The Quebec Chronicles: SLAMM 1 – an Evening of Tristar Dominance
SLAMM, a new promotion created to fill the current void in Quebec’s MMA market, blasted off on a decidedly one-sided note Friday with an evening of easy, one-sided wins for a handful of young Tristar (and Tristar-affiliated) fighters, including Alex Garcia, Olivier Aubin-Mercier, and Aiemann Zahabi.
With Interbox, the event’s promoter, working hand-in-hand with Tristar, including a matchmaker drawn from its ranks, the event offered few surprises, delivering on its goal of shining a positive light on several of the dominant Montreal gym’s prospects.
Of the card’s eight bouts, only one went the distance, with six quick first-round finishes that added up to less than ten in-cage minutes resulting in a short evening of action for both the winners and their severely over-matched opponents.
With Ringside MMA still without a promoter’s license, and Instinct MMA on hiatus, the card was the first professional event in the Montreal area since late June, drawing talent from both of the promotions’ current and former ranks.
Just how one-sided were the match-ups, and is this what pro MMA will look like going forward in Quebec? Let’s take a look.
In the main event, Alex Garcia (8-1), a hulking Tristar Welterweight looking to regain momentum following a year lost to an ACL knee injury, locked in a first-round rear-naked choke on Stephane Lamarche (8-13), handing him his sixth loss in his last seven bouts. With two straight wins following his sole career loss in 2011 to current UFC fighter Seth Baczynski (18-8), Garcia, now 25, should soon be ready to dip back into the tougher opposition (or at least tougher than Lamarche for his next bout) that he’ll need to beat if he wants to move out of the regional MMA circuit.
In the co-main event, Olivier Aubin-Mercier (3-0) finished for a third straight time with a rear-naked choke in under two minutes. A former member of Canada’s national Judo team, and a winner at the 2011 World Abu Dhabi Pro BJJ Championships, the 23 year-old attacked violently with jab-cross combos before landing two knees and finishing on the ground. Since making his debut, H2O MMA’s Aubin-Mercier has yet to face a challenger with a comparable level of talent. His opponent Friday, Jordan Jewell (2-2), was competing for the first time since 2006 and offered little in terms of opposition.
The highly-touted younger brother of Tristar head-trainer Firas Zahabi, Aiemann Zahabi (1-0), may have had the evening’s easiest match-up. His compact, handlebar-moustached opponent Kyle Vivian (0-6) had the poor judgement to charge in from the start, resulting in his being completely outstruck on the feet and later the ground, where he eventually submitted to the onslaught 88 seconds into the fight. Zahabi, who experienced difficulty finding opponents at the amateur level, should have no trouble against tougher opposition next time around, granted someone is willing to step up to the plate. Less importantly, why has Vivian’s management agreed to book their hapless client against Zahabi, Sergio Pettis, and Jason Saggo?
Popular undefeated amateur Dominic Trepanier (1-0), a fighter only loosely associated with the Tristar camp, made quick work of Jordan Turcotte (0-1), finishing him with ground-and-pound at 1:43 from the back following an early takedown. Turcotte, called in as a late replacement, was coming off three losses at the end of his extensive, if unremarkable amateur career. In court for a drug possession charge he received three years ago, Turcotte was given a delay in his case by the judge in order to take the fight, and granted a license by the Régie des alcools des courses et des jeux (RACJ). Given the RACJ’s previous willingness to deny licenses to members of the Quebec MMA community who have never been charged with anything, this one has to be chalked up as a favour to the promoters. Who says provincial commissions are consistent in Canada?
The only fight to go the distance was the closely matched Mario Pereira’s (1-0) split decision win over Michael Dufort (0-2). After controlling Dufort in the opening frame with superior wrestling, Pereira landed two more takedowns in the second, but was also hit by a series of knees. In the final round, the action remained close, with Pereira getting hit before taking the action to the ground, working from side-mount and North-South while Dufort attacked attempted inverted triangle chokes. A clear pick for Fight of the Night, the bout also marked a revenge win for Pereira, who suffered his only amateur loss to Dufort in late 2011. Based on their spirited performances, both fighters looked good coming out of this one.
In other action, Ryan Hall (1-1) evened his record following a debut loss in 2006. The highly decorated BJJ competitor (who you really don’t want to harass at a restaurant), has been training MMA at Tristar as of late, and put his grappling advantage to work, taking Phillip Deschambeault (4-6) to the ground before pounding him out in 1:41. Robin Black (4-5) snapped a two-loss streak with an odd second-round victory. After controlling most of the way, Black placed his opponent Derek Charbonneau (0-1) in a kimura in the second round, before referee Erick Philippeaux appeared to stop the fight prior to a tap. In the opener, Tristar’s Mandel Nallo (1-0) set the pace for the evening, blitzing his opponent Joseph Latour (1-4) with a long series of hooks before connecting with a head kick for the 39-second TKO. An easy test for Nallo, but suggestive of his strong stand-up talent.
The evening’s dominant results beg the question of whether the fighters of Tristar, recognized as a world-class MMA gym, would still have won against tougher opponents? The answer? Probably. Do they need to be facing studs this early in their career? Probably not. However, something in between, a little more opposition going forward, could give fans a clearer idea of where Tristar’s prospects really stand, talent and potential-wise.
Would Interbox, the seemingly budget-conscious promoters, be willing to shell out the extra money to pay tougher opponents and risk their fighters? Hard to say. In Ringside and Instinct, fighters favoured by the promoters, including those from Tristar, never had it as easy as last night. The flip side of that is that local draws often lost. Competition aside, does that make more sense for a regional promoter? Few of the fans last night seemed to care that their friends were winning too quickly.
Equally important is the question of whether Tristar will even have another chance to fight under SLAMM’s generous matchmaking. That much remains to be seen.
Despite pulling in a mostly-partisan crowd of 1300-1400, in the same range as Ringside and Instinct’s last shows, Interbox officials reiterated that they would wait to assess the financial success of SLAMM 1 before deciding whether or not to hold a second event. SLAMM 1, originally scheduled to take place in a larger hockey arena, was moved in the weeks before the event to a smaller sports complex 40 minutes from Montreal, owned by the same parent company (Sportscene) as Interbox. The group, best known for their promotion of Super Middleweight boxer Lucian Bute (31-1), is expected to make an announcement in January.