EFC 15 Review by Aj McPetrie

This EFC 15 review is brought to you by our resident MMA expert, the deadly (I’m sure he’s killed something with those kicks) AJ Mc Petrie…

For those of you who have been living on the moon and don’t know what Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) is, let me very quickly educate you.

Remember in the old martial arts movies when a Karate fighter would fight a Kung Fu fighter, or maybe a boxer against a wrestler, Sumo versus Thai Boxing…..? The sport of MMA was created to answer the question of what would really happen if anyone of these styles came up against one another, and which style or styles are in fact the most effective.

Over the last two decades the sport has had its ups and downs. Initially it was not at all well received by the general public, developing a reputation as “human cock-fighting” amongst
others, the sport looked too brutal to ever go onto develop into an accepted sport worldwide.

Then along can a man named Dana White (current owner of the Ultimate Fighting Championship) and his vision for a show called The Ultimate Fighter (now on its sixteenth season). The TV show (Google it if you don’t know all about it!) changed the way that the world viewed the sport, giving people an idea of the intense training, huge sacrifices and sense of
honor amongst athletes competing, in what has to be the world’s most gruelling sport. Today MMA is the world’s fastest growing sport!

There is one organisation that every mixed martial arts fan knows all about- The Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC). Fights are fought in a cage (the patented Octagon) and fighters can win by knockout, submission (tap out), referee’s stoppage or via judge’s decision. Punches, kicks, knees and elbows are all legal.

If you are South African and have been following MMA for years, as I have, then you have been waiting desperately for MMA to kick off here like it has so successfully around the rest of the world. Finally, thanks to the Extreme Fighting Championship, SA’s very own version of the UFC, it has!

Last Friday night saw EFC 15 come to Carnival City in Johannesburg. I was given the privilege of reviewing the action for any My City readers who may have missed it….


Raymond Ahana (4-4) vs Jason Culverwell (1-0)

The first main-card fight of the night, saw former Nigerian Taekwondo champion Raymond Ahana match up against Richards Bay fighter, Jason Culverwell; both fighters coming off
impressive victories in their last EFC fights, Ahana winning his with a vicious head-kick KO over Sean Robertson at EFC 13.

In their pre-fight interviews, Ahana claimed, “nothing is going to stop me” while Culverwell smiled calmly saying, ”it’s not going to be as easy as he thinks”. Here’s what happened….

Round 1:

Both fighters began aggressively; Ahana attacking mainly with his punches, while Culverwell got in a few knees. Ahana seemed to land the harder shots and stayed out of major danger as long as he utilised his reach advantage.

Sensing perhaps that Ahana had his number on the feet, Culverwell shot in for a takedown which Ahana stuffed and then used his superior leverage to put Culverwell on his back.

Before Ahana had a chance to do any damage though, Culverwell locked in a tight arm-bar from his back and Ahana was suddenly in deep trouble…..

Although he did almost everything wrong in the defense of the arm-bar, standing up straight and trying to pull out of the arm-bar instead of sitting down and keeping pressure on his
opponent, Ahana somehow managed to power out of the submission attempt and get back to his feet.

Once there again Ahana, chose to stick to the hands and keep a low, wide stance to try and avoid another takedown. He did a good job, using his reach advantage to keep Culverwell on
the outside while landing a number of good right hands and a couple of inside leg kicks.

With 1:12 left in the first, Culverwell landed a big double-leg takedown but Ahana managed to work his way back up to his feet without taking any significant punishment.


Culverwell came out with three big outside leg kicks which did some damage but the rest of the first half of the second belonged to Ahana, who kept with his strategy of keeping a low,
wide stance and using few kicks and a more punch-heavy attack so as not to be taken down. He managed to keep Culverwell on the outside and caught him with a number of good, hard right hands as he tried to come in.

On 2:10 of the round though, Ahana got a bit too confident and closed the distance, giving Culverwell his chance to shoot in and put his opponent where he wanted him all fight, on his
back. A few short elbows and punches from the mount and Ahana gave up his arm. Culverwell spun and landed in a very tight straight-arm bar and I thought the fight was over.

Once again though, Ahana showed crazy submission defense and, to be completely honest, I don’t know how he got out of that submission with his arm unbroken…

When Ahana did pop up though, it was straight into a deep Triangle choke from Culverwell. Goodnight I said…

To everyone’s amazement though, when the hooter for the end of round two sounded, Ahana was still conscious. Barely though!

Round 3:

The round began with a brutal exchange, both fighters doing damage until Culverwell managed to push Ahana up against the cage while in the clinch. From there, a very nice trip saw
Culverwell end up on top and step quickly over into the mount.

Ahana defended himself well for a moment until Culverwell managed to land a big short-elbow, followed by a number of hard puches that all found their mark. On 3:24 the ref decided that he had seen enough and awarded Culverwell his first TKO victory in the EFC.

Fight overview:

For me this was the fight of the night. Spectators got to see good kickboxing and boxing, some good takedowns and some really good submission attempts. Both fighters looked in really good shape, well trained and most importantly, showed excellent heart, leaving everything they had in the cage.

While there had to be a winner, both fighters should be very proud of their performance and, I for one, would really like to see both of them back in the hexagon. Maybe even a rematch?

