By KEVIN JAKAHI
Tribune-Herald sports writer
Just Scrap 23 put five amateur championship belts on the line and each bout tested fighters, not only mixed martial skills but what’s in their reservoir when everything looks empty.
That was the case Friday night for Russell Mizuguchi, who earned a three-round unanimous decision over Maui Acantilado for the 125-pound championship at Edith Kanaka’ole Multipurpose Stadium.
In the first round, the two 5-foot-6 fighters exchanged lightning-quick combinations, tagging each other’s chin. When the action moved to the ground, both defended well, spending all three minutes burning a lot of energy, playing both offense and defense.
Mizuguchi, who trains out of Boss MMA, took a solid knee to the head early in the second round. He was wobbled, but shook away the cobwebs and quickly recovered and got a takedown. He eventually sunk his heels into Acantilado and landed shots to the head and with 30 seconds attempted a rear-naked choke, but couldn’t squeeze it in.
In the third round, Acantilado tried to keep the fight on the feet, and fired a few blows to the face that Mizuguchi couldn’t block, giving his chin and all parts of his body a good tenderizing. But Mizuguchi relied on his takedown skills again, and spent most of the round looking for a rear-naked choke that never came.
Still, Mizuguchi scored enough points to win the belt and maintain his perfect record at 6-0. Acantilado from Waimea’s Monkey House fight club fell to 2-4.
“It was a war. My chin got tested and everything, my skills, my heart,” Mizuguchi said. “It proved to myself that I could survive something like that when I got hurt.”
In the first female title bout at 125 pounds, Keani Sebala, from Boss MMA, pulled a rear-naked choke in the second round against Honolulu’s Monica Franco, from Jesus is Lord fight club.
Franco missed on a back kick and Sebala went for a takedown and worked into good position for a rear-naked choke. She didn’t get it, not the second time either. Third time was the charm with just 37 seconds left.
“This feels good. I’ve worked hard and listened to my coaches,” Sebala said. “Going in I didn’t know how it would end up. To win the first female belt, it feels really cool.”
In the 135 championship, Monkey House’s Kanoa Akau had a rough start against Petey Vital, who represents Pahoa Boxing Gym, getting accidentally kicked in the groin in the first round.
Fighters have five minutes to recover and wear cups. But that was little consolation to Akau, who was in quite a bit of discomfort. But he recovered and was good to go after two minutes.
Then he didn’t see the fastball coming straight to the head. Vital, a southpaw, threw a straight left down the middle and floored Akau. Vital then pounced for a following blow and produced the night’s only knockout just 41 seconds into the first round.
In his 155 belt defense, Jesus is Lord’s Antony Rivera got off to a nice start in the first round, taking down Adam Collarile, from Boss MMA, which works out of the Penn Fitness and Training Center.
Collarile was in half-guard (on his back sandwiching one leg), but showed not the slightest hint of concern. In fact, he looked comfortable there and kept trying for an armbar, getting his submission 2:07 into the round and returning the belt to the Big Island.
“I’ve been working on going from a kimura (bending the forearm at an “L “position backward) to an armbar,” Collarile said. “I learned it from the guys at Boss MMA. The second he took me down I was looking for that.”
The strength of most of the fighters at BJ Penn’s gym is jujitsu skills, and every time the UFC fighter goes to Brazil to learn something new it gets passed down to the Boss MMA guys. But technical skill was only one part for Collarile (6-0), who handed Rivera (3-1) his first loss.
“I train with best and it paid off tonight. That’s the hard work right there,” said Collarile, pointing to his championship lightweight belt.
In the 170 welterweight title fight, it was a contrast of styles between Average Joe’s Scotty Hao, a stand-up striker, and Brandon Libao, a ground-game jujitsu artist from Boss MMA.
Hao, who has some serious strength, especially with his lower body, put on a clinic on how to play takedown defense. He sprayed his legs and kept Libao upright or pushed his Boss MMA foe’s head down when both lowered to the mat.
Then Hao dazzled with his leg strength. In the second round, during one clinch, Libao tried a judo trip but Hao spread his legs, gained solid footing and looked like an immovable statue, who happens to punch hard.
From there, Hao cracked a cold left hook to the chin, pounced on Libao and pulled a rear-naked choke 2:20 in the round, bringing home the belt across the island to Kona.
In the pro 155-pound lightweight main event, “Iron” Mike Aina is now 2 for 2 in his comeback attempt, punishing James Martinez, from Xtreme Couture out of Las Vegas, with a first-round technical knockout.
Aina, another Boss MMA member, is a former Waiakea High football and soccer player. Unlike his teammates, his game revolves around striking, making him a fan favorite for the local fight fans, who enjoy knockouts over pretzel bending.
After mapping his distance with Martinez with a few kicks and punches, Aina knew where his target zone was, and the visitor from Vegas walked into a trap door. Aina fired a kick, Martinez back away and looked to counter.
He didn’t notice that a school bus was coming around the corner. Aina’s right hook connected on the temple and down went Martinez, dazed and down for good just 49 seconds in the first round.
“I executed my game plan. I knew his strength is Muay Thai and I was patient,” said Aina (15-6-1-1). “I went when I saw an opening and had a perfect shot with my right hand. He back away from my kicks and threw a lazy jab, and I connected.
“I just have to stay consistent and stay busy, if something comes up to be ready. I’ll keep working with the guys at the gym.”
The next Just Scrap will be held in May on Maui, then the BJPenn.com promotion returns to the Big Island in June.
In the other pro fight at 135 pounds, Boss MMA’s Daniel Friend (4-1) earned a two-round decision over Tyler Kahihikolo, from Maui Jiu-Jitsu club, scoring points with his takedowns.
When a 205-pound fella falls on you, it’s hard to get him off, especially if he lands on your right arm, valuable as a striking weapon but also a defensive tool to block punches to the face.
That’s how AP Boxing’s Andrew Sanchis scored his second-round TKO over Braydon Cruz Silva, from Killabeez fight club in Hilo. Sanchis had the better landing position during a collision, pinned Cruz Silva’s arm and hammered his head until the referee stoppage.
Federico Vento, a 2013 Hilo High graduate, was a wrestler and judoka for the Vikings. He’s now training out of Fierce Fighting in Puna. He had an impressive first-round submission over Ikaika Rodrigues, from AP Boxing, the club run by Anthony Pagan and Chris Cisneros.
In under two minutes, Vento flashed all his wrestling and judo skills, getting a takedown, gaining side control, then a brief mount position before moving for an armbar attempt. Then he used his strength and wrestling skills to flip Rodrigues for a rear-naked choke just 1:24 into the round.
In other fights:
155 pounds: Kaeo Meyers defeated Chris Miranda, first-round rear-naked choke.
200: Coates Cobb Adams def. Kaipo Cabanting, second-round TKO referee stoppage due to strikes.
150: Kainui Meyers def. Erik Clark, second-round decision.
160: Keola Limkin def. Chaison Kamalii, third-round decision.
155: PJ Barch def. Kenui Mundon, second-round unanimous decision.
140: Cheydon Leialoha def. Justin Soares, first-round TKO referee stoppage due to strikes.
145: Kanoa Rozet def. Chris Ma‘e, first-round TKO referee stoppage due to strikes.
135: Geraldo Carabalo def. Pololu Nakanelua, third-round decision.
145: Andrew Bloch def. Cameron McDaniel, first-round rear-naked choke.