by John Evans (Photos by Greg Samborski)
(Photos courtesy of Greg Samborski)

SEOUL, South Korea – Jae Suk Lim became a two-time Spirit MC middleweight champion Sunday night, regaining the belt he lost to American Top Team fighter Steve Bruno, with a win over promising, twenty-year-old prodigy Yoon Young Kim.

Bruno, who pounded out Lim in the third round of their meeting almost one year ago, has been unable to defend his title due to a torn pectoral muscle injured while training for UFC Fight Night 10, but that was ancient history in the minds of most in attendance at Jang Chung Gymnasium and watching on the Korean Cable Network XPORTS.

The match-up at hand paired the original Go Super Korean middleweight champion, who was coming off an EliteXC win in his cage debut, against a young, lanky, submission specialist who had assembled a five-fight win streak and earned a title shot, all prior to his two-year-hiatus for compulsory military service.

Round one of this contest saw Lim executing takedowns, one from a caught middle kick and another via body lock, but reluctant to strike from anything but a fully postured-up position. For his part, Kim threatened with kimura attempts while methodically bettering his position for an armbar or triangle choke. The referee was quick to stand the fighters on each occasion. Midway through the round, Lim, who is the better standing striker, opens a neat, four-stitch cut above Kim’s left eye, but even in the replays it is unclear if the cut was caused by a punch or a clash of heads in the clinch. Lim ends the round with a hard right, setting up a takedown that puts him in Kim’s guard, but is unable to capitalize with strikes before time expires.

Again in the second round, action is paused to attend to the cut above Kim’s eye, but it isn’t long before Lim reverses a takedown and takes the top position in half guard. In short order, Lim passes guard and beats away at the bloody Kim with rights and lefts until the referee is forced to call a halt to the contest.

In the post fight press conference, Jae Suk Lim was visibly pleased to announce that he will next see action on U.S. soil, this time in an ICON Sport promotion in Hawaii.

Win or lose, welterweight A Sol Kwon always puts on a good show, and despite a submission loss in his last K-1 Hero’s outing and two discouraging losses to current Spirit MC welterweight champ Kwang Hee Lee, his rightful place at a Spirit MC promotion is still among the headliners. In this match-up he was paired against Takaaki Aoki, a once up-and-coming DEEP fighter who has seen mixed results as of late.

From the start, it was obvious that Kwon wanted to work standing strikes, while Aoki was eager to take the fight to the ground. In the first round Kwon is the more effective puncher, visibly staggering Aoki twice with straight rights. Both fighters exchanged takedowns, as well as strikes from guard, but once again Kwon landed the harder shots. As is the case throughout the night, referee stand-ups are quick, and often inexplicable.

The second differed in that Aoki spent more time on his back, but little changed with regard to the punches that scored. Kwon missed one opportunity from side mount, and another by whiffing on a soccer kick, but was, again, in control for the majority of the round. The result was a unanimous decision for Kwon.

March 1 is Korean Independence day (from the Japanese), and in keeping with the Korea versus Japan motif, Spirit MC went straight to the WWE playbook by pairing Jae Young Kim, a Spirit MC veteran coming off three consecutive wins since suffering an armbar loss to Hector Lombard, with a hugely fat, bleach blond, tattoo covered Japanese guy named Soichi Nishida.

From Nishida’s 3-8-1 record there was never much doubt as to the outcome of this fight, but when Nishida made his ultra-bravado entrance waving a large Japanese flag, even the old women selling dried squid and cuttlefish in front of the stadium sensed there would be a real beating.

From the bell, Nishida threw all of two punches before being taken down and pounded by Kim. Kim quickly grew bored with pummeling the Japanese tattoo champion, however, and convinced that he had done enough to win the fight, stood and returned to his corner. The referee thought otherwise, and frantically urged Kim to resume mashing the still supine and largely immobile Nishida. Kim complied with the request until everyone in the stadium was convinced Nishida had received enough, including Nishida’s corner, which threw in the towel as the referee, simultaneously acting under his own initiative, put a stop to the slaughter. Total elapsed time: 22 seconds.

In a middleweight pairing that served to produce one of the more technical fights of the night, Jung Hwan Cha met Busan Team M.A.D. fighter Dong Hyun Kim (not the same fighter recently signed by the Ultimate Fighting Championship. For future reference, the complete Spirit MC 15 fight card featured five Kims, including one Kim vs. Kim bout, and four Lees).

A play-by-play account of this fight could take pages, as both fighters displayed solid skills with their strikes, kicks, takedowns and submission attempts. The closest thing to a stoppage in the first round occurred when Jung briefly held a loose triangle choke.

In the second round, both fighters continued to impress the crowd with their pace and continuous work. Both landed standing strikes and took a turn defending from guard. This close contest was ruled a draw.

“Fight of the Night” honors have to go to Hans Olsen and Chang Seob Lee for their heavyweight slugfest. This was a pairing of two crowd favorites. Hans is American, which goes a long way with a very vocal minority in Jang Chung Gymnasium, and was making his comeback after more than a year’s absence, due in large part to the bureaucratic barriers foreign fighters who wish to earn paychecks face in Korea.

Lee, the most recently crowned Go Super Korean Season 3 heavyweight champion, was still riding the wave of his reality television success.

Olsen weighed in at 237 pounds, a notable difference from the 286 pounds he fought at previously, and briefly sought to use the sizable height and reach advantages he’d maintained to pick Lee apart from the outside with jabs and leg kicks. But it was not to be, and as Olsen so eloquently put it, his “game plan went to crap.”

Olsen did work a Thai clinch with some success, but telegraphed his combinations by straightening his stance before throwing, thus allowing Lee to do what he does best: land overhand rights in the transition zone. The first round was a close one and both fighters were forced to cover up and play defense at times.

The second stanza continued where the first left off: Olsen working to land knees to the face and getting the better of most exchanges on the inside, with Lee tagging him hard from mid-distance. By the halfway point both fighters appeared ready to sustain action for the duration – though bloodied, swollen and visibly marked – but neither showed any inclination to take the fight to the ground. Olsen scored with several lead rights, then Lee responded with short, heavy strikes over the top, dislodging Olsen’s mouthpiece for a second time. The last ten seconds were a flurry from both sides. At the bell, both fighters were smiling, though Olsen walked toward the wrong corner.

In the end, Olsen was awarded a well-earned unanimous decision.

In other Go Super Korean alumni news, Sang Il An, who scored a stunning high kick knockout fifteen seconds into his last outing, finished Dong Woo Shin with an equally impressive one strike knockout, this time a right cross to the chin. An is a charismatic fighter, known to sing and dance to his opponents’ entrance songs, and it is likely that he will soon meet Dong Hyun Kim as Spirit MC goes searching for a middleweight challenger.

Final Results from Spirit MC 15
Jang Chung Gymnasium
Seoul, South Korea

-Jae Suk Lim def. Yoon Young Kim by TKO (Strikes) at 1:35, R2
-A Sol Kwan def. Takaaki Aoki by Unanimous Decision
-Jae Young Kim def. Soichi Nishida by TKO (Strikes) at 0:22, R1
-Jung Hwan Cha vs. Dong Hyun Kim, ruled a draw, (1-1)
-Hans Olsen def. Chang Seob Lee by Unanimous Decision
-San Il An def. Dong U Shin by KO (Right Cross), at 3:09, R1
-Ye Won Nam def. Seung Hwan Kim by Submission (Triangle Choke), at 4:44, R1
-Dae Gun Kim def. Ok Myoung Kim by Submission (Heel Hook), at 1:47, R1