When Red Deer kickboxer Stephanie Essensa stepped into the ring against Regina’s Tammy Delaforest at the Canadian National Muay Thai championships in Calgary on Saturday, all she was hoping for was a competitive performance.
The fight was Essensa sixth kickboxing match and in Delaforest she was facing a women who had over 40 amateur boxing matches and was the 2001 World Silver Medalist.
Unfortunately for Essensa there was to be no competitive performance, not from herself however, but from her opponent as the Red Deer Martial Artist fought the perfect fight shutting out the more experienced fighter to win the 118 pound Canadian championship.
“My mindset going in, was win, lose or draw, it will be a good experience,” said the Red Deer Arashi-do instructor. “If I win it would be huge for me if I lost I had fought someone who had world level experience in combat sports. It was a win-win scenario.”
Essensa, 6-0, set the tone in the first round, as she immediately made her taller opponent uncomfortable by moving away and making the counter puncher move forward. The Red Deer Muay Thai athlete kept her distance perfect, staying outside, catching her competitors kicks, countering, moving away, and then quickly closing the distance and grinding it out on the inside with her clinch and knees. The former silver medalist never had an opportunity to show her boxing skills.
“I didn’t want to stand and box with her, don’t box the boxer,” said the newly crowned Canadian champion. “In the last 30 seconds of the first round I knew the momentum had swung in my favour, she wasn’t punching me, I was hitting her, I was dictating the distance, and taking it to her.”
The Red Deer fighter’s dominance increased exponentially in the second and third rounds, as frustration was written all over the Regina boxers face. By the third round Essensa was actually outboxing the boxer.
“When I talked to Tammy’s corner after the bout they told me I had the perfect game plan,” said Essensa. “This win gives me even more confidence now. I now know, I can dictate the action.”
Essensa moved to the finals Saturday by defeating Christina James of Calgary by unanimous decision.
In the men’s 140 pound division Red Deer’s Sean Enright, had to defeat two opponents, Derek Williams, of Ottawa and Calgary’s Hakeem Dawoodu, on Saturday to make it to the evening final. By the time he stepped into the ring for the final Saturday night against Ottawa’s Derek Boyde he was bruised and battered, with an injured ankle and knee. Somehow the Arashi-do fighter was able to tough it out, and outbox his opponent in the first two rounds, to post the unanimous decision win and claim the Canadian title.
“During the first round, I was feeling good, the adrenaline helped me to forget my injuries,” said Enright. “I planned on boxing him and make him miss his kicks.”
Red Deer’s Will Quijada split the first two rounds of his final bout against Calgary’s Ari Markie, winning the first round on technical merit, but losing the second as the bigger Markie came forward landing the harder shots. The Seven Stars Preying Mantis martial artist, however was able to shift the momentum again in the third, as he fought a brilliant technical fight.
“He was throwing hard and leaving himself open and I would land my combinations,” said the new 147 pound Canadian National champion.
When asked about Red Deer winning three national titles at the event, which featured athletes from all over Canada, Quijada, 5-4, quipped, “It (Red Deer) is one tough little town.”
To make it to the finals Quijada defeated Gary Gilchrest of Ottawa.
In the Men’s 178 pound division final Vladimir Quijada lost a hard fought decision to Peter Montrait of Ottawa.
They will all get the chance to represent Canada at the world championships in Bangkok, Thailand Nov. 27-Dec. 5