MIXED MARTIAL ARTS
Niko to meet Mayhem
Once again, Hawaii turns to Falaniko Vitale to uphold its honor.
Vitale takes on Jason Miller in the main event of tomorrow's Icon Sport mixed martial arts event at Blaisdell Arena.
When: Tomorrow, doors open 7:30 p.m.
Where: Blaisdell Arena
» Falaniko Vitale (20-4) vs. Jason "Mayhem" Miller (13-4)
» KJ Noons (3-1) vs. Harris Sarmiento (26-10)
» Nick Ring (4-0) vs. Mike Malone (1-3)
» Steve Byrnes (3-0) vs. Bob Ostovich (3-6)
» Kimo Woelfel (1-2) vs. Aaron Rose (0-0)
» Harvey Nakamura (2-2) vs. Ryan Lee (1-2-1)
» Lyle Nicely (0-0) vs. Billy Hall (0-0)
» Chico Cantiberos (2-0) vs. Kevin DeLima (1-2)
» Brain Wiehle (0-0) vs. Jose Fernandez (1-0)
» Makana Albino (0-0) vs. Bryce Martinez (1-0)
» Ikaika Choy-Fu (0-0) vs. Lorenzo Moreno (0-0)
Miller won Icon Sport's welterweight championship in his last fight but relinquished it to fight Vitale. He comes into the fight unbeaten against Hawaii opponents after toying with and forcing Mark Moreno to tap out in July. Miller has also stopped local products Ronald Jhun, Egan Inoue and Sean Taylor since first stepping into the Icon Sport (formerly Super Brawl) ring in 2003, never letting an opponent last more than 10 minutes against him.
The winner earns a shot at Robbie Lawler's middleweight title, a crown Vitale wore until Lawler stopped him in July.
For Vitale, defending his homeland from its latest scourge is important, but getting the gold back means a little bit more.
"I know I'm capable of beating Miller," Vitale said. "I know he got lucky with a few guys from Hawaii but I think I am a different kind of fighter. What I really want to do most of all is bring back the title."
After losing to Lawler he said the only thing holding Hawaii fighters back is sponsorships. Vitale left the island to work full-time for eight weeks with celebrated trainer Matt Hume in Kirkland, Wash., to prepare for Miller.
That is something he didn't have to do to stop the last man who couldn't lose to a Hawaii fighter.
Former champion Masanori Suda of Japan had everything Miller has now. He held a Hawaii title belt and had never lost to a local boy after giving every able body a shot. Then Vitale knocked out Suda with a single punch in April. Suda since stepped up to Japan's PRIDE organization, where he was submitted by Murilo Bustamante in his debut.
But for all of the traits Suda and Miller share, there is one big difference. While Suda seemed embarrassed about being known as the man who repeatedly snuffed out Hawaii's hopes of a homegrown champion, Miller revels in it.
The brash man with the platinum teeth and apt moniker of "Mayhem" has not only beaten Hawaii's best, he has destroyed them, never letting even one see a third round. The submission specialist was brought to Hawaii to be fodder for the local talent but became a headliner when he forced Egan Inoue's corner to throw in the towel in 2003.
With the king dethroned, Miller really went on a rampage. He choked out Jhun last year at Hawaiian Waters Adventure Park before meeting Jhun's corner during an unfortunate brawl after the fight. He was last seen in Hawaii toying with Mark Moreno until he decided to put the boxer out of his misery with an armbar just before the bell ending the first round.
As much as Miller enjoys being the bad guy, he has built a following in the islands and is probably the second most popular active fighter behind Vitale.
"I'm starting to realize that if you give everything you have when you get out into the ring people will have respect for you no matter what color you are," Miller said. "I always knew it was going to be like this. I knew it was going to be a long road before people would catch on and appreciate me."
One of the few local fighters Miller has not faced will be featured in the co-main event.
Harris Sarmiento lost six of his first nine fights but rebounded to win 15 of his next 19 and has hidden from no man. He could be on the verge of main event material.
Sarmiento faces K.J. Noons of San Diego, Cailf., in the co-main event. Noons has fought only four times in his career, but has had an extensive kickboxing career and thrilled the last two Super Brawl crowds with the fury of his attacks and is under contract with PRIDE in Japan.