LEGEND FC 7: BIEKE WRESTLES THE BANTAMWEIGHT BELT, BAE NARROWLY RETAINS THE WELTERWEIGHT TITLE

On February 11th, Legend Fighting Championship held their seventh installment in the Grand Hyatt Ballroom in the City Of Dreams entertainment complex, Macau, China.  The co-main events were both first time title defenses by Bantamweight Champion Yao HongGang of China Top Team against newly-signed Jumabieke Tuerxun of Xian Sports Uni, and Welterweight Champion Bae MyoungHo of Team MAD against Li JingLiang of China Top Team.  The remaining eight matches were national rivalries, pitting fighters from six different different countries against each other (seven depending on how you view Formosa).

The undercard – which was streamed free and live on Legend FC’s YouTube channel – featured four  fighters new to the Legend ring against veteran opponents, and the Century Cup was a contest between two athletes also never before seen by the promotion’s audience.  With over sixty fighters on their roster, Legend FC has many athletes with whom to create potentially stunning match ups. Stacking their first free live streamed event with so much talent not known to the regular audience was a daring attempt by the promotion to showcase its matchmaking skills, and a huge risk to obtaining new viewers if it didn’t pan out.
Rounding out the main card were three matches between certified bangers.  Again Legend FC added more new talent to the pool with KO striker Hideto Tatsumi, and even gave a title shot straight away to the brand-new signee Bieke.  
Pre-fight day weigh ins occurred in the hall outside the Grand Hyatt Ballroom.  Only two of the fighters didn’t make weight and were reweighed later.  Liu Wenbo, who has come down from heavyweight to 84kgs, suffered greatly and could barely step on the scale.  Wang Sai had it a little easier with a quick trip to the toilet.  Every single one of the fighters looked ripped and ready to throw down.  The only staredown that turned ugly was between Wang Sai and Gareth Ealy head-butting for dominant position.  True to form, Bae charismatically made a memorable entrance when he handed promoters Mike Haskamp and Chris Pollack samples of the underwear brand he models, then proceeded to turn around and ‘arrange himself’ for his turn to model sponsor S&R on the scale.

Legend FC 6 was a 4pm card on a Sunday.  Legend FC 7 was also an early card, but the switch to a Saturday was definitely an improvement in timing; there was a much higher turn out early for the undercard.  The ballroom holds 1,200 people, and it did appear to be close to capacity well before the main card commenced.
The show began on time, if a little abruptly.  The audio feed for the lead ins was absent to the live audience which wasn’t helpful in building up the excitement; there were a few other sound glitches that after so many Legend FC events Kwokman Productions should by now have ironed out.  Legend FC does two things to accommodate its broadcast that shorts the live audience and fighters of the anticipation and build up: they do the vaseline prep backstage then usher the fighters into the ring as quickly as possible, and they cut the fighter’s music as soon as he’s found his corner.
As a counter, the main card lead ins are extremely gratifying.  Legend FC provides background information, training clips, and fighter interviews (with smack talk) that give a thorough overview of each match, enabling the audience to get behind the fighters.

The first fight of the event featured Sung Ming-Yen of Taiwan returning to the Legend ring for the second time, after a quick finish of Vincent Siu at LFC 5.  Facing him was Agustin Delarmino Jr of the Philippines, a little more experienced fighter seeing the chance to fight in Legend as a huge opportunity in his career.  Grappler versus striker became evident as Sung decided to take away Delarmino’s range finding by taking him down.  Sung was definitely the aggressor, and paid for his quick attack in the worst way.  At just 40 seconds in, southpaw Delarmino landed a looping left that stunned both Sung and himself; it took a moment for the Filipino to realize he floored his opponent before he rushed in to finish him, and the ref stopped it.

Fight number two piled contention on top of controversy.  In the Legend FC Featherweight tournament, Mark Striegl stepped in to fill the place of injured Choi YeongGwang.  Mark ended up earning a controversial decision over Yusuke Kawanago and Choi then became Mark’s original opponent for LFC 7.  Injury again sidelined Choi only a week before this fight, and an interesting match was made at the last minute: Ev Ting, fresh off a win just a week earlier against Mark’s teammate Will Chope, stepped up to make it a clean sweep.  With Will in his corner, Mark met a tiger-eyed Ting who didn’t look at all like he’d just come out of a battle.  Striegl got a textbook takedown and the pair took turns slapping on submissions and escaping them, but when Mark got Ting’s back at two minutes in, he was able to soften him up with punches and sink a choke, putting the defiantly defending Ting to sleep with a minute left in the first round.

