MACAU -- Japanese lightweight Koji Ando mixed crisp boxing with judo roots to top Australian Rob Hill in the main event of Legend Fighting Championship 9 on Saturday at City of Dreams’ Grand Hyatt Ballroom.
Straight punches and foot sweeps were the order of the day for 27-year-old Ando, who was the aggressor from the first bell to the last. After a relatively close opening stanza spent on the feet, the Tokyo-based southpaw began to find his range in earnest, forcing Hill to go on the defensive and cover up under fire from stiff jabs and hooks. Ando repeatedly tripped the backpedaling Hill to the mat, where the Wajustu Keishukai representative would set up shop in half-guard and grind away.
Ando finished strong, showing little respect for Hill’s counterpunches in the third round by mixing in leg kicks and further trip takedowns. The offensive display was enough to earn scores of 29-28 from judges Jordan Morley, Scott Morley and Daniel Charles Pereira. The victory also secured for Ando a future shot at Legend lightweight champion Jadamba Narantungalag, who has emerged from Mongolia to become a fearsome force on the Asian scene over the past two years.
“I’m kind of scared,” Ando joked when asked about the prospect of facing the kyokushin fighter. “To be able to fight Jadamba is an amazing thing for me, but if I can beat Jadamba, it will be even more meaningful.”
Former Legend bantamweight titleholder Honggang Yao and Sengoku veteran Taiyo Nakahara earned the right to fight for the 135-pound belt vacated by Tuerxun Jumabieke, as both advanced through the semifinal stage of the promotion’s latest bantamweight tournament.
Yao scored a quick takedown against Agustin Delarmino and latched on a rear-naked choke from an awkward angle. The China Top Team fighter adjusted and sunk the choke in fully from the back, and referee Warren Wang called a halt to the bout at 1:38, giving Yao the technical submission win. Though Delarmino leapt to his feet and the Filipino corner protested the stoppage, Wang later affirmed to Sherdog.com that he saw Delarmino’s eyes roll back. Yao also believed the right call was made.
“That choke was really tight. His body was turning, but his neck was still there,” Yao told Sherdog.com afterward. “I actually planned to do more ground-and-pound and wait for the mistake. If he went for a mistake, I’d go for the submission, but it seems that happened sooner than I expected.”
Earlier in the evening, 29-year-old Nakahara outpointed Korean youngster Nam Jin Jo, whose dance-taunting and fits of aggressiveness were not enough to sway the judges. Despite losing a point for illegal heel strikes to Jo’s kidneys on the ground, Nakahara earned 29-28 scorecards from judges Jordan and Scott Morley; judge Pereira scored the fight 29-27 for Jo.
“He’s very calm and experienced, and also he’s got good grappling,” Yao said of his future opponent, “but, to me, I think his wrestling and takedowns are his strengths, and I definitely have the advantage there.”
The night’s co-main event saw Chinese “Leech” Jingliang Li outclass 19-year-old Australian Dan Pauling in a three-round welterweight affair. Li, who forfeited 20 percent of his purse to his opponent after missing weight Friday, rattled Pauling’s brain with hooks and straights, and damaged his thighs with chopping leg kicks over the course of 15 minutes. Judges Morley, Morley and Pereira all scored the bout 30-27 for Li, who rebounded from his February loss to welterweight champ Myung Ho Bae.
Australia’s “Ruthless” Rob Lisita overcame a rough weight-cut caused by a malfunctioning sauna and outlasted South Korean Yeong Gwang Choi in their featherweight three-rounder. The 29-year-old got his third win in as many months by surviving a cracking knee to the head in round one and outworking his equally exhausted opponent in the latter stages of the bout. All three judges saw the fight 30-27 for Lisita, who told Sherdog.com that despite making the “final eight” for the upcoming Australia-versus-U.K. iteration of “The Ultimate Fighter,” he may opt to continue fighting in Legend.
“It sounds crazy, but I feel like if I can take on Asia and beat these tough Asian guys that I’ve got so much respect for, then the next step could be the UFC,” said Lisita, who would ostensibly join the “TUF” cast at 155 pounds. “I don’t feel like I’m totally ready to be at that level, and I like fighting at featherweight.”
Lightweights Damien Brown and Haotian Wu were awarded “Fight of the Night” for their entertaining scrap. Though judges Morley, Morley and Pereira all saw the bout 30-27 for the Australian, Wu made things interesting by throwing up multiple submission attempts, including an armbar, a rear-naked choke and leg scissors.
Japanese middleweight Hideto Tatsumi ground out a win against New Zealander Pat Crawley in a tepid middleweight affair. Tatsumi’s stifling top control in rounds one and two gave way to a third-round surge by Crawley, but all three judges ultimately saw the bout 29-28 for the 27-year-old from Kobe.
Donning a Flash mask and entering to the strains of Queen’s “Flash Gordon” theme, unbeaten bantamweight Jack Gooderham hoped to make quick work of opponent Xian Ji. However, it was guillotine specialist Ji who made it an early night, applying his trademark choke as Gooderham drove in on a double-leg takedown and putting the Australian to sleep after just 34 seconds.
Kiwi featherweight Daniel Hooker recovered from early trouble to work nasty knees in the clinch against China’s Chengjie Wu. After spotting a deep gash on Wu’s forehead, referee Roger Chau called a halt to the bout on the advice of the ringside physician at 3:44 of the opening round.
In the evening’s opening bout, Hong Kong-based Filipino Diego Cuenca put his BJJ purple belt to good use for his professional MMA debut. The 27-year-old asset manager turned a trip takedown into a north-south choke, then an ankle lock, and finally a rear-naked choke which forced Malaysian Muhammad Hanif bin Zainal to tap at 4:17 of round one.