Call it a case of bummer’s bad luck for Chad “Brahma Bull” Thomas, who’s been the unlucky target of unfortunate circumstances in his two biggest pro mixed martial arts fights.
Back on a Tuesday in 2012, Thomas caught the flu bug and his temperature rose to 102 degrees. His pro debut was three days later on Maui against former Strikeforce heavyweight Lolohea Mahe, who produced a second-round TKO at the Just Scrap event.
Fast-forward two year later, and Thomas was set to fight former UFC heavyweight champion Ricco “Suave” Rodriguez (53-21) for the Just Scrap World Title and, no doubt, the biggest bout of his emerging pro career.
It would have put an impressive star next to Thomas’ name if he had pulled off a win. Google Rodriguez’ MMA record and it’s a working man’s career of fighting all over the globe.
However, Rodriguez got into a car accident on Wednesday, and was scratched from Saturday’s card at the Edith Kanakaole Multipurpose Stadium, where Keishaun Hill, from San Diego and former UFC fighter Chris Leben’s gym, stepped in as a replacement.
Thomas got a first-round technical knockout 4 minutes, 13 secconds into the fight to claim the Just Scrap World Heavyweight Title.
“I’m very bummed because I wanted to fight Ricco,” Thomas said. “But Keishaun stepped up and he was a tough opponent. I got him with the Pops special, an overhand right, and followed with a left hook. I feel that the win will open doors for me.”
Walter “Pops” Carvalho Sr. recently moved to California to full-time train UFC fighter Cain Velasquez. He’s not the only one missing from Thomas’ life.
His wife Marcel’s dad, Mike Kalama Evans, recently passed away in April. He was a contractor and well-known figure in Hilo, like his best friend Richard “Piggy” Kaleohano, an audio specialist, who passed away on Friday.
“I think Uncle Piggy died of a broken heart because Mike was his best friend,” Thomas said. “Mike was everything for everybody. He would come to all my fights. I dedicated the fight to both men.”
It’s become something of a good habit for Thomas, who fights out of Boss MMA (Hilo), to avoid a five-minute third round. In fact, it’s the fourth time Thomas (4-1) has TKO’d an opponent in the first or second round.
Early in the first round, Thomas welcomed Hill (2-2) to Hawaii with a couple tenderizing shots to the midsection. Then the San Diego visitor started to use his 6-foot-4 length to fire straight left and right rockets, keeping Thomas, who’s 6 feet, on the perimeter.
But Hill made the mistake of letting his guard drop for a second. Thomas walked right up to Hill, knocked on his door, and clocked him with a devastating right to the head. Down went Hill, and Thomas, a 1995 Waiakea graduate and former football player, swarmed to finish, and got another TKO to add to his resume.
In his pro Just Scrap debut at 170 pounds, Shane “Suga” Nelson, from Boss MMA, defeated Kaleo Kwan from Oahu’s Freestyle, with a majority decision.
The first round was uneventful, and much of the second, except early when Kwan (16-13) connected with a combination, and Nelson (17-7) got a late takedown and sneaked in a few shots.
A five-minute third round wasn’t needed. The judges gave Nelson a majority decision.
It was the rubber match between the two. Kwan, 40, earlier lost twice to Nelson, 29, at X-1 Events in 2008 and Punishment in Paradise in 2005. Both times were by decision.
Nelson’s last official fight was a decision loss to Graham Spencer at Maximum Fighting Championships 35 in 2012 in Canada. Earlier that year, he lost by submission to Takasuke Kume at Shooto in Japan.
• 170: Scotty Hao, Average Joes (Kona), def. Keola Limkin, Penn Fitness, first-round submission, 2:59.
In the first round, it looked like a sumo match with both in a clinch. Each was trying to throw the other to the mat. It’s about strength and leverage, and defending champion Hao was better at both.
At 5 feet 9 and two inches shorter, Hao (4-0) picked up the lanky Limkin (2-1) and slammed him to the ground. The fight went back to stand-up, and Hao got another takedown. From there, he grabbed Limkin’s back and sunk in a rear-naked choke with a second left for the submission.
The only negative for the fans was that Hao didn’t get a chance to showcase his punching power. Still, he didn’t need his striking game. His sumo skills were plenty good enough.
• 135: Petey Vital, Vital MMA (Puna), def. Rob Midel, Boss MMA, third-round unanimous decision.
Vital (8-7), who was making his first title defense, runs his Vital MMA club out of his house’s garage, and has six fighters. Two were on the card, Keenin Cohen (loss), and Gary Simkins (win).
“We’ve been looking for kids who have nothing in Puna,” Vital said. “We’ve all been working together to make each other better. My key has been my strength and conditioning. At 135 pounds, I don’t tire out.”
Midel (5-6) was on a relentless hunt for takedowns, and Vital had to get his best shots in before the fight took to the floor. But a key factor was Vital’s cardio; his motor never stopped running with strikes or pressure.
At 5-8, Vital is long and lanky and looks like he’s in the 145-pound featherweight class. That length came in handy defending Midel’s takedown attempts and countering with punches and kicks to all parts of the body.
In every round, Vital had the better exchange of shots, whether in stand-up or when the fight hit the ground. And late in the third, Vital got a takedown and rammed a barrage of shots, a highlight of the title bout.
• 125: Russell “Da Muscle” Mizuguchi, Boss MMA, def. Federico Vento, Garage Gang (Hilo), third-round technical knockout.
