Modafferi Wins Big in K-Grace

By Tony Loiseleur and Stephen Martinez May 27, 2007
TOKYO, Japan, May 27 -- As a distinct rarity of sorts in modern mixed martial arts, K-Grace's inaugural event married both the growing women's MMA scene with two distinct anachronisms of the sport's past in the form of an eight-woman open-weight tournament.

Being that the event was a one-night affair, the winner of said tournament would have had to run a gauntlet of three fights to see total victory this evening. That female fighter would be none other than Wajutsu Keishukai's Massachusetts transplant, Roxanne Modafferi (Pictures).

Modafferi not only beat out two of the most well known stars in women's MMA today, but also found herself winning a stunning $10,000 in prize money for coming out on top of the heap.

Modafferi had her work cut out for her this evening, as she was destined to clash with none other than Marloes Coenen (Pictures), a Dutch fighter often touted as the "female Rumina Sato (Pictures)." Despite Coenen being the favorite to take the tournament, Modafferi was unfazed by this assessment as she closed the distance with a barrage of punches to land in the clinch against the cage.

With both women trading knees, it seemed as if the taller, heavier Coenen had the distinct advantage, as she used her weight to push Modafferi around in the clinch, connecting with several hard knees to Modafferi's face, putting her in danger early.

After a referee break, Coenen stung her opponent with a hard left hook counter off a Modafferi flurry, followed by yet another hard knee before being stuffed against the cage again. Modafferi took several moments to recover here, going to the body with short punches from the inside.

The second break by the referee would almost prove disastrous for Modafferi, as a solid right hook on the button floored the American and nearly put her out for the night. Falling into Modafferi's guard to go for the kill, Coenen was surprised by Modafferi, who had the wherewithal to latch onto an arm for an armbar attempt off of a hard Coenen hammerfist. Coenen instantly tacked to go for a leglock, to which Modafferi eagerly followed suit, and slapped on a painful heelhook in the closing seconds of the round. Though Modafferi could be seen tapping, it was well after the sound of the horn, and thus, was not considered a fight-ending submission.

Knowing she was behind in the scorecards, Modafferi turned up the heat in the second round, shooting in for the single-leg takedown after eating a stiff jab in the opening seconds. Landing in Coenen's guard, the Dutch fighter was quick to attempt the armbar, but a stack, followed by some hard punches to the face with her free hand saw Modafferi soon safe and passing to side-mount.

Dropping small, stinging shots, Modafferi's punches served to distract Coenen while she transitioned to the mount, where she spent a good deal of the round dropping punch after punch in a furious display of ground-and-pound. With time growing short, Coenen was barely able to buck her assailant off in time to grasp for a leg submission. Alas, it was too little too late, as Modafferi was soon free and with a pass to the side-mount she was able to keep side-control and drop more heavy hands from above, riding out the rest of the round in dominant fashion.

Though having trouble in the first round, Modafferi out-positioned and punished Coenen enough in the second to earn a split-decision victory, making her the first K-Grace women's open-weight tournament winner.

"More than winning this tournament, I wanted to put to use everything that Kenji Osawa (Pictures) and everyone at Keishukai has been teaching me these past few months. I wanted to show all their hard work paid off," said an elated Modafferi.

Regarding her opponent, Modafferi said" "The cage was all mine tonight -- it was my world in there. Marloes was so big and strong, but I used the cage to my advantage by putting her back against it, nullifying a lot of her power.

"I wanted to win by the ‘Osawa-Punch,' but I guess I'll save that for next time."

Fellow Wajutsu Keishukai member, Emi Fujino (Pictures), brought her record to 5-0 today as she took out Anna Saito in the evening's sole super fight. Coming right out with vicious, powerful flurries and Wanderlei Silva (Pictures)-style knees from the clinch, Fujino looked unstoppable against the hapless Saito before being surprised by a flying armbar attempt when Saito managed to catch one of her punches.

Despite appearing to be in trouble by the surprise submission attempt, it wasn't long before Fujino was able to power out and bring the fight back to standing, where she continued to punish Saito.

