JOINT BASE LEWIS-MCCHORD, Wash. - Jen Davis watched from the stands as her husband, Air Force Staff Sgt. Chris Davis, entered the cage. The crowd whistled and cheered as the fighters eyed each other and the tension built as they waited for the words.

"Ready' Fight!"

The Joint Base Lewis-McChord Modern Army Combatives Tournament finals kicked off the night like an Ultimate Fighting Championship event at the Wilson Sports and Fitness Center, Sept. 1.

Starting last Monday, 106 service members fought for a spot on the JBLM All-Army Combatives Team.

"We're getting all the (Soldiers) together in order to build the All Army Team to go down to Fort Benning to represent JBLM," said Sgt. 1st Class David Jones, the NCO in charge of the tournament.

The weigh-ins, on Aug. 29, set the tone for the competition as the participants caught their first glances of their opponents, quickly sizing them up.

For some of the participants, losing weight to compete in a certain class was a challenge.

"It was hard because these guys were full of energy and so they could go all day," said Pvt. Michael Vass who dropped from 135 pounds to 118 pounds to compete in the flyweight division.

Spread across the four corners of the basketball courts of Wilson Sports and Fitness Center, four bright yellow mats enabled the Warriors to slam their opponents to the ground and then jockey for a dominant position.

During the preliminary round, the competitors were only allowed to use grappling techniques to defeat one another.

By the end of the first day, the field had been whittled down to 28 competitors.

After a night of rest and recuperation, the top four fighters in each of the seven weight classes returned for the semifinal rounds.

This time a single mat in the center of the gym was the proving ground. After the referee checked to make sure the fighters were ready, the second day of grappling began.

The winners progressed to the finals of the competition while the losers had to stay and fight a consolation match for third place.

"I had to make sure I got third," said Vass who won by submission. "I would have felt better if I got first or second but (being in the) top three is good."

During the 10-minute round, the fighters poured all they had into their matches.

"I feel great," said Sgt. William Nunn, an engineer with 528th Quartermaster Co., dripping with sweat. "It's not first, but I represented my company well enough to take third."

As the third place finishers walked off, preparations for the next night's main event got under way as a six-sided cage was erected.

With the fanfare of a UFC fight night, Wilson quickly filled with the competitors' fans.

As the lights went dark the announcer roared, "Let's get ready to rumble!" Music pulsed, smoke machines filled the walkway and spotlights followed the fighters up to the cage.

During the finals, the fighters were allowed to slap the face, punch from the chest down, knee from the waist down and kick anywhere they could reach on their opponents.

"It was tough," said Davis, who took the cruiserweight division title. "The only reason I think I had an advantage over two of the guys was because they were a lot smaller than me."

Davis added that he owes his success in the cage to his teacher, Marcelo Alonso. "What I might lack in strength, I may be able to make up for in technique," Davis said.

At the end of the night, battered, bruised and bloody, 21 fighters stood tall as they were awarded their prizes. An Army Commendation Medal and a championship belt were awarded for first place finishers, while second and third place finishers received trophies.

First and second place finishers will also be given the opportunity to train for six weeks at the JBLM Warrior Training Academy and, if they can defeat their instructors, to compete in the All Army Combatives Tournament at Fort Benning in October.

Sgt. Matthew Thompson is assigned to the 5th Mobile Public Affairs Detachment. This story appeared in Joint Base Lewis-McChord's weekly newspaper, the Northwest Guardian.