Legend FC 11 took place on April 26, 2013 in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. Three new Champions were crowned as the promotion made its first foray outside of its home base of Hong Kong and Macau.
By John Merva, Malaysia Correspondent
While Chin Woo Stadium is not one of the biggest or most famous stadiums in Kuala Lumpur, and is more used to Lion dances and Wushu demonstrations as well as being public swimming pool and sports centre, last night it outshone them all in hosting Legend FC’s eleventh card, with not less than three titles up for grabs. Legend FC prefers a ‘substance over style’ approach which is very refreshing in this era of MMA pageantry and this showed in the efficiency of the event.
The stadium was not sold out, disappointing considering the level of talent on the card and the fantastic fights that ensued. The atmosphere was reflective of this, with only a number of Mongolian fans and locals Sam Chan’s and Hanif Zainal’s teams making noise. It is very rare that Malaysia gets a high-level promotion putting on an event, and considering there were Malaysians on the card, the advertising for the event could have been more substantial and the local community would have – and should have – responded.
Rocky Lee versus Hanif Zainal
Rocky Lee won his Legend promotional debut with a controversial armbar win over Malaysian local boy Hanif. The fight was a quick affair, with Rocky clearly wanting the fight on the ground and taking it there as soon as he could. He worked for an armbar which it seemed Hanif had escaped but referee Mike Powers felt it was still on too tight and Hanif would have risked major injury by continuing, calling the fight at 3:50 of the first round. Opinions in the audience were split over the call and, speaking to Hanif after the fight, he was understandably distraught. However, fighter safety has to take priority and it seems Hanif will just have to wait a while longer to get his first win in the promotion.
Tenglige versus Baasankhuu Damlapurev
With both men making their Legend debut, it was going to be interesting to see how they handled being in the spotlight. Neither of them disappointed. With a fight mainly contested on the ground, including in an interesting 50/50 position as they both looked for heelhooks, the Chinese fighter Tenglige soon managed to get his position for the rear-naked choke tapout at 3:35 of the first round. Both fighters looked extremely promising, Tenglige in being able to weather the Mongolian storm from the top and still retain composure to fight for submissions, and Baasankhuu in showing a nicely developing top game. It will be a lot of fun to see these two return to Legend.
Ruel Catalan versus Jo Nam Jin
Jo Nam Jin was coming off back-to-back losses prior to this fight and he clearly was in no mood to continue the slide, deciding instead that he would rather have Ruel feel the pain of two consecutive defeats. While both men were tentative for the first minute, with only a few fresh-air shots thrown and the occasional kick from Ruel, Jo kicked it into high-gear first, taking the fight down and gaining position. Ruel gamely grappled with his opponent but gave up his back trying to escape mount and paid for it by being forced to ask out of the bout at 3:50 of the first round. A great performance from Jo, halting his streak of losses, but an equally great show of heart from Ruel, who never gave up the struggle to the end.
Kai Kara-France versus Danaa Batgerel
In the night’s first decision and possible contender for fight of the night, the diminutive Kiwi Kai Kara-France and Jadamba’s student Danaa Batgerel went to war. The first round was contested between the Mongolian fighter’s ground game and Kai’s attempts to get the fight back on the feet where he was clearly scoring points. b=But the second round was all Danaa as he seemed to have his opponent’s timing down. Even though Kara-France pulled off a big slam following a failed shot and then briefly took mount, Danaa was clearly in charge of the round and the New Zealand native’s face was showing the strain. In the third round though, Kai Kara-France seemed to get his second wind and pulled out his superior Muay Thai, lighting up Danaa with superman punches and elbows, even dropping him with a huge shot. In the end though, his third-round resurgence was too little too late and judges gave a unanimous decision to Danaa Batgerel (29 – 27, 28 – 27, 29 – 28). There were no real losers in this fight though and I can’t wait to see Kai Kara-France back in action.
Gugun Gusman versus Sam Chan
The second local fighter on the card, Sam Chan, had come up short in his Legend debut and was determined not to make the same mistake twice. He started out aggressively stalking the Indonesian debutant Gusman, scoring with leg kicks before being countered with the same and then being dropped by an uppercut. The fight remained in Sam’s guard as he looked for submissions but was eventually stood up by the referee. In round two Chan had clearly had enough of the standup and took the fight to the ground before heading to the back and locking in the rear-naked choke which forced Gusman to theatrically tap three times on the canvas at 1:20 of the round. Sam was ecstatic after the fight, bouncing around as if Christmas had come twice and he’d been given a pony and a bike! Gusman showed great defense and powerful striking and will certainly be back stronger and harder in his next fight.
Choi Yeong Gwang versus Ev Ting
As part of the New Zealand contingent that came out to Kuala Lumpur to do battle at Legend, Ev Ting had a very long night trapped under his Korean opponent Choi Yeong Gwang. The story of all three rounds was Choi’s takedowns and guard passing versus Ev Ting’s guard recovery and submission attempts. Choi was clearly not interested in staying on the feet with Ev and was in fact wobbled by shots at the beginning of the second round. However, Ev never gave up, making sure that he kept active from his guard and threw some nasty elbows from the bottom. Round three saw a slowdown from the frenetic ground chess match of the first two rounds, being mainly contested in the Malaysian-born Kiwi’s guard and this looked to be an easy decision for Choi. However, the fight was judged to be a split decision with Choi winning 30 – 26, 29 – 27 on two scorecards and Ev Ting being awarded an inexplicable 29 – 28 from one judge.
Hideto Tatsumi versus Gareth Ealey
In possibly the only slow fight of the night, Hideto Tatsumi from Japan and Gareth Ealey from New Zealand seemed very tentative and unwilling to engage for much of the contest. The first round passed in a lot of circling and a failed shot from Tatsumi and the second round was much the same until Tatsumi finally dragged the fight to the ground and back again after Ealey got back up from a scramble. Round three was quiet again with Tatsumi hitting a single-leg from catching a kick but then achieving very little from inside guard apart from some hammerfists which bloodied Gareth’s face. While the decision was clear for the judges, Tatsumi winning a unanimous decision with 29 – 28 on two scorecards and 29 – 27 on the other, there was very little action in this one and I would really hope their next outings have some more entertainment to them. Even speaking to Tatsumi after the fight, he didn’t really seem very pleased with his performance.
Yusuke Kasuya versus Damien Brown
The fights soon got back on track with the next Japanese fighter on the card, Yusuke Kasuya, taking on the next New Zealand contender, Damien Brown. At this point I started to think this card could have been renamed ‘Legend FC 11 – Japan vs New Zealand and Mongolia vs everyone else’! As if to make up for the lackluster performance of their compatriots, Kasuya and Damien Brown made sure this was a high octane affair all over the ring. On the feet it was Kasuya’s kicks versus Brown’s punches and reach and it looked as if Kasuya was having trouble getting inside to shoot. One he managed it the match continued to be a wild affair on the ground with guard passes, submission attempts and ground and pound. In round two, Damien looked for two big slams and headed to the back for a while before the fight went back up. He slipped on a headkick which Kasuya pounced on, once again transitioning through the positions as Damien Brown raced to recover from, even including some butterfly guard sweep attempts from Brown.
In the third round the pace never slackened as the fight went up and down and then up and down again with Brown attempting a triangle from the bottom before Kasuya was able to get the mount and then rolling into an armbar at 4:47 of the round. If Tatsumi versus Ealey was a tentative affair, Damien Brown and Yusuke Kasuya made sure that they threw caution to the wind and went at each other. Damien Brown is a wily opponent with great experience and he’ll be back soon, whereas Kasuya proved once again that he’s a dangerous man on the ground and no slouch on the feet!
Yang Hae Jun versus Sam Brown
‘Hungry’ Yang Hae Jun started as a heavyweight and has come all the way down to his current 70 kg weightclass. In his outing against Sam Brown, his big afro and hyperactive ‘air-jabbing’ style caused some amusement in the crowd but he made his gameplan pretty clear as he relentlessly went for takedowns. Sam Brown fought a very strange fight, looking for big shots and using the ropes to defend takedowns, for which I felt he maybe should have been deducted a point. In an ultimately unmemorable contest, it was clear that Yang’s pursuit of the takedown was winning him the clear decision whereas Sam Brown never really seemed to ‘want’ the fight, although an early, big groin shot may have made him less than happy about being in there. Brown’s one-shot, headhunting style was never going to win him a decision against Yang, and, while he did have some brief moments of success, all the judges saw this one the same way, handing Yang Hae Jun a unanimous decision, 30 – 27 on all three cards.
