Courtesy of Crawford Communications Inc. Story by Sgt. James Hunter.
FORT CAMPBELL, Ky. – There was blood, swollen eyes, a knockout or two, and even fights that nearly went the distance, and in the end the Soldiers of the 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault), were dominant during the combatives tournament Aug. 17-18.
During the tournament, fighters from all over Fort Campbell came to the Passenger Processing Center to demonstrate their combatives, or mixed martial arts, skills.
Of the eight weight classes, Strike Soldiers took first place in five of them. In the flyweight division, 2nd Lt. Michelle LaForest, with 2nd Brigade Special Troops Battalion, took on a fellow Strike Soldier, Staff Sgt. Adam McGhee, for the title. LaForest, who was the only female Soldier to fight in the finals, came into the fight with two quick victories in her previous match-ups. In her first fight, she ended it in approximately 20 seconds after applying a straight arm bar to her opponent.
“He gave me his arm and I just took it and cranked it in,” LaForest said. Though she won with such ease, she was a bit frightened coming into the competition. Only two weeks ago did she find out she would be competing against males in the tournament. When she found out who she would be fighting she thought, “Uh-oh. I’m in trouble.”
But she was never in trouble. Maybe it comes from her martial arts experience in high school or her determination to win, either way she should to all that she could compete with the best. Prior to their fight, LaForest immediately thought she didn’t have a chance because the competitors trained together and knew each others’ strength and weaknesses.
“He’s a better fighter,” said LaForest.
McGhee thinks just as highly of her.
“I’ve been worried since I found out I was fighting her,” McGhee said. “She wouldn’t be in my bracket if she couldn’t hang.”
During the fight, McGhee took immediate control early on, but as the match went on the advantage shifted sides more than once. McGhee found himself in an awkward position when LaForest nearly locked in an arm bar. To his credit, he was able to maneuver out of it and regain control. He found staying calm and collected helped him stray away from defeat.
“Staying calm, and waiting for the opening (is key),” said McGhee, who serves with Company G, 526th Brigade Support Battalion. “That’s the way we trained. If you get too excited you’re going to give up something to the other opponent.”
And that’s what LaForest believes she did.
“I got tired, stopped thinking and I went right into it,” she said.
With one swing, LaForest found herself on the ground. It looked as if she may have tripped over her own feet, but McGhee did land a good punch to knock her off her feet.
“I was tired, he would have won anyways,” LaForest said.
The match was called mid-way through the second round. McGhee was crowned the flyweight champion. However, in the end, those in attendance may have been the real winners.
In the super heavyweight division, the match featured two of the bigger men in the entire competition. One, Ruben Arriaga from the 5th Special Forces Group, seemed to excel on the ground, while the other, Pvt. William Newman from Company C, 2nd BSTB, favored his heavy hands.
Newman came into the match apprehensive but soon collected himself and focused on his game plan. The day prior, Newman studied his opponent’s skills during one of his matches. From that he came up with a game plan. He knew his opponent, Arriaga, was skilled on the mat and he would need to keep the fight standing up in order to take home the title.
However, things didn’t exactly workout like that. Not too long into the match, Arriaga had Newman on the mat, but didn’t seem to totally have the advantage. Newman stayed calm and looked for an opportunity to take the advantage. He found an opportunity to get back to his feet and when he did his opponent lost his balance. Newman gave him some good shots to the kidneys.
“That’s what really broke him down,” said Newman. Newman then caught his opponent square in the face with one heavy fist. He began stumbling and fell to the mat. Newman took advantage of this opportunity and jumped on top of his opponent striking punches to his body and face. The referee jumped in and immediately stopped the match. Newman was crowned the super heavyweight champion.
Newman and McGhee were just two of the five Strike Soldiers who won their respective weight classes.
A lot of the success, according to Chief Warrant Officer 2 Jeremy Phillips, with Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 2nd BCT, came from their continuous dedication to training.
Strike Soldiers began training for the event July 7 and met at the Clarksville Mixed Martial Arts Academy four days a week for nearly an hour and focused on Cross Fit training to enhance their cardio. Phillips knew that cardio would be important especially late in a match. If they were too winded, it would be hard to finish the fight victorious.
Throughout their training they also worked hard on submission moves, grappling, boxing/striking drills, ju-jitsu, and arm-trap and roll drills.
Through all their hard work and dedication, it all paid off. Strike Soldiers stood among the rest as champions.
“We finished the fights and did what we had to do to win,” said Phillips.