by Tim Spagnola – MMAWeekly.com (Photos courtesy of April Pishna)

UNCASVILLE, CONN – With an inaugural season that showed a lot of promise, the International Fight League drew a paid audience of 6,825 to the Mohegan Sun Arena in Uncasville, Conn., to crown its first IFL World Team Champion. It was a card that consisted of some entertaining match-ups, a bit of controversy, as well as the anticipated Superfight between Renzo Gracie and Carlos Newton.

In their first meeting there was a great deal of controversy surrounding the split decision that ultimately gave Newton the victory. In the anticipated rematch it was as if history repeated itself with only a small change to the script. Gracie himself commented after the contest that “life has an odd way of working at times” as both fighters pushed one another all 3 rounds to again put the contest in the hands of the judges to determine a victor.

In the opening round both fighters took a moment to feel one another out with a few evenly traded exchanges before action move to the ground. Gracie saw an opportunity for a choke, but Newton escaped easily and continued to fight for ground position. As time was running out, Newton gained side control, but with little activity to follow it up, the referee stepped in to reset the action that was quickly followed by the bell to end the round.

The second round again opened with a quick exchange standing before action move back to the ground. Newton was again on top with Gracie looking to secure an arm for a submission attempt. Newton pushed off and went back to his feet. The two once again exchanged strikes and went back to the ground with Newton regaining side control. Gracie was able to flip him over and take top control, but left his ankle open for Newton. Gracie was able to roll out of the submission attempt and both fighters got back to their feet to exchange a few more blows standing as the round came to an end.

The final round found both fighters again feeling one another out. Gracie had a small cut on his nose from the ending flurry of the previous round. Newton looked to press the action and throw jabs. One jab that was quickly followed by a wild right did not look to do a lot of damage, but it again brought action to the ground. Newton wanted no part and quickly backed off and they both stood back up. As they squared off again, Newton continued to keep the pressure on as they tied up in the corner. The referee stepped in to break them up and Newton continued to press forward. Gracie did appear to be a bit out of gas as time was ticking down as Newton continued to throw, although nothing landing squarely. With thirty seconds left on the clock, Newton threw a big right upper cut that partially hit Gracie and sent him to the mat. Newton not only did not rush in to finish the fight, but rather walked over and offered his hand to Gracie to help him up. They had one last exchange and the bell rang.

The judge’s cards read 29/28 Gracie, 29/28 Newton, and 29/28 Gracie for the winner. Although there were a large contingent of Gracie fans in attendance, it was clear that the majority of fans did not agree with the decision. In post fight interviews Newtown did comment that he felt he won the fight and that even Gracie acknowledged it to him with a comment after the final bell. Gracie was respectful in post fight comments and was unhappy that judges had to decide the victor in a contest like this, but happy for the win none the less. Gracie said that he knows how Newton feels because the roles were reversed in ’03 when Gracie felt he should have won. Indications from both fighters, as well as the IFL indicate that fans can look forward to the rubber match in the coming year.

To fans that watched the opening season of the IFL it was really no surprise to see these two teams make the finals. Coach Matt Lindland won the coin toss that allowed him to choose the first match up of the night and things got underway with the light-heavyweights.

The Silverback’s Mike Ciesnolevicz commented after the fight that he took it as a slight that Coach Lindland called him out as the first match up of the two teams and that was all the motivation needed as he went out and defeated Aaron Stark in an entertaining fight. With a combination of knees and strikes, Ciesnolevicz ended the fight with a guillotine choke to secure the ‘Submission of the Night’ honors.

The Silverback winning ways continued as the Heavyweights came up next and Ben Rothwell won in impressive fashion with of all things a high upper kick. Devin Cole showed heart and looked to exchange with the big man, but Rothwell just marched through the strikes with a smile on his face landing several brutal strikes before taking ‘KO of the Night’ honors.

