– Billy Hull
By Billy Hull
Honolulu Star Bulletin

Blaisdell Arena is quickly becoming a nice home for some of the greatest former Ultimate Fighting Championship stars.

UFC legend Dan “The Beast” Severn and former UFC heavyweight champion Ricco “Suave” Rodriguez — following in the footsteps of Tank Abbott — each were victorious as part of the Extreme Wars X-1 card last night at Blaisdell Arena.

A sparse crowd of about 1,000 watched as Severn, who nearly tapped at the end of round one to a leglock, came back to choke out Shannon “The Cannon” Ritch midway through the second round.

“If this is no time limit, he would have had me at the end of the first round,” Severn said. “I was caught and thought about tapping.”

Severn was wincing in pain as Ritch seemed on the verge of earning a measure of redemption against the UFC legend, who defeated him a month ago in Alaska. But the bell sounded ending the round, giving Severn another chance.

Visibly grimacing at each kick that hit his leg in the second round, Severn was floored by a right knee. But as Ritch pounded, Severn managed to spin on top of the smaller opponent before choking him out.

“It was just a basic choke, and I’ll tell you, I was fortunate to get it,” Severn said.

Severn improved to 66-11-7, while Ritch fell to 32-49.

Meanwhile, Rodriguez didn’t need nearly as much time for his victory, defeating Ruben “The Warpath” Villarreal midway through the first round after locking him in an armbar.

“I felt like he wasn’t a really great fighter,” Rodriguez said. “I’m waiting for the bigger-class guys … it was just practice.”

After shooting in for a takedown, Rodriguez eventually mounted Villarreal and blasted him with an elbow that opened up a serious cut over his left eye that signaled the end for the Warpath.

“I cut him really bad with the elbow and I knew (blood) was flowing into his eye,” Rodriguez said. “So I finished him off with an armbar.”

In a six-fight series between Hawaii’s top team of local fighters and a Next Generation team of mainland fighters put together by three-time Rage in the Cage champion Chris Brennan, “Brazilian” Johnny Sampino and Harris Sarmiento became the first locals to win a match against Next Generation.

Sampino opened the series by handing Josh Hinger his first career loss by majority decision.

“Brazilian” Johnny, who twice needed time to recover from low blows, dominated the fight both on his feet and on the ground to give Hawaii the first win of the night.

“I give him props, he was tough,” Sampino said. “I didn’t think (the fight) would last that long, but I had all my family and friends here supporting me and I was prepared for anything.”

Sampino had Hinger rocked at the end of the first and second rounds when the bell sounded, and only three separate low blows slowed Sampino down.

“In such an even matchup, it really takes your strength out,” Sampino said of the low blows. “We knew they had been undefeated against Hawaii fighters, so I just made sure to do my part to get us going.”

Brian Gauratti evened the score at 1-1 with a TKO victory over Kaleo Kwon at 2:24 of the first round after the referee stopped the fight with Kwon locked in a triangle armbar.

But then it was Sarmiento’s turn to put the Hawaii team back up, defeating one of Next Generation’s biggest up-and-coming fighters in Josh Smith by tapout at 2:58 of the second round.

Hawaii nearly took a 3-1 lead in the series as Sidney Silva and Fernando Gonzalez fought to a decision in which Silva was originally awarded the victory. But after some further deliberation ringside, the decision was reversed for Gonzalez, who connected on many more clean and powerful shots throughout the 9-minute fight.

Kaleo Padilla, who was a last-minute replacement for Ronald “Machine Gun” Jhun (who didn’t have doctor’s clearance to compete), went to a no contest with Adam Lynn after inadvertently catching Lynn with a thumb in the eye.

With the series at 2-2-1, Brennan, who was in the corner of each of his team’s fights, gave his club the series victory, tapping out Mark Moreno with an armbar at 1:14 of the first round.

“We knew coming in that they were very tough,” Brennan said of Hawaii’s top team. “I also knew that if my guys took their opponents down, we would beat them on the ground, but everyone wanted to see how tough they were.”

In preliminary fights, Kaipo Woelfel defeated Shawn Castro by knockout and Kaipo Gonzales defeated Duke Savagosa 54 seconds into the first by knockout in a kickboxing match.