by Sandy Hackenmueller
It had been a month since I had attended local cage fights, so Saturday night was a good, therapeutic fix for me. As a freelance fight photographer I work primarily with SEG/Driller MMA shows in central Minnesota. And when it comes to a stacked card and creative matchmaking, no one does it better! These guys know the local scene and fighters inside and out, and the hard fought, evenly matched bouts proved it.
I have been on the scene for a little over two years and I’ve been to almost every show. I’ve gotten to know the fighters and their fight stories, which only makes being a cageside witness all that more exciting.
Take fighter Alex Van Krevelen, for example. He is a fun, friendly guy outside of the cage and you can’t help but cheer him on when he steps inside the cage. Saturday night, he took a beating. Just when I thought the ref should stop the fight because Alex was bloody, teetery and taking more abuse, Alex throws another punch and just keeps on going. I’m not sure I’ve ever seen someone with such determination and drive at this point. Well, except Floyd Hodges — those two could probably both walk away from a plane crash. AVK’s fight was so notable because he could not be taken out at any cost. He lost by decision but the crowd definitely won.
Jordan Griffin vs Alex Van Krevelen
And then there was the match up between Stephen “Killa” Watt and Dan “The Hitman” Moret. I had almost forgotten they were fighting that night…I told Stephen this was a bout I thought should have been shouted from the rooftops!
Stephen is a valid contender, someone who has been on the fight scene for a few years, with a winning record. Moret has too, but hasn’t been on SEG/Driller cards as long. And the rumors in the present crowd are that Moret is unstoppable. His last well-hyped fight against Damion Hill in September had a lot of people talking. I overheard several people say that if anyone can beat Dan, its Hill. When Moret finished that fight with a rear naked choke in one minute, people talked about it for a very long time.
Moret (top) v Watt
Stephen is Damion’s teammate. All the more reason to watch and wonder — will Watt avenge his teammate’s loss? Will he showboat in the cage as he’s been known to do in the past? Stephen knows how to get the crowd watching and cheering or jeering — and he’s also beaten incredibly tough fighters he has not been favored to beat before. This fight was a seat gripper for me — and these two fighters did not disappoint. It went all three rounds and both fighters showed mad skills all fight fans crave to see. And in the end, Moret walked away with the unanimous decision.
There were 16 fights on the card this weekend, with far too many notable bouts to detail here. But I will close with a headline fight that grabbed the audience’s attention and held on tight.
Last year I met fighter Reese Hernandez as he worked out at Matt Miller’s gym, Horsepower Strength and Conditioning. Reese was a well-respected, well-known fighter who I hadn’t had the pleasure of seeing fight yet…and still wouldn’t for another year. My favorite experience in chatting w/ Reese was the time we were in the locker room at a show, and he introduced me to fighter Bruce Nelson — one of his childhood teachers! Reese said as a kid he was always in love with MMA, and was in awe the day he heard Mr. Nelson was a fighter. He said he never thought he’d see the day that he’d be sharing a locker room w/ his former teacher. They had nothing but good things to say about each other.
On Saturday night Reese faced off against notable heavyweight Matt Larson. Matt comes to the fights with a loyal following who all but bring down the house with chants of “Yeti! Yeti” when he enters the cage. Not to be outdone on Saturday, Reese’s camp was just as raucous. The volume increased as the fight got under way.
Matt Larson (l) vs Reese Hernandez
Have you ever watched a live heavyweight bout? My first experience two years ago took me by surprise…heavyweight fights are LOUD. The charging bodies thunder in the cage. The punches that connect are heard with an audible THUD like no other. The cage SHAKES. And 99% of the time that I’m sitting cage top, the fight lands right on the corner I’m perched on and I always grab on for dear life.
Last night was no different. There was such a storm in the cage that you could see the crowd riveted despite a long night. The fight was intense — the punches were heavy and the blood was flying. In round 1 I saw the same determination in Larson that I saw earlier in Van Krevelen…he was staying active despite looking like he should be in the ER. But that didn’t last long. In round two, Larson was done :13 seconds in. Hernandez’s crowd erupted.
And I climbed down from the cage sweaty, exhausted, and full of adrenaline. And a giant smile across my face.