MIMMA Grand Finals crowns 7 Malaysian amateur fighters

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The Malaysian Invasion MMA Finals were held on June 15, 2013 in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. The climax of the 6-month all-Malay amateur MMA competition was an ambitious and exciting night of fights at the Stadium Negara.

Malaysian Invasion MMA – now simply referred to as MIMMA – began in February of 2013 as an effort to grow the sport of MMA in the country from the grassroots level. The amateur tournament was open to any and all Malaysians, and while the initial open tryouts were a bit of a spectacle, the ensuing ladder matches and bracketed competitions gelled the formula and the talent. Each event had been held in the new Paradigm Mall on the outskirts of KL proper. The Finals event was placed ambitiously in the 10,000-capacity Stadium Negara for two reasons: to capitalize on the growing popularity of the sport and to place the MIMMA brand as a prestigious promotion.

The MIMMA public weigh ins were held in the Paradigm Mall as an emulation of a professional event – and indeed there were three pro matches on the card which were in co-promotion with ONE Fighting Championship. A small but lively crowd of fans and media was on hand to witness the face offs, which were unfortunately but necessarily held close to Friday’s regional prayer time. Many of the fighters chose to shake hands, being very respectful, with a light-hearted moment of Allen Chong brandishing a couple of bananas he brought with him.

The MIMMA Finals were staged using half of the stadium, and a professional light and sound crew was brought in for the production, including video previews for each match. The expansive MIMMA cage was double-padded and had a canvas feel, both intentionally planned for the amateur’s safety. The show got underway about 30 minutes past the original time with a video recap of the MIMMA Finalists’ mini-camp at Tiger Muay Thai and MMA in Phuket, Thailand. Over a four-day course, Tiger sponsored the MIMA athletes to come and train with two head coaches, Brian Ebersole and Roger Huerta, along with the other Muay Thai and grappling coaches at the camp. The show itself seemed to captivate the audience, yet by 8pm, they were itching for the event to begin.

An introduction of all the fighters started off the night with each facing off toe to toe in front of the cage then encircling it. The different teams could be picked out from around the arena as they cheered for their fighters. The stadium was by no means full at the start of the event, but a respectable 2,500-3,000 people were in attendance by about the second fight, and the majority of them stayed to the very end – which was quite late, given the extensive time the championships utilized, commercials by sponsors Tune Talk and Carl’s Jr., and the expected production hiccups every new start up faces.

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The MIMMA Final Championships

MIMMA directors followed ONE FC tournament master Matt Hume‘s rules so the seven championship bouts – even though they were amateur – would all be for 5 rounds of 3 minutes each. The first match, flyweights Ngeoh Jian Chong versus Kenny Yap, proved they could go the distance. BJJ blue belt Ngeoh made his gameplan clear in the first as he shot for a single straight away. Yap got his back taken, but he reversed into guard to showcase how he planned the fight to go. When the two were up and stood toe to toe, Ngeoh ate a lot of Yap’s fists but held his own and shot time after time. Yap was wise to it quickly and imposed his defense by stuffing or landing in guard, and ended the fight with his own huge takedown and ground and pound. Yap’s patience, defence, clear striking ability and a strong end sealed him the win from the judges.

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Jim Chong met Hafiz Chandran for the middleweight final. Round one saw Chandran with some nice pressure against the cage which he gleaned a double leg from and worked to side control. Chong defended by overhooking Chandran’s head and forced him to defend that right up to the bell. Chong came out in the second much the smarter against Chandran’s shoots, and landed nice shots from inside. He worked for a guillotine then an underhook which he used to drag down his opponent and showcase his ground positioning and submission attempts, slapping on an armbar but the bell saved Chandran. In the third, it looked like Chandran had changed it up as he was able to take Chong’s back early, but it wasn’t to be. Chong reversed into guard, and while Chandran tried an armbar sub of his own, Chong powered out of it, got a crucifix, and GnPed until the ref jumped in at 1:40.

