Based on the structure of the tournament, the less experienced fighters were first, followed by the intermediate and advanced fighters.
According to their rules, Quinn, Andrew, and I were all registered as novices, Alix was registered as a beginner, and the captain and vice-captain were registered as intermediates.
If Cole had competed, he would’ve definitely been registered as an advanced martial artist.
The first one up to fight from our club was Quinn.
We all gathered around the blockade surrounding the mats to cheer as Quinn and Madison entered.
Madison sat down in her designated coaching chair and gave Quinn a short pep talk before the fight began.
Quinn’s opponent was shorter but bigger than her which was made evident as they shook hands and got into fighting stances. As soon as the referee signaled the match to begin, they began moving ferociously.
Immediately, Quinn’s opponent attempted to close the distance and throw a variety of jabs and crosses. Quinn, not wanting to get knocked out immediately, began using her fancy footwork to dance outside of her opponent’s range and keep a safe distance. No matter how hard her opponent tried, Quinn was too nimble to be caught.
Despite Quinn’s grace on the mats, unless she threw out an attack, the match was going to end in a stalemate.
After what felt like minutes of dodging and weaving, I heard Cole yell something to Quinn suddenly.
As he spoke, Quinn immediately shifted her weight and turned into her opponent, unleashing a brutal kick directly into her face.
The sudden change in style completely discombobulated her, forcing her to stagger slightly. At this point, the corner of the room we were occupying was too loud to hear either coach from the sidelines, but it was obvious that they were both yelling instructions vehemently.
Before her opponent could recover from the kick, Quinn closed the distance and began pummeling her with a variety of punches from every direction. Any time her opponent seemed to comprehend where Quinn was, she’d completely shift her stance to throw her off again.
Finally, after Quinn hit a sneaky low kick to her leg, the fight was taken to the ground. As soon as Quinn’s opponent hit the ground, the referee intervened to call the match.
Quinn was declared the winner.
Our group erupted into cheers as the ref lifted Quinn’s hand and allowed her to rejoin us.
After the celebration calmed down and we were once again waiting for the next match to begin, I scooted next to Cole on the bleachers and began talking to him about the match.
“What did you do?” I asked assertively.
“I have no idea what you could be referring to.”
“Don’t give me that! I heard you shout to Quinn.”
“Well, if you must know, I just gave her an idea for her match.”
“From watching the other groups train I could tell two things about her opponent: she had a shorter range and less stamina than Quinn.” Cole explained, “So I just suggested that she use her specialty of footwork to tire her opponent out instead of immediately charging in.”
“Uh huh, so why did you shout then?”
“Well, you see, she wasn’t super confident in knowing when to engage and disengage so… I told her I’d do it for her.”
“That feels like cheating again.”
“No, it’s coaching. Coaching is perfectly fair.”
“Madison was Quinn’s coach, not you. If you wanted to do that you should’ve been her actual coach.”
“Madison knows Quinn’s style better than I do. Aside from sneaky plans, I wouldn’t have had much else to add.”
I let out a sigh.
Despite not actively competing in this tournament, it felt as though Cole was going to obliterate the competition with other methods.
“So,” I began after a brief silence, “Are you planning to give your ‘ideas’ to everyone before their matches.”
Without saying a word, Cole gave me a sly smile and stood up to talk to Andrew, the next fighter.
This seems so unfair…
After a little more waiting and a lot of evil scheming, Andrew was up to fight.
We all gathered around to cheer, same as with Quinn, but this time, I kept an eye on Cole beside me, wondering what plan he cooked up for this fight.
Given Andrew’s build compared to his opponent, there was no way the same strategy would work. His opponent towered a whole six inches over him but was much less muscular. His build was similar to the captain’s, just slightly different proportions.
As the referee began the match, I had the desire to smack Cole as Andrew disengaged from his opponent, the same as Quinn. Not only was Andrew’s style more focused on grappling rather than punching, his range was also much shorter than his opponent’s, leading to an immediate disadvantage.
His opponent, seeing the disengage, immediately followed Andrew’s movement in an attempt to begin wailing on him. What seemed like a one-sided fight was suddenly flipped on its head as Cole once again signaled our competitor to enact his “idea.”
Andrew, who had just been backing up, suddenly met his opponent’s charge and completely closed the distance. As soon as he was up against his opponent, Andrew grabbed him and completely took him down to the ground.
Although the takedown wasn’t pretty and they ended up in a scuffed position, Andrew was in the lead. A lead that would carry forward through the rest of the fight.
No matter what, Andrew kept on his opponent, refusing to let him stand back up. It seemed obvious that they had planned to use their massive height and range advantage to bully Andrew from a distance through Muay Thai but, as soon as Andrew baited out his engage, his confidence fell harder than he did.
Thanks to how frazzled his opponent was, it took less than a minute for Andrew to catch a loose foot and preform a straight ankle lock.
The audible tapping on the mat signaled Andrew’s complete victory.
“What now?” Cole asked, feigning ignorance as I glared at him.
“Spit it out.” I pushed, knowing he was obviously hiding something.
“Fiiiiiiiiiine. If you must know, the girl Quinn fought and that guy are from the same school.” Cole began, “And I saw one of their members doing some reconnaissance of their own.”
“So!” Cole started up again enthusiastically, “They knew that Quinn and Andrew were from the same school as well!”
“Why would that matter?”
“Our club is pretty unique in how all of our members, especially the new ones, have pretty distinct styles with some favoring completely different martial arts to others.”
As I thought about what he was saying, I realized that no two of our members fought the exact same. Similarly, sure, but with how diverse the skilled members were, us new martial artists had plenty of avenues for inspiration and growth in whatever we preferred.
“I see,” I replied dryly. “So?”
“So!” He exclaimed again, this time with a much more sinister look. “If they were just beaten by a member of our club and knew their next match would be against another member of the same club, wouldn’t they be on guard for, oh I don’t know, Andrew immediately disengaging to stall their fighter out?”
“So!” Cole exclaimed for a third time as he noticed the situation dawn on me. “If we could plan around their counter to our assumed style, couldn’t we simply set a trap for Andrew’s opponent by forcing him to engage despite his range advantage?”
As Cole turned his sinister look directly towards me, I felt chills go down my spine.
“You’re up next,” he said with a widening smile.