Team Encore is Slowly Gaining Mat Notoriety
When you come from an established team, building a new one from scratch can be a tall order. But Coach Joshua Abella is hopeful that Encore will pick up and reach the same level of success as his previous group.
I arrived at this relatively new gym before 7 on a Sunday morning. Apart from the receptionist, the only person I saw was a guy, perhaps in his early thirties, mopping the canvas. I was almost positive it was Michaelo “Mike” Sumulong, one of the owners.
Then the students started coming in. Looking around, I noticed that none of them were elite fighters. In fact, some of the guys started their martial arts journey right here, as I would learn later from their coach, two-stripe Fabricio purple belt, Joshua “Josh” Abella.
This is a stark contrast from the previous gyms we have featured where hardened fighters enter the premises day in and day out. Here, I see men who train almost as hard as they work for their families, and are willing to test their skills in competition. Yet their coach, himself an active jiu-jitsu competitor, encourages them to focus on improving without thinking too much of competing.
Rock music. Bikini fashion show. Car show. Cage action featuring pro-am and student fighters.
All these and a ton of booze made the inaugural Forza Underground a smashing success.
Co-presented by San Miguel Beer Octoberfest and supported by Fitness Armory, Lloyd’s Insurance Agency Management Corporation, Lights Camera Manila Productions, CDO, Toby’s Sports, and Vantage International, the event was as exciting as advertised and the fighters were as fiery as promised.
Here’s what we witnessed on the night of October 20 at the Ynares Sports Arena in Pasig City:
Mark Itaas (TIP) def. Ezekiel Vengua (Lyceum of the Philippines)
A strong leg kick that dropped Vengua proved to be Itaas’ ticket to a ground and pound finish only 13 seconds into the fight.
Amiel Goco (CSB) def. Domic Amoncio (FEU)
Goco displayed some decent boxing for MMA, with precise punches that ended the night early for Amoncio.
Kiel Cabasal (Ateneo) def. John Fabello (Romarinda International College)
Cabasal used his striking to set up a takedown before catching Fabello with a left as the latter was standing up, ending the tussle at 1:25 in the second round.
The newly minted Brazilian Luta Livre blue belt (under Maestro Afonso Cego) hopes to mount another comeback for Team Sprawl.
It seems Team Sprawl has a newfound vigor. The pioneering fight team from Cubao is out headhunting for lost sheen, and main man Sulpiano “Nhong” Laurio is leading the charge.
Following the successful comeback of Miguel Alo early this year, Laurio is set to get a feel of MMA competition again after almost five years of inactivity. Laurio last fought in 2012 when he faced former URCC featherweight world champion Red Romero.
It was a fight he took on short notice and suffered the consequences. His two other losses in nine bouts came at the hands of high-caliber opposition in Andrew Benibe (another former URCC titleholder) and a Team Lakay standout. Now 41 years old, Laurio remains a well-oiled machine. He may have been sidelined for some time but he made sure training never stopped.