TSUUT’INA – Five more seconds and Travis Erlam could have had an emphatic mixed martial arts highlight-reel knockout in his debut.
The Canmore fighter grinded out a unanimous decision (30-27, 29-28, 29-28) in a three round amateur middleweight bout (185 pounds) against Winnipeg’s Said Dzafic at Unified MMA 44 at 7 Chiefs Sportsplex on Tsuut'ina First Nation on May 6.
“It was a surreal moment of finally I did it and then I kind of wanted to get back in,” Erlam said with a laugh.
“I just wanted an entertaining fight and I think it was.”
A man of the people, Erlam, who pre-fight said he was looking for the knockout, nearly did just that.
In the dying seconds of the three minute opening round, fans roared as the Canmore southpaw caught Dzafic on the chin with a cracking right hook that sent the wobbly Winnipegger stumbling to the canvas for the biggest moment of the fight.
“It was one of those moments you see it in slow motion and I saw him going down and I was like ‘yeah’, but then I was like ‘oh, I have to keep going,'" said Erlam.
“In my head, it was an eternity from when I landed it and saw him hit [the ground] and then I hit him with the next shot and the buzzer went.
“Five more seconds and I could have probably had it.”
After a minute break between rounds, Erlam's adrenaline dumped though, and an alert Dzafic took advantage by pressuring and stifling the owner of Dark Horse Martial Arts inside the cage. Dzafic’s guillotine attempt, a neck submission, was the second round's most notable offence, which helped get him the nod in two judges' eyes for the second.
Going into round three and certain the scorecards were tied, Erlam emptied the gas tank for three minutes.
“That’s when I kind of went on auto-pilot from there and that’s where my combinations started coming from,” Erlam said.
Finding his flow, the fight went to the ground where Erlam, a brown belt in Brazilian jiu-jitsu (BJJ), fully exploited his grappling expertise and quickly isolated Dzafic’s arm and wrenched on painful kimura and armbar submission attempts.
However, the fight-concluding horn blasted to save Dzafic for a second time.
In the end, the Canmorite's hand was raised in his debut bout.
With no bumps, bruises or scratches visible, Erlam doesn’t look like he’s been in a scrap, but he caught a few knees and leg kicks that have left him with a limp for the next few days. However, Erlam thinks his opponent's hyper-extended arm will hurt for a lot longer.
"I definitely had some fun out there, [and] definitely had some things I would have done differently," Erlam said.
At this point, the local 36-year-old BJJ ace isn't ruling out a return to the cage, but he's transitioning back to coach-mode for Dark Horse Martial Arts.
On June 11, the Dark Horse Grappling Series presents its inaugural submission-only jiu-jitsu tournament at Fenlands Banff Recreation Centre.
The grappling event has a maximum 500 entrants, and will feature sub-only bouts for every belt colour and weight class. Handpicked super-fights will close the show with two having been named in purple belts Lucas St-Jean of Calgary against Tanner Brenner of Edmonton, and Chelsea Norman of Rossland, B.C. against Agnes McKervey of Calgary.
The event is free for ages 10 and under and $5 for everyone above, which will go toward the Bow Valley Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals.