MIXED MARTIAL ARTS
JAMM AQUINO / JAQUINO@STARBULLETIN.COM
Jake Shields landed a blow to Carlos Condit during Friday night's welterweight title fight at the Blaisdell Center.
Shields emerges as champion
On a night so surprising that Butterbean won a fight by submission, California's Jake Shields cemented himself as one of the best welterweights in the world.
The former SHOOTO 167-pound champion added another title to his quickly growing résumé, defeating both Yushin Okami and Carlos Condit by decision at Friday night's Rumble on the Rock 9 event to become the first ROTR welterweight champion.
A Blaisdell Arena crowd of around 5,000 saw the 27-year-old Shields (14-4-1) struggle with Okami (14-3) in the semifinals before winning a very controversial majority decision to advance to the final. Shields left no doubt in the final as to who would be champion, however, dominating the position and mixing in some ground-and-pound as well. Shields was also awarded a check for $30,000.
"I didn't want to have to go the full 15 minutes in both fights, but I prepared myself for it in case I had to," Shields said.
Condit (15-3) seemed to be at a huge advantage entering the final after needing just 82 seconds to defeat Frank Trigg (13-5) in the semifinals that took place earlier in the night. Trigg, who entered as the tournament favorite, shot in and took Condit down within the opening seconds, but struggled to inflict any damage while on top. Condit showed off impressive defensive skills before eventually catching Trigg in an armbar that forced him to tap out.
"It was a non-event," Trigg said. "I took him down but just didn't do anything."
The road to the final was much different for Shields, who was awarded a majority decision over Okami that was booed loudly by the crowd. The fight was dominated by grappling and wrestling, with Shields repeatedly trying to go for single- and double-leg takedowns that Okami continued to block. The Japanese fighter seemed to get the better of any stand-up exchanges, but it wasn't enough.
"I thought I won," Shields said. "Any time it's a close fight like that you get nervous waiting for the decision. I was most worried about (Okami) than anyone else because his game throws me off. His defense is so tough and I knew it would be my toughest fight."
Shields suffered a few cuts against Okami, including one over his right eye that Condit quickly opened up in the first minute of the final. The fight had to be stopped once for ringside doctors to check the cut, but after that it was all Shields as Condit had no defense for his takedowns. Once on the mat, Shields was able to inflict damage with elbows and knees that Condit couldn't answer.
"I think this belt right here now proves that I'm one of the best fighters in the world," Shields said. "I have no idea what's next. I'll talk with the Rumble guys and see if anyone calls, but I honestly don't know what's next."
Friday night also featured Team Hawaii winning three of five fights against Team Japan, including a brutal knockout of Lee Segak by Kailua's Scott Junk. Junk (2-1) slammed Segak (4-6) into the mat before raining down two or three vicious elbows to Segak's face before the referee stopped the fight at 2:20 of the first round. Ray "Braddah" Cooper (14-8) knocked out Koji Yoshida with an impressive combination of punches in the first round and Brenton Wolff (2-0) made a successful ROTR debut by knocking out Shinpei Satoyama with a perfectly placed left uppercut.
It wasn't all good news for the Hawaii team, as Wesley "Cabbage" Correira (17-10) tapped out to a kimura by Kazuhiro Hamanaka (3-2-1) and "Charuto" Renato Verissimo (5-4) lost by TKO after being caught by a combination from Kuniyoshi Hironaka (10-2) in the second round. Hironaka, who also owns wins over Nick Diaz and Ryan Schultz, seems to be a lock to fight in the Ultimate Fighting Championship, while Verissimo announced his retirement after the fight.
"I love to fight and I don't know how to stop, but I felt a lack of speed and I got tired," Verissimo said. "I've been fighting too much and it's taking its toll and right now seems like a good time to focus on my personal life and my students. They've given so much to me, now I feel like it's time to give back to them."
In the only superfight of the evening, Eric "Butterbean" Esch showed off his versatility as he defeated Aaron Aguilera by submission after forcing him to tap out at 1:15 of the second round with a rear naked choke.
"He wouldn't punch," Esch said. "I caught him a couple times to let him know I'm there, but he didn't want to play."
Aguilera even attempted a dropkick in the bizarre fight, but Esch's power was too much, as he knocked down the "Hardkore Kidd" with a right hand before pouncing on top and choking him out. The fight had special rules in which the two were only allowed 15 seconds of time to fight on the ground, but it was more than enough time for Esch to pull out the win.
"A vision just came to me," was Esch's response on winning by submission.
Brandon Wolff, Brenton's twin brother, made it a perfect night for the Wolff family by defeating Josh McDonald in the alternate tournament fight by TKO after the ringside doctor stopped the fight at the end of Round 1 due to a cut. In the opening bout of the night, Steve Byrnes ran his record to 5-0 after forcing Matt Knaub (2-3) to tap out via an armbar 44 seconds into the second round.