Denice “The Menace” Zamboanga is a robust force at 115 lbs and a decent fighter in the clinch, but she is a boa constrictor on the ground.
Tonight she’s matched up against Hye Seon Kim, one of the finer prospects of Top Gym, whose plethora of South Korean brawlers are, in actuality, not imported from Seoul but homegrown, right on good south-of-the-city Paranaque soil. The SoKor diaspora to the rest of SEA does have its perks, you see?
We’re at Casino Filipino by the Bay on March 23 and the air is that rare combo of almost summer but not yet humid. In that unique, almost preternatural distinction of the Universal Reality Combat Championship (URCC) in MMA circles to both astound and frustrate in the same event, their Battle Extreme Tournament of Superstars (BETS) spinoff series has a particular carnivalesque frisson. Not to be mistaken for the main URCC events, this series is thus named because it’s always held at a casino and bets are placed before the event and before each match.
Comedian Dennis Padilla and former FHM cover muse Jacq Yu, assisted by casino girls in skimpy, pastel-themed athleisure wear with weird, flowing frocks, employed his parochial brand of vintage jokes to agitate the crowd into a gambling frenzy. Or something close to it. All of them teamed up to work the crowd, in a cross between big top masters and cockfight kristos, trying to even out the odds for each fighter as, just outside, the slot machines grinded along with the casino’s daily hum of losers and winners.
Zamboanga herself is fresh off a win at her pro debut earlier this year at South Korea’s Gleamon FC. Her confidence was high and she came out throwing heavy strikes when the match started. The betting odds are were her favor at almost two to one.
“I am very obsessive with my training. I plan out my regimen on Excel worksheets,” said Zamboanga in an interview with the Destroy Manila Podcast. “I still manage to hold down a fulltime job because of my obsessive tracking schedule. It’s really just prioritizing.”
Kim had good movement and was evasive in her footwork, allowing her to strike back. When the clinch war started, the two were evenly matched with their dirty boxing and occasional knees. Aggression was on Zamboangas side, but Kim wasn’t on a slouch either and took little significant damage.
The tide turned in round two when Zamboanga threw Kim to the ground. At various times, Zamboanga has made opponents submit in the cage, has mauled fellow grapplers at jiu-jitsu competitions, and has made a judo blackbelt tapout. That evening, it was no different.
Down on the ground, Zamboanga and Kim engaged in furious transition battles and finally, Zamboanga placed herself in an armbar position and cranked. Kim tapped out. Zamboanga improved her pro MMA record to 2-0.
It must be noted that Denice is the younger sister of URCC champ Drex Zamboanga of Toughguys Int’l, also her head coach and sparring partner, whom she credits as the one who got her into MMA competition.
Later into the night, there were excellent first round knockouts by Lucky Mateo, Norman Agcopra, and Arvin Chan. There was also a comeback win from FIST Gym’s “The Cannibal” Richard Redman in the main event, where he fought a one-sided welterweight battle against Brian Paule, who came in 10lbs over the division limit, was a sweetener to the MMA meets in-house gambling event. Aside from a controversial split decision involving flyweights Victor Torre and Dennis Salazar, the drama and constant back and forth action of Zamboanga vs Kim was the highlight of the event.
With such a dominant performance, 21-year-old Zamboanga has become one of the fighters to watch, a top prospect at flyweight in women’s MMA. Who’s next for “The Menace”?