Vitale must heal quickly with next fight in May
By Dayton Morinaga
Advertiser Staff Writer
Falaniko Vitale left the Blaisdell Center Arena late Saturday night with a world championship belt around his waist and an icepack on his right knee.
Vitale defeated Canada's Kalib Starnes with an impressive first-round choke submission in the main event of the "Champions II" mixed martial arts card, but injured his knee in the process.
A crowd of around 2,000 watched Vitale successfully defend the X-1 World Events organization's middleweight (185 pounds) world championship.
Vitale said he entered the fight with an injured right knee, and aggravated it in the aftermath of his victory.
"Nothing happened (to the knee) during the fight; it was after," Vitale said. "I think I re-injured it celebrating ... man, I must be getting old."
Vitale, 35, will not have much time to recuperate.
After his victory, he said that his next fight will be in May against Brazil's Murilo "Ninja" Rua. That bout will take place in Louisiana in the Shine Fights organization.
"I might have to get (the knee) scoped real fast, but I don't think it's going to be a problem," Vitale said. "I actually hurt it two weeks ago, but I was OK to fight with it (Saturday). I should be OK again for the next one."
Vitale, who improved to 27-9, overpowered Starnes in a bout that lasted a little more than two minutes.
Shortly after maneuvering on top of Starnes to the "mount" position, Vitale applied what he described as a cross choke. It is a finishing move rarely seen in professional MMA bouts.
"I was surprised," Vitale said. "But I applied it real tight, so once I got it in, I knew I had it."
Starnes, a former competitor in the prestigious UFC organization, dropped to 14-5-1. It was the first time he lost via submission.
It was just the second professional MMA show staged in Hawai'i since state regulations were implemented in July 2009.
"There's good and bad to it," said Mike Miller, owner and promoter of the X-1 organization. "We're doing all the same things we were doing before, but getting charged more (by the state). It's costing me more money to put on a show like this, so that's costing the fighters money."
Still, it was a rare opportunity for some of Hawai'i's top up-and-coming fighters to compete in a cage in a big arena.
The card featured 15 bouts, including four X-1 world title bouts and three state title bouts.
"We're doing this for the fighters," Miller said. "We're doing what we can to keep it going."
Vitale was a star when professional MMA shows were attracting capacity crowds of more than 7,000 to the Blaisdell Arena in the early to mid-2000s. He said there is potential for MMA shows in Hawai'i to gain back the large crowds.
"This is a start, it was a positive step," he said. "We have some champions from Hawai'i we can showcase now. The community just has to come back and support these events."
The next X-1 event is scheduled for June 4 at the Blaisdell Arena, and will feature Kailua's Brandon Wolff against Maui's Dylan Clay.
185 pounds, world title: Falaniko Vitale def. Kalib Starnes, choke submission, 1st round. 155, world title: Harris Sarmiento def. Richie Whitson, split decision. 145, world title: Dave Moreno def. Kurrent Cockett, choke submission, 2nd round. 135, world title: Bryson Hansen def. Riley Dutro, split decision. 145, state title: Sadhu Bott def. Matt Comeau, shoulder injury, 2nd round. 135, state title: Russell Doane def. Timothy Meeks, triangle choke, 2nd round. 155, state title: Bryson Kamaka def. Michael Brightmon, KO knee, 1st round. 170: Koa Ramos def. Joe Verbeetan, KO punches, 1st round. 225: Satoshi Ishii def. Sasae Paogofie, armlock submission, 1st round. 185: Mike Winkelspecht def. Brennan Kamaka, choke submission, 1st round. 155: Herman Santiago def. Chris Kyle, choke submission, 1st round. 145: Jesse Thornton def. Jay Bolos, unanimous decision. 145, amateur female: Raquel Pa'aluhi def. Lani Fauhiva, TKO punches, 2nd round. 170, amateur: Falo Faaloloto def. John Cruz, armbar submission, 1st round. 145, amateur: Van Shiroma def. Joe Gogo, choke submission, 1st round.