If you like sparring, the Battle of Atlanta is the tournament for you. The event has a long history of the promotion of sport karate fighting that goes back to 1970. The events origins are rooted in the career of the legendary Joe Lewis when Lewis won the grand championship title at the first Battle. Although Lewis is currently hospitalized as he struggles with brain cancer, the Battle of Atlanta went through a resurgence in 2012 with an outstanding turn out of competitors in both numbers and quality. The 2012 event was held on June 22-23, 2012 in Atlanta, Georgia in a new facility and with a new game plan.
The featured event for the Battle was the Extreme Warrior Challenge for men. The purse for the fight winner was $5000. Jack Felton, Chris Walker (defending champ), Jason Grenier and Jadi Tention were seeded into the final eight for the event. Everyone else was required to fight for one of the remaining four spots that went to stage.
The big news from the event came from across the northern border in Canada. Years ago, the headliner names in sport karate were Trevor Nash and Casey Marks. They eventually unionized themselves by getting married and creating a power duo that was nearly unstoppable in competition. Casey would routinely win grand championships in forms, weapons and sparring which Trevor would power his way through the men’s fighting divisions with his own flare. Trevor and Casey quietly stopped competing and focused on a family and running their martial arts schools in Canada. Soon after, Trevor’s younger sister Chelsey reached adulthood and began to stake a claim as a top female fighter in the sport karate world.
At the 2012 Battle of Atlanta, the Nash trio shocked everyone by all showing up, competing and then winning practically everything. However, Trevor and Casey showed up a little late with their flight not arriving in time for Trevor to make it to the Extreme Warrior Challenge eliminations on Friday evening. Leave it to another Canadian to help a brother out – Jason Grenier gave up his seed for Nash and fought during the eliminations. Grenier was later knocked out of the running by Troy Binns during the Friday evening fights.
Trevor Nash did show up in time for men’s team sparring and he showed up wearing a Team Full Circle uniform. Casey Marks-Nash was still sporting her Team Paul Mitchell t-shirt as she watched the fights.
The men’s team sparring was by far the most exciting event for Friday night. There were only six teams but they were great teams. Full Circle put Nash together with Hamed Firouzi and Jason Grenier. Ross Levine had his appendix out a week and a half before the event so he was sidelined with stitches still in his side. Raymond Daniels injured his achilles heel last week and underwent surgery so he is on the Team All Stars’ injury list for the rest of the season. All Stars sported Jack Felton, Carlos Tearney, Chris Walker and Jamal Albini.
Richard Plowden was spotted in the house which meant something was up! And it certainly was as he was there coaching a new team called Team Impex with the line-up of Troy Binns, Jadi Tention and his son Avery Plowden. Also in the house were Team Next Level’s Paris Wilson, Anthony Merricks and Kodaq Wray. And finally, Brian Ruth also showed up to fight but only in the Extreme Warrior Challenge. It was a line-up that Joe Lewis would love!
The team fights really got heated up when Team Impex faced Team Full Circle in a semi-final round. Jadi Tention ended up fighting Trevor Nash in a fight that will be remembered for a long time. The two were hitting hard and fighting like grown men and the crowd loved it! In the end, Team Full Circle defeated Team Impex by one point to advance. In the other bracket, Team All Stars faced Team Next Level. It was another brutal one with Chris Walker holding nothing back in his fight against Anthony Merricks. Jack Felton rained blows on Paris Wilson to push his team to a 12-5 victory.
In the final match-up between Team Full Circle and Team All Stars, Jamal Albini fought Jason Grenier in round one. Albini had had a rough afternoon, losing in his first Extreme Warrior Fight. He was a bit off in the team fights as well and Grenier got his team a 2-0 lead after this match. Next Trevor Nash fought Chris Walker and Nash had no mercy – but neither did Walker. However, the much larger Nash had the advantage and the reach and used it – Full Circle was up 10-3 going into the final round. Jack Felton fought Hamed Firouzi and the two were fairly evenly matched – Felton could not score enough to bring his team back and Full Circle ended as the team sparring winners.
More fighting was on the agenda with the Extreme Warrior Challenge eliminations. Brian Ruth fought Troy Binns in a heckuva good match where Binns ended up the winner but not until after Ruth tried to knee him in the face a few times. Also fighting was another face from the past – Askia Allison. Allison was sporting his SES fighting jacket as he fought Hamed Firouzi. Firouzi advanced to the final four after his fight with Allison. And then another fighter from before, Jermond Wiggins, took the stage to face Avery Plowden. It would be Plowden with the win to go to the finals along with Alex Lane as the fourth.
With the Extreme Warrior Challenge in the finals, the men’s sparring eliminations and grand championships were run Saturday during the day. As expected, Trevor Nash won the 30 and over men’s overall title and moved into the final four for the overall men’s sparring grand championships. In the 18-29 men’s sparring divisions, it was rough as everyone wanted that title. Jack Felton put on some weight so he fought in the middleweight division and went on to win the middle weight grands. Jamal Albini finally got it together and won his division, defeating Avery Plowden to do it. Hamed Firouzi was the lightweight grand champions winner. Jason Grenier is usually at the top in his heavyweight division but he was eliminated by Tray Lazenby, the son of executive fighter Marcel Lazenby. In the end, Albini defeated Lazenby for the heavy weight grands and then went on to face Nash.
Nash took Albini out and Felton eliminated Firouzi to set up a battle between Felton and Nash for the grands. Having honed his skills on fighters larger than him, including Raymond Daniels, Felton was ready for Nash. The two went blow for blow with Felton getting ahead for part of the fight. But Nash fights best when he needs to make a comeback. He tied the score and time ran out, setting up sudden victory overtime. When the ref said go, Felton blitzed and Nash kicked and it was Nash with the 2 points and the grand championship win.