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The featherweight championship was Muhd Ikram versus Keanu Subba. In a flash-style repeat of his brother Gianni Subba‘s entrance to the fight world, the 18-year old Subba came out and tagged Ikram with a right that stunned him. Smelling blood, Subba followed up with combinations that floored Ikram and the ref had to step in just 29 seconds into the first match. The stadium went absolutely nuts. The team of four medics cageside took care of the situation quickly.

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Heavyweights Adrian Tham and Kristopher Leow came in after that KO and the crowd seemed eager to see more of the same from the big boys. They weren’t disappointed. Both guys came out strong and it was apparent that they intended to wage a standing war, with high kicks and punches. Tham got to the button first, with a nice head kick then a straight that probably broke Leow’s nose. Tham knew he’d cracked his opponent’s resolve and wasted no time by utilizing an outside trip to take him down and finish him on the ground with punches, forcing the ref stoppage with another first round TKO.

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One of the most talked-about matches on the card was the next: welterweights Ooi Aik Tong versus Chew Che Chan. Both are judo specialists who have met before in that arena, so there was a huge amount of rivalry that could be sensed between them. They did not disappoint – rushing out of their corners, rocking each other with punches, trading positioning for hip throws – the gamut was run in just the opening minute. Chew got the better position when it eventually did go to the ground, and he was able to work out of half to an arm bar stopped by the first bell. In the second, no love from either! Huge shots were thrown and landed until Chew got a double leg to bring it back to the ground. Tong reversed and went for an armbar, Chew reversed and went for a triangle, then Tong reversed again! The third round saw a gruesome and rather disappointing finish as Tong targeted Chew’s judo-jacked up ear, until it exploded across the canvas and the ref called it a fight.

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Lightweight finalists Allen Chong and Shammah Chandran were another favorite pair of fighters expected to put on a rousing brawl. Chandran came out with a big knee that wasn’t the best gameplan against the BJJ purple belt as Chong locked it up and looked to take him down. Against the cage, Chong eventually got a double leg and went for heel hooks the rest of the round which Chandran gamely defended. Round two saw Chong look to repeat his game, but Chandran proved adept at handling himself off his back as he not only defended but looked for subs. Chong tried for a guillotine to finish it but Chandran got a nice reversal at the end of the round. Into the third, both guys were definitely going for broke. Chandran landed a front kick and Chong went back to his takedown strategy. He started hunting for submissions, and Chandran’s beast came out, as he repeatedly defended armbars by slamming Chong’s head into the canvas. As Chong attempted to stand, Chandran attacked again, landing huge blows to his face. Chong grabbed a leg to defend more of the onslaught that seemed to finish him at every strike. In a final armbar attempt, Chong weathered a huge slam by Chandran and superhumanly hung on until Chandran was forced to tap. An incredible war!

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Muhammed Aiman and Prabu Somanaido were the finalists who made it in the bantamweight division. Aiman catapulted himself to cult status with a win over Bryan Lim in the semis, and has a win over a boxer by strikes. Somanaido is a new afficionado of MMA with a year studying the sport. The fight brought the event back to an amateur status feel, and audibly divided the stadium’s loyalty. For three rounds, Aiman and Somanaidu circled, with Aiman ustilizing combinations and kicks, and Somanaidu waiting to counter with a hard shot. Into the fourth, Somanaidu was winging shots that landed, while Aiman kept up his patient combo and kicks strategy, and Somanaidu finally got a single leg. In the last and definitive round, Aiman continued to pick his shots until Somanaidu got a trip and mounted him to end the bout with ground and pound. It was enough to convince the judges he deserved the win.