With only one more win needed to secure the Championship, Bart Palaszewski of the Silverbacks did not disappoint in what was a very entertaining fight. The Wolfpack’s Ryan Schultz showed tremendous heart as he really went out there and tried to keep his team in the mix. All three rounds were full of action with a number of great exchanges. Schultz looked to be holding his own and getting the better of the stand up war, although his face was bruised and bloody. Palaszewski remained calm and continued to look for his opening and seized it with wild right hook that sent Schultz to the mat. Shultz did require emergency attendance ringside and was carried out on a stretcher, but these actions were simply pre-cautionary as all reports later were that he was doing fine. Palaszewski claimed the win and championship for his team and with that received ‘MVP’ honors for the night.

Silverback Ryan McGivern got back to his winning way with a lack-luster unanimous decision win over the always tough Matt Horwich. The majority of all three rounds really saw both fighters on the ground fighting for positioning, but McGivern pressed the action a bit more and got the call putting his team up 4-0.

In what may be considered an upset in some circles, the Wolfpack’s Chris Wilson scored a TKO win over Rory Markham. Both fighters came out looking to throw with Wilson ending the exchange with a shot that rocked Markham and dropped him to the canvas. Wilson quickly moved in and it looked like the referee was about to stop the action, but Markham remarkably regained himself and scrambled back to his feet. He offered a smile to Wilson and they went right back at with another exchange until Wilson proved to be just too much and ended the fight with a nice combination of strikes.

Last night’s card also featured four intraleague match-ups that featured some exciting action. The opening bout saw the Pitbull’s Erik Owings defeat the Scorpion’s Ed West by unanimous decision. This fight was a nice back and forth battle that featured a solid mix of both stand up and ground action. This fight was followed by the Pitbull’s Andre Gusmao who took on the Dragon’s Brent Beauparlant in a fight that went to a judges’ decision. Gusmao threw everything he had at Beauparlant as the two light-heavyweights went back and forth until eventually Gusmao proved to be just too much. The Tiger Shark’s Reese Andy looked very good in his victory over the Pitbull’s Jamal Patterson. Patterson opened the fight looking confident and quick on his feet, but Andy was able to wear him down as the action went into the second round. Andy gained top control and landed some big shots eventually winning a referee stoppage. And finally, the Scorpion’s Mike Whitehead got a controversial decision over the Anaconda’s Krzysztof Soszynski in a fight that opened with Whitehead playing the aggressor and landing some big shots. Whitehead caught Soszynski and went for a slam, but Soszynski was able to land a roundhouse kick to the face as he hit the canvas. This shot cut Whitehead over the nose. Soszynski remained calm and was able to begin landing some nice strikes to the winded Whitehead. The judges gave the decision to Whitehead, although almost all in attendance disagreed with the outcome as boos rained down.

2006 IFL World Team Championship Finals
December 29, 2006
Mohegan Sun Arena
Uncasville, Connecticut


Jake Ellenberger, Wolfpack, def. Ben Uker, Silverbacks, by TKO, 1:44 in Round 2 (ref stoppage)

LW/155: Erik Owings, Pitbulls, def. Ed West, Scorpions, by decision (unanimous)
LH/205: Andre Gusmao, Pitbulls def. Brent Beauparlant, Dragons, by decision (unanimous)
LH/205: Reese Andy, Tiger Sharks, def. Jamal Patterson, Pitbulls, by TKO (ref stoppage), 3:24 in Round 2
HW/265: Mike Whitehead, Scorpions, def. Krzysztof Soszynski, Anacondas, by decision (unanimous)

LH/205: Mike Ciesnolevicz, Silverbacks, def. Aaron Stark, Wolfpack by TKO (guillotine choke/ref stoppage), 1:03 in Round 3
HW/265: Ben Rothwell, Silverbacks, def. Devin Cole, Wolfpack, by KO (kick), 3:16 in Round 1
LW/155: Bart Palaszewski, Silverbacks, def. Ryan Schultz, Wolfpack, by KO (strikes), 2:16 in Round 2
MW/185: Ryan McGivern, Silverbacks, def. Matt Horwich, Wolfpack, by decision (unanimous)
WW/170: Chris Wilson, Wolfpack, def. Rory Markham, Silverbacks, by TKO (ref stoppage), 2:14 in Round 1

MW/185: Renzo Gracie def. Carlos Newton, by decision (split)