Jessie Wray's Virtual Fight Tour brought the heat in their fifth promotion with a call-out match, massive "Draft Edition" team fight, and a surprise bonus bout to bring sport karate fans an action-packed event.
Anthony Merricks def. Ben Stewart (FINAL: 33-17)
This match was set up after Ben Stewart watched Merricks fight at an earlier Virtual Fight Tour event against Chris Robinson. Despite Merricks winning comfortably after a strong comeback, Stewart decided that he wanted to test his skills against one of the world's best heavyweights. Stewart seemed up for the challenge early in round one with two consecutive blitzes to take the lead. Merricks promptly responded with his own pair of blitzes, and the fighters continued to exchange at a rapid pace throughout the round. Merricks would land a step-up side kick and a few more quick reverse punches to jump out to a 10-7 lead after one.
Stewart scored another quick two points to begin round two, but Merricks once again responded shortly after with a pair of hand techniques and a two-point head kick to swing the momentum in his favor. Stewart went on a brief comeback run, but that was quelled by a beautiful step-through hook kick to the head of Stewart, another two-point technique. Merricks would end the round with a six point advantage.
In round three, Merricks decided to fight against history rather than fighting Stewart. He exploded out of the gate and kept the pressure on, despite having a lead, to go on a massive 13-3 run to finish the match. As it turns out, Merricks intentionally put on a scoring clinic in the third round to claim the record for the most points scored in a single Virtual Fight Tour match, besting the previous record held by Darren "Dee Stacks" Payne. When the dust settled, Merricks stood victorious with a 33-17 win.
Tyson Wray (Tention) def. Joe Rhodes (Plowden)
After Coach Jadi Tention won the coin toss, he deferred and allowed Coach Richard Plowden to send out his first fighter. Plowden sent out Joe Rhodes and Tention answered by sending out his superstar junior fighter Tyson Wray of Team Next Level. Wray was aggressive from the opening clash, putting his speedy takeoffs and excellent timing on full display. This onslaught kept Rhodes on his heels for most of the match, and Wray capped off the near-flawless performance with an axe kick to the head that gave Team Tention an early 17-0 lead.
Emma Cullinan (Plowden) def. Brianna Nurse (Tention)
The ladies took the mat next as Emma Cullinan was tasked with beginning the comeback effort for Team Plowden. The fighters both wanted to kick early and often, locking legs on multiple clashes. Scoring began as the girls started to let their hands fly and exchanged a few blitz techniques. Cullinan got the best of one more clash than Nurse to secure a narrow victory by the score of 5-4. The win was optimistic for Team Plowden, but Team Tention maintained a commanding 21-5 lead heading into the third matchup.
Carter/Rhodes (Plowden) def. Wray/Heyward (Tention)
This round would see one of the most unique matches in Virtual Fight Tour's young history. Team Plowden's Darryl Carter drew first blood, but Team Tention's Sheldon Wray answered with a strong fadeaway back fist. Carter responded by going on the offensive, scoring four straight points before Wray can halt the run with a blitz of his own. Wray continued to push with quick hand techniques, but the fight took a bizarre turn when Carter attempted an illegal spinning back fist technique that landed as more of an elbow strike that dizzied Wray, who seemed to be out on his feet for a moment. It should be noted that Carter's technique did not appear to have malicious intent.
Per Virtual Fight Tour rules, Team Tention was granted five points as a penalty to Team Plowden for the illegal technique that led to injury. Additionally, neither fighter was allowed to continue and both coaches had to select new fighters to finish the round. Tention elected to send out Joshua Heyward and Plowden decided to give Joe Rhodes another shot.
Rhodes scored first with a reverse punch, but Heyward answered in short order with a fast blitz. Heyward scored again by sliding under the kicking leg of Rhodes to land a clean back fist. The round ultimately came to an end with the tandem of Carter and Rhodes edging out Wray and Heyward by a score of 11-10. Heading into the fourth round, Team Tention was still in control with a 31-16 lead.
Mike Simmons (Plowden) def. Terry Lee (Tention)
Simmons opened the round with a quick takeoff to score, then a flurry of hand techniques on the next clash to score yet again. Lee answered, but hesitated on a side kick attempt that Simmons took advantage of to stay ahead by two. This early aggression by Simmons made his fakes very effective, allowing him to get Lee off balance and tack on a few more points. The fighters exchanged clashes for a few moments, but Simmons started to pull away again and ended the round with a picture-perfect side kick to the body. He also landed an axe kick to the head of Lee, but it did not count as time had already expired. Despite not scoring on the head kick, Simmons secured the 9-4 victory and turned the tide in favor of Team Plowden. However, there was still a ways to go as Team Tention clung to a 35-25 lead.
Aaron Dorsainvil (Plowden) def. Joshua Heyward (Tention)
Heyward tried to get the Tention momentum back early with a huge head kick to tally two points. Dorsainvil adjusted by increasing his movement, which allowed him to score with his hands. Dorsainvil then blocked a Heyward kick attempt and smothered his opponent with hand techniques to score again. After a quick takeoff to score once again for Team Plowden, Dorsainvil repeatedly deflected the leg of Heyward to disrupt his rhythm. After a couple more fast takeoffs and a pair of fadeaway back firsts by Dorsainvil, he ended the round with an 8-3 victory. Team Plowden was now officially back in the fight, just trailing Tention 38-33.
