Wound Tight

Axel's brainchild Freestyle Combat League is shaping up quite nicely if its latest release (0017) is any indication. FCL fills a niche in the underground combat world, supplying real competitive action for lovers of boxing, submission wrestling, and MMA. In the new match, a submission fight, we are introduced to a new combatant, Jack Marino, in a tough and at times touchy match against the vastly more experienced Eli Black. Jack has a lot of fighting heart, enough to win over some fans, I'm sure, and during a grueling 20-minute contest, he gains Eli's respect but not an inch of slack from the newly goateed grappler.

Asked what he thinks of his untested opponent, Eli smirks, drily, "He'll love me when I'm done with him." But that love is clearly absent during the struggle between these two--and, though tempered with sportsmanlike respect, not really evident at the end either. Jack is a "scrapper," to use Eli's term, and whatever he lacks in experience and mat savvy, he makes up for in determination and guts ... and a fairly pointed desire to kick Eli's arrogant ass. It's a quality that Eli admires, and during a between-round break, he even muses on the possibility of recruiting Jack into Team Eli, one of the factions FCL seems to be dividing into.

Eli gives Jack a rough hazing from the start, punning on the masturbatory connotations of the name and, somehow, making Jack's penis a subject for discussion. Jack doesn't seem comfortable with that kind of smut talk, and he asserts categorically, "I'm not gay!" Jack gamely tries to turn the insinuations back on Eli. "You like this?" he asks, indicating his own boyish but hard torso.  But as everyone knows by now, Eli's hard to beat in the talk department (or in the fight department either). "Maybe Joe from the blog will like that," Eli retorts. "Because he likes that. Me, Eli Black, I swing the other way." (Do I get some satisfaction from a shout-out during a wrestling match? Yes, I do. Who wouldn't?)

In the match, Eli toys with Jack, verbally and bodily. In condescending tones, he announces every hold Jack is "trying to" apply on him and refuses to sell holds that look painful but are not. He does not spare Jack anything, in turn, and shows no consideration for the kid's relative inexperience, giving him the full adult dose of Eli. (To his credit, Jack seems to require no special considerations and wants to overcome the best his opponent can throw at him.) Twice in Round 1, Eli chokes Jack clean the fuck out. The first time, he props the gasping, gagging rookie up and stretches up his arms, encouraging him to take deep breaths. Once Jack recovers, eyes still wide and rolling, Eli sneers, "Tap next time, dummy." The second time, the bell interrupts the chokeout, just in time, from the looks of things, because Jack would rather die than tap out.

The competition intensifies in Round 2. Jack pulls out the stops in his assault on Eli, a do-or-die mission to beat the wily bigmouth up. Tempers rise, and Eli has to rise to the challenge, and things get dicy. It's a stiff and strenuous workout for the two of them. The camera keeps a tight hold on all the action, managing to pull us in tight on every grunt and groan without interfering with the wrestlers. In the end, things don't go as Eli expected, but both men are philosophical about the outcome. Jack may not be the toughest competition Eli has ever met, but this is a damn good brawl all the same.


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