Minute by Minute: Yamma Pit Fighting

By Jake Rossen Apr 14, 2008
Yamma Pit Fighting, the latest in a long line of not-for-profit MMA charities, made its un-awaited debut Friday evening.

"Yamma," loosely translated from the Russian, means "to hemorrhage money," a concept oft-reinforced during the broadcast. Fighters entered the "Yamma," a revolutionary fighting surface that promised to provide an even more obstructed view of the action; banners and decals trumpeted the arrival of another nonsensical word to the fight fan's lexicon.

(Fun fact: "Yamma" actually means "pit," making the literal translation of the event "Pit Pit Fighting.")

Out of sympathy for those unwilling to pay $34.95 to watch Butterbean eclipse the house lights, notes follow.

10:00 p.m. I hear the voice of Bruce Beck, the renowned former UFC broadcaster and one of the most professional, polished voices in all of sports.

Despite my nostalgia for Beck, I will try to remain objective.

10:01 p.m. There he is, glistening like a golden coin in the sun. Doesn't look a day older.

10:02 p.m. The Yamma fighting surface is finally revealed to be … more or less a cage with a sloped outer ring. It resembles nothing so much as an appetizer tray at T.G.I. Fridays.

The idea, ostensibly to reduce wrestlers pinning opponents against the fence, is likely to have one undesirable result: round after round of really bad kickboxing.

10:03 p.m. Former UFC matchmaker John Perretti joins Beck and Jeff Blatnick to round out the old guard announcing team. While I've always admired his candor, Perretti's demeanor makes Doctor Gregory House look like Julie Andrews.

10:05 p.m. Beck admits that the non-sequitur Mark Kerr (Pictures)-Oleg Taktarov bout "would've gotten us all pumped up 10 years ago, but what about now?" It's a rare shot of objectivity from the commentator's booth. And Beck, may I say, looks smashing in his blue blazer ensemble.

10:07 p.m. Heavyweight tournament entrant Alexey Oleinik (Pictures) enters wearing a Bodog Fight jacket and hat, possibly the last of his compensation for the likely-defunct promotion. That, and a free parlay wager on the Washington Generals.

10:08 p.m. Perretti calls Alexey a "pencil-neck" and proceeds to analyze Oleinik's glutes and calves like he was vying for Mr. Olympia.

10:09 p.m. Sherman Pendergarst (Pictures) makes a very slow, deliberate walk to the pit-pit. I've seen rocks turn into sand faster.

10:11 p.m. Sirius satellite radio personality Scott Ferrall begins bleating as the ring announcer, his stressed voice sounding like someone took a belt sander to his trachea.

10:12 p.m. Ferrall informs us the show is sponsored by vodka and Budweiser … apropos, since those are the two reasons I've ordered this pay-per-view.

10:15 p.m. Oleinik is on the bottom against Pendergarst, but lack of action prompts a standup. Alexey then nabs a takedown of his own.

Immediately apparent about the vaunted Yamma surface: Fighters can't defend well against a shot when their feet are being elevated behind them on the slope. It robs them of maintaining a proper center of gravity.

10:17 p.m. Though Alexey is active with punches, the referee breaks them for a standup. He hands Alexey a broken bottle and restarts the action.

10:18 p.m. Oleinik sinks in a choke for the first (televised) win in the Yamma.

10:22 p.m. We see Mark Coleman (Pictures) warming up with protégé George Bush (Pictures) III backstage. Coleman is a perennially temperamental cornerman, and I'm hoping he'll erupt over something inconsequential.

10:23 p.m. Tony Sylvester (Pictures) and Chris Tuscherer discuss battle strategies in front of the Trump Taj Mahal.

10:27 p.m. "Pacing like he hasn't eaten … like he's going to the electric chair" … Ferrall is doing his best to continue the proud tradition of radio personalities in MMA that began with Extreme Fighting and Gary "Ba Ba Booey" Dell'Abate.

10:29 p.m. Sylvester tries in vain to defend a takedown against the slope. "Yamma … is replicating the feel of a fight at your local skate park," explains Beck, which snaps things into focus.

10:30 p.m. Exhausted by the demands of the Yamma, Sylvester lumbers around the cage until time expires. Tuscherer wins a decision and gasps through the post-fight interview like an asthmatic after a triathlon, despite having fought just one round of five minutes.

10:37 p.m. Beck announces a June 21 date for Yamma 2. Optimism.

10:40 p.m. UFC and Pride veteran Travis Wiuff (Pictures) prepares to tackle jiu-jitsu stylist Marcelo Pereira.

10:46 p.m. Wiuff is announced as having 54 more professional fights than Pereira. I'm pleased to see Yamma matchmakers holding themselves to the highest professional standards.

10:51 p.m. Wiuff scores his second effortless takedown. It's becoming clear that with a five-minute round, there's little incentive to fight hard and win quickly to conserve energy. With just one or two tackles, fighters can earn a judge's nod. I grow solemn and depressed.