Rasha Alhnaity (Plowden) def. Dee Everett (Tention)
With the Plowden comeback campaign now in full force, Rasha Alhnaity rode that wave to score on three consecutive takeoffs to open the round. Everett stopped the bleeding with a side kick, but Alhnaity answered right back with her quick hands. Alhnaity desperately attempted to claim the lead for her squad by tying the total score three separate times, but Everett showed her grit and answered each time to hold on to a one-point lead for Team Tention. The 6th round of fighting ended with Team Tention holding on 42-41.
Audrey Mihalik (Plowden) def. Peyton Fender (Tention)
Peyton Fender opened the round with a nice score on a defensive side kick, only to be answered by Mihalik. Fender landed another clean side kick in response, but once again Mihalik answered the call by scoring with her hands. Mihalik then gained the edge as she scored three straight points with hand techniques and gave Team Plowden their first lead of the evening. Fender fought back hard, but Mihalik continued to hammer away with fast takeoffs to expand the lead. Mihalik ultimately won the round 10-3 and Team Plowden enjoyed being ahead for the first time with the score of 51-45.
Angel Diaz (Plowden) def. Kevin Muniz (Tention)
Angel Diaz kept the Plowden momentum rolling with a pair of two-point head kicks to start the round. Muniz answered with a score, but Diaz came right back with yet another head kick. In control, Diaz then faked the head kick just to score on a quick back fist. Muniz answered the call again with a reverse punch as the fight got a bit chippy with some late hits and shoves between the opponents. The head kicks told the story of this match and Diaz gave his team a huge 12-2 win that brought the score to 63-47 in favor of Plowden.
Darren Payne (Tention) def. Anthony Merricks (Plowden)
The final two match ups of the team fight featured two 2-minute rounds, unlike the one-round matchups for all of the earlier bouts. Anthony Merricks took to the Virtual Fight Tour cage for the second time to face off against his "Dojo Brother" Darren Payne, as commentator Chris Walker described. Knowing that Merricks may be a bit fatigued from his individual bout, Payne flexed his speed early to score four consecutive points with his hands. Merricks battled back over the next few exchanges, and the pace of the fight slowed down after a couple of minor injuries to the arm of Payne and the leg of Merricks. At the end of this matchup's first round, Payne held on to a 11-5 lead.
Merricks opened the second round with a lot of movement, scoring two points on hand techniques along the way. Payne continued to push and score with his hands, but as the round went on it seemed that Merricks had become the aggressor. Payne shifted the momentum back in his favor with a two-point round kick to the head and a couple of blitzes to finish off a 9-6 win for the second round. This score, combined with the first round of this matchup, brought Team Tention a bit closer as they entered the final round down 76-67.
Bailey Murphy (Plowden) def. Kristhian Rivas (Tention)
Coach Richard Plowden had to have felt pretty good as he entered the last round with a nine-point lead and Black Belt Magazine's Champion-ranked lightweight point fighter Bailey Murphy stepping into the cage. Rivas was a bit late to enter the cage, resulting in a penalty point being awarded to Murphy and Team Plowden. Rivas was able to make up for the penalty with a couple of early scores, but Murphy looked incredibly sharp and answered rapidly with scores of his own. Rivas stayed in the fight and continued to answer, and Murphy was temporarily slowed by a side kick that may have landed a bit too low. The first round of the final matchup came to an end with Murphy ahead 11-5.
Round two say Murphy put his patience and fight IQ on display as he scored early. Murphy gained some confidence and attempted some flashy fakes, but the very talented Rivas did not let that slide and exploded to score a few times. Murphy scored again on a fadeaway back fist, and put the fight away shortly after with one more blitz. The round ended with Murphy ahead again by a score of 7-5.
This secured the victory for Team Plowden after a miraculous 34-point swing from being down 17 at the end of the first round, to being up 17 when the smoke cleared. The post-fight bonuses, sponsored by the Plawker family, went to Tyson Wray and Angel Diaz for having the highest scoring total and the second-highest point spread of the team fighting event, respectively.
Audrey Mihalik def. Riley Rhodes (FINAL: 7-4)
The main event was the Draft Edition team fight, but Jessie Wray still had one more trick up his sleeve with a special bonus fight between two very talented lady-warriors. This one-round bout saw the fighters feeling each other out early, until Rhodes broke the silence with a score. Mihalik answered with a pair of hand techniques to take the lead, but Rhodes came right back to tie the match. They exchanged points one final time before Mihalik would find the right formula and score on back-to-back clashes to pull ahead by two. Rhodes fought back once again with another score, but Mihalik closed the door with a two-point axe kick that gave her a 7-4 victory in the final event of the evening.
Virtual Fight Tour V certainly did not disappoint, and the team here at Black Belt Magazine can't wait for their next promotion. For more news and updates regarding Virtual Fight Tour and the whole sport karate world, stay tuned to BlackBeltMag.com.