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No Holds Barred

Ah, summertime in South Florida. The struggle of the tourism industry to survive another off season. The unforgiving heat and humidity, broken only by the torrential downpour that occurs for 30 minutes every day, usually exactly when you don't want it to. The distinctly unique, meaty sound that issues forth when a bony knee collides with a poor nose that never did anything to hurt anyone.

Well, that last part is only a recent occurrence, at least as far as sanctioned fights are concerned. People have been kneecapping other people's noses in this area probably as far back as Tequestas and Spaniards, but they've gotten prize money for it only for the past four years. The fourth-annual USA Extreme Challenge takes place Saturday, and if it's like previous years, it promises to be a bone-crushing event.

The competition is called the Iron Man of Martial Arts Tournaments for good reason. Each bout consists of two rounds of bare-knuckle karate, followed by two rounds of Thai kickboxing, followed by two rounds of combat submission/Brazilian jujitsu. To take home the $4000 grand prize, a fighter needs to win three such bouts. As you can probably imagine, most folks get annihilated along the way. The competition boasts a 90 percent knockout rate, which puts it among the highest percentages in competitive tournaments this side of a Van Damme movie. With four weight classes, from lightweights to superheavyweights, who can weigh in at as much as 400 pounds, the strategies range from lightning-quick, punishing moves to crushing one's opponent beneath one's own mass.

Of course, one would usually think that once a competitor managed to beat the odds and the poor saps that got in the way, he or she (yes, there are female competitors, though they fight only each other, not the men) would take the money and run. But that is not always the case. For some, the opportunity to bludgeon others for money with no legal ramifications ensuing is just too good an opportunity to pass up. Perhaps that's why last year's superheavyweight and lightweight champs, Matt Ives and Miami-resident Remy Bonnel, respectively, are returning to defend their titles against a slew of contenders. Among those up-and-comers with dreams in their eyes and cauliflower on their ears are Ultimate Fighting Championship veteran Ernie Verdecia, as well as several local boys you may want to cheer on: Joe Guadalupe from Miami, Traian "The Bull" Breaban of Deerfield Beach, and Tony Crothers and Larry Borden of Fort Lauderdale. Breaban and Guadalupe were runners-up in the 2000 competitions. Cheer loudly for whichever fighter you wish, but just remember that the other guys have ears too, so if you're the type to heckle, you may want to run to your car when the whole thing is over. After all, it's not very reassuring to know that there are so many people in the local area who could pound you into goo without breaking a sweat.

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Dan Sweeney
Contact: Dan Sweeney

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