September 21, 2007

by Jeff Cain – MMAWeekly.com
(Photos courtesy of the International Fight League)

HOLLYWOOD, FLA. – The New York Pitbulls on Thursday night became the first team outside of Pat Miletich’s Quad Cities Silverbacks to hold the championship designation in the International Fight League. The Pitbulls defeated the Silverbacks at the IFL World Team Championship finals at the Seminole Hard Rock Casino in Hollywood, Fla. before a reported crowd of 3,470.

The night played out in dramatic fashion, coming down to the final fight of the team competition. Andre Gusmao, a replacement for the Pitbulls’ usual 205-pound fighter, Jamal Patterson, put an exclamation point on the Pitbulls’ unseating of the Silverbacks when he landed a knee to the head of Mike Ciesnolevicz at the 53-second mark of the first round.

The night had started with the Pitbulls looking to roll over the Silverbacks with two decisive victories in the first two bouts.

Pitbull Delson Heleno fought a back and forth battle with Jake Ellenberger – on loan to the Silverbacks from Matt Lindland’s Portland Wolfpack – before securing an armbar late in the third round to put his team up 1-0.

Despite some controversy, Lithuanian Deividas Taurosevicius followed suit with Silverback Bart Palaszewski in the lightweights’ bout. He applied an armbar of his own early in the second round.

Later in the night, Palaszewski explained that he had been trying to defend the hold when he got jabbed in the eye by the toe of Taurosevicius, causing him to turn away. Taurosevicius, thinking that he had broken Palaszewski’s arm, released the hold and the referee stopped the fight. Regardless of explanations, the Pitbulls went up 2-0.

The Silverbacks finally got on the scoreboard, and big Ben Rothwell put himself on the map, when the heavyweights took to the ring. Frustrating former UFC heavyweight champion Ricco Rodriguez throughout their fight, Rothwell won out in the striking exchanges and controlled the positioning of the fight en route to a unanimous decision and the Silverbacks first win of the night.

The premier heavyweight fighter in the IFL, Rothwell has been untouchable, running his IFL record to a spotless 9-0 with the win. Rodriguez stepped in as a late replacement for the Pitbulls, but later indicated that he would like to continue fighting for the IFL.

Despite both fighters being ground tacticians, Ryan McGivern furthered the Silverbacks’ comeback using his boxing skills to avenge a loss from last year to Fabio Leopoldo, knocking out the Brazilian in the second round.

The middleweight knotted up the team competition at two wins apiece before Gusmao’s dramatic finish gave the Pitbulls the 2007 IFL World Team Championship.

The Pitbulls’ victory not only put an end to the Silverbacks’ dreams of a three-peat, but also capped an amazing turnaround by the Renzo Gracie-coached team. The Pitbulls, who didn’t win a single team competition in 2006, went undefeated in 2007 on their road to the championship.


Andre Gusmao def. Mike Ciesnolevicz by KO at 0:53, R1
Ryan McGivern def. Fabio Leopoldo by TKO (Strikes) at 1:35, R2
Ben Rothwell def. Ricco Rodriguez by Unanimous Decision at 4:00, R3
Deividas Taurosevicius def. Bart Palaszewski by Submission (Armbar) at 1:30, R2
Delson Heleno def. Jake Ellenberger by Submission (Armbar) at 3:45, R2

Ryan Schultz def. Aaron Riley by Unanimous Decision at 4:00, R3
Travis Cox vs. Brad Blackburn ruled No Contest (Accidental Knee) at 2:32, R1
Rolles Gracie def. Sam Holloway by Submission (Rear Naked Choke) at 1:49, R1
Jamal Patterson def. Chris Baten by Submission (Choke) at 0:56, R1