Six years of mixed martial arts training culminated in what South Korea’s Sang Soo Lee called "the best day of my MMA life."
Lee upset Hilo’s Poai Suganuma to become the first X-1 world light heavyweight champion in the co-main event of last night’s "Island Pride" at the Blaisdell Arena.
A scattered crowd of 800 watched the top two headliners from Hawaii go down. In the main event, Edwin Aguilar stopped Waianae’s Kala Kolohe Hose by first-round TKO, giving fighters from Mexico and South Korea quality wins over some of the best talent in the islands.
"I’ve been training mixed martial arts six years for this," Lee said through a translator. "Like I said in the ring, this is the greatest day of my life."
X-1: ISLAND PRIDE
» Edwin Aguilar def. Kala Kolohe Hose by TKO (R1)
» Sang Soo Lee def. Poai Suganuma by decision (unanimous)
» Van Oscar Penovoraff def. David Barrios by KO (R1)
» Max Holloway def. Bryson Kamaka by KO (R1)
» Dustin Kimura def. Sadhu Bott by decision (unanimous)
» Collin Mansanas def. Delbert Grace by TKO (R2)
Lee (16-9) finished off the 205-pound tournament, which began in June, with his most impressive victory yet. He knocked out Daniel Madrid in the opening round and earned a unanimous decision over Roy Boughton in the semifinals, giving him a shot at Suganuma, who trains with B.J. Penn in Hilo.
Suganuma (11-4) was the faster and more explosive fighter standing, but Lee managed to drop Suganuma twice with straight right hands.
One of those knockdowns came in the first round, which was otherwise dominated by Suganuma. He did damage from Lee’s guard and got the best of exchanges up against the cage.
However, Lee exerted his will in the second round, again dropping Suganuma with a straight right hand. Suganuma survived the onslaught, but Lee had done enough damage to tie it up at a round apiece.
"I didn’t know how well I hit him because everything was happening so fast," Lee said. "I was focused more on scoring points instead of using up all of my energy to try to finish him."
It worked as Lee left no doubt with a dominant third round, taking down Suganuma early and ground-and-pounding his way to victory. Suganuma couldn’t get up off his back and Lee controlled the round on top to seal the win.
"We saw that he swung with a lot of hooks (in previous fights) and tried to keep the distance close," Lee said. "The fight went exactly how we thought it would go."
The main event didn’t go the way most of the crowd in attendance planned. Hose (7-5), coming off a TKO loss to Niko Vitale in September, had trouble with the size of Aguilar (22-15), who had lost three of his previous four fights.
The two spent most of the round up against the cage, where Aguilar eventually ended the fight with a right knee that caught Hose flush on the chin. He covered up on the ground, but Aguilar threw a steady amount of strikes and referee Chris West ended the fight with 31 seconds left in the round.
"(That win) was for the people of Hawaii and the people of Mexico and the entire Tigre team," Aguilar said.