By: King Eddie
Destiny: Proving Grouds II on Saturday night showed us a thing or two about the talent here in Hawaii. #1- They are able to take on any challenge at a moments notice, no matter the circumstances. #2- That the level of competition in Hawaii is really heating up.
Lets start with the undercard. Local scrapper Jared Gonda and his opponent started off the show with a back and forth war. Though Gonda's opponent would take control on the ground, in true Gonda fashion, Jared would find a way to win the small battles. He won in transition, he worked for escapes, and once on the loose, he fired off big punches and kicks that were meant to finish. In the end, it was a draw, but the two fighters started the night off with one hell of a boom. As the night progressed, we were able to see many differnt styles in action. Hard hitters, crafty grapplers, counter punchers, and fancy kickers all made appearances, but no fight in particular really stole the undercard. They were all wonderful to watch. There were some clear prospects surfacing that night such as Matt Lascola, Ryan Dela Cruz, and Monica Franco. But each fight held it's own shimmer.
In other matches, Chris Cisneros showed off his ground skills in a surprising submission victory. I don't say surprising because Chris doesn't have a ground game, quite the contrary, it's only that we never really get a chance to see it. But with expert placement, Cisneros was able to submit a very well rounded and worthy opponent in Maki Pitolo.
Robby Ostovich made his professional debut against Justin Jaynes who came into this bout with an impressive wealth of veteran status hanging from his belt. But Robby kept clam, didn't chase, and carved himself a pretty decisive victory. As the former Destiny Amateur Champion, there was little surprise that he would, but it's always nice to see the local talent evolve.
Rachael Ostovich, Robby's sister, also appeared on the card, as she quickly dispatched her mainland opponent, Hannah Kampf, with little to no resistance. After being out of action for over a year, Ostovich looked like a woman on a mission. As soon as the exchanges began, Rachael began to take the better of them. Pressing forward with straight punches and a crazy look in her eye, the young Ostovich caused the ref to end the bout still on the feet. Overwhelmed in an understatement. But her opponent was by no means a quitter. She stayed on her feet through a flurry of punches that would have certainly put me on my butt.
In the Light Heavyweight Division, Alex Pulotu-Steverson once again proved that he is a deadly weapon. His hulking opponent was certainly an intimidating challenger, but not intimidating enough. The Champ chased him down with hard kicks and punches that made the ground shake beneath the cage. At a certain point in the fight, Alex caught his opponent with a kick directly to the throat that landed as clean as the day is long. Following up with punches, pressure, and one tight Triangle Choke, the victory was ensured. When two tough 205ers enter the cage, there is no easy victory. Alex earned his title defense win with grit, heart, and heavy hands and feet.
The return of Raquel Pa'aluhi was just as wonderful as you could have imagined. Also facing a mainland challenger, the victory was all the more sweet as Rocky dominated and controlled every aspect of the bout. Once again I must clarify that these mainland fighters were no joke. But Raquel used crisp strikes, and a dominant ground game to hammer out the TKO victory in the first round. Pa'aluhi looks reivigorated and ready to blaze a path right on to the UFC. And I sincerely doubt there is anyone to stop her along the way.
In the main event we saw our Featherweight Champion, Ryan Mulvihill, from the mainland, taking on Hawaii MMA legend, Harris Sarmiento. Though Featherweight is not Sarmiento's ideal weight class, he wanted an opportunity to bring the belt back to the islands. The giant of the MMA world entered this battle with no intentions of giving up, as was obvious when he got into trouble early in the first round. As the Champ threatened with chokes, Sarmiento kept his cool and worked through the submmission attempt. Even ending up hovering above Mulvihill and raining down fists. But Mulvihill is the Champion for a reason. He is tough. He is calculated. And he is a grinder. The man constantly works. It's incredible to see him in action. From submission to submission, from position to position, Ryan just never seems to stop working. After three rounds, the judges saw it go the way of the Champion. A man who has proven three times now, that he is very deserving.
All in all, there was no shortage of fantastic fights on this night. But that has become the industry standard here in Hawaii. The ever evolving sport calls for ever evolving challengers, and Hawaii's fighters answer the call. In victory or even defeat, they show growth with every fight. A beautiful night for the sport of MMA.