By KEVIN JAKAHI
Tribune-Herald sports writer
Chad “Brahma Bull” Thomas used to see red and go charging in once an opponent showed the slightest sign of a stumble, living up to his nickname and making life fun for those not experiencing his fury.
But Thomas showed restraint and still got a technical knockout 2 minutes and 15 seconds into the first round against Doug Hiu at Just Scrap, the first mixed martial arts event of the year, on Saturday night before 2,800 fans at Hilo Civic.
Early in the first round, Thomas stunned Hiu with a punch. The old Bull would have attacked right away, looking to land a knuckle sandwich and make it an early night. But the new version patiently waited for a better opening.
He eventually pinned his Oahu challenger against the fence, and fired left hooks to the head, and right uppercuts when Hiu covered up.
Thomas left with a win to level his pro record to 1-1. Hiu left with a hematoma on his head, the size of two Twix candy bars stuck together.
“The key was I finally realized after 15 fights that I have to take my time and be calm, keep my eyes open and see everything,” Thomas said. “After I hit him with a jab, my first punch, he felt my power. But I slowed my pace down. I was looking for an opening and took control.”
His patience paid off and the Bull proved dangerous even with a new style.
Pu‘u’s heavy heart
In a super heavyweight pro bout, Deutsch Puu earned a TKO 43 seconds into the first round against Wesley “Cabbage” Correira, who was making his comeback after not fighting since December 2008.
“I got caught. I was a little rusty. But it’s not the end for me. I’ll go right back to training,” said Correira, who maintained his sense of humor. “Maybe I should change my nickname from Cabbage to Bok Choy. He got me with an overhand right. There’s not an ounce of quit in this buggah. I got to shake off the rust. Maybe I should buy some oil treatment from Walmart.”
Meanwhile, Pu‘u, whose last fight was a K-1 loss to No. 10 ranked Randy Blake last month, fought with a heavy heart. His mother, Maria Lenei Teofilo Pu‘u, died Monday from Stage IV cancer in American Samoa. She was 67.
“I know my mom would have told me to fight,” he said. “I wanted to honor my mom tonight. After two or three kicks, I could see his legs buckle and turned up the heat and threw hands. He was limping, so I knew he couldn’t move away when I threw punches.
“It was an emotional fight. Prior to coming to the fight I was torn, whether I should fly to Samoa or fight. I’m going to fly out to Samoa on Monday. My mom was the strongest Christian I know. The lesson she taught me is to share. Like with my gym, I just want to give back.”
Pu‘u opened a free gym in Samoa. He also has a free gym in Waipahu, and offered an open invitation to everyone in the Hilo Civic crowd. It was a moment that immediately reminded him of his mom.
“They say you are your parents. I try every day to be close to my mom,” he said. “That’s what I do with my gym. It speaks to the lesson she taught me, to share.”
In a 170-pound battle, Joey “Tazmanian Devil” Gomez won his pro debut against Kawika “Tips” Martins, at 2:00 into the first round with a TKO.
Tips tackled the Taz Devil to floor, but he didn’t stay there for long. Gomez quickly worked to get Martin’s back and proceeded to windmill punches to the both sides of the head.
“It feels great. Nothing feels better than winning,” Gomez said. “I wanted to get him on the ground. My wrestling and ground is a lot better.”
Gomez looks local, and his last name sounds local, but he’s from Denver. He’s a student at UH-Hilo and will graduate in May, and leave for the mainland in June to work on his masters in school psychology.
He arrived in Hilo 3 1/2 years ago, and after six months started MMA, when a friend told him about BJ Penn’s Fitness and Training Center. Gomez fights out of Boss MMA, run by Ross Ebanez, at Penn’s Gym.
“I wrestled in high school, and once I went to the gym I fell in love,” said Gomez, who plans to compete in MMA on the mainland. “Everyone thinks I’m local.”
In a 135-pound pro bout, Oscar Van Penovaroff, at 5 feet 9, didn’t need his three-inch height advantage to earn a submission tapout against Tyler Leopoldino, 1:14 into the first round.
Leopoldino got Penovaroff to the floor with a single-leg takedown. But Penovaroff used the cage for leverage, pushed down on his opponent’s head, and reversed positions, getting the win and snapping a two-loss streak.
“The crowd got me hyped. I was excited to put on a show,” said Penovaroff (10-3), who trains at Boss MMA. “I wanted the knockout, but I had to go to takedown defense. I got the reverse, got on top and looked to finish. The win feels really good.”
In other bouts:
• Leo Sigra def. Brandon Libao, first-round technical knockout.
• Arlena Cook def. Kuulei Estabilio, split decision.
• Tyler Owen def. Bobbi Manners, first-round rear-naked choke.
• Russell Mizuguchi def. Brennan Nash, first-round knockout.
• Joey Aquino def. Kahahile Santos, first-round rear-naked choke.
• Stu Jones def. Justin Yamauchi, first-round triangle choke.
• Andrew Sanchis def. Josh Sosa, second-round rear-naked choke.