Saito's answers to Fujino's superior striking were wild over-the-top haymakers, which only served to open her up to Fujino taking her back in the clinch. From there, Fujino was able to quickly sink in a rear-naked choke, forcing the tap at 2:06 in the first round.

Before meeting Roxanne Modafferi (Pictures) in the finals, Marloes Coenen (Pictures) took out Polish Shidokan champion Magdalena Jarecka in the second round of a semifinal bout by way of submission.

Dominating the Polish fighter at every corner in the first round, Coenen punished Jarecka with ground-and-pound from the top position, saving a painful armbar attempt for the final seconds, almost finishing her opponent if not for the horn. Her submission would come soon however, as in the second, Coenen attained Jarecka's back early, where she was able crank in the rear-naked choke for the tap at 1:35.

Roxanne Modafferi (Pictures)'s semifinal bout put the stamp of finality on a three-year rivalry with Japanese joshi star, Megumi Yabushita (Pictures), by once again swarming and outworking her opponent. Known to extol the wonders of hard work, Modafferi had a simple but effective formula for victory: engage Yabushita with a barrage of punches and force the Yamato Nadeshiko to wilt under the pressure.

Wilting indeed, Yabushita covered up under the unrelenting flurries, allowing Modafferi to get into position for bodylock takedowns where she took the Japanese fighter's back throughout both rounds. With Modafferi's complete control on the feet with her unending barrages, as well as on the ground with her constant control of Yabushita's back, Modafferi was awarded a unanimous decision victory, winning the final bout in their unofficial "rubber match."

In Coenen's quarterfinal match, the Dutch fighter made quick work of fan favorite Tama Chan by way of rear-naked choke at 2:01 in the first. Coenen started the round strong, opening with a stiff jab and knee, forcing Tama Chan to close the distance and pull guard.

From within the Japanese fighter's guard, Coenen proceeded to striker her way to some points before realizing that Tama Chan had no answers for her on the feet. Disengaging and allowing her opponent to stand back up, Coenen snapped in a crisp left high kick, dazing Tama Chan long enough to slip in and get back-control, after which she sunk in a rear-naked choke before the Japanese fighter could regain her faculties.

Looking considerably larger than her opponent, Poland's Jarecka split decisioned Korea's Lee Eon Ju in their two-round quarterfinal affair. Relaxed and apparently unconcerned with the opposition that her smaller Korean opponent could offer, Jarecka was able to swarm Lee with her weight in the clinches, nullifying many of Lee's attempts at takedowns.

Sprawled over her opponent, Jarecka landed a number of hard blows to the ribs of the turtled Lee, racking up a good deal of points while sapping the smaller fighter's stamina. Despite nearly sinking in an armbar in the first round, Lee had little to offer beyond a high work-rate in trying to out-position her larger opponent.

The many good punches she was able to slip through Jarecka's defenses landed flush, but had insufficient power to faze the oncoming Polish Shidokan champ. Thus, after two rounds of control and damage, Jarecka walked away with a split decision.

Starting the night right in her quarterfinal bout, Modafferi outworked and out-positioned Korea's Lee Hee Jin all the way up to the inevitable armbar finish in the last 30 seconds of the first round. Both women came out firing away with punches, but it was Lee that managed to use the exchange in her favor, ending up with the back clinch after her initial barrage.

Immediately recovering position however, Modafferi managed to turn around into the bodylock and secure one of the Lee's legs for the trip takedown. From this point forward, Modafferi began to pound out the Korean en route to taking her back and securing the armbar at 2:56 of the first round.

Lithuanian Muay Thai queen Jurgita Leitonaite looked to be off to a fantastic start in her quarterfinal tilt against judoka Megumi Yabushita (Pictures), as Leitonaite launched a spectacular flying right knee that connected to Yabushita's face in the opening seconds of round one. The impact forced Yabushita to instantly drop for the takedown, where she was easily able to take her flying opponent down and slap on the fight ending armbar at a mere 17 seconds into the first round.
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