VFT XI: Pore Edges Lavoie, Fontanez Wins Clash of Legends

Jerry Fontanez
Photo Courtesy: Virtual Fight Tour

Jessie Wray's Virtual Fight Tour returned on Saturday night with an action-packed card that featured The Battle of the Dojos, a highly-anticipated match between two martial arts legends, and a duel between two of the top lightweight point fighters in the world. The VFT is notorious for bringing sport karate fans creative new ways to enjoy watching the sport from the comfort of their home in a pay-per-view format through Uventex. Set matches, point sparring in a cage, and a brand-new team fighting format are all innovations that have been spearheaded by Jessie Wray and crew. The eleventh promotion certainly did not disappoint, keep reading to find out who was victorious when the dust settled.

The Battle of the Dojos

Next Level Martial Arts

Photo Courtesy: Virtual Fight Tour

This series of five two-round point fighting matches was a display of up-and-coming talent from three New York area martial arts schools: Next Level Martial Arts, Binns Victory Martial Arts, and Street Unity Survival (SUS). Next Level and Binns each brought four fighters into the cage, while SUS stepped up to fill in the gaps with two of their own fighters.

The first match was tied at the half, but Logan Gittens-Derisier of Binns VMA stepped up when it mattered most to grab a victory over Next Level's Maxwell Benyl (FINAL: 7-6). Some talented ladies entered the cage next as Adrisa Furbert of Next Level was tied at the half with Binns VMA's Olyvia Cornwall, but Furbert came up clutch for Next Level to win by two points (FINAL: 14-12). With the teams holding one win a piece, Binns VMA and Next Level squared off again in the third fight as Jacob Lawrence and Edison Mendez duked it out for their respective teams. Mendez held a slim lead for the majority of the match and notched another win for Next Level (FINAL: 11-9). SUS then brought out their first fighter of the evening in the form of Kimoni Duncan, who pulled away from Next Level's Justin Young after being tied at the half to secure a win (FINAL: 9-6). The final match of this unique battle was between Xiri Hurchinson of SUS and Justin Ortiz of Binns VMA, in which Ortiz took the victory for his squad in a closely contested match.

The final tally came out to be pretty even, with Binns VMA and Next Level recording two wins a piece, and SUS claiming one win despite having half as many fighters as the other teams. A more fair comparison of these schools would be to look at the points per fighter throughout the five matches. After some quick math, it turns out that Next Level led this category with 9.25 points/fighter, Binns VMA was just behind them at 8.25, followed by SUS with a solid 5.50. No matter how you slice it, watching these young athletes proved that the future of sport karate is in good hands.

Oscar Garcia def. Andres Espinoza (FINAL: 17-13)

Oscar Garcia

Photo Courtesy: Virtual Fight Tour

The first black belt fight of the night featured Team Velocity's Oscar Garcia of Guatemala and Team Next Level's Andres Espinoza. Espinoza came out of the gates with a lot of activity, but Garcia showed great patience and maturity by waiting for the right moments to strike and take the lead early. The Next Level fighter was undeterred by the early deficit and came back to knot the match at four by the end of the first round. Garcia exploded on a 4-0 run to start the second round, but Espinoza quelled the momentum with a head kick and Garcia only had a one point lead heading into the last frame. Garcia yet again started the round hot with three consecutive points and would hold on to win the match by a comfortable four-point margin.

Team Next Level def. Team Binns VMA (FINAL: 32-26)

Team Next Level

Photo Courtesy: Virtual Fight Tour

The next event put the VFT's patented team fighting division on display, in which both fighters on each team have to fight both fighters on the opposing team. Jonah Plawker went to bat first for Team Next Level and faced off with De'Sean Winchester of Binns VMA. Winchester looked great early and was able to put together a lead while Plawker attempted to figure out his distance with some kicks. However, Plawker stayed calm under pressure and picked his spots nicely to climb back into the lead. Late in the round, a kick attempt by Winchester appeared to only clip the shoulder of Plawker, but the judges called that it landed to the head and awarded two points, and the round came to an end with the teams tied at nine.

