Virtual Fight Tour VIII: Ballou Wins Grudge Match, Dumlao Domination
Virtual Fight Tour's eighth event featured notable broadcast enhancements like instant replay and, of course, high-level point fighting action. Aside from an excellent evening of fights, Rashad Eugene delivered an intense double bo performance and exciting announcements were made for VFT IX coming up June 26th. In that event, the heavyweight and lightweight champions of the Black Belt Magazine Rankings will be in action as Richard Avery Plowden and Bailey Murphy will both enter the cage. Tyreeke Saint of Top Ten Team USA will also be in action, and a highly-anticipated matchup between electric juniors Tyson Wray and Jason Letona has been booked.
As for Saturday night's event, Peyton Fender represented central Florida well, Dumlao's Academy of Martial arts had an outstanding showing between Jamal Albini's victory and a team fighting win, and Brandon Ballou came out on top of a new rivalry with Brayan Rodriguez. Keep reading to find out how it all went down.
Peyton Fender def. Alexa Fleshman (FINAL: 10-8)
A pair of lady warriors kicked off the action as Team Revolution's Alexa Fleshman took on Team Velocity's Peyton Fender. The first round was rather quiet, as both fighters worked their fakes and tried to get their timing figured out. Fender drew first blood with a blitz, but Fleshman answered back with hands of her own on the following clash and the round ended with a 1-1 draw. The action intensified as both fighters threw more techniques in the second round. Fender mixed it up with a side kick to compliment her blitzes while Fleshman stayed true to her hands, leading to a back-and-forth battle that was still tied going into the final stanza. They continued to exchange clashes in the third, until Fender landed a side kick to the face of Fleshman with about ten seconds remaining that sealed the deal.
Jamal Albini def. Romani Alicea (FINAL: 14-10)
This bout began with a more explosive start, as Alicea popped off the line first to score on a blitz. The Team Straight Up rising star tacked on a couple more points with a pair of reverse punches, but Albini was able to put a halt to the 3-0 run with his hands. Albini then backed himself into the cage as Alicea pressed forward, then in true Team All Stars fashion he executed an improvised spin off the cage and landed a punch to pull within one. Albini then tied the match with a blitz and jammed an attack by Alicea to claim a one-point lead heading into the second round.
Albini, coached by Sean Dumlao, was more patient in the second. He let Alicea kick towards him on the first clash just to answer with strong hand techniques and go up by two. Alicea, a consummate warrior, continued to press forward but Albini used a defensive side kick and a few other counterstrikes to maintain his two-point lead ahead of the third round. Several clashes would be exchanged early in the final round, until Albini started to pull away with consistent hand techniques that stretched his lead to four. Alicea landed a head kick to pull within two as time was winding down, but Albini answered right back with two more hand combinations and claimed victory by a four-point margin.
Team Dumlao's def. Team KTOC (FINAL: 17-15)
In the team fighting co-main event, both the male and female fighters would fight two rounds against their counterparts. The order of these matchups was decided by a coin toss between the opposing coaches. Team Dumlao's won the toss and elected for the men to take the mat first, followed by back-to-back rounds for the ladies, and coming back to the men for the grand finale.
Team KTOC's John Curatolo struck first to put his team ahead, then used his long leg to keep Quinland Pastor away. This was effective until Pastor timed his takeoff beautifully to tie the match. Curatolo then missed on a back fist attempt as Pastor side-stepped his way into a clean round kick to the head, scoring two points for Team Dumlao's. Pastor then got a bit too fancy with a spin-kick attempt that Curatolo smothered to score with his hands and end the first round with a score of 3-2 favoring Team Dumlao's.
Then it was Alyssa Dumlao's turn to defend her team's lead against world-class kicker Drew Beatty. Beatty's leg was in the air early, and she used some follow-up hand techniques to tie the total score. Dumlao then put together a run featuring two body punches and a nice evasion from Beatty's signature axe kick to score once again. Beatty closed the individual gap a bit with some defensive punches at the end of the round, but Team Dumlao's held on to a 6-4 overall lead.
In the second round between the Beatty and Dumlao, Beatty came out much more aggressive. She scored on two consecutive offensive punching attacks despite taking a hard shot from Dumlao, then landed a clean fadeaway back fist to erase the deficit and give KTOC a lead. Dumlao fired back with a blitz and a side kick, then Beatty reclaimed her lead with a face kick. A few more clashes were exchanged that Dumlao was able to get the best of and send both teams to the final round with a 10-10 draw.
There was plenty of movement and action as Curatolo and Pastor graced the ring again, but there were no points called until Pastor finally landed clean on a blitz. Some textbook movement by Pastor then opened up an opportunity for him to score with a back fist, but Curatolo came right back with a blitz and some counter punches to tie the match. Pastor answered with three consecutive hand techniques that, despite some see-saw scoring from both fighters, would ultimately give Team Dumlao's the win.
Brandon Ballou def. Brayan Rodriguez (FINAL: 24-22)
The main event was not only expected to be a great fight because of the skill levels of both combatants, but also because of some bad blood on social media leading up to the event. Team Proper's Brayan Rodriguez posted an event flyer on his Instagram story with a bandaged emoji edited over Brandon Ballou's face, and Ballou chirped back with a clown emoji on the face of Rodriguez.
The talk and emojis would all be settled inside the cage, where Rodriguez attacked first with a straight-ahead blitz to claim the lead. Ballou remained patient on the following clash, scoring with a defensive side kick to the body. The fighters then exchanged several blitzes leading up to a strong right hand from Ballou that staggered Rodriguez. Rodriguez recovered quickly and a few more clashes were exchanged to end the round with Ballou hanging on to a two-point advantage.
Ballou looked to extend his lead in the second, where he exploded off the line to score first then smothered a back kick attempt by Rodriguez to score once again. This woke Rodriguez up a bit and he answered with four straight blitzes to tie the match. The lead changed hands several times on the subsequent clashes, until Ballou was able to put together a fadeaway ridge hand and another blitz to keep his two point lead before the final round of the evening.
During the timeout between rounds, Ballou walked over to Rodriguez's chair to show off his cardio and essentially force Rodriguez to stop consulting his coach early. Rodriguez introduced some unusual arm movement in the third round in an attempt to disrupt Ballou's timing. The new approach earned Rodriguez a back fist, but Ballou answered right back. The fighters primarily exchanged blitzes and reverse punches for the remainder of their bout. The difference-maker came when Rodriguez began to tire towards the end of the fight and Ballou took advantage by pushing the pace to secure victory.
For more news and updates about the Virtual Fight Tour and other sport karate events, stay tuned to BlackBeltMag.com.
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