10:54 p.m. Wiuff wins a unanimous decision.

10:56 p.m. Bush comes out with Coleman in tow.

11:00 p.m. "Let's go to Ferrall," threatens Beck. Let's not.

11:01 p.m. Ferrall informs viewers that Bush's opponent Ricco Rodriguez (Pictures) has "beaten Randy Couture (Pictures) … and appeared on ‘Celebrity Rehab,'" a résumé unlikely to ever be equaled.

11:03 p.m. Rodriguez scores a takedown and has now more or less won the fight.

11:04 p.m. Disenfranchised with the slope's lack of cooperation in inflicting pain, Rodriguez picks Bush up and centers him on the canvas before a takedown.

11:05 p.m. Back on the feet, Rodriguez launches some very ineffectual kicks.

11:06 p.m. Ricco gets standing back mount, performing a Heimlich demo on Bush.

11:11 p.m. After a grueling five-minute marathon, Rodriguez wins a decision. The control booth cuts to Coleman's annoyed reaction, which looks a lot like Donkey Kong's freakout after you dodge all his barrels.

11:12 p.m. Kerr says he "filled gaps" in his MMA game with jiu-jitsu, boxing and anti-estrogen pills.

11:14 p.m. Kerr enters the Yamma looking like a G.I. Joe that's been left out in the sun too long. His physique has melted into normalcy.

11:14 p.m. Taktarov discusses his pending fight. "My style is masochism."

11:16 p.m. Taktarov gets Vaseline applied to his face, along with pre-emptive globs of Super Glue.

11:20 p.m. Kerr gets a takedown, but they're soon back up.

11:21 p.m. Kerr nails Taktarov with a hard right hand. "And there's the bleeding," sighs Blatnick. The Red Cross hovers nearby, waiting to fill their second-quarter quota.

11:22 p.m. After a scramble, Taktarov locks up an unlikely kneebar for the win.

11:24 p.m. "Why fight? There are women throwing themselves at you," Blatnick says to Oleg. The Russian expresses jealousy over tourney entrants: "Give me a couple more guys." Easy there, Tiger.

11:31 p.m. Beck turns it over to Ferrall for the Oleinik-Tuscherer semifinal, who says "Thanks, Bruce" despite no one in the arena knowing who or what he's talking about.

11:34 p.m. Tuscherer nails a takedown. Alexey tries a loose, ill-fitting triangle.

11:39 p.m. Tuscherer wins a decision.

11:42 p.m. Wiuff and Rodriguez prepare for the semifinals.

11:47 p.m. Takedown by Wiuff. Ricco works a key lock.

11:51 p.m. They're stood up. Ricco lands a knee to the groin.

11:54 p.m. Unable to peel himself off the Yamma and out from underneath Wiuff, Rodriguez loses a decision.

11:56 p.m. UFC 1 veteran Pat Smith squints for the camera.

12:01 a.m. Beck mentions Eric "Butterbean" Esch is a jellified 416 pounds, up from a slim 313 in 1994. If Smith gets by him, he'll have his shot at Soda Popinski.

12:05 a.m. Smith works an old-school front push kick to keep the ‘Bean at bay. He looks surprisingly sharp, connecting with combos that blacken and bloody his foe.

12:06 a.m. ‘Bean teeters and goes down like a defective Weeble Wobble. Smith jumps on him and begins an onslaught of punches that lasts minutes. Esch's defense consists of moaning and waiting for PETA to come to his rescue.

12:07 a.m. It's over. Smith wins.

12:15 a.m. Tuscherer and Wiuff are set to meet in the finals.

12:21 a.m. Wiuff gets some nice elevation for a throw. He stays busy in Tuscherer's guard.

12:25 a.m. Wiuff lands a cracking right that breaks Tuscherer's nose and splatters gore across his face, like a Chef Boyardee taste test gone awry.

12:30 a.m. Round two, and Wiuff is teeing off on Tuscherer. Hopefully he isn't vegan, because he's eating a ton of leather.

12:33 a.m. Wiuff nails another takedown.

12:36 a.m. Tuscherer turns it on late in the third, but Wiuff scores a fight-winning takedown. Credit to Tuscherer for hanging in with a broken nose.

12:47 a.m. Beck implores fans to fill out an online survey to get a free T-shirt. An excerpt:

Yamma impacted MMA in the same way:
A). The Wright Brothers impacted aviation
B). The Beatles impacted music
C). Malaria impacted Africa

While the nostalgia of seeing Smith and Taktarov pull off impressive wins was pleasant, Yamma's fighting surface amounts to little more than five-minute phases of takedown drills.

Until the kinks -- and slopes -- are ironed out, I'd suggest a new Russian buzzword for promoters: "ckyka," roughly translated to mean "boredom."

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