The third fight mirrored some of the controversy from the second.  Koji Ando was coming off a controversial decision loss, his original opponent – Korean Song UnSik – was also sidelined due to injury, and stepping in against him was Australian Damien Brown.  Brown looked to switch up levels, fake to the body but throw hard overhead hooks, and put together some combinations that found their mark.  Koji cut off the ring and looked to find a way in which he got by stuffing Brown’s takedown and catching him with a triangle.  Ando then stood on the ropes and asked for a shot at the belt.  He won a Submission of the Night bonus for his rapid finish.

That first round finish brought the total to three in just the undercard.  While an argument could be made for both Ting’s and Brown’s performances being attributed to being last-minute replacements, they were legitimate picks for both Striegl and Brown, and under other conditions, could have made an original match.

The fourth match up on the undercard was worthy of being on the main card, and was a good choice by Legend FC to share on their first free live streaming.  A three fight veteran of Legend, and hugely seasoned fighter Mick Mortimer was matched up with LFC newcomer Taiyo Nakahara, the Sengoku number one Bantamweight contender.  Taiyo met Mick’s coach and former LFC champion Adrian Pang in the ring six years earlier and lost to him, giving Mick an incentive to finish strong.  Taiyo’s return to the ring looked to be a triumphant one when he secured a single leg early on, and he proved to be crazy on the ground.  Mick defended many excellent submission attempts and finally got back to standing, and both fighters motioned for each other to join them in their preferred positions.  Referee Warren Wang stood Taiyo back up, and as the dual southpaws engaged, a recent training injury to his ankle buckled Mick down to the ground.  Taiyo followed up by securing a dominant position with Mick’s head locked in his legs, and proceeded to pound him.  The ref warned him sequentially for illegal back of the head strikes and finally stopped the fight and disqualified Taiyo, however Taiyo thought he’d won.

It was not a finish the crowd wanted, and not a finish Nakahara’s team was willing to accept.  Outside of the ring, Warren Wang explained that he gave repeated warnings, but didn’t physically stop Taiyo with a  because he would have lost his dominant position.  When Taiyo ignored his verbal warnings, the referee made the judgement that the fight was over.  A point was made that Japanese fighters’ inability to speak English means that further efforts must be taken to convey the message.  Warren countered by saying that it is the fighters’ responsibility to know and avoid illegal moves in the first place, and that Legend FC is an international event – fighters are aware that all commands will be given in English.

General consensus was that a yellow card should have been given instead of a disqualification.  Following the event, Nakahara’s team lodged a protest, but Managing Director Mike Haskamp stood behind the LFC ruleset that the referee’s decision is final and binding.  Mortimer stated he knew he would have been finished, however is open to a rematch; the ending wasn’t the way he planned on the fight finishing either.  Taiyo’s team definitely felt the same.

The final fight of the undercard was the Century Cup, sponsored by Century Oriental and chosen as the fight that will present fast-paced and exciting action.  It was also a match between to newcomers to the Legend ring, Ji Xian and Leonard Delarmino, elder brother to Agustin, from the first fight of the night.  It lived up to the hype, with Ji Xian obtaining a quick takedown that led to both fighters trading interesting submission attempts and escapes for most of the round.  In escaping an arm bar, Leonard slammed Ji on his back a few times, but Ji weathered it by tucking.  In a final dominant scramble, Ji secured a rear naked choke for the tap with just ten seconds left in the first round.

The undercard was over quickly which meant an intermission of approximately an hour and a half before the main card started, and there were a few chunks of empty seats when the show resumed.  The English-speaking crowd had been consuming adult beverages during the long break and several of them vocally made up for their missing counterparts with inappropriately interjected sexual references.  It gave the atmosphere more of a ‘western’ feel which was unavoidable, and was distinctly ‘un-Asian MMA aficionado’ like.   The Chinese fans, however, honestly got involved with the ring action and cheered their  encouragement as well as their disappointment.

