The popularity of Mixed Martial Arts has skyrocketed over the last decade and Maui fans were hungry for action Saturday night as they descended on the Lahaina Civic Center for Hazardous Warfare. The event featured eight bouts with fighters from all over the islands and included a main event that saw Kula boy Brandon “The Viper” Visher—ranked third among featherweights statewide—take on ninth ranked Dan “The Mad Mongoose” Moreno.
Local fighter turned promoter Dominic “Mr. International” Ah Nee—along with help from his wife Christi, his family and over a dozen sponsors—put on the fight, ending a seven-month MMA drought in Maui. He said attendance was more than 1,000, and his first event was a success.
“It’s good for the fans; there hasn’t been a fight on Maui since May,” said Ah Nee. “It’s good for the fighters too. I train with these guys every day. They train hard, sometimes twice a day, but then there’re no fights for them.”
The under-card featured five bouts. Matches consisted of two 5-minute rounds, followed by a 3-minute overtime if necessary. The first fight of the evening ended quickly with Rilley “The Perfect Storm” Dutro defeating Gerald “The Game” Gamit in 50 seconds with a guillotine choke.
The eighth ranked lightweight, P.J. Brown, took the second match over Tyler “The Pit-bull” Kahihikolo by unanimous decision. Brown controlled most of the match on the ground, despite a late flurry from Kahihikolo.
Maui boy Jake “The Animal” Yasui won the light-heavyweight bout defeating Makana Bertido with a rear-naked choke late in the first round.
“I told my wife this was my last one,” Yasui said following the fight. But judging from the crowd’s reaction, no one really believed him.
The fourth fight of the night was another quick one. Oahu’s Tim “Magic” Moon, a purple belt in ju-jitsu, submitted Jaron Garcia of the Big Island with an anaconda choke 34 seconds into the first round.
The fifth and final fight before intermission was one of the most action-packed of the night. Seventh-ranked middleweight Ron “The Workhorse” Veradero battled Chris “All Day” Long in an epic toe-to-toe slugfest that required the night’s only overtime round to decide the winner. Both fighters threw plenty of leather, but Veradero had more gas in the final round and pounded Long into submission.
Intermission saw a performance by local dance troop 808 Funk Lords. Ah Nee also addressed the crowd, thanking everyone who made the drive and all the fighters who came to put on a show for them.
The first fight following the break pitted David Pakele against fan favorite Shawn Kalani Brown, who made short work of his opponent, scoring a knock-out with a series of vicious over-head strikes just 22 seconds into round one.
“This was for my kids,” Brown told emcee and ring announcer Kawika Veeka of “Da Jam” 98.3 FM after the fight.
“I haven’t always been there for them, but now I can make them proud. I want them to say “˜Hey, dat’s my dad over there.'”
Through tears and laughter, Brown told the crowd MMA was now his primary focus.
“In 2009, I’m here to stay,” he shouted.
Next up were the big boys. Heavyweights Auggie “The Warrior” Padeken battled Joshua “The Silent Monster” Ofiu. Both men weighed in at over 250 pounds and shook the entire gymnasium as they battled it out. Ofiu took the bout with a TKO near the end of the first round. The hearing-impaired Ofiu thanked the crowd using an interpreter and announced his intentions to take on ninth ranked heavyweight Jake Faagai.
The main event featured two ranked fighters and was by far the most technical, back-and-forth fight of the night. Ninth-ranked Don “The Mad Mongoose” Moreno, a lanky, shifty featherweight, took on Kula’s own Brandon “The Viper” Visher. Both fighters seemed to have the upper hand at certain points throughout the fight. Fighting primarily on the ground, each fighter took his turn in control on top or on his back in the guard. Several reversals and slams had the crowd in a frenzy.
Finally, Visher was able to move into a mounted position locking his legs above Moreno’s hips. Moreno gave up his back in an attempt to escape, which allowed Visher to finish him off with a rear-naked choke late in the second round.
Ah Nee said putting the event together was an educational experience.
“We learned some things, what works and what we can do better next time,” he said. Ah Nee added that he hopes next time will be before June, when the state is set to put new sanctioning restrictions on MMA fights.
With lights, music, smoke machines, break-dancers and go-go dancers tossing T-shirts into the crowd, it’s clear Ah Nee is keenly aware that to hype fights, you also need to put on a show.
“It’s entertainment,” he said. “We try to make it a whole night out.” MTW