaster” Ricky Cuello and started speaking with him about the upcoming Take On show, when we were interrupted by “The Legend” himself Rick Lenchus. He walked up to the both of us and asked “Could you guys take a picture of an old guy like me in the ring before I die?” Lenchus is recognized as one of the founding fathers of American martial arts, and as he explained all of his accomplishments throughout his career, Ricky and I couldn’t help but listen in awe.
It was finally time for Take On’s show at the MMA World Expo to start and the crowd had grown much larger from when I had first arrived. Jonny “Bones” Jones was finally in the house as well. I wanted to get an autograph or a picture, but he was swarmed as he walked over to his post; I had to cover the Muay Thai event anyway. It was all good because yet again from the opening fight to the last, Take On put on an amazing show.

After a juniors’ match, the 4-man tournament kicked off with a card draw to decide the first two bouts. “His Royal Highness” King Opaku (Sitan Gym NY) matched up against Nick Suarez (Joonnes MA) for the first fight. In round one, Opaku utilized his clinching to connect some crushing knee on Suarez who was definitely swinging for the fences. Every time he threw a combo, Opaku would counter with a hard knee to the body that eventually drained Suarez as the fight went on. Suarez charged through in round two, but was clearly dominated in the clinch and Opaku continued to wear him down. An exhausted Nick Suarez hardly made it through the third round as Opaku landed some thunderous strikes which caused the ref to stop the fight and advance “His Royal Highness” to the next round.

“Quiet” Brett Hlavacek (The WAT) went up against Canadian Jessie Cronier (OAMA/Sudbery BJJ Canada) in the final fight of the first round. Hlavacek opened up the first round connecting with a sharp left hook that pushed Cronier back from pursuit. Both fighters soon found themselves in the clinch pounding each other with ravaging knees to the body. Hlavacek was effectively making use of his left jab, setting up his low kick and sweep perfectly. The final round was controlled by Hlavacek who capitalized on a tired Cronier and in the final seconds trapping him in the corner, and having his way with him. Hlavacek won by unanimous decision and secured a spot in the final.

In the interim before the tournament final, four other bouts proceeded, featuring fighters Khalil Castillo (Black & Blue MMA), Omar Ibrahim (Sitan, NY), Nigel Guerin (OAMA), Calvin Curtis (Sitan, AZ), Nick Haines (Master Bakary), Tariq Douglas (Sitan, PA), Andrew Ballenger (Contemporary MA), and Nick Vaughan (The Wat). The final battle of the night for the prize of a trip to Thailand then commenced. It was time for Brett Hlavacek (The WAT) to go up against King Opaku (Sitan Gym NY). Hlavacek had a strong start in this fight landing a bombardment of body kicks and sweeps. Opaku attempted many powerful knees from the clinch, which Hlavacek neutralized with takedowns. Round two was a little slower than the first due to the fact that both fighters were locked together landing their share of knees in the clinch. It was obvious that Hlavacek was getting the best leverage and throwing the harder knee shots. Realizing that the fight wasn’t going to be in his favor if left to the judges, Opaku came out like a raging bull in the third round and battered Hlavacek with powerful punches and kicks. He let off a fury of left and right hooks in the hopes of notching a knockdown or even better, a knockout. It was apparent that Hlavacek wasn’t going to be able to trade punches with Opaku, and deliberately went in for the clinch repeatedly until the round was over, but Opaku’s strikes from the outside may have been enough to win him the third round. When the judges’ verdict came in, Brett Hlavacek had scored a decisive unanimous decision and a trip to Thailand.

Eddie Cuello, Mike Gasparski, Aziz Nabih, and the rest of the Take On team gave the MMA World Expo a show they could brag about. The fighters fought their hearts out, and the fans couldn’t be happier to be blessed with the opportunity to see the sweet science of Muay Thai in its purest form. Congratulations to “Quiet” Brett Hlavacek and the WAT on their victory, and thank you to all the gladiators who contributed to this show.

See full results here. Photo credits to Yuki Kunishima.



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