Good Karma at Spirit MC 14

By John Lee Jan 21, 2008
SEOUL, South Korea, Jan. 20 -- While the UFC was busy making a splash across the pond Saturday, EliteXC was quietly stirring up the waters in the East.

The South Korean-based Spirit MC, which is sponsored by ProElite, EliteXC's parent company, kicked off 2008 with its first event: the quizzically titled "Karma."

There were some initial concerns over the fate of Spirit MC when it was announced that the promotion would be switching homes and airing on a smaller broadcasting network. But with EliteXC president Gary Shaw on hand, displaying his paunch in the front row like a smiling Buddha, there was a sense of good karma at the venue.

The main event was a 154-pound championship contest pitting reigning champion Kwang-hee Lee against rookie challenger Kyoung-ho Kang.

A sizeable -- but by no means large -- crowd roared with delight as Lee iced Kang at 4:17 of the first round with a series of visceral soccer kicks to the head.

In the opening moments, though, it looked as if Kang, who garnered the spotlight after achieving success on a TUF-like reality show in Korea, would pull off an upset against his former TV coach.

Kang struck first and landed flush with a straight right that clocked the champion's head back. As Lee reeled, everything seemed to move in slow motion before Kang rushed in, shifting gears into full speed.

After a series of exchanges on the feet and on the ground, Kang landed another straight right that buckled Lee's knees. This last punch seemed to awaken something feral inside Lee, who retaliated with a wild left that dropped Kang.

Lee followed in, but Kang looked to recover by closing his guard and refusing to let go even when Lee stood up. For a split second, the fighters were in an outlandish position with Lee standing upright and Kang suspended in mid-air, still maintaining a closed guard.

From this position, the innovative Lee started to power bomb his opponent's head into the mat, forcefully prying Kang's guard open. Freeing himself, Lee then stood up and delivered a series of soccer kicks, which are legal under Spirit MC rules, to his downed opponent and making good on his promise to put Kang to sleep.

Lee has pretty much cleared out the division and now has his sights set on fighting overseas.

"If Spirit MC gives me the opportunity, I would like to fight abroad. … American fighters are honestly a bit scary, but I think Japanese fighters are more on my level," joked Lee. "I think I have a good chance against them. … Given the opportunity, I would love to fight top fighters like ‘Kid' or Gomi."

Another anticipated matchup originally billed for this event was a title contender bout between top Korean welterweight prospect Yun-young Kim and B.J. Penn (Pictures)'s disciple Ross Ebanez (Pictures).

The match, however, failed to materialize due to "some sort of confusion" in the scheduling of events, according to Shaw.

Ebanez was double-booked to face recent EliteXC recruit Eddie Alvarez (Pictures) at the Jan. 25 ShoXC event in Atlantic City, N.J., and was thus unable to participate against Kim.

Yun-young Kim instead faced Ho-jin Kim, who is coming off a submission loss against Spirit MC heavyweight champion Ryuichi Murata (Pictures) in Deep. Overcoming repeated low blows in the second, the spindly Kim, who stands at 6-foot-2, slithered from back mount to lock in an armbar at 1:51 of the third.

Yun-young Kim, who was the victim of low blows in his last fight, seems to have bad karma around his groin area. While he was unable to continue in his last fight, Kim showed a lot of heart and made a gutsy rally in the third.

After Ho-jin Kim executed an ippon hip toss in the third -- one of many throughout the fight --Yun-young Kim scrambled into back mount and fluidly transitioned into a tap-inducing armbar.

Kim is now in place to face Spirit MC 176-pound champion Steve Bruno (Pictures) of American Top Team for the title.

"I don't know why everyone keeps hitting me in the family jewels," Kim said after the fight. "It is a precious gift given to me by my parents. I hope my opponents will not attack me there in the future."

The knockout of the night was courtesy of Sang-il An. He rendered Myoung-kwang Min comatose with a lighting left high kick at 15 seconds of the first.

The final scene was a Kodak moment. After Min dropped to the mat with his arms flailing in the air, An rushed in to finish him off as a white towel hovered in the air. Min's corner had thrown in the towel in a moment of panic to protect their fighter, who was out before he even hit the mat.

In one of the night's most entertaining fights, Hae-Joon Yang, a promising heavyweight from Pride veteran Mu Bae Choi (Pictures)'s Team Tackle, made an emphatic debut by pummeling real-life Pillsbury Doughboy Dool-hee Lee into a crimson mess until the referee stopped the contest at 1:13 of the first round.

Yang is an absolute beast. Twice he lifted the 265-pound Lee up into the air with double underhooks in the clinch and slammed him to the mat. At only 20 years of age, Yang could be the next big thing in Korean MMA with the proper training.

The hardest working man in Spirit MC, lightweight Nam-sun Kim, frustrated his opponent Haeng-ki Kim with superior ground control and positioning to grind out another decision victory after two rounds.

Heavyweight stalwart Joung-hyu Choi seems to have a hard time with bald-headed Asian fighters. Seung-bae Whi, who has a shaved head and a wicked glint in his eye like Ryuichi Murata (Pictures), outpointed Choi after two rounds.

Jae-hyun So made a slick transition from the north-south position to tap Ki-young Nam at 4:49 of the first.

In the amateur 176-pound tournament, Hu-sun Lee defeated Jiin-seok Park with an armbar at 2:37 of round one.

John Lee is a correspondent for
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