Sport writer Kieren Williams reports on the UoB Kickboxing Team’s latest competition successes in a four-part special for Redbrick Sport, in Part 3, he rounds up some impressive performances for the Middleweight Women
Moving from one successful category to one we would come to dominate, our middleweight women were next, Natalie Mussington, Sophie Gray and Maxane Keogh, all started at 2pm, and my god were they fantastic.
These are three of the kindest people I know, but clearly this was all an elaborate front hiding years of pent-up rage and unused aggression. Natalie Mussington began, the only competitor to win last year she continued this trend and smashed her first fight. Strong attacks crumpled her opponent’s defences and she sailed through impressively, leading the vanguard of what would be a category UoB would come to dominate entirely. Her second fight was an impressive affair which brought out the best in both fighters, Mussington took on her coach’s advice during the brief thirty seconds between rounds and returned back out to the mat. A cool head on her shoulders and strong, driven punches that had a knack of finding her opponents face, she effectively maintained pressure on her opponent with her attacks. The judges made their decision and Natalie won her second fight and made it through to her semi-final fight.
We’ll come back to the semi-final for reasons that will become obvious in a minute.
Maxane Keogh was the second of our wondrous trio, her first fight against a fellow American from Bath was a tense affair at first which Keogh quickly grabbed by the scruff of the neck. There was no confusion of allegiance to her fellow countrywoman as Keogh repeatedly kicked her in the head and face. She showed no sign of tiring as the two clashed and clashed again over the two rounds, but Keogh’s supremacy shone through and when the judges made their decision it was unanimous for the UoB fighter. Through to the second round, Maxane’s second fighter had all the gear and actually a pretty good idea of how to kickbox as well to be fair. Clearly muay-thai trained, the two put on an impressive fight as they went back and forth trading strong kicks and fast punches. Despite a small scare where Keogh seemingly forgot how to breathe at one point she pulled herself through that rough patch to fight rightto the bell at the end of the second round. The judges made their decision and it was another hard-earned victory for Keogh. She was through to the semi-finals, against her fellow UoB fighter Mussington – and now you know why I said we’d come back to it.
The organisers avoided fighters from the same uni clashing where they could, be it was unavoidable here. So, come the semi-final and loose the dogs of war – I’m being overly dramatic sorry. The UoB camp was split between the two fighters, screaming for each from both sides of the mat the two women attracted quite the crowd with their fight. It was intense, they traded blows as they moved around one another on the mat over the two rounds, Keogh favoured kicks and Mussington punches. It was a close affair and after the three minutes of fighting the judges made their decision, raised their different coloured flags and Keogh won. There was cheering and hugs, congratulations and smiles and apologies as the two embraced on the mat at the end of the fight. But the fight was done, and UoB had their second finalist of the day.
Whilst these two had been fighting their way on a collision course to their semi-final fight, another UoB fighter had been making waves in the same division, Sophie Gray. And by making waves, I mean making her opponents cry.
She stepped out for her first fight in her first competition, and did not disappoint. Her opponent put up a valiant effort but couldn’t withstand Gray’s barrage of attacks. There was a rule in the competition which put a constraint on the power you could strike with, whilst most fighters didn’t follow this Gray did when her opponent began crying. Being punched in the face isn’t a pleasant experience, I can vouch for that, being kicked is worse, I can also vouch for that. Gray delivered an impressive demonstration in how to kickbox the right way. After the first round, she even stopped targeting her opponent’s face quite as much on her coach’s orders, after the two rounds had finally finished, all three judges rightfully voted for Gray. A strong victory in the bag and a clear message sent to her next fight, Gray looked to her second round. A second round which would never come, this time the joke of her opponent running away out of fear would actually make a lot of sense.
Due to another drop out, Gray had a bye to her semi-final. Her semi-final actually came before the all-UoB clash – my tutor’s probably having a fit right now, even when I do a chronological theme I can’t keep it straight. All of UoB flocked to her corner in this fight. Gray proved in this fight she packs a helluva punch, both her and her opponent were skilled and after the two rounds the decision was made for a third and final round. The first two rounds had taken their toll but both fighters walked out for their final one, one minute and thirty seconds later the ref drew them into the centre of the mat for their decision, it went to Gray and it was an all-UoB final. Reminiscent of the good ol’ days of English football like the 2008 UEFA Champions League final.
Before the finals could roll around, UoB had one more fighter. Nusaiba Khan at 3pm in the beginners’ lightweight females category. She stepped out to fight against a taller opponent but didn’t let that affect her at all, the ref made them touch gloves and they began. Khan moved in a form reminiscent of a boxer, bobbing and weaving as she threw out shots and her opponent adopted the left-wing tactic of pushing, not punching, with her fists. The two fighters slammed in kicks and Khan’s punches connected for the two rounds. For three minutes the two fighters traded head and body shots, Khan didn’t back down once until the final bell – or that weird glove they threw out instead because they didn’t actually have a bell. The judges made their call and through split decision they granted the victory to Khan’s opponent. Khan – who will probably punch me for this – deserved the victory in the opinion of this humble writer.
The final few fights of the preliminaries were tied up, a few more faces kicked and punched and everyone looked towards fight night, the finals.