Fighters from around the country put their bodies and reputations on the line before a charged-up crowd of fans, family, and supporters for SFS4, the first Shuriken Fight Series event of the year..
New Zealand's MMA community converged on Auckland's North Shore event Centre this past Saturday night showcasing not only their talents but the talents of their coaches, training partners and respective gyms from which the individual fighters hailed from.
The 13-fight card consisting of both professional and amateur fighters never dipped in quality once the first walkout music sounded and the initial competitors stepped into the octagon.
Early in the night Joshua Bilagot and Josia Tan shared the honours in an engaging split decision draw with each subsequent bout continually adding to the score, creating a crescendo of submission attempts, powerful body shots and chopping leg kicks before reaching its climatic note when Sigi “Showtime“ Pesaleli landed a cracking right hand to the jaw of Gareth Sawyer 56 seconds into the main event.
The evening itself served as a showcase, for those uninitiated into the local scene, of both the depth and breadth of skill currently existing in the country.
Whangarei, Auckland, Tauranga, Christchurch, and Wellington were just a few of the regions represented at SFS4, with bouts occurring across multiple weight levels and genders.
The four fights at the top of the card contained three title bouts; the women's strawweight and men's featherweight amateur titles, the professional light heavyweight title and a professional bout between Beau Rawiri and Joe Van Duin.
Shuriken MMA's Kasia Malinowska and Hammerhead's Hannah Dawson contested the women's strawweight belt, with the taller Malinowska attempting to use her significant reach advantage to control proceedings firing off a variety of kicks as she attempted to keep Dawson at bay.
However, the Mosgiel fighter, demonstrating her strength and resilience, was able to close the gap and take the fight to the ground multiple times throughout the fights duration, doing enough in the judge's eye to earn the win via majority decision.
Brad Ramsey, another Shuriken MMA fighter claimed the spoils in the men's featherweight title fight, defeating Awhio MMA's Nick Low via unanimous decision.
Ramsey, a WAKO Oceania K1 title holder, told the crowd following his win “MMA's where I want to be.”
In the lead in to the main event, a dominant performance by Shuriken's Beau Rawiri saw him defeat Iron Wolve's Joe Van Duin by referee stoppage in the final seconds of the first round.
Rawiri gained top control and was able to unleash a series of vicious blows, forcing the referee to call a halt to proceedings.
The eagerly awaited main event the Light heavyweight title fight featured Balmoral Leegar's Sigi Pesaleli and Christchurch Martial Art's Gareth Sawyer.
The two fighters, both with a wealth of combat experience, entered the fight knowing the chances of the fight going the distance were slim.
In the lead up to the fight, Balmoral Leegar's Vahid Unesi had advised those in attendance not to blink due to the explosive nature of the combatants involved.
He was proved correct as with just 56 seconds on the clock Pesaleli erupted, sending Sawyer to the mat with a strike felt around the North Shore event centre.
“The shot was there, I took it,” Pesaleli said in a post-fight interview.
“All I need is God and my wife Erika to be with me. When the bell rings I disconnect from this world and connect my heart to the man upstairs.”
As the lights went up and the crowd drifted out of the North Shore events, calendars were already being marked for the next Shuriken Fight Series event scheduled for July the 21st
MMA has seen a surge in popularity in New Zealand.
Over the recent years it has moved into the mainstream sporting consciousness of the country and the Shuriken Fight Series, along with other MMA promotions throughout the country, appear poised to begin introducing a new set of names and faces to the attention of kiwi sport fans.
Sigi Pesaleli and team.