Teammates make impact
When the octagon door shut behind him last Friday in Coquitlam, Braeden Szlabon looked over at his opponent Mike Borden and thought, "This is really going to happen. No going back now."
After three years training at World Class Martial Arts on the Langley Bypass, the 18-year-old was about to get his first taste of amateur mixed martial arts (MMA) competition as part of the Seeing Red 2 - MMA Live in the Cage card at the Red Robinson Show Theatre.
Amateur MMA differs from professional in that elbow and knee strikes, standing or on the ground, are illegal according to BCMMAA rules.
"I had the butterflies, definitely," said Szlabon, who competed in the 170-pound welterweight division. "I was a little nervous, but in the end I knew my training would come out so that kind of kept the nerves down a little bit."
Thirty-four seconds after the two touched gloves to start the bout, it was over.
Szlabon won via guillotine.
In MMA terms, it means a choke hold.
Szlabon didn't absorb any punches or kicks - as far as he could feel - and once, he said, Borden "left his neck exposed," he seized the opportunity.
"I didn't know what to think," Szlabon said. "It was over and I got up and it was just 'Wow. It's over.' I felt happy and excited."
The two spoke after the bout. "I said 'thank you for the opportunity," Szlabon related, "and I wished him the best of luck in the future."
Szlabon has found a home with MMA. When he started out, he wanted to test himself and, since his dad Jim used to box, combat sports runs through his veins.
"It's always been a part of my life and something I wanted to do," Szlabon said. "I wanted to try mixed martial arts. Watching UFC, I wanted to see what it was really about."
Joining Szlabon at Seeing Red was fellow World Class team member Mark Sheane, who owned a 2-0 amateur record going into his lightweight bout against Brandon Shorter.
Sheane admit he's usually anxious before a bout, but the moment he steps into the cage, the anxiety melts away.
"As soon as I kick my shoes off and circle around the cage a little bit, I'm just ready to go," he said. "You rely on your training. If you're confident in yourself and you're confident in your training, then you are either going to win or lose. It's gotta be one or the other."
With that mind set, Sheane is always thinking that he has trained as hard as he can, "so let's go have some fun."
At the 43-second mark into the second round, Sheane connected with a roundhouse kick to Shorter's head.
Shorter crumbled to the mat and before Sheane could step in to inflict more damage, the referee stepped in to stop the bout.
"I was throwing a lot of low-level kicks," Sheane recalled. "So he started to drop his front hand, so I looked low and went high and caught him."
Sheane said seeing Shorter go down left him in "pure shock."
He didn't think he hit him very hard because he didn't feel the connection on his foot.
"They always say the clean punch, you never feel it," he said. "I thought I maybe slapped him in the face with my toes. I did not think I knocked him out. So when he went down and the ref jumped in, I stood there for two seconds thinking, 'Really?'"
He has a huge amount of respect for Shorter, who agreed to take the bout even though Sheane didn't make weight.
At 164 pounds, Sheane weighed nine pounds over the 155-pound lightweight limit.
"He took the fight even though he was lighter. He came out like a champion and did it that way," said Sheane.
He added, "I was drained as much as he was from cutting, probably, but I didn't use anything on the ground which I think would have been the only place I would have capitalized [on the weight advantage]. I didn't take him down at all."
The two plan for a rematch, and Sheane promises he'll make weight when they meet again.
"He was a pure gentleman," Sheane said, of his opponent from the Revolution Fight Team.
By Troy Landreville, Langley Advance