Last night the Montreal Casino played host to its second consecutive night of combat sports action. After a solid boxing card on Thursday, the combat sports action continued with a fast-paced kickboxing show on Friday courtesy of World Combat Arena, a fledgling promotion in The Fight City that has been putting on shows for three years. The bouts were scheduled for four rounds each, something I appreciated as a spectator as it prevented the show from dragging at all as we moved from one action-packed match to the next at a brisk pace.
Given that there is no dominant governing body in the sport of kickboxing, there are numerous entities and individual promotions, each often with their own rule set. In World Combat Arena matches, only kicks above the waist are permitted, with each fighter having to throw at least eight kicks per round. If that total isn’t reached, a point is deducted and the penalized fighter has to then throw nine kicks the next round.
Additionally, as in boxing, when the fighters end up in the clinch, they are quickly broken up by the referee, meaning no use of knees or elbows, as is often seen in MMA and muay thai. Thus the emphasis is on toe-to-toe exchanges as that’s what fans want to see, and it’s precisely what WCA President Victor Theriault is trying to achieve. Most of the bouts were presented as showdowns between competing striking disciplines, including kickboxing, karate, tae kwon do and muay thai.
There were a number of highlights from last night’s card, starting with the opening bout. Alex Petit and Louis-Charles Gareau, two kickboxers from Quebec, came out swinging with such intensity that it was only a matter of time before someone got caught. Unfortunately for Petit, he was on the wrong end of a lead hook kick that put him down hard. After beating the ref’s count, his rubbery legs were not able to receive any signals from his brain as he stumbled around the ring and the ref called a halt to the contest.
The quick knockouts continued when, in the third bout, Claudia Baril of Drummondville dominated Julie Vaillancourt of Pincourt, utilizing great footwork to keep her opponent at bay, where she could take advantage of her longer limbs. Although Julie was the aggressor, marching forward in a classic muay thai style, she consistently got caught coming in with clean punches and kicks. It was flurry of punches that ended it, each one snapping Vaillancourt’s head back and visibly stunning her. Without any effective defense to halt the onslaught, the referee jumped in to prevent further punishment.
The women continued to impress in the next bout, which was the fight of the night in this writer’s opinion. Julie Malenfant and Ariel Gallgher went to war and the crowd loved it. In what was a tale of two fights, Gallagher dominated the first two rounds despite being the much shorter fighter. She landed looping and powerful hooks, though in particular, it was her overhand right that did significant damage and reddened the left side of Julie’ face. With Julie dropping her hands in exchanges, she kept paying the price.
But, to my surprise, Malenfant turned it around in the third and started to push a tiring Gallagher back. She had success with her jab and straight right, keeping Gallagher’s face at the end of them and showing tremendous heart to overcome the beating she endured in the opening six minutes. The last round was fought on sheer guts, especially from Gallagher, as her hands were at her waist for much of it and her legs barely keeping her upright. Both fighters emptied their tanks and the crowd cheered loudly for the courage on display. Although Malenfant was awarded the decision, Gallagher was far from a loser as she put on a tremendous performance in her own right.
The crowd made its presence felt once more during the main event, as they loudly cheered on the Canadian favorite, Jonathan Meunier of Ottawa, against Edwin Rivera of New York. Meunier opened up fiercely, scoring two knockdowns in the first round, and clearly taking control. Meunier’s dominance continued in the second, as he kept moving forward and throwing hard shots. His efforts were rewarded as he scored two more knockdowns, Rivera electing to stay on one knee after the final knockdown and let the referee finish the count.
With the ref waving off the match, the crowd energy went to fever pitch as Meunier’s fans voiced their joy. That it was Meunier’s first professional bout was surprising given how seasoned and poised he looked in the ring. He’s clearly one to watch moving forward and maybe a potential star that the WCA can build upon to grow their brand.
In other action, Lucien Cornil won a hard-fought decision over David Dao, a victory which he dedicated to his father who is currently in the hospital engaging in his own battle with cancer.
Also, Pat Arseneau scored a resounding second round knockout of Marc Beaulieu courtesy of a thudding right hand, while Olivier Grondin gutted out a decision win over Samuel Bunch in the co-main event.
With WCA’s next show coming in September, they might be wise to invest some time and energy into better promoting their brand of combat. At the very least, some names and biographies of their athletes could be added to their website so that fans can start to build connections with them.
Some type of ranking system, as well as an outline of their official rules would also help to educate fans new to the world of kickboxing. The exciting matches that were on display last night convinced me that World Combat Arena has the potential to be another local promotion for Montreal fight fans to embrace.
— Jamie Rebner
Photos by Kieron Yates