Winning the Open Weight competition at the Irish Open is an historic occasion. Pitted against hundreds of competitors, the overall winner earns the right to call him or herself a true champion in point fighting. In 2013, Jack Felton was one point from the championship while 9 time winner Raymond Daniels was eliminated in an early round and did not make it to the finals. For the women, young Chelsey Nash of Canada has been so close to winning she could taste it but was eliminated in the final round. In 2014, both Felton and Nash were once again in the running for the title.
Nash faced a familiar nemesis – Luisa Guillotti – in the final round for the Open Weight division. To get to this spot, Nash and Guillotti had fought through numerous rounds in the division that boasted over 70 competitors. The final four competitors were Adrienn Kadas of Hungary, Evelyn Neyens of Belgium, Nash from Canada and Guillotti of Italy.
Nash first fought Kadas in a two round semi-final. After round one, the two were tied 2-2. In the second round, Nash pulled ahead, getting a two point lead as time ran down. A second warning resulted in a point being deducted for Nash but she managed to score with a nice sidekick to Kadas to solidify her lead and advance.
Guillotti and Neyens also had a very close match. After round one, Guillotti was up by one point. In the second round, Neyens turned up the heat a little more but Gullotti was able to hold on to be ahead 5-4 as time ran out.
For the men, Roman Brundl of Austria, Ritchie Veres of Hungary (the 2013 champion), Jack Felton of USA and Raymond Daniels of USA made it to the final four spots. First Daniels faced the much smaller Veres. Veres is fast and smart but his speed could not consistently get him past the reach of Daniels. Daniels was up 4-2 after round one and despite some great moves by Veres, Daniels held his lead to advance with a 12-11 score. Felton had faced Brundl in 2013 and was able to get past the much, much larger Brundl with timing and smarts. This year, Brundl got the lead and landed some nice kicks on Felton to stay in the lead until the final 45 seconds of round two when Felton tied up the score. Felton then scored with a back knuckle and then a kick to hold a two point lead into the buzzer.
When Guillotti and Nash faced each other in 2012, Gullotti came out the winner. This year, Nash was determined to win but so was her Italian counterpart. After round one, Gullotti was up by one point. Nash, being coached by her brother and JPM coach Damon Gilbert, got some tips. The second round of the fight was crazy with the women working strategy and keeping even with points. When the buzzer sounded, the two were tied 2-2 and went into a one-minute overtime. In overtime, the two managed to stay tied and force a second overtime with a sudden victory point. In the second overtime, Nash made the move to blitz but mistimed. Gullotti took advantage to score and take the 2014 Open Weight Women’s title – her second. A visibly disappointed Nash graciously accepted the defeat.
For the men, it would be teammates and friends, Jack Felton and Raymond Daniels fighting for the title. Despite their friendship, both wanted the title badly and there would be no bow outs, no fake points, and no mercy shown by either fighter. The two fought hard but Daniels’ size and reach had the advantage. Daniels was up 11-8 after the first round. The second round was a bit nastier with Daniels dropping Felton with a techniques and medics needing to be called. Felton was back up however, and fighting hard for the title that slipped through his grasp in 2013. Felton’s drive was not enough as Daniels held onto the lead to win his 10th Irish Open Open Weight Title with a 19-16 score. Like Nash, Felton was devastated by the loss but incredibly sportsmanlike in defeat.
The finals were exciting and highly competitive. Raymond Daniels has made history with ten wins and was most deserving of this title. Luisa Gullotti was amazing and poised in her fights and now has a second title for Italy. Although their names will not be shown as the winners of the 2014 Open Weight competition, Jack Felton and Chelsey Nash must be acknowledged for their impressive performances in the ring and outside of the ring. The character of martial artists – dedication, perseverance, humility and grace – was demonstrated by all of the competitors in the Open Weight competition at the 2014 Irish Open.