By Bryanna Fissori
New Promotion Exceeds Expectation
After over a year of waiting, professional MMA has finally returned to Hawaii.
The ProElite Promotion made its debut on August 27 at the Blaisedell Arena in Honolulu, Hawaii. The island of Oahu is nicknamed “The gathering place,” and spectators and industry professionals from all over the nation turned out for the night’s event.
Turn out for the event was impressive given that UFC 134 Rio aired the same day. Lucky for Hawaii MMA fans that because of the time difference UFC events typically air mid-afternoon, meaning that for those motivated enough, it was an MMA filled day.
The card was packed with both veteran and up and coming competitors with several local favorites including Maui’s Kendall Grove, Oahu’s Raquel Pa’aluhi and Reagan Penn of Big Island. Also headlining was former UFC Champion Andrei Arlovski.
Not a single bout on the card left the fight in the judges hands, though some left the audience wanting more.
The female bout pitting local girl, Raquel “Rocky” Pa’aluhi against Olympic wrestler Sarah McMann. Pa’aluhi typically known for her striking power had trouble avoiding the grappler’s overwhelming takedown skills, but survived three intense rounds until submitted by arm-lock in the third round. This was the first submission of the night, but not the last.
The next two bouts on the card ended in rear naked chokes, the first of which with Mark Ellis finishing Jake Huens in the second round. Ellis dominated on the ground with multiple submission attempts as Huens’ arm crept several times up over his head opening him up for head and arm efforts.
Reagan Penn who is the younger brother of UFC veteran BJ “The Prodigy” Penn had a successful professional debut against the more experienced Paul Gardiner, ending the bout with a rear naked choke just over a minute into the first round.
“Soon they are going to be saying, “There’s Reagan Penn’s brother,” laughs ProElite Director of Operations TJ Thompson, with both Penn brothers standing by.
For the co-main event Arlovski dominated opponent Ray Lopez virtually the entire three rounds, throwing heavy hands both standing and on the ground, which forced ref stoppage in the third round. This was the second TKO of the night, the first stemming from Drew McFedries in a bout against Garrett Olson who obviously wanted the fight on the ground, but failed to secure the takedowns to get it there.
Fans who dared to blink during the final fight of the night would have to watch the replay on the big screens to see what the commotion was about, as former UFC fighter Kendall grove barely wasted any time exchanging before sinking in the guillotine choke from standing position against Joe Riggs.
The three fight undercard was home to some of the most engaging bouts of the night, all of which ended in TKOs and showcased some of the best up and coming talent on the islands.
For a small state, Hawaii is home to a plethora of gifted MMA competitors and some of the most dedicated fans in the game. With multiple amateur promotions every month, spectators have grown accustom to the small rings, high school gyms and community centers virtually all of which charge $40 a ticket and start at least an hour late.
ProElite, which is owned 95% by Straus Media Group was a refreshing change with a professional arena, complete with appropriate lighting, big screens, pre-fight interviews and press conferences, not to mention punctuality. “Big John” McCarthy was serving as cage referee during a number of the bouts, while the original UFC lightweight champion Jen Pulver was there as a guest commentator for the bouts which were streaming live on Sherdog.com.
Also in attendance was Scott Coker of Strikeforce, though his presence was not announced. Coker and ProElite Executive Rich Chou worked together before Chou was replaced as Strikeforce’s Matchmaker after the promotion was acquired by Zuffa, LLC.
Kendall Grove def. Joe Riggs via submission (guillotine choke) – Round 1, 0:59
Andrei Arlovski def. Ray Lopez via TKO (punches) – Round 3, 2:43
Reagan Penn def. Paul Gardiner via submission (rear-naked choke) – Round 1, 1:10
Mark Ellis def. Jake Heun via submission (rear-naked choke) – Round 2, 2:29
Sarah McMann def. Raquel Pa’aluhi via submission (armlock) – Round 3, 2:53
Drew McFedries def. Garrett Olson via TKO (punches) – Round 2, 4:04
Kaleo Gambill defeated Sale Sproat via TKO (strikes) at 1:31 of round 1
Dustin Barca defeated Reno Remigio via TKO (doctor stoppage) at 5:00 of round 2
Brent Schermerhorn defeated Jesse Kaala-Akana Lundgren via TKO (punches) at 1:38 of round 1