The Warrior Challenge that was such a success at the 2012 Battle of Atlanta was back in full force at the 2013 event held June 14-15, 2013 in Atlanta, Georgia. Weather prevented some of the fighters from Team Impex from attending the event as competitors like Jadi Tention and the Plowden kids – Avery and Morgan, were forced to turn back after flight cancellations. However, other major forces like Raymond Daniels, Jack Felton, Zsolt Moradi and Ross Levine all showed up ready to battle for the Warrior Challenge title and $5,000 cash purse. Daniels was arriving on the one-year anniversary of an achilles tendon injury that had taken him out of competition for much of 2012.
During the Friday night eliminations, there were some stand outs in forms and weapons. Austin Crain won two men’s weapons divisions to start out the competition with Kyle Montaga bringing home a third win for Team Paul Mitchell in creative weapons. Crain continued his winning ways with a win in men’s extreme forms. Sen Gao broke the chain for Paul Mitchell with a win in men’s musical form.
For men’s team sparring, a nice line-up of eight teams showed to duke it out. Team ATL , Team Alliance/Velocity and Team Next Level moved forward along with Team Paul Mitchell. The final match-up was between Team Alliance/Velocity and Team Paul Mitchell and it was a good show. The rounds ended with Zsolt Moradi facing Hamed Firouzi with Moradi holding on to give his team the win. Paul Mitchell’s women – Chelsey Nash and Nikki Pelland also won women’s team sparring. The night ended with Team Paul Mitchell in the drivers seat for the evening with lots of wins in forms, weapons and team sparring. But Saturday would bring some new challenges to the Paul Mitchell door.
On Saturday, the audience was graced with a rare appearance by Casey Marks-Nash. She was ready to compete in women’s forms and weapons and at the last minute jumped into sparring. She won all her divisions and the 30 & over grands in women’s sparring and elected to enter into the grand championships on stage for forms and weapons. Saturday also brought performances by fighters who laid low on Friday night – namely the All Stars guys.
Raymond Daniels of Team All Stars handily won the 30 and over men’s point sparring grand championships and then found himself a good spot to watch the 18-29 eliminations to see who he would be fighting for the overall grands. As the fighting wore on, it would be Ross Levine of Team Impex winning the men’s heavy weight grands. Zsolt Moradi of Team Paul Mitchell ended up fighting Jack Felton of Team All Stars for the middle weight grands and despite some controversy, Felton eeked out a win to advance to the grand championship run offs.
Justin Ortiz of Team Paul Mitchell managed to fight his way to the light weight grands title and the stage was set. Ortiz got the ‘luck of the draw’ and ended up facing Daniels in round one. Daniels size was too much for Ortiz and the match ended with Daniels winning 3-0. Felton then faced Levine to see who would fight Daniels for the grand championship title. The match went back and forth with Levine holding on to advance to face Daniels.
The final fight was a battle and when Levine started to pull ahead, Daniels was spurred into action and forced to leave any thoughts of his heel injury behind. The match went back and forth as the two hit hard and battled fiercely, but in the end Daniels emerged the victor!
The night finals at Battle were a production! With special videos on the big screen, a great opening demo featuring Kalman Csoka and more, the promoter worked hard to make the finals a real show.
Team BringIt opened the finals with a shock to teams Paul Mitchell and AKA/Amerikick as the Sweeny girls and their traditional routine won the title for team synch. The kids were up next with the overall championships for forms and weapons. Derek Meegan showed that traditional can definitely win as he defeated Dallas Liu and all challengers in the 13 and under forms competition. Reid Presley’s double bos crushed his competition as he took the 14-17 weapons title for the night. For forms, Jocelyn Valdivia won her first overall grands with her traditional performance. Dallas Liu did not go home empty handed as he took home the 13 & under overall weapons title.
Last year, Casey Marks-Nash was the overall winner for women’s forms and Caitlin Dechelle the runner up. This year, Dechelle was well aware that she needed to step it up. She did and managed the title, defeating Marks-Nash. In men’s weapons, there was a weapon flying as Kyle Montagna dropped his bo. But the smiling Sen Gao was the definite crowd favorite and he won the overall championship for the evening. In women’s weapons, more weapons were flying as Micayla Johnson and Jenny Espina both dropped. Casey Marks-Nash was declared the winner! Sen Gao performed his leopard routine but Jarrett Leiker’s traditional intensity was the judges’ favorite this evening as Leiker won the men’s forms grand champion title.
In women’s sparring, Chelsey Nash left nothing to chance as she faced Kelsey Friedlander for the title. Nash used her basics and kept a good lead throughout to take home the title for Team Paul Mitchell.
Throughout the evening, the semi-finals and run-offs for the Warrior Challenge were held until there were only two remaining fighters. In the earlier rounds, Raymond Daniels offered a hit party to Pablo Moreno in the opening match as Daniels advanced with a 10 point lead that ended the match. Justin Ortiz had to take on teammate Zsolt Moradi in the next fight. It took Moradi a bit of time to figure out the rules of the competition but once he did, he pulled ahead and advanced to the next round. Jack Felton and Laszlo Gombos put on great performances in the next round as they exchanged blows with Felton advancing with a 9-7 score. Ross Levine fought the much larger Charles Prescott in the next quarter-final round. Levine advanced and the semi-finals were set.
Raymond Daniels stomped up to the stage to announce his presence as he faced Zsolt Moradi to determine who would advance to the final round for the Warrior Challenge. Punches were flying everywhere and the crowd was pumped up for the fight as Moradi and Daniels duked it out. Daniels held his lead throughout and advanced with a 10-6 score. Next was a rematch as Jack Felton faced Ross Levine. Felton was fast but Levine used his size to his advantage to win 8-4 and advance to face Daniels for the second time at the event.
The final match was two rounds of hard hitting action. Levine and Daniels both wanted the win badly and were willing to do just about anything for the win – and the bragging rights. The two were tied at least three times in round one which ended with an 11-11 score. It was a slug fest in round two with both fighters getting up by a point or two and then the other coming back to tie or retake the lead. It was a stop time match which meant that the fighters had to be in prime condition and it was clear that neither was going to back down. Plus the winner had to win by at least 2 points. When the buzzer rang, Daniels was only up by 1 point and the match went into sudden victory overtime. Finally, Daniels was awarded the point he needed and was crowned the victor – one year from when it appeared his career might be over due to his injury!