VFT Bristol Open: Everill Leads Europe to Victory
Jessie Wray's Virtual Fight Tour was back in action for a truly one-of-a-kind event on Saturday. Fourteen athletes from North America made the trip across the pond with the VFT production crew to host a massive team fighting event live on pay-per-view from the Bristol Open in the United Kingdom. The first showdown was a seven-round team fight featuring seven female fighters for Team Europe against just four opponents from Team America. This format meant that three Americans would have to fight twice, putting the visiting team at a significant disadvantage.
Despite the uphill battle, the Americans represented themselves well and kept the fights close throughout. Team America sent out their ace first with Ki'Tana Everett stepping up to face Elena Pantaleo, but Pantaleo gave her team the lead by defeating the two-time Diamond Ring winner 3-2. Francesca Ceci came to the mat next for Team Europe to take on Katarina Herman and the WAKO world champion was able to work around the long legs of Herman to expand the European lead by two points. The Europeans would win their third consecutive matchup as Jodie Browne beat Brianna Nurse by a score of 5-4, but the win streak only resulted in a four-point overall lead.
With the Americans in need of a momentum swing, Peyton Fender delivered. She was able to get the best of Keshia Kuschnir by two points. The fifth and six rounds both ended in a draw as the long-range kicking of Katarina Herman and Tina Baloh canceled each other out, then Brianna Nurse and Grace Chandler proved to be evenly matched as well. It would all come down to the final round, when Ki'Tana Everett returned to the ring to challenge Evelyn Neyens. Everett had the Americans in position to pull off the comeback with a tied score and only seconds remaining. However, as Everett escaped a clash and attempted to reposition, Neyens was hot in pursuit and scored a hustle point to give Europe the win by an overall score of 23-22 in a thriller.
The men's team fight featured 10 athletes on either side and was extremely competitive for the duration. Andres Espinoza was the leadoff man for the Americans against sweep specialist Borislav Radulov of Team Europe. Espinoza was able to manage the savviness of Radulov well and the first round drew to a close with the score knotted at 5. The next two rounds featured Team Europe putting their remarkable length on display as they sent out Zajc Tilen of Slovenia and Conor McGlinchey of Ireland to take on Oscar Garcia and Brandon Ballou respectively. Garcia and Ballou each used the perimeter to move around and find scoring opportunities, but the Europeans neutralized this strategy well with the athleticism of their taller fighters. The fourth round was an interesting stylistic matchup between Anatoli Kuschnir and Tyreeke Saint. Kuschnir was aggressive early in the round, exploding off the line to get the better of Saint. However, Saint started to come alive after the first few clashes and used his incredible speed to go on a run that made the overall score close as the round ended with Europe only leading by one point (16-15).
In the fifth, Devon Hopper would complete the Americans' comeback effort with some aggressive fighting against Riccardo Albanese and give his squad a 20-18 advantage. Brayan Rodriguez fought Timmy Sarantoudis and caught him off guard with that sneaky lead-leg round kick that landed to the head early in the sixth, ultimately expanding the American lead to 23-19. The turning point came for the Europeans when Sandro Peters, a substitute filling in for Dominik Meyer, got the better of Darren Payne by three points to pull Europe within striking distance down 26-25.
Team America coach Troy Binns responded to the comeback by sending out his ace in the eighth round, as Bailey Murphy entered the ring to take on Chris Aston, another ridiculously tall fighter for Europe. Their matchup had a lot of back-and-forth action at a time when the Americans needed to try to pull away, and Team Europe was happy to see the scored tied at 32 going into the ninth round. The penultimate fighter for Europe was Richie Veres, a Hungarian known for his ability to maintain leads in the team fighting format. Veres matched up with the formidable Kevin Walker, and the All Star used effective offense to give Team America a two-point lead. This set the stage for a final showdown featuring Tyson Wray and Elijah Everill.
Team Europe had to feel pretty comfortable, as arguably the best fighter in the world only had a two-point deficit to overcome. On the other hand, the Americans may have been comfortable as well since Wray defeated Everill at the Ocean State Grand Nationals back in April. Either way, Everill took full advantage of the opportunity to show the world why he is considered to be one of the best. His blitz was as automatic as ever and he swiftly started to pull away. As time expired, Everill lifted his arms in victory as his teammates rushed the mat to celebrate a momentous win on home turf.
