DARE Championship, Thailand's only professional mixed martial arts (MMA) organization, was formed last year and is already going from strength to strength. The card for the fourth event was the best to date, featuring 14 fighters from the region all of whom had professional experience and headlined by the historic clash between Arnaud Lepont (above) and Krzysztof Hajtalowicz.
Both Lepont and Hajtalowicz are long-term residents of Thailand, although the Frenchman recently moved to Malaysia to join the team of Muayfit. Hajtalowicz, from Poland, booked his spot in the quarter finals of the DARE welterweight tournament courtesy of a second round submission win over Wiktor Svensson, while Lepont got past Jian Kai Chee.
The fight between the two was the most eagerly anticipated MMA match ever held in Thailand and a capacity crowd gathered at the Insomnia Night Club to see which of these two warriors would book their spot in the semifinals and take a step closer to winning the $125,000 prize money.
Loud music and lasers were the order of the day as the fans were treated to the sort of intense audio visual experience that they have come to associate with DARE. Hajtalowicz has won numerous Brazilian jiu-jitsu competitions and is renowned for his ground game, while Lepont has more experience in the cage and has a reputation as being an extremely aggressive fighter.
The Frenchman landed a couple of hooks early in the fight and Hajtalowicz ended up on his back with Lepont doing some damage from within his guard. However the Polish fighter was extremely active and after multiple submission attempts was able to reverse the position.
Lepont looked a little uncomfortable and ate a few hard shots but was able to survive strikes and submissions and work his way to his feet. Hajtalowicz obviously had a gameplan and used his superior height to clinch and land a series of devastating knees some of which connected clean with the face of the French fighter.
It appeared that the Polish submission specialist was getting the better of the stand up exchanges as he clasped his hands around his opponent's neck and dominated him in the clinch, landing shots which seemed to leave Lepont on wobbly legs.
A Hajtalowicz win seemed inevitable at this stage but just when Lepont looked a spent force he was able to somehow sink in a standing guillotine choke while defending a takedown. The fight veered spectacularly, as only an MMA contest can, mere seconds after he had seemed to be firmly in the driving seat Hajtalowicz found himself forced to tap as Lepont pulled guard and squeezed for all he was worth.
It was an incredible come from behind performance which saw Lepont pull out the guillotine from nowhere just as he appeared to be on the brink of defeat. With his fifth consecutive win the French fighter improved to 8-1 and progressed to the semifinals, sending out the following warning:
"I will never give up and as long as I am alive the fight is never over because I am prepared to die in the cage. I knew I was losing the round but I was patient and waited for my opportunity. People think he is going to beat me because he is good on the ground, but it is not jiu-jitsu it is MMA. He was very strong in the clinch, I didn't think he would have the balls to strike with me but he did. This is my last fight as a welterweight, it is not my natural weight and after this I will be dropping to 155 pounds."
Also celebrating was up and coming Thai fighter Shannon Wiratchai who is winning himself a lot of fans with his fun fighting style and willingness to adapt and learn the MMA game. He took on TDR Panjabutra who was looking for a little vengeance after Wiratchai defeated his brother at DARE 2/11.
Wiratchai was appearing in the cage for only the second time but already has a significant fan following in Thailand. He made a slow start not really coming to life until the closing seconds of the opening round when he launched a flurry of punches and kicks.
The second round was a different story as Wiratchai landed a couple of perfectly timed counter hooks which rocked Panjabutra and allowed him to take the fight to the floor. From there he was able to work diligently to take his opponent's back and sink in a rear naked choke which forced the tap.
The win saw Wiratchai progress to the semi finals of the featherweight tournament and put him two victories away from the $125,000 prize money. The other five fights where all in the opening round and saw five more fighters book quarter final spots.
Mark Striegl is one of the most exciting young fighters in the region and the 23 year old Filipino showed why he is so highly rated by dominating Marko Huusansaari. The tenacious Finnish fighter showed off a sophisticated submission defence to survive an opening round which he spent almost entirely on his back but in round two he was finally forced to tap to a modified arm bar.
Striegl's friend and training partner Will Chope (above) was fortunate to have been allowed to fight after missing weight by almost 5 kgs. In the end he was able to submit Saengchot Parkaiphet with a rear naked choke in the opening round and afterwards, to his credit, apologized profusely for his struggles with the scales.
The rematch between Bruce Loh and Shodiyor Jurabekov ended in disappointment as Loh was unable to continue after damaging his hamstring after some exciting early exchanges. Alexandro Machado was out-powered by Kristoff Petersson who stopped him with strikes in round two while Dan Kerr was submitted by the significantly larger Andre Marcolla.
Complete DARE Championship 2/12 Results:
- Shodiyor Jurabekov defeated Loh Kainkai via TKO (injury)
- Will TheKill Chope defeated Saengchot Parkaiphet via submission (rear naked choke)
- Shannon Cai defeated Tondamrong Panjabutra via submission (rear naked choke)
- Kristoffer Persson defeated Alexandro Machado via TKO (strikes)
- Mark Striegl defeated Marko Huusansaari via submission (modified armbar)
- Andre Marcolla defeated Daniel Kerr via submission (armbar)
- Arnaud "TheGame" Lepont defeated Krzysztof Hajtalowicz via submission (guillotine choke)
For more information about DARE Championship visit: www.darefightsports.com.