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The much-anticipated Super Fight League (SFL) debuted in Mumbai yesterday amidst a lot of fanfare. The brainchild of Bollywood star Sanjay Dutt and Rajasthan Royals' co-owner Raj Kundra, the SFL is India's first-ever mixed martial arts promotion and features some of the toughest fighters from India and abroad.
As with all things Bollywood-related, the night started off with a few performances. Percussionist Sivamani charged up the atmosphere with rhythmic drum beats, after which Mika entralled the packed house with some of his biggest hits. Even sex symbol Bipasha Basu took to the stage and got the crowd going with her risqué dance act.
The main event got underway at the Andheri Sports Complex in Mumbai with Raj Kundra's speech. This was followed by Sanjay Dutt taking to the stage and talking briefly about MMA and the inspiration behind starting the SFL--to promote martial arts in India.
After an impressive fireworks display, the audience finally got to check out some MMA action! Here's a quick look at what happened in each of these bouts:
Xavier "Professor X" Foupa-Pokam vs Joey Guel
The first bout of the SFL only lasted for a round. After starting out on the offensive, Guel was stifled by Professor X once he found his rhythm. This sent Guel into a defensive mode in no time.
After that exchange, Guel had his hands full trying to cope with the speed of Foupa-Pokam. Unfortunately, Professor X's constant battering--especially towards the end of the first round--proved too much for him to handle. Foupa-Pokam was awarded a TKO after a cut on Guel's forehead refused to stop bleeding even after being tended to.
Satish Jha vs Jimmy Ambriz
This exciting heavyweight battle turned out to be extremely one-sided. American fighter Jimmy Ambriz was pumped up from the get-go, and came out all guns blazing. As soon as the bell rang, Ambriz started piling the pressure on Jha and soon knocked him down.
He kept striking the hapless Jha even after he was on the mat. It took very little time--14 seconds--and effort for Ambriz to win this bout!
Lakwinder Sekhon vs Madura Rathnayake
India's Lakwinder Sekhon took on Sri Lankan Madura Rathnayake in the lightweight division. While this was pegged to be a very intense battle, Sekhon dominated it.
After taking down Rathnayake with a well-timed punch, Sekhon mounted his opponent and kept hammering away. It took Sekhon all of 1 minute and 29 seconds to register a win over his clueless opponent.
Mohammed "The Hawk" Shahid vs Mayura Dissanayake
Even this welterweight Indo-Sri Lankan bout went India's way. However, unlike the previous fight, this one went the entire distance and played out for a gruelling three rounds.
Both Shahid and Dissanayake landed their fair share of kicks and punches and were completely exhausted by the end of the regulation 15 minutes. Shahid was awarded the majority decision with a score of 29-28, 30-30, 30-29.
Chaitanya Gavali vs Tiran Thakshala
Up next was the featherweight fight between Chaitanya Gavali and Tiran Thakshala, who came into this battle with a 2-0 career record. Thakshala stretched Gavali for three rounds, occasionally landing a few punches.
However, the night belonged to Gavali, who overwhelmed his relatively inexperienced opponent and ended up being awarded a unanimous decision--30-27, 30-27, 30-27.
Neil Natasadu vs Travis Bell
Despite his kickboxing background, India's Neil Natasadu was no match for Travis Bell. While he started off with an impressive body kick, Bell was quick to pounce on him and take him down. Thereafter, Natasadu kept playing catch up with a superior opponent.
In the second round, Bell took Natasadu down, and applied a submission move on him. Natasadu tapped out 1 minute 18 seconds into the second round, giving Bell an easy win.
Lena Ovchynnikova vs Sanja Sucevic
Ukraine's Lena Ovchynnikova went up against Serbian sensation Sanja Sucevic in the women's division. While both these women could easily pass off as models, this fight was one ugly affair.
Eager to prove themselves in the MMA world, both women started off on a high note. Ovchynnikova took down Sucevic after landing a strong left hand. This was followed by some competitive back-and-forth grappling, which saw Sucevic narrowly leading after the first round.
The Serbian carried forth this momentum into the second round, and soon applied a rear naked choke on her opponent. Sucevic won via submission after 2 minutes and 28 seconds.
Bob Sapp vs James Thompson
The much-hyped main event of the night featured MMA legends Bob Sapp and James Thompson in a heavyweight clash. As soon as the bell rang, Sapp went after Thompson and scored an early takedown. However, Thompson was able to retaliate quickly as he landed quite a few punches, and swung the momentum his way.
Somehow, Sapp managed to sweep his opponent but was taken down in an awkward manner by Thompson. Sapp injured his quad and had to tap out, awarding Thompson the decision in just 1 minute and 52 seconds.
You can catch all the action from Sunday right here:
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