Top Five Point Fighting Nicknames of All Time
I am a firm believer in the power of nicknames. They increase the entertainment value of any sport, give the fans an idea of who that athlete is, and allow the audience to connect with fighters in a different way. For sport karate, nicknames could play a small part in helping the sport grow in popularity because of those benefits. Fortunately, looking back through recent and distant point fighting history we already have quite a few great nicknames, so I decided to rank the top five. This list does not include some of the current best nicknames such as Bailey "B-Reel" Murphy or Darren "Dee Stacks" Payne. I also had to make some tough decisions for iconic nicknames like Hakim "The Machine" Alston, Gerald "Awesome" Dawson, and Ross "Turbo" Levine to barely miss the list. Ultimately, I had to choose in favor of names that directly reflected something about that fighter's game, something that few others could lay claim to. I also need to throw out the biggest honorable mention of them all, which is the wide variety of nicknames that the late, great Kevin Thompson had. His iconic pseudonyms include "Little KA" named after his instructor Karriem Abdallah, "The Total Package" for his ability to win every division available, and even "The Eighth Wonder of the World". Now, let's get to the top five.
5. Jerry "Fast Feet" Fontanez and Justin "Hot Foot" Ortiz
Photo Courtesy: Jerry Fontanez and Justin Ortiz via Facebook
These two fighters are probably pointing at me in the picture, because they know that I'm cheating by using two nicknames in the number five spot. HOWEVER, how could anyone pick between two fantastic foot-related nicknames? The history of such nicknames dates back to legendary kickboxer Bill "Superfoot" Wallace, who undoubtedly inspired both of these point fighters. Jerry "Fast Feet" Fontanez was renowned for his lightning-fast kicks that helped him earn 8 world championships during his career. He was active as recently as November 2022, when he appeared in the Virtual Fight Tour to defeat Brian Crumb in a hybrid point fighting/continuous fighting match. Justin "Hot Foot" Ortiz was widely considered the best lightweight point fighter in the world at his peak and won the lightweight diamond ring championship at the Diamond Nationals in 2015. He added some style to his nickname by wearing a signature red sparring boot on his right foot that he consistently planted on his opponent's helmet for 2 points. In a sport that is dependent upon skilled footwork and kicking, these two nicknames had to make the list.
4. Jack "The Iceman" Felton
Photo Courtesy: SportMartialArts.com
When MMA fans hear Iceman, they think Chuck Liddell, but when sport karate fans hear Iceman, everyone knows you're talking about Jack Felton. He earned this nickname from the calm, cool-as-ice demeanor that he fights with. Never too excited when he is up, and certainly never too frustrated when he is down, he is always steady and level-headed. This mentality helped him craft a career as one of the best lightweight point fighters to ever do it. He has NBL, NASKA, and WAKO world championships under his belt, with remarkable longevity. You can find highlights of his back in the days of the World Combat League fighting for the Los Angeles Stars, and most recently winning the overall grand championship at the Compete Internationals in February. Another nickname worthy of mentioning is "Captain Jack", which Raymond Daniels commonly calls him as the veteran leader of Team All Stars.
3. Pedro "The Axeman" Xavier
Photo Courtesy: Kick24
A number of sport karate nicknames were either created or popularized by the WMAC Masters television series. My personal favorite of these has to be The Axeman for Pedro Xavier. This one is pretty self-explanatory, as Pedro Xavier had the gnarliest axe kick the point fighting game has ever see. The way that he could come off a kicking combo, hold that leg what seemed like 15 feet in the air, and slam it down on some of the best fighters in the world was simply insane. The Team Paul Mitchell legend won the WAKO lightweight world championship three times in 1991, 1993, and 1995, among many other prestigious titles throughout his career.