Middle weight bout: Gareth “Soldier Boy” Mc Lellan (7-2) vs Armand De Bruin (3-1)

If you are like me and follow South African MMA closely, then you must have been very disappointed to hear that EFC 15 would not give us the chance to see Gareth “Soldier Boy” Mc
Lellan try to win back his EFC Middle Weight title that he lost to Jeremy “Bitbull” Smith.

Unfortunately, Smith fell sick during his fight preparation and was forced to pull out, denying SA fight fans of the mouth-watering prospect of watching two of the country’s most talented fighters go at it for the EFC Middle- weight title.

Stepping in for the injured Pitbull was Armand De Bruin, the 26 year old former SA Judo champ, fighting out of Pine Town, Durban.

Mc Lellan looked focused and fired up in his pre-fight interview claiming that De Bruin, “better be ready for an all out war.” De Bruin responded in saying that he, “did not see Mc Lellan as a threat.”

It took all of one-minute and twenty-two seconds to find out….

Round 1:

De Bruin came out aggressively and Mc Lellan actually took the back-foot for a second or two, weathering a very brief set of combinations from De Bruin. Then, with seemingly no effort at all, Soldier Boy fired off one or two punches to bring De Bruin’s hands up and then shot in for a very smooth double-leg to put De Bruin on his back.

Mc Lellan landed in side-control and, after a few seconds of controlling De Bruin, put in just one big right hand. That was all it took for De Bruin to make the classic Judo-players’ mistake of rolling onto his stomach. From there Mc Lellan took his back and tapped him out with a rear-naked choke on the 1:22 mark.

Immediately after the tap-out, Mc Lennan looked straight at Jeremy Smith and put out his hands as if to say, “I’m right here waiting for you,” …the message could not have been clearer. He went on to further express his desire to face the Pitbull in his post-fight interview, calling through the cage, “ Jezza come on bud, let’s do this thing bro…”

The Pitbull, not to take the challenge sitting down, came from ringside into the cage to take Mc Lellan’s hand and formally accept the challenge. The intensity was obvious for all. I personally can’t wait for that one!

Fight overview:

Mc Lellan against De Bruin was, in my opinion, a case of man against boy. Taking nothing away from the young man, De Bruin came up against a fighter in a class above his own. If he can go back and learn from his mistakes he will come back stronger and I’m sure we will see much from him in the future.

Mc Lellan on the other hand, proved himself to be amongst a very elite group of fighters on the African continent. Like I said earlier, I can’t wait to see him and Jeremy Smith go at it for the Middle weight title.

Main event: EFC light heavy-weight title:

JP “The Pitbull” Joubert (3-2) vs Norman Vessels (5-2)

The main event of EFC 15 saw the crowning of its first Light-Heavy weight champion. The two fighters considered worthy of fighting for the belt were former EFC Heavyweight champ
Norman Vessels and big-banger JP “The Pitball” Joubert.

JP Joubert came out to “We will rock you…” and when it was all over and the first EFC Light- Heavy Champ was crowned, Norman Vessels was definitely rocked!

Round 1:

The only way to describe round one is…complete domination by Norman Vessels. He was all over JP Joubert. Punches, knees, elbows in the clinch and good takedowns followed by brutal ground and pound; Norman Vessels did it all, showing off an impressive, well-rounded MMA game.

The end of round one saw Vessels in full mount on Joubert raining down elbows and very close to ending the fight. A very unsteady Joubert made his way to his corner, clearly exhausted.

Round 2:

Round two was like something out of a Rocky movie. Vessels got the take down early and transitioned easily into the mount. A couple good elbows forced Joubert to give up his back,
Vessels sunk in the hooks and it looked like Joubert was either going to have to tap or get choked out via rear-naked choke.

Joubert escaped though and suddenly started swinging wild, looping, powerful punches that started to find their target. Vessels was clearly hurt and Joubert moved in for the kill, landing more and more of his looping blows on Vessel’s chin, pressing him back against the cage. Just when it looked like the ref was going to step in and stop proceedings, Joubert backed off, not wanting to completely burn himself out. Vessels shot in for the takedown, put Joubert on the canvas and moved straight into full-mount. It was at that point that I thought Joubert had done all he could and that Norman Vessels was about to become the EFC’s first Light Heavy-weight champion.

With every last ounce of energy left in his body, JP Joubert pushed with his legs off the cage and spun to his knees, got to his feet and unleashed a barrage of wild, savage punches. They weren’t pretty but they were accurate and they were powerful. When it was all over Norman Vessels lay crumpled against the cage and JP Joubert stood over him, the new EFC Light Heavy- Weight Champion.

Fight overview:

Personally, I feel that Norman Vessels was the more technical, skilled fighter of the two. I think he looked in better shape and was better prepared in terms of strategy. JP Joubert though, possesses something that cannot be taught, something that all champions must possess more of than technique or raw talent. JP Joubert showed “heart” and lots of it, that’s why he is the champion.

Final thoughts:

I am sure that if you are an MMA fan and you live in South Africa, you are as impressed with what you saw at EFC 15 as I am.

Every fighter that stepped into the hexagon showed an overall understanding of the sport of MMA and all the fights were entertaining. Fighters looked fit, well-rounded and talented. The sport finally seems to have gained to attention and recognition within South Africa that it has around the rest of the world.

The EFC clearly has a big following and we can expect many more big shows like we saw on Friday night. MMA has a bright and shining future in South Africa!

– AJ Mc Petrie – MMA blogger.

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