Saturday was also the day for Casey Marks-Nash to shine. Taking a break from raising two rambunctious boys, she decided to try her hand in the 30-39 women’s weapons division with a traditional routine. It did the trick as she won her division. She competed again in forms and won again. She elected to compete against the 18-29 year old female competitors on stage for the overall women’s forms grands in the night time finals.
And while Casey and Trevor were doing what they do best – win – little sister Chelsey was getting busy in the women’s sparring divisions, winning as well. Nash won her division and defeated teammate Nikki Pelland to move into the finals for the women’s sparring grand championships. Her opponent would be Gina Thornton.
The finals was all about the fighting but the forms and weapons competitors also got busy and provided some great entertainment. For the kids, there was a lot of yelling and a lot of intensity on the stage. Dallas Liu managed a double whammy with a grand champ win in the 13 & under weapons competition and in 13 & under forms. Shahin Jahan-vash ferociously double stabbed his imaginary opponents for a win in the 14-17 weapons grand championships. Austin Crain came out ready to entertain his hometown crowd in the 14-17 forms grands but a little stumble opened the door for Sammy Smith to sneak in with her extreme routine and take the win.
For the first time in a really long time, Caitlin Dechelle went home grand-less. In women’s forms, Casey Marks-Nash stepped it up and showed that she ain’t that old as she defeated Dechelle and Becca Ross with a win for the Nash trio. In the women’s weapons grands, the crowd was super appreciative of the spins and throws of Jennifer Espina as Espina surprised Dechelle with the win.
Not going home with two grand championship wins is considered a loss for Matt Emig but it was not to be at the Battle. He started the evening out strong with a win in men’s weapons. In the forms competition, a little stumble on a trick was the hurdle that Emig could not get over. Jarrett Leiker’s strong traditional performance shut out everyone as Leiker was crowned the champion.
Team All Stars’ Amanda Chen was able to shine on stage in a set match against Ally Montero of Florida. Chen fought well, launching a memorable blitz over the top of Montero to add to her score. The final score was Chen with the 5-2 win.
The second Nash family win came from Chelsey Nash as she dominated in her fight against Gina Thornton. The final score was 8-0 as Nash fought better than ever with her brother at her back.
The Battle of Atlanta’s roots are in fighting, and thus it was appropriate that the highlights from the evening were some really great fights in the Extreme Warrior Challenge. The rules for the fighting required fighters to stand up, hit hard and show control and balance on techniques. Fighters could also score multiple points on one clash for techniques thrown in a series.
Trevor Nash eliminated Troy Binns in the first round with a 7-2 score. Jack Felton was up on Avery Plowden when Plowden mounted a comeback to tie the score. In the one minute overtime, Felton was able to dominate and score five unanswered points. Alex Lane faced Anthony Merricks next in a fighting style that was little different for both. The two were tied 4-4 when Merricks scored at the buzzer to take the win. Chris Walker received a bye when the fourth seed Jadi Tention fell ill earlier in the day and was rushed to the hospital where he spent 6 hours. Don’t worry though – he is expected to fully recover and be back fighting and training after a bit of taking it easy per doctor’s orders!
A rematch of the grand championship fight was next as Trevor Nash and Jack Felton met again in a great fight. Felton pulled ahead 7-5 with 37 seconds left. With the fights being stop time matches, the two minute matches lasted a good 5-6 minutes total. This wore on the fighters and required them to be in great cardiovascular shape to make it. Felton scored again to get the score up to 8-5 but then Nash scored two points – one for Felton going out of bounds and one for a punch. Nash ended up tying the match 10-10 and at the buzzer, scored a punch to win with an 11-10 score. After this match, Nash gave the best sport karate interview ever heard. When asked who he thought he would be fighting next, his answer was a curt, “I don’t know and I don’t really care.” His honey badger attitude makes him such a fun fighter to watch!
In the Chris Walker and Anthony Merricks fight, Walker got all traditional and started hitting hard with massive blows after a slow start. In the end, Walker won with a decisive 9-5 score and advanced to face Nash.
The final fight between Nash and Walker was a fight, a brawl and an inspiration all in one. It was scheduled for two, two-minute, stop-time rounds which meant grueling! Nash opened the fight by scoring 3 points with a kick-punch combination and then later accidentally poked Walker in the eye with a thumb on an exchange. Nash turned into a scoring machine while Walker diligently continued to fight his fight. Two punches and a two-point kick had Nash up 9-2. Nash threw a kick and Walker stepped in which collided his head with Nash’s knee and Walker looked a bit dazed. The technique wasn’t clean enough for a score even though Nash demanded a judges’ call.
Walker then started a bit of a comeback, scoring two of his own points but Nash kept on scoring, ending round one with a 13-5 score. Despite being outweighed by a lot, Walker was undaunted, continuing to fight hard regardless of Nash and Walker definitely earned the respect of the crowd and Nash himself. As the time ran down, it was clear that Nash was going to win but Walker continued to fight hard showing the perseverance that underlies martial arts training. The final score was 23-9 for Nash and Nash brought home yet another victory for the Nash clan and Canada.
The Battle of Atlanta crowd gave Joe Lewis a standing ovation after his tribute during the finals. It was clear that the 2012 Battle of Atlanta was a hallmark of the legacy that Lewis first started in 1970. Thank you to the Nash family for making the trip to the deep south to help make the event fun and exciting. And to all the Americans who let the Canadians take home nearly $10,000 in prize money – time to step up!!