2. Raymond "The Real Deal" Daniels
Photo Courtesy: Orange County Register
You probably saw this one coming. It doesn't get much better than the man most people consider to be the greatest point fighter of all time being referred to as The Real Deal. This isn't just a great nickname because it shares the "RD" initials with his actual name, or just because it is original. I love this nickname so much because it truly describes Raymond Daniels. If you watched Ray fight for the first time, you would see him dance around the ring, talk to the crowd, and do his signature pre-fight ritual complete with prayer and fanfare. You'd probably be thinking "man, this guy sure acts like he's something, I wonder if he can really fight". The next thing you would see is him nailing somebody with three straight blitzes before backing off so that he can blast them with a signature two-touch spinning back kick. He literally proves that he's The Real Deal. This also applies to the common keyboard-warriors' criticism of point fighting as a light contact sport, suggesting these guys can't really fight. If that was the case, then Raymond Daniels wouldn't have been able to make a successful transition to full-contact including a Bellator Kickboxing World Championship, a knockout-of-the-century highlight with a 720 punch during a Bellator MMA bout, and now being signed to Karate Combat.
1. Steve "Nasty" Anderson
Photo Courtesy: Black Belt Magazine
How can a nickname not be the best ever when it literally becomes that person's first name? I don't think I have ever heard anyone refer to Steve Anderson as "Steve Anderson", it is ALWAYS Nasty. This dude was bigger than everybody, stronger than everybody, and beat up just about everybody during his point fighting career. If an opponent went down after a clash, he would go down with them just so they would feel his weight and have to expend even more energy to get back up. Not only was he tough, but he had all the skills to back it up. His lethal blitz helped him win a ridiculous 92 consecutive tournaments... AS A BROWN BELT. He was inducted into the Black Belt Magazine Hall of Fame in 1982 as the Competitor of the Year. His nickname didn't just apply to his Nasty skills and Nasty toughness, it applied to his mind games as well. Richard Plowden once told me on The Jackson Rudolph Podcast that he would call opponents at 3:00 AM the night before a tournament just to get in their head. You'll have to listen to the whole episode to know exactly what he would tell them, as it isn't necessarily PG-13. We also have to give a shoutout to the mother of his instructor, Orned "Chicken" Gabriel (a great nickname in its own right), who gave Nasty his legendary nickname. All these factors combined, with the fact that he is one of the all-time greats who many argue should even be considered the GOAT, Nasty is the only right answer to come in at number one on this countdown.
I know I probably missed some great nicknames during this discussion, and I haven't even covered the forms and weapons competitors yet! I encourage you to share this article on social media and let me know what other great point fighter nicknames are out there. If there's enough support, a countdown of the top forms and weapons competitor nicknames may be on the way!
- A Thug by Any Other Name: MMA Fighters' Nicknames ›
- Top 10 Karate Fighters - Picks by Bill Wallace ›
Jackson's Five: AKA Warrior Cup 2023
This was the first year since 2007 that I have not been at the AKA Warrior Cup. I am currently training in Hawaii for medical school and was unable to make the flight to and from Chicago in a timely manner to fulfill my requirements at the hospital. I look forward to attending other NASKA world tour events this year, returning to the broadcast booth and coaching Team Paul Mitchell and Team Competitive Edge with all my heart. Anyway, my Jackson's Five countdown for the Warrior Cup will be limited to what I saw on the stream of the finals courtesy of SportMartialArts.com.
5. Michael Molina is Fearless
Photo Courtesy: Priscilla Molina via Facebook
I published an article here on Black Belt Magazine recently in which I discussed the importance of risk-taking as a competitive martial artist, how sometimes you simply need to go big or go home. I don't know if he read the article or not, but 10-year-old Michael Molina certainly embodied that advice on Saturday night. After winning the 13 & under weapons overall grand championship, he advanced to the Junior Warrior Cup Finals to compete against three skilled traditionalists, two of which much older than he. He was nailing a great form during the Warrior Cup round and paused before his last trick to count to four on his fingers. I sat in front of my computer in disbelief as he counted past his usual three and held up four fingers. He brazenly tossed his bo into the air, spun four times, and caught the bo with a not-so-planned power slide on both knees to become the first person to ever land that trick in a Warrior Cup Final. The desperation of the catch likely cost him some points on the judges' score cards, but I could not do this countdown without giving him props for being brave enough to throw a trick that big in that particular moment.