Bantamweight Championship: Augustin Delarmino Jr. versus Ji Xian
Ji Xian looked like he had somewhere to be and it certainly wasn’t in the ring for this fight! He came out swinging for the fences and it was really only the huge heart and granite chin of Augustin that kept him in it for so long. Ji blasted him with two huge left hooks in a row which dropped Augustin to the floor and on top of the ropes – it was only the referee stopping them from falling out of the ring that saved him from the Chinese fighter’s horrendous ground and pound from standing. With the restart in the middle of the ring, Augustin seemed to have regained some of his senses and managed to recover guard but Ji was clearly not going to let something as trivial as a tough-as-nails Pinoy get in the way of his hot date later that evening.
The fight kept going with Ji taking the back multiple times before falling off as he was too high, and Augustin even managed to get in some nice shots and reversals on the ground and the feet but the end was always in sight as Ji secured his final takedown to wrap up a tight armbar at 4:31 of the round. Ji looked ferocious in capturing the vacant belt and it was certainly a performance to put future challengers on notice. On the other hand, Augustin Delarmino Jr. could probably sell some of his excess courage to the Cowardly Lion and still be twice as brave as most men. While he’s at it, he could probably teach the Tin Man something about being tough and durable. This was truly an amazing whirlwind of action from the little men and I would have loved to see another few rounds of it – rematch down the line perhaps?
Welterweight Championship: Luke Jumeau versus Li Jinliang
If Li Jinliang felt in any way nervous about the chance to take the Welterweight belt that Bae Myung Ho had given up to complete his compulsory military service he certainly didn’t show it as he danced and posed his way down the walkway to the ring. Clearly representing his country in his All Blacks shorts, Luke was certainly not intimidated by the flashy Chinese and looked bored by the show, if not even a bit disdainful. The fight itself was a great three-round contest, with Li hunting for takedowns mercilessly and Luke defending and threatening submissions from his back. In the first round Li spent some time on Luke’s back and in the mount before Jumeau recovered guard and locked in a triangle. Li decided that Rampage Jackson was the man to follow at this point and unleashed three hellish slams before being able to wriggle out of the choke. The remainder of the round was spent jockeying for position, with both men putting in some time on the top.
In round two, Li was the beneficiary of a questionable standup as Luke had taken his back and was fishing for a choke for some time. In an odd call, the referee decided not enough was happening and stood the fight back up. Li then double-legged Luke through the ropes and apparently injured his elbow. Round three was basically wash, rinse and repeat as Li looked for takedowns and Luke threw up another triangle, only to be slammed hard once again and lose it. Finally, at 3:38 of the third round Li managed to lock in a standing guillotine following a failed shot from Luke, and became the new Welterweight Champion. With Bae Myung Ho out of action for two years Li issued a standing challenge to any fighters (and apparently the audience) to come and fight him. I think I’ll pass though, as I don’t like being picked up and dropped quite so often!
Lightweight Championship: Koji Ando vs Jadamba Narantungalag
In the prefight interviews and video messages, both of these men had expressed a deep respect for each other and this continued in the ring as both men repeatedly bowed to each other before the festivities began. Koji Ando had promised to stand with Jadamba for a while whilst maintaining distance and being ready to shoot and Jadamba had said he believed Ando was vulnerable to kicks. The first round passed slowly with Jadamba eking out the points with crisp leg kicks and very little else. Ando had a failed single-leg that was stuffed into a clinch in the corner for a while but otherwise both men were unwilling to make mistakes and it showed. Ando finished the round with a nice knee into Jadamba’s chin but otherwise seemed to do very little else.
Round two was a totally different matter as The Commander decided to impose his gameplan, demonstrating beautiful level changes under the champion’s punches to execute three huge double-leg takedowns and some fine positional jiu jitsu. Underneath his opponent, Jadamba started to look very frustrated, perhaps showing that his hesitant first round was due to a lack of confidence on the ground. Round three was a very brief matter as 47 seconds into the frame Ando again changed levels under a punch and hit a blistering takedown. Jadamba sprawled awkwardly with one foot far behind him and the other forward and rolled his ankle as his fell. Looking at the big screen, it look like the bone was clearly broken and Koji ‘The Commander’ Ando received the belt via TKO (injury) after 47 seconds of the third round.
Three Titles and the night ends
It was great night of fights at the Chin Woo Stadium, with some real barnstormers and not many misfires. April 27th saw three new kings crowned and a number of suitors emerge as future challengers for their thrones. While Hanif may be licking his wounds for a while over his controversial call, there were very little hiccups in the show and it ran extremely smoothly. It will be exciting for Legend to return, and hopefully other shows will follow suit and bring their A-game in the same way.