This one went according to the matchup. Vento is a 2013 Hilo graduate and wrestler and judoka. His strength is takedowns. Mizuguchi is really strong for someone in his weight class and his takedown defensive strategy is to overpower his foe.
In the first round, Vento back-heel, judo-tripped Mizuguchi (7-0), making his first title defense. But Mizuguchi won the round when he got a reversal and had Vento playing clam defense. That is tightly clinching Mizuguchi, and keeping him from swinging, although he sneaked in a few shots to Vento’s body.
It was the same scenario in the second round, when Mizuguchi fired a few fastballs to the side of Vento’s head. Then Mizuguchi’s takedown defense led to a TKO, when he twice rebounded off the mat, and on the second time plowed punches for a referee stoppage.
In other bouts:
• Charlie Alanez, Boss MMA, def. Keenin Cohen, Vital MMA (Puna), second-round TKO, 3:55.
The bout resembled a football matchup, a 5-5 cornerback, Alanez, colliding into a two-inch taller wide receiver, Cohen, who swung for the fences with right hooks and kicks to the head often missing its mark when the little DB ducked.
The second round was worthwhile and entertaining, especially for the aggressive Alanez, who started with a Superman punch that missed, but turned all good with a takedown. Later in the round, after the fight went from the floor to stand-up, Alanez extended his hand to Cohen.
It was a gesture of sportsmanship. Basically, it was Alanez’ way of saying, “You took some shots. Good job.” They slapped hands and then the little tough guy went back to work. Alanez slugged Cohen in the face and eventually got the TKO.
• 205: Raymond Lopez, HIBC (Hilo), def. Joe Rizk, Team Issues (Maui), second-round knockout, 1:43.
The taller the tree the bigger the fall. Lopez stands maybe 5-7 and Rizk is a good 6 feet. Didn’t make a dime of difference in the first round, when Lopez took his taller opponent down and controlled the action.
In something of a nice surprise for the local fans, Lopez, showing absolutely no fear or concern about his length disadvantage, went on a second-round stalking mission, looking for a KO. He got it and floored Rizk early in the second round.
• 200: Yasuha Mims, Freestyle (Hilo), def. Shannon DeCosta, Cisneros MMA (Hilo), first-round submission, 2:01.
Both were making their amateur debut. Mims was the aggressor and his attacking paid off in the first round, when he fired punches and landed a knee.
Then he seized an opening when DeCosta left his neck unguarded for a second, and Mims, nicknamed “Master Chief,” got a guillotine submission.
• 145: Austin Bloch, Freestyle (Maui), def. Keola Caballero, Maui Freestyle Fight team, second-round submission, 2:37.
In something of a rarity with two same off-island guys going to battle, Bloch got the better of Caballero, a neighbor on the Valley Isle.
In the first round, Bloch (3-0) toured the MMA bases: He mounted Caballero (4-2) and fired strikes, then attempted a rear-naked choke. When the second round started, Caballero came out seeking revenge. Instead, Bloch finally got his Hulk Hogan sleeper-hold submission.
• 215: Andrew Sanchis, AP Boxing (Hilo), def. Adam “One Drop” Fenenbock, Backyard (Hilo), first-round TKO, 2:09.
The fight between the two big guys was from the waist up, lots of trading shots from stand-up. Then a funny thing happened, well, maybe not for “One Drop.”
Making his debut, Fenenbock (0-1), sort of, fell on Sanchis (6-6), who was technical enough to reverse his foe. He then proceeded to use Fenenbock’s noggin for target practice until the referee stoppage.
•125: Stu Jones, Killerbeez (Hilo), def. Ernie Santos, (Guam), split-decision.
Santos (3-1) was smaller at 5-5 by about two inches and that provided decisive. Jones (3-1-1), who looked 10 pounds heavier, kept Santos on the perimeter with his length, both punches and kicks.
Maybe it’s a Guam fighting custom, but Santos kept coming, attacking when Jones relaxed for a second and countering at every opportunity. But when Jones landed something it didn’t stop Santos, but did enough to sway the judges.
• 170: Gary Simkins, Vital MMA, def. Matt Miranda, PGP (Hilo), second-round submission, 1:07.
Simkins (2-1) was a little more well-rounded than Miranda (0-1), who was making his debut, flashing a tad better game of striking and takedown skills.
Miranda made a critical mistake in the second round, grabbing one of Simkins’ legs, but left his neck open. Simkins, quick like a cobra, grabbed it for a guillotine, basically a front-side sleeper’s hold.
• 190: Lavelle Brown, Cornerstone (Hilo), def. Jason Soares, Boss MMA, first-round TKO, 2:51.
Brown is known for his powerful kicks. He doesn’t do patty-cake kicks. His blows buckle knees, and even better present his opponent an unwanted gift: a wobbly base.
After Brown (6-0) spent much of the first round putting on a World Cup soccer kicking clinic on the legs of Soares (4-2), Brown came in with a charging left that landed on the chin for the TKO.
• 185: Kaipo Cabanting, Freestyle (Maui), def. Ashton “One Whack, Medivac” Castro, Penn Fitness, second-round TKO.
It was endurance against experience as the youngster Cabanting spent much of the first round in full guard, on his back and his legs wrapped around the veteran Castro’s waist. But he did well to defend himself, blocking, clinching and suffering little significant blows.
In the second round, Cabanting (2-3) defended a takedown, got Castro (12-9) in full guard and uncorked combinations. Castro got drained, the wind knocked out of him, and didn’t come out for the third round, giving Cabanting the win.