Thursday, January 31, 2008

Vitale Victorious in X-1 Tournament

Originally posted on Jan 27th, 2008.

HONOLULU, Jan. 26 -- Falaniko Vitale (Pictures) failed to capture tournament gold in a Strikeforce event last November, but the Hawaiian would not be denied Saturday at the Neil S. Blaisdell Arena in X1 World Events' four-man middleweight tournament.

In the opening round, Vitale battled King of the Cage veteran Joey Guel (Pictures). "Niko" stunned Guel early in the first and followed up with a flurry of punches along the ropes, but the fighter from Oregon survived the round.

Guel pushed the pace in the second, employing a lead left hand and a number of solid kicks before being taken down. From the guard, he worked in a tight kimura. Vitale escaped and stayed on top, where he dealt out damage until the round ended to earn a unanimous decision.

"He was pretty aggressive with his strikes," Vitale said after the bout. "It kind of threw me off."

The tournament finals saw Vitale take on Ricky Shivers (Pictures), who had stopped Kenny Ento (Pictures) with a devastating right hand in the opening round.

Vitale looked to finish early as he jumped in with a Superman punch. Though the punch narrowly missed, Shivers was not out of trouble yet. Soon after, the Hawaiian's knee opened a large gash in the middle of Shivers' forehead.

When the referee stopped the fight to have the cut examined, Shivers' trainer threw in the towel, giving Vitale the win just 49 seconds into the first round.

"I hit him pretty hard," said Vitale, the new X1 World middleweight champion. "I heard a loud pop. Something had to have happened. I thought he broke his nose, but it was his forehead. He had that big cut, so I knew something was wrong."

Heavyweights Ron Waterman (Pictures) and Analu Brash (Pictures) battled it out for the newly created X1 World heavyweight title in one of the most exciting fights of the night.

The two hulking specimens slugged it out early. Brash, a young up-and-coming fighter from Maui, landed a number of leg kicks, one of which sent Waterman crashing to the canvas. Then Brash swarmed his opponent, landing hammerfists from side mount before the fighters found their ways back to the feet.

Waterman scored a takedown and worked from the guard, attempting a can opener before bloodying Brash's nose. The round ended with Waterman scoring heavy leather on the feet.

Brash's battered nose seemed to be hurting his already failing conditioning as the second round started, and Waterman was ready to bring it to him.

"I knew as the fight went on that my conditioning was going to take over, cause I've seen him fight before and he gassed a little bit," Waterman said. "I lost 30 pounds for this fight, and I trained real hard for it, so I knew I could go 15 minutes hard and it ended up paying off for me."

Waterman got the fight to the mat again in the second round. He used a can opener to transition to side control, where he secured a keylock and forced the Hawaiian to tap out at 2:50.

"Once I get to side control, I just feel so confident there," Waterman said. "That's where my game is, so I had a couple tight submissions on him and he just fed that arm up one time right into a keylock. I knew once I had that pulled into my body tight that something was gonna break or he was gonna tap. It started snapping pretty hard, so I knew it was over."

In a rematch of their X1 fight last November, Chad Reiner (Pictures) once again stopped Hawaiian heavy-hitter Mark Moreno (Pictures), this time for the X1 welterweight title.

Moreno, the defending champ, controlled the standup and reversed a takedown attempt in the opening frame. He then found himself being elevated and slammed to the canvas twice before Reiner almost locked out a kimura.

Moreno started round two strong again, getting on top of Reiner and thudding a pair of heavy right hands off his face. Reiner then got busy, attempting a guillotine and an arm-triangle choke before gaining mount toward the end of the round and raining down punches as the clock winded down.

The third round started with Moreno breathing heavily and throwing wild punches. Reiner sucked up the Hawaiian's legs as he went for a guillotine, picked him up in the air and then slammed Moreno to the canvas.

"I felt when I slammed him, it knocked the wind out of him a little bit, and then I took advantage and kept going with the strikes," Reiner said.

Visibly shaken from the takedown, Moreno was unable to protect himself from the onslaught of punches. Referee Chris West stopped the bout just 52 seconds into the third and final frame.

Mia St. John (Pictures) looked impressive in her MMA debut, needing only 44 seconds to dispatch of opponent Rhonda Gallegoes.

"I was a little bit bummed cause I wanted it to go longer, but you know I'll take a knockout any day," St. John joked.

The boxing star worked a few low kicks before opening up with a combination punctuated by a right hand that dropped her opponent to the floor.

In lightweight title action, "Sugar" Shane Nelson (Pictures) took a controversial split decision over Kaleo Kwan (Pictures). The two went back and forth, with Kaleo scoring more on the feet and Nelson attacking with takedowns and submissions.

Eddie Yagin (Pictures) retained his 145-pound belt after a hard-fought win over Dave Moreno (Pictures). The two featherweights put on an exciting standup display. After 15 minutes, the judges decided that Yagin had done enough for a unanimous decision.

Coming off an impressive debut year in 2007, Michael Brightmon (Pictures) continued to impress with a solid performance over "Ultimate Fighter" alumnus Anthony Torres (Pictures).

Brightmon, known for his wrestling, came out aggressively. He roughed up Torres from the clinch and scored in good exchanges on the feet, one of which left a cut over Torres' left eye.

"I came with the one and then I came with the two, and it cut him," Brightmon said. "I came with the three to finish him, but yeah, he's pretty tough and it didn't finish him."

In the second, Torres was able to get on top and control, but Brightmon reversed the roles in the third and eked out a split decision on the cards.

Wesley "Cabbage" Correira returned to action against newcomer Jake Faagai and scored his first win since 2006.

Correira caught a kick early in the opening round and threw Faagai to the mat, where he quickly followed with strikes from side mount. Faagai reversed position, prompting Correira to attempt to stand up. However, Faagai took his back in the scramble and started throwing leather to Correira's head.

After a warning for striking the back of the head, Faagai suddenly let out a scream of pain and grabbed at his arm as he fell off Correira's back to the mat. "Cabbage" quickly got on top and punched before the referee could intervene.

The fight was then called at 2:17 of the first round, as Faagai could not continue due to an apparent injury.

Doug Hiu (Pictures) got back on track in the heavyweight division, earning a unanimous decision over Eric Edwards.

Another freak injury occurred in Aaron Steele's match against Ikaika Moreno. At the end of the first round, Steele tried to stand but collapsed in pain. He had torn his Achilles tendon sometime in the opening period, giving the win to Moreno.

Steele was taken to the emergency room and will undergo surgery in the morning.

In a 170-pound amateur title fight, Sean Sakata stopped Steve Farmer with strikes from side control at 1:58 of the second round.

Also in amateur action, Keola Silva stopped Gary Rabellisza with strikes at 2:33 of round one, and Alan Hishimoto took a split decision over Jared Iha.



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