Fight one of the main card won for ‘walkout music of the night’: Wang Sai came sauntering out to Duran Duran’s ‘Wild Boys’ and Gareth Ealey marched the runway to a technoed remix of Led Zeppelin’s ‘Immigrant Song’.  Wang Sai fought in Legend FC twice in 2011, once losing a three-round war with Alex Niu and once to a TKO win over Ken Hamamura.  He followed Niu to train at Ole Laursen’s Legacy Gym in Thailand with Vaughn Anderson.  Ealey’s inaugural match with LFC was six months’ prior against Hungry Yang HaeJun; he broke his hand on almost the first punch, but gamely held off Yang for a full three rounds to lose by UD.

Early in the first round, Ealey looked to use his judo for some takedowns, but Wang Sai’s defense didn’t allow it.  Wang Sai landed some strong kicks that Ealey seemed to shake off, but when he went for another takedown, it was Wang Sai who got the dominant position in guard, and used major elbows to damage and cut Ealey.  Into the second round, Ealey again looked to take a kick in order to snare a takedown, but it was Wang Sai with the takedown, and he brutalized Ealey with hammerfists, punches, elbows and body shots from inside the guard.  Blood poured from a cut on Ealy’s eye and streamed from his nose as the second round ended with Wang Sai taking Ealey’s back.  The doctor stopped the fight before the third round commenced.

The impressive Wang Sai’s dominance definitely came from his recent Muay Thai training.  MMAPlanet’s Editor and GONG writer, the highly respected Manabu Takashima, expressed his appreciation for Wang Sai’s performance.  He stated that he was delighted to see a Chinese fighter rise to the level of Japanese fighters in such a relatively short time period.  Manabu’s post-fight interview with Wang Sai will be the first time that a Chinese fighter has appeared in the top Japanese magazine GONG.

Match number two was a very smartly paired couple of fighters for a knockout in the making.  Legend FC signed DEEP’s Hideto Tatsumi to test young KO artist Yang HaeJun.  For four minutes, Yang circled while Tatsumi stalked, each trying to hone in on target with punches.  It was clear these two were going to make this a boxing match.  Yang had the better combinations, and was connecting with left hook quite nicely, but Tatsumi wasn’t far out of the fight.  Then Yang landed a one-two that sent Tatsumi to his knees.  Yang didn’t bother wrestling him down to finish it on the ground, instead he still tried to knock him out.  Tatsumi miraculously made it through the barrage and back to his feet, but was obviously cooked, and Yang took him out of his misery with another perfectly executed combination right on the nose.  The sixth first round finish for the evening.  Afterwards, Yang said he was definitely still ‘Hungry’.

The third main card bout featured two well-rounded Legend FC veterans: Liu Wenbo versus Matt Cain.  Cain’s wrestling was able to get Liu down to the ground and take side control very early on in the fight.  He tried several submission attempts that Liu seemed to have no answer for but to wait out, and then Cain took his back.  For over one minute, Cain held onto a rear naked choke that just couldn’t finish Liu, and when he gave it up and tried a transition to full mount, Liu took advantage and swept him.  In guard, Liu pounded on Cain who went for an armbar that ended up getting him stacked up and muscled into being back mounted.  In the final minute it was Liu turning the tide and sinking the rear naked and getting Matt to tap out.  Liu’s cut for the fight was extremely difficult, but after rehydrating via IV at hospital, and securing the win, he said he felt very good and wanted to continue to fight at this weight.

It was on to the co-main event, Bantamweight Champion Yao HongGang defending his title for the first time against Jumabieke Tuerxun.  In his relatively short MMA career, Yao came into the Legend ring and defeated Sengoku Rookie winner Nam JinJo and highly experienced Mick Mortimer to gain the title, in the process showed off a developing skill set.  Although he’s relatively unknown beyond Chinese MMA aficionados, Bieke was added to the roster and given a shot at the title on his first go.  Legend FC tried this tactic previously by giving newcomer Jadamba Narantalag a shot at Adrian Pang’s Lightweight title, however Jadamba’s list of previous opponents was stellar, including a win over Akihiro Gono in Sengoku.  It paid off then with a three round war showcasing every aspect of MMA, probably the most exciting bout ever in Legend FC history.  As the talent pool in Legend deepens, it will be interesting to see what other lightweight matches will be made.

