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Kawanago laughs; Lisita stews.
Kawanago laughs; Lisita stews.
Their return bout in ONE FC: Rise of Heroes should be personal and explosive.
by rick olivares
It was a heated press conference for the ONE FC Rise of Heroes last March 11 at the atrium of the SM Mall of Asia when Australian “Ruthless” Rob Lisita and former Legend FC featherweight champion Yusuke Kawanago took the podium to talk about their fight.
The two battled in a Legend FC bout in August of 2012 where the Japanese fighter came away with an impressive unanimous decision win.
Kawanago opened with some fireworks by saying that Lisita wasn’t that good and he’d repeat over the Australian.
Lisita turned beet red and immediately got hot under the collar.
“I’m gonna put my fist on his chin and get my hand raised. I believe I have the power to knock him out. But it’s a fight where anything can happen. I will do my best, and I think my best is better than his best,” countered Lisita as an amused Kawanago looked on. The assemblage of media and fans lapped it up. There’s nothing like some verbal sparring to add some color to the fight. And after Filipino fighter Eugene Toquero opened the press con with his own colorful thoughts and commentary especially about Malaysian foe Gianni Subba, the intense verbal sparring between Kawanago and Lisita pushed the raging hormones into overdrive.
I watched that Legend FC fight between the two and while that was two years ago with Lisita winning three matches since, the Australian will have to come up with a new game plan in order to back up his talk because he didn’t look impressive at all against the Japanese knockout artist who punished him. It was a miracle that after three rounds, Lisita was still standing. Maybe that’s a testament to his tough noggin.
In their first fight, Kawanago displayed excellent floor defense when Lisita took him down twice in the first round. The Australian was not able to inflict any damage on the then Legend FC featherweight champion. Kawanago closed out the first round by knocking down Lisita with a knee then landing a flurry of blows. Ruthless Rob was literally saved by the bell.
The Japanese fighter stepped on his attacks in the last two rounds with powerful left jabs that rocked Lisita and knees that the Australian was force-fed. Ruthless Rob struggled to put together combinations and any telling strikes or kicks were too few and far in between to do any serious damage. He looked slow especially on his defense when he missed a leg kick. Kawanago took advantage of that by catching him on the turn and pounding Lisita some. But credit the Australian for staying on his feet.
For the return bout, Lisita promised to exact revenge for a fight he felt that he felt he had won (I wonder why though) and a battle “which the fans will truly enjoy. Fans can expect ruthless aggression, a dog fight, a good scrap.”
After that loss to Kawanago, the Australian won three fights in a row, all by way of stoppage. In his last bout, he was the first fighter to ever beat Japanese mixed martial arts legend “Lion” Takeshi Inoue via stoppage.
Kawanago on the other hand was in limbo for the entire 2013 as Legend FC was dissolved. He remained under contract and was unable to fight. He returned to the ring last February in a Pancrase fight against Hiroyuki Oshiro in a match that ended in a draw.
In a quick interview at the ONE FC Rise of Heroes presscon, Kawanago blamed his poor performance on ring rust. “But I will be ready for Lisita come May,” he said through an interpreter.
What makes Lisita believe that he has a chance?
“I have grown more in every aspect of mixed martial arts and have shown it in my fights. I am so motivated for this fight,” he said. “I’m a different animal now. It’s my time.”
Both fighters are looking to make an immediate impact in the ONE FC Featherweight division as a victory will propel them to the shortlist of contenders for the World Championship belt currently held by Japanese Koji Oishi.