I should not mention the junior weapons warrior cup without giving proper congratulations to the eventual champion, Shane Billow. I've gone on the record many times speaking about how much he has improved over the past few seasons, getting better every time I would see him on the night show stage. He is the perfect example of a competitor who has put in the work to create opportunities for himself, and now he reaps the benefits as a Warrior Cup champion. His high-speed traditional bo kata was deserving of the win.
4. One More...
Photo Courtesy: SportMartialArts.com
Jake Presley won his first Warrior Cup in 2014, resulting in the above picture as I helped him carry the trophy that was twice his size off the stage. Fast forward to 2023, and Wild Card just won his 6th career Warrior Cup. This places him in historic company of competitors to have won more than five cups. Within our own bo lineage, the great Mike Bernardo has five of the coveted titles (which I believe includes some for forms and fighting). I was fortunate to amass seven of them in my career, the all-time mark for weapons. Then there's the juggernaut that is Ross Levine and his ridiculous nine Warrior Cups. Jake using his electrifying traditional bo form, while going first in a division of very dangerous competitors, to secure a sixth Warrior Cup is a remarkable achievement. To make the story even better, my former synchronized weapons partner texted me immediately after coming off stage. It was a GIF that read... "one more". Congratulations Jake, you're a special competitor and I hope the sport karate world appreciates you before we lose you to a successful career in Hollywood.
3. Traditional Triumphs
Anyone who watches The Jackson Rudolph Podcast or reads my articles here on Black Belt Magazine knows that I am often critical of the overall grands format that pits traditionalists against the creative/musical/extreme competitors. It compares apples to oranges and often times gives a significant advantage to the CMX competitor simply because it is easier for the average judge to appreciate the difficulty of an extreme form compared to a traditional one. However, there were a number of traditional competitors in head-to-head matchups in the finals that were able to come out on top, and I wanted to take this opportunity to recognize them. In the adult division, there was the aforementioned Jake Presley and Haley Glass both winning titles with their traditional weapons forms (in Haley's case the women's weapons overall grand). In adult forms, Gabrielle Rudolph competed against several CMX competitors and came away with the overall grand championship. Diego Rodriguez Florez won the men's traditional forms overall grand championship, and deserves a shout-out (although the division being separated doesn't fit my traditional-versus-CMX narrative). Samuel Diaz III rose above CMX competitors to claim the 30+ weapons grand championship and get a ticket to the Warrior Cup finals.
The trend continued in the kids' divisions as well. Adelynn Lau won 13 & under girls' weapons with a traditional double sword form. Angel Perez scored a very impressive win in the 13 & under boys' forms championship with his traditional kata. Amanda Duarte also used her traditional kata to win a 13 & under title on the girls' side. Sofia Rodriguez Florez won BOTH the traditional and CMX divisional grand championships with her traditional bo form, resulting in an automatic overall grand championship title. Last, but certainly not least, was Shane Billow who won an overall grand with his traditional bo en route to the Warrior Cup.
2. By Any Means Necessary
Photo Courtesy: Karate Sport Action via Facebook
Esteban Tremblay and Averi Presley are each most well-known for their bo work. They have both been successful in the forms division before, but the majority of their titles are from the weapons division as they are both phenomenal with the bo. However, these Paul Mitchell teammates each won their first career Warrior Cups for forms! They each had to overcome unique obstacles to finally take home one of sport karate's most coveted awards.
Esteban, a student of mine since he was eight years old, had the best statistical season of his career in 2022. He wowed crowds across the NASKA world tour with bo forms that had unbelievable levels of difficulty combined with some speed and his signature swagger. At many of those tournaments, he was also (somewhat quietly) winning grand championships with forms as well. The average sport karate fan would have thought his Warrior Cup dreams would have to wait another year when weapons didn't go his way... but Air Canada had other plans. He took the stage with confidence and emphatically took the Warrior Cup with a high-flying extreme form.