ONE FC Superfights

Three co-main events punctuated the end of the night courtesy of ONE FC and its roster of fighters. Tanaphong Khunhankeaw and Edward Kelly graced the cage first, with Kelly’s entrance involving two kung fu kids rushing into the cage and doing some kung fu sword katas. In the first two minutes when the real fighters entered, the Muay Thai champ and the Wushu master tried to KO each other. Kelly got a huge throw and flattened Khunhankeaw on the canvas, then peppered him with elbows from side control. Khunhankeaw defended incredibly well, showed a much-developed ground game as he hunted for submissions. In the second, Kelly looked to impose a ground game again, but got a surprise when Khunhankeaw reversed his guillotine with a slam. The Thai stood up, preferring the fight there, and as Kelly obliged, he kicked him hard to the chest. Kelly tried for a single leg but Khunhankeaw defended, and they both ended bloody.

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In the third, Kelly landed a nice body shot which Khunhankeaw returned with a quick combo. Kelly once again put it up against the cage and worked Khunhankeaw to the canvas. The Thai again was surprisingly adept off his back and not merely defended, but by looked for submissions, recovering guard every time Kelly sought to pass, and threw elbows up at him. However, positional dominance belonged to Kelly, and at the end of the three 5-minute rounds, he was awarded the unanimous decision.

FCC‘s Aditya Deshpande was flowing in from India to make his debut with ONE FC against hometown hero Saiful Merican. Deshpande, a kickboxing champion in his country, was still expected to be the underdog against the Muay Thai champion and game ONE FC sophomore in Merican. What transpired was a knock down – drag out affair that had even Merican’s stout fans cheering the heart of Deshpande. Merican opened the first round with a high kick that snapped Deshpande’s head around. Deshpande decided to eat the kicks in exchange for takedowns that would get him into submission positions. Deshpande locked on a tight armbar but Merican was able to get out and sweep to guard for the end of the round.

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Round two saw the warriors come out to trade in the same game plan, and again Deshpande endured the horrible chopping kicks of Merican to take him down. Inside the guard, Deshpande tried to execute some pounding, but Merican held on tight and didn’t allow any movement. He eventually scrambled out and put his sights on a KO, leading up with his kicks that were buckling the left knee of Deshpande every single time. Deshpande pulled out a standing game from nowhere, and started countering the kicks with hooks. The third round saw Merican wanting it up, and Deshpande obliged while eating more leg kicks than humanly possible to take and still stand. The final minute saw Merican pull out his ground game after Deshpande again took him down – Merican reversed the Indian, who still managed to recover to side, but then shook him off and ended in control on the top. The decision went to Merican, however Deshpande is now very visible on the MMA map.

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The final battle saw Malaysia’s MMA posterboy and megaproponent of the sport Peter Davis pitted against a very tough new signee from Costa Rica, Ariel Sexton.  Davis definitely wanted to keep it standing and hoped for an early KO, but the BJJ black belt certainly didn’t.  While he couldn’t catch a kick, Sexton grappled Davis against the cage and took him down, where he imposed his positioning.  Davis looked to reverse it with twists, bridges, and hooks, but Sexton kept him against the cage to thwart his attempts.  One he had full control, Sexton started raining down punches on Davis and the ref had to jump in to stop it.

Final Words

From February’s open tryouts to the June finals in Staduim Negara, MIMMA has plowed through all barriers to establish a legitimate and praiseworthy promotion, most notably with the support from Tune Talk and CEO Jason Lo, plus backing by the Malaysia Youth & Sports Minister YB Khairy Jamaluddin. Founder Alex Wong assembled a strong group of individuals committed to making the sport of MMA grow in their country, and on every level, they can proudly say they have succeeded. Tiger Muay Thai and MMA donated a mini-camp for training the finalists to give them a true taste of what it takes to pursue a professional career in the sport. That event, along with all of the other MIMMA matches, have been broadcast in series on StarSports, with the Final to premiere on June 23, at 11pm. For more information on MIMMA, visit their webpage here, and keep up to date with what will happen for MIMMA 2 on their Facebook page here.  For MMA-in-ASIA’s full album, please visit our official Facebook page here.

Courtesy MichKel Photography
Courtesy MichKel Photography