Pushing the Envelope

Freestyle Combat League caps its first year online with a tag match showcasing four of its most popular fighters. Aron and Eli Black team up to face Axel Lee and Charlie. Eli has fought Charlie and Axel already in singles competition. Aron and Axel fought in the company's inaugural release. 

The style is submission grappling--no punches, no kayfabe--and FCL pushes it to a whole new level by adding the element of tag partners. One advantage that the team concept brings to submission wrestling is the partners' running commentary, taunts, and prompts, which both add to the drama and highlight the moves and strategies involved in the sport. "Don't make me look bad," Eli warns Aron. Charlie boasts that Axel will "take care of my light work." So evidently there's some internal tension in the teams, especially between Aron and Eli, which makes for a more emotionally gripping contest than most.

Axel and Aron start things off, with Aron gaining a quick advantage. Nobody talks trash as fluently as Eli, who claims he can take on the whole league by himself and shows nothing but contempt for his partner and the match's setup. "Submit him, pussy" he commands Aron. "Submit him or tag me in!" Charlie, on the other hand, offers Axel more practical coaching and strategic advice, which observably turns the struggle more to Axel's advantage ... until Eli tags in and latches on with an anaconda choke. Axel's quick tapout should equal a tag, in my opinion, but Eli continues to wear and tear on Axel. Soon enough, both guys tag out, and Charlie more than evens the scorecard with two easy submissions on the already fatigued Aron (Charlie makes them look "easy," anyway).

Eli pointedly avoids being on the mat with Charlie, who has proved himself a tenacious and smart fighter in his first two FCL bouts and made a brave and exciting debut against Eli two months ago. Eli's strategy seems to be to use Aron to wear Axel down, jump in for the kill, and then clear out as soon as Charlie steps foot in the circle. In Round 2, Charlie can't contain himself any longer and angrily charges Eli, who has just tagged in Aron, and for a minute we've got two fights on the mat at the same time. At round's end, Charlie and Eli are forehead to forehead, shouting at each other, stoking the fires of what promises to be a this-time-it's-personal showdown.

The outcome of Round 2 is disputed, and ultimately, with the intervention of ref Joey Cantrell, the victory is determined in a sudden death round. I won't go further in detail on this match, not wanting to give too much away, spoiling it for the rest of you. What I will say is that this FCL battle lives up to the company's promise this past summer, when it announced its goal of providing "real combat for real men." Even better, Charlie and Eli may be on the verge of the company's first bonafide feud, which promises even more excitement in 2013!


  1. Axel pointed up an error in fact that I have corrected in this review. At first, I reported that he and Charlie were half brothers, but he tells me it is Eli and Charlie who "might be half brothers." My mistake.


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