Averi also had a stellar statistical season in 2022, winning almost every weapons overall grand championship on the NASKA world tour. Her signature no-look release at the end of her form made her seem nearly unstoppable. Much like with Tremblay, much of the focus was on the weapons division. Averi had a particularly unfortunate end to her weapons run in Chicago. In the divisional grand championship to advance to the finals, she stepped on a weakened part of the stage resulting in a bad error on her tricking pass that took her out of the running. Her chances at a cup were looking slim. However, she won the forms overall grand championship on stage and propelled herself to the Warrior Cup round. When the dust settled she had another historic win for the evening, becoming the first female competitor to win a junior Warrior Cup in a rather long time. The last female that I can remember winning the title was Micayla Johnson with her kama form back in 2011.
1. Megafights Chapter 2
Photo Courtesy: Richard Avery Plowden via Facebook
The first Jackson's Five article that I ever wrote followed the 2021 Diamond Nationals, in which the number one spot on the countdown was about a "Megafight" between Bailey Murphy and Avery Plowden that took place as the Virtual Fight Tour's Last Man Standing. Murphy came out on top in that match via an overtime thriller, but the stage was set in Chicago for another megafight as Plowden got an opportunity for redemption. In a battle between the point fighters who many would consider to be the best heavyweight and lightweight in America, Plowden used his stellar defense and well-timed offensive attacks to get the best of Murphy this time and secure a one-point victory. The win brings the Plowden family their eleventh Warrior Cup, including those won by his sister Morgan and father Richard.
- Forms and Weapons - Black Belt Magazine ›
- Jackson’s Five: The AKA Warrior Cup ›
- How to be Ready for the AKA Warrior Cup ›
Virtual Fight Tour XII: Lady Warriors Shine on Ladies Night
On February 26th, Jessie Wray's Virtual Fight Tour returned for its twelfth promotion on the UventexTV pay-per-view platform. Each VFT has something that makes it special, and this one was all about highlighting some amazing female sport martial artists of the past, present, and future. In addition to the seventeen fighters that participated in a total of nine bouts through the evening, the entire judging and commentating teams consisted of notable female fighters. Regena Thompson, Norene Price, and Dee Everett were on the microphones while Gina Thornton, Raquel Binns, Faith Vieira, and Tessa Gordon officiated the action. There was also a performance by up-and-coming women's weapons competitor Erin Smith, who opened the show with her bo routine for VFT's first in-person guest performance.
If you missed the live broadcast and think this sounds like some awesome sport karate action, be sure to tune in for the rebroadcast this Sunday, March 13th once again on UventexTV. Click here to check out the event and purchase access for only $10! That is a steal for this amount of sport karate content.
Need to know how it all went down this instant? Keep reading for the final scores and highlights from the event.
Tahirah Abdul-Qadir def. Autumn Blommer (FINAL: 30-9)
Photo Courtesy: Virtual Fight Tour
The evening started off with a bang as two respected junior fighters entered the cage. Team Straight Up's Autumn Blommer kept the match close in the opening round, but Tahirah Abdul-Qadir blasted her with a punch in round two that completely shifted the momentum of the bout. Abdul-Qadir dominated from that point forward, culminating in an impressive 21-point victory.
Audriana Medrano def. Adrisa Furbert (FINAL: 16-10)
Photo Courtesy: Virtual Fight Tour
As you can see from the tale of the tape above, the second match of the evening featured two young dynamos. Team Next Level's Adrisa Furbert took an early lead with her side kick and blitz fundamentals. Furbert remained aggressive in round two, but Audriana Medrano of Team Gipsy has been competing longer and used her experience to weather the storm. Medrano stayed patient and stacked up her points one-at-a-time until a mixed attack of kicks and punches led her to victory.
Lynne DeGroot def. Jasmine Peterson (FINAL: 19-10)
Photo Courtesy: Virtual Fight Tour
Lynne DeGroot, coming out of the Gorham family's camp, showed great poise and used her go-to reverse punch to control each round against Team Straight Up's Jasmine Peterson. Peterson hails from Joe Pina's legendary Boston Tae Kwon Do, which has a storied history of producing high-caliber point fighters. The TKD roots were evident in Peterson as she attacked with powerful kicks, but her endurance dwindled in the late rounds and DeGroot was able to take advantage.
