The After Party










Carson Crawford vs Grant Connors, Florida Fights 7: After the Show (BG East)

These two rookies were not in the February show in Fort Lauderdale, but they were in the house that night, and the ring matches so revved them up that they couldn't let the week end without at least one fight under their belts. Boss Leopard is happy to accommodate such yearnings. The heat between Grant and Carson is so charged that they get pride of place as the main event of Florida Fights 7  over Wrestling with Pride standouts like Elite Eliot, Tiko, and Kirk Donahue. Judging by their rookie status and regular-guy profiles, I didn't expect half the fray these two bring to the mat.

His opening stretch telegraphs the fact that the strongly built Crawford is a wrestling beast.  Connors enters the mat room, chest and abdomen insolently thrust forward as he glares down at Carson, who says, as deliberate provocation, "You look smaller in person." Carson stands, looming over Grant, who matter-of-factly punches him in the gut, then handstands, locking his thighs onto the guy's head, dragging him back down to the mat to ply him with more gut punches. Carson powers loose of the hold and proceeds to punish his mouthy challenger, mostly with a variety of body stretches, submitting him in just over three minutes.

Grant's apparently under the impression that this is a brains-vs-brawn match, which it is, partly. He brings some tricky strategy to the mat and an almost endless stream of cheeky put-downs. Conversely, Carson sees the match in more Darwinian terms, something along the lines of what a python must feel as it winds around a twitching rabbit. Yet the 25-minute struggle is give and take to the end and ripe with surprises. In a little more than 30 seconds, Grant wins the second fall by submission with a classic Boston crab.

I won't say this battle has the polish that an Elite Eliot or a Kirk Donahue brings to a fight. There are stilted moments - especially in the application of standard holds and the segues between holds. But it taps into the sort of home-groan tussles I hope boys and men around the world still engage in behind woodsheds, in basements, or in rented motel rooms. There is such a thing as too much polish in wrestling - too many slickly choreographed moves, too much razzmatazz, more acrobatics than grunts and sweat. What Crawford vs Connors has going for it is the kind of sloppy down-to-earth scuffle that makes me want to climb on top of a body and work it and get worked in return. The R-rated eroticism of the contest surfaces in the final 15 minutes - sensuous bear hugs, moaning lockups, grinding figure-fours. In the last four minutes, the victor takes his opponent's last stitch of clothing as his "prize" and coyly leads him out of camera range for clenches of a slightly (but only slightly) different kind.


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