Although they had an opportunity to switch, Next Level kept Plawker in the cage for the second round as Ethan Stephen stepped in fresh for Binns VMA. Stephen was able to take advantage of Plawker's fatigue early to reclaim the lead, but appeared to slow his pace down towards the end of the round and allowed Plawker to catch his breath. Using this second wind, Plawker took off for a few body punches that kept his team in the fight. At the halfway point, Binns VMA was holding a 19-16 lead.

Jeremiah Alverez relieved Plawker for Next Level and Winchester returned for Team Binns. Alverez, completely fresh after spectating the first two rounds, landed a huge spin kick as part of a 5-0 run that swung the momentum in Next Level's favor. Alverez remained explosive towards the end of the round to complete a seven point turnaround and send his squad to the final matchup ahead by a score of 25-21.

Stephen reentered the cage to attempt a comeback effort for Team Binns, and got off to a good start by exploding off the line for a back fist to score. Alverez was able to answer seemingly every time Stephen advanced. Stephen kept the match close with his back fist, but a clutch head kick by Alverez lifted Next Level over the top in the closing moments. The Next Level win ends a very impressive streak for Binns VMA, whose teams were undefeated in the Virtual Fight Tour before this event.

Jerry Fontanez def. Brian Crumb (FINAL: 5-4, 10-9)

Not only was the match between Jerry "Fast Feet" Fontanez and Brian Crumb a clash of legends, it also introduced another new set of rules for VFT. The first round was a point fighting contest in which there had to be a winner (there could not be a tie), and the second was a continuous fighting match scored using the typical 10-9 system. If the combatants split these rounds, a coin would be tossed and the winner of the coin flip would choose either point or continuous for the final round.

The point fighting round was off to a hot start as both fighters were active and Fontanez struck first with a round kick to the body. Fontanez proceeded to fight very stationary for the next few clashes, letting Crumb come to him and looking to score on counter striking. As Crumb started to score with his hands, Fontanez responded by letting his kicks fly more. Crumb was able to take the lead for a moment, but Fontanez used his savvy defensive punching to tie the match before time expired. In the sudden-death overtime period, Fontanez jumped off the line first and scored to secure the win.

With the point fighting win under his belt, all Fontanez had to do was control the continuous round to leave the cage victorious. He was able to do just that, putting together a couple of nice flurries, landing clean uppercuts, and a beautiful spinning back kick to the body of Crumb to put the cherry on top. The sport karate veterans showed nothing but respect to each other after the match.

James Pore def. Robbie Lavoie (FINAL: 20-19)

James Pore

Photo Courtesy: Virtual Fight Tour

The main event of the evening turned out to be a thriller between Team Next Level's James Pore and Robbie Lavoie of Team All Stars. Having a thriller in this matchup didn't surprise anyone, however, as these fighters are two of the best lightweights in the game right now. Pore opened up the scoring with a nice defensive side kick, and Lavoie answered in short order with a body punch. A few clashes later Pore broke through the guard of Lavoie with a head kick, but the Canadian legend answered once again with a two-point axe kick of his own in the middle of five unanswered points to end the round up 8-7.

Lavoie started to pull away in the early goings of round two, but Pore came storming back with a head kick that narrowly clipped Lavoie followed by a series of blitzes that gave him a 14-13 lead going into the last round. Due to a scorekeeping error, the third round actually ran for a full three minutes instead of the usual two. The long round began with Lavoie jumping ahead once again, but the tide turned when the judges potentially missed a defensive side kick by Lavoie that would have put him in position to win the match or at least hold on for overtime. Nonetheless, Pore capitalized on the opportunity and erupted in the final seconds to beat the buzzer with a 20-19 win.

At the end of the day, it was another successful Virtual Fight Tour promotion and another night full of excellent point fighting matches. Stay tuned to Black Belt Magazine on social media for more news and updates about the VFT and sport karate as a whole.

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