Sabiha Sabreen def. Breonna Tuitt (FINAL: 33-19)
Photo Courtesy: Virtual Fight Tour
Breonna Tuitt and Sabiha Sabreen looked pretty even through the first round, but Sabreen made key defensive adjustments in the second and third frames that produced a ton of offense. As Tuitt continued to attack in a straight line, Sabreen responded with angles and counter-striking. Sabreen was extremely consistent in this approach and amassed a staggering 33 points, tying the Virtual Fight Tour scoring record that was originally set by Anthony Merricks in his bout against Ben Stewart at VFT V.
Kianna Bonilla def. Serafina Fish (FINAL: 13-11)
Photo Courtesy: Virtual Fight Tour
Team KTOC's Serafina Fish and Team Gipsy's Kianna Bonilla may have given us the fight of the night. Fish took an early lead and was able to maintain it for most of the fight by maintaining proper spacing and working her side kick. Bonilla kept the fight close throughout and picked her spots carefully with an explosive blitz, ultimately striking when the time was right to steal the lead from Fish in the final round. Fish was forced to push in an attempt to tie the match or regain the lead, but Bonilla finished with strong defense and came out on top.
Avery Sutter def. Autumn Blommer (FINAL: 16-9)
Photo Courtesy: Virtual Fight Tour
Due to another fighter dropping out and Autumn Blommer stepping up, she became the first-ever fighter to compete in two complete three-round VFT fights on the same card. That is an incredible feat of endurance and she deserves a shoutout for that regardless of the outcome. However, it was evident that she had lost a step from her difficult first matchup against Abdul-Qadir. Avery Sutter, another Gorham family product like Lynee DeGroot, demonstrated great ring awareness by using her movement to set up scoring opportunities and timing her strikes very well. Although Blommer was able to keep this match closer than her first, Sutter was able to control the fight and take home a win.
Miranda Depierne def. Emma Cullinan (FINAL: 27-15)
Photo Courtesy: Virtual Fight Tour
Miranda Depierne was very impressive in this bout against prior VFT winner Emma Cullinan. Depierne used her length and power to land hard shots on Cullinan early and often. This threw Cullinan off her game and allowed Depierne to really take control in the second and third rounds. Despite being two years younger, Depierne executed a solid gameplan and earned the win over a great fighter in Cullinan.
Nicole Paris def. Dani Auberger (FINAL: 23-13)
Analyzing the tale of the tape above, we see that Nicole Paris (known by many sport karate fans by her nickname and maiden name Nikki Pelland) was the veteran coming into this matchup. The Team Straight Up fighter was able to stick with her consistent strategy of taking whatever the opponent gave her and capitalizing on those opportunities. Dani Auberger had clearly trained hard for the bout and stayed on the offensive, but Paris was a bit savvier and made Auberger pay when she overextended, leading to victory by a ten-point margin.
Katiuska Sánchez def. Alyssa Guillen (FINAL: 12-9)
The main event (pictured at the top of the article) saw the highly-anticipated return of Alyssa Guillen, who turned heads back at VFT III in Texas by hanging with the legendary Regena Thompson and even held a lead when the fight had to be stopped due to injury. Her opponent was the newly-formed Team Diamond's Katiuska Sánchez, known to be a solid kicker. Sánchez used her kicking skills to conserve energy until Guillen threatened her space, a great strategy for a three-round VFT match in the cage. Guillen still showed off explosive takeoffs coupled with high-level fakes and movement, but Sánchez was able to keep the fight close with the sniper-like precision of her kicks. In the final moments, Guillen somewhat abandoned the movement and fakes that had given her the lead. She tried to attack once again but ran into a head kick from Sánchez that put the nail in the coffin of a very close fight.
Remember, if you want to see all this action for yourself, tune in on Sunday, March 13th by clicking this link to check out the official rebroadcast for only $10. Stay tuned to Black Belt Magazine for more news and updates about Virtual Fight Tour and the world of sport karate.
Special thanks to Jessie Wray for providing analysis that made this article possible.
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