Iman Achhal Wins Split Decision Over Felice 'Lil Bulldog' Herrig at Ultimate Warrior Challenge 5

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By B.J. Koubaroulis
Special to The Washington Post
Sunday, February 22, 2009

Iman Achhal dropped to her knees, slapped her open palms onto the canvas and then cupped her face with her glove-wrapped hands in near disbelief when she heard the announcer call her name as the winner of the largest female Mixed Martial Arts card ever held in the metro area.

Annandale's Achhal, 32, won the first and third rounds of an undercard at Ultimate Warrior Challenge 5: Man "O" War -- a nine-card Mixed Martial Arts event at George Mason University's Patriot Center last night that drew 6,248 fans.

"It's not kicking in yet," said Achhal as she sat surrounded by media, coaches and trainers while she iced a baseball-sized blackened knot that continued to swell underneath her left eye. "It's been a long road here."

Achhal, nicknamed "Mannie," won an unexpected split decision victory over Felice "Lil Bulldog" Herrig, a two-time kick-boxing champion. Both fighters were making their professional MMA debuts.

"I knew she was going to come out swinging," said Achhal, who continued a ground assault as much of the crowd chanted "Mannie" throughout the final five-minute round she won by working a repetition of take downs. "There was no way she was going to touch me on the ground. That's my world."

Achhal, who abandoned a guillotine choke-hold early in the first round, avoided Herrig's strikes early, but took a hard right hook at the start of the second round that ballooned her left eye nearly shut and left her scrambling to tie up around the edges of the hexagon.

According to a list compiled by MMAweekly.com, two of the top 10 most viewed MMA events of all time were women's fights CBS aired in 2008. Each event drew more than five million viewers, prompting UWC President Marcello Foran to add the female card to his third MMA venture at Patriot Center.

"We deserve to do what the guys do, I just proved it," said Achhal, who at age 18 fled Morocco to escape an arranged marriage and spent much of the 10 years that followed enduring poverty and homelessness before she rose up the local MMA circuit -- posting a 4-0-1 amateur record. "Do what you want to do. Don't let anybody tell you what you're supposed to be doing."

Achhal is now a trainer and fighter at Capital Jiu-Jitsu -- a chain of local schools operated by MMA legend Royce Gracie.

Mike Easton, a 22-year-old who grew up in Anacostia, submitted Justin Robbins with 16 seconds left in the third round of the main event to earn the bantamweight championship belt. "I just had to get my forearms into that guillatine," said Easton, who landed a series of overhand rights in a fairly uneventful first two rounds before taking Robbins to ground for the chokeout submission. "The guillatine, I love it, it's one of my best submissions." Easton (7-1), a 5-foot-5 muscular showman nicknamed "The Hulk" who trains at Lloyd Irvin Martial Arts in Temple Hills, fought Robbins (13-8-1) instead of Chase "The Rage" Beebe, a former World Extreme Cagefighting (WEC) champion from Chicago who failed to show at Friday's official weigh-in. He suffered a knee injury that hampered him from making the contractually-set limit of 135 pounds, according to promoters.

Last night, promoters announced UWC 6: Capital Punishment scheduled for April 25 at Patriot Center.

Foran "wants to feed," said nine-time UFC Champion Matt Hughes, one of several mixed martial arts stars in attendance last night. "[Foran] wants to bring local talent in and get them to the next level and that's exactly what he's doing. He's going to continue to grow and make money."

In his 185-pound fight against Richie "The Dirty Samurai" Hightower (7-3), Foran's brother Marcus (6-2) -- a two-time All-Met wrester and 1993 graduate of DeMatha -- absorbed a series of elbows to the back of the head that left him bloodied and unconscious. Because a blow to the back of the head is illegal, the fight was ruled a no contest.

"It was unintentional," Marcus Foran said.

MMA Note: Washington Redskins tight end Chris Cooley and Washington Capitals stars Alex Ovechkin, Mike Green and Donald Brashear attended last night's event.


© 2009 The Washington Post Company

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