Wiuff Wins Inaugural Yamma Tournament

Wiuff Wins

By Joe Hall and Peter Lockley Apr 12, 2008
ATLANTIC CITY, N.J., April 11 -- Travis Wiuff (Pictures) won three fights Friday to capture the Yamma Pit Fighting heavyweight tournament at the Trump Taj Mahal.

The event, promoted by Bob Meyrowitz, used a bowl-shaped cage that was flat in the center with a 1-foot, 7-inch incline at the fence. If the design was intended to make mixed martial arts more entertaining, it did not work Friday.

In most fights, the "warning track" seemed to set up takedowns by preventing sprawls and positioning one fighter's legs well within his opponent's grasp. The eight-man tournament also used only a single five-minute period for each bout in the quarterfinals and semifinals, which perhaps enhanced the importance of takedowns and control on the ground instead of taking risks.

Wiuff, 30, made the most of the cage as well as the single-round format. Two takedowns and some striking on the ground late earned him a unanimous decision in a quarterfinal bout against Nova Uniao black belt Marcelo Pereira.

In the semifinals, Wiuff backed Ricco Rodriguez (Pictures) up the incline for a takedown. Little action followed on the ground. Wiuff was content to hold Rodriguez on his back, where the fight stayed until a restart with one minute left.

Rodriguez then looked for a knockout, but Wiuff threw him to the mat to seal the unanimous decision.

Wiuff met fellow Minnesotan Chris Tuscherer in a 15-minute final. After an exchange of jabs, Wiuff threw his opponent to his back and landed in side-control. Tuscherer, who entered the night 11-0, kept trying to roll Wiuff and eventually got to his feet only to be taken back down.

The fight was restarted standing late in the first round. Tuscherer took a right hand that stunned him and prompted him to turn his back. He then turned around to catch another big right from Wiuff, who could not finish his fallen foe before the round ended.

Tuscherer was gutsy in making it out for the second. Wiuff took him down again, however, and yet again to open the third round. By then the fighters were clearly fatigued.

Tuscherer mounted his best offense just as the fight closed. He rallied with an uppercut and a pair of lefts, but Wiuff finished one last takedown to close out the unanimous decision: 29-28, 30-27, 30-27.

"It was a good night," said Wiuff, who improved to 52-11. "I can pay some bills now."

The tournament winner told Sherdog.com that he knew it would be difficult for his heavyweight opponents to stay on their feet on the incline. His strategy was to push them up on it for takedowns.

"I definitely used [the incline] to my advantage, but it's very similar to pushing a guy up against the cage," he said. "So it didn't change a lot of things for me."

The final had some entertaining moments, but the short semifinal and quarterfinal bouts were less than stirring.

"With one five-minute round, it's hard to make the fights really exciting," Wiuff said. "I just wanted to get the win. I wanted to keep it exciting. I don't know if it was that exciting. Then in the finals, I felt like it was an exciting fight. I tried to finish [Tuscherer] in the first round and reinjured my hand, but he's a tough guy. He's going to be very good in the future."

Tuscherer had advanced to the finals with a semifinal win over Alexey Oleinik (Pictures). Early in the fight, he used the incline well to stop a takedown attempt by the 30-year-old from Russia. He then grabbed a guillotine choke, which allowed him to walk Oleinik up the slope and set up a double-leg.

Oleinik attacked with a triangle choke from the bottom that threatened but didn't look close to finishing. After escaping the choke, Tuscherer punched and elbowed from the top to earn a unanimous decision.

Tuscherer scored several takedowns to earn a unanimous decision over Tony Sylvester (10-2) in the quarterfinals. Sylvester, of Canton, Ohio, could not stay off the incline. The slope kept his legs in the range of Tuscherer, who punched from Sylvester's back on the feet when he wasn't trying to put him on the ground.

In another quarterfinal bout, Rodriguez shot under George Bush (Pictures) (5-1) for a single-leg takedown. Bush, 25, got to his feet quickly, but soon he was suplexed back to the mat. Again Bush, fighting out of Columbus, Ohio, worked to his feet, where he landed some hard kicks to Rodriguez's legs.

The former UFC heavyweight champion kept timing takedowns perfectly, though. A double-leg slam and then a single-leg late secured the unanimous decision for Rodriguez over his scrappy foe.

Sherman Pendergarst, 42, kept rushing forward until he took down Oleinik to start the heavyweight tournament. After a restart on the feet, Oleinik, 30, scored his own takedown. Again the match slowed, and referee Kevin Mulhall moved to stand the fighters up. Oleinik kept punching, however, which prompted Mulhall to take a point from him.

The deduction didn't matter. When the fight resumed, Pendergarst (10-9) backed up the incline in hopes of stopping another takedown attempt. The tactic only seemed to set up the big double-leg that followed. On the ground, Oleinik finished the fight at 4:18 with a choke from the top position in half guard.
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