People who know Bieke put him as coming out with a win by KO.  Both fighters were aware of that potential and came out of their corners very cautious.  Yao’s UFC fight camp must have taught him strategy, and that’s what he showed by darting in with a punch or kick then getting out of the pocket quickly.  Yao became more confident, using footwork to circle away from Bieke, and eventually showed his punch distraction to takedown that worked like a charm.  Yao was able to bloody Bieke’s nose with some gnp.  Beike came on strong in the second half of the round by slipping on a guillotine when Yao went for a takedown, and was able to get it to the canvas and full mount Yao, whose defense was quite good and didn’t allow much pain to be inflicted.  The first round ended with an interesting reversal of roles for the two fighters.

The second round saw the two willing to exchange a bit quicker, with Bieke getting the better of it by several takedowns, including a big double leg to side control at the end of the round that Yao was able to reverse it in the last few seconds.  Round three saw an even quicker engagement, with Yao the first takedown aggressor.  When Beike scrambled to reverse it, Yao got a solid guillotine – the reason China Top Team gets referred to as China GuilloTeam now.  Eventually Yao had to let it go.  The fight went back to the feet, and Bieke repeated the same scenario of takedown, ground and pound twice more.  The end of the final round was a flurry of fists flying from both guys.  Bieke never showcased his KO skills, instead finding the takedowns on Yao the better way to score.  He earned the decision from them, and took the Bantamweight Championship belt away from Yao.

The final match of the night was a highly anticipated title defense by Welterweight Champion Bae MyoungHo against top challenger Li JingLiang.  The smack talk both put out before the battle made for a humorous lead up and once in the ring both entertaining fighters were able to get the crowd engaged.  With a TKO, a choke, and a unanimous decision all part of his winning record in Legend FC, Li had definitely earned a shot at the belt.  Bae is considered by many to be a top prospect for international competition, so holding on to his belt is a must to stay in high acclaim.

At the beginning of the first round, both fighters smiled and touched gloves.  The first minute saw the two fighters distance-gauging with Bae landing a nice superman punch and left hook, and throwing more kicks.  The surprise came – and set the tone for the whole match – when Bae got inside and attempted a throw that Li defended.  It ended up being three minutes of wrestling against the ropes with Bae trying for throws, Li defending very well and trying to get the takedown – even though he held onto the ropes a couple of times to do it.  Li was barely was able to make his strategy work in the last minute – a stunning reversal of fate for Bae.

The second round started the same, and it was Bae who finally succeeded with a takedown but Li was able to capitalize on it and transition to full mount before Bae knew what happened.  As he attempted to scramble out before Li could do something with the dominant position, Li backed him into the ropes and referee Thomas Fan restarted it in the middle, but both fighters were arguing about position so the ref stood them up.  It was Bae again with combinations and Li trying for a shoot under them, and it put both fighters back into the clinch.  Bae finally showed his takedown strength and got side control.  He jockeyed for position, threw some knees to Li’s head, and looked for the eventual full mount, which led to him controlling the second half of the round.  In a thrilling climax, Li finally found a way to turn the tables and reverse Bae, and with ten seconds left looked like he just might get to side control when the bell rang.

The first two minutes of the final round was Bae picking shots at Li who was attempting to shoot, and was finally successful in getting Bae down to the canvass in an incredible display of strength.  Bae was in no trouble on his back as he looked for a submission, finally escaping back to standing.  Li didn’t stop the onslaught and immediately went back in for a single leg, which he got, however Bae had a seatbelt and was easily able to stay in a dominant position and looked for a triangle in the last ten seconds of the fight.

It was Bae’s more accurate striking throughout and dominance of the second round on the ground that probably gave him the decision and allowed him to take the Welterweight Championship belt back to Busan.  After the match, Li said he definitely wanted a rematch.  Bae had a different answer,  “No.  It was his only chance,” he stated.  “I want another opponent.  Maybe in a year he can try again.”  Bae said he expected big takedown attempts by Li, but didn’t expect him to be so strong.  When asked what he would change if he were to fight him again, he replied, “Beat him up more.  And not get caught.  I think Legend FC wants to see exciting matches.  They want to see how champions play.  I do my best to put on an exciting fight.”

Legend FC announced their next event, for the first time leaving their home base of Hong Kong and Macau and venturing to Jakarta, Indonesia.  The main event will feature Jadamba Narantungalag defending his Lightweight belt for the first time against LFC mainstay Nam YuiChul.  Indonesia’s superstar Fransino Tirta will make his return to the Legend ring against Yusuke Kawanago.

See the complete album of the weekend’s events on the Facebook page here.

For complete results, visit the Legend FC website.