Cutting weight is pure hell, both physically and mentally. Due to the nature of this tournament, we stayed cutting weight for the majority of the time we were in the house. Couple the cut with cultural differences and communication barriers, there were bound to be misunderstandings. It's unfortunate that the miscommunication between Page and Zulu was featured so heavily because there was very little drama in the house. One of the coolest takeaways from this whole experience was getting to learn about different cultures and how we all come together for this one sport.
In preparation for Zulu's fight, I remember being pretty worried about his ground game and jiujitsu awareness. I got a chance to roll with him myself – it was pretty apparent that he was tough and unwilling to submit, but it was obvious he was very green on the mat. The coaches recognized that he needed some ground work and spent a lot of time working on his jiujitsu. In sparring with him, I found that his striking was very sharp. Being a southpaw with a lanky build, he was able to mix it up well and and it was clear he had a solid understanding of Muay Thai.
I didn't know much about Hiromasa going in. I knew he was well versed in grappling, it was something we discussed in the house. Though conversation was difficult, we all shared stories as best as we could. Being able to see his story with subtitles was a pretty neat thing! I really enjoyed getting to see shots of Japan and where Hiro trains. The Japanese culture is very respectful by nature and Hiro was a great representative of Japan the entire time he was in the house.
I shared some interesting and very different things in common with both of these guys. Zulu and I have both been in front of cameras before. When I was 20 years old, I starred in a docuseries for MTV called Caged which featured fights from the end of my amateur career. Zulu was featured in an episode of Vice's Fightland Meets which showed his rise in the African MMA world and the struggles he faced. Hiro and I both share a love for teaching. In watching tonight's episode, I found out that, like me, he teaches martial arts to young children. It's crazy to think that all of these people living worlds apart can lead such parallel lives.
The beef between Joe B and Henry seemed deep rooted and very personal. These guys have a lot of history, and I didn't really feel like it was my place to step in and take a side during their arguments. Fortunately, we didn't have to sit through many of those riffs since everything tapered off after this particular battle of words.
In the early part of their fight, Zulu did a great job of keeping distance with long kicks and jabs. This was the game plan. Hiro scored a takedown off a kick that Zulu didn't set up, moving into half guard and started dropping elbows. One landed right above Zulu's eye and opened him up. Though Zulu's ground game wasn't a match for Hiro, he really did a good job of being scrappy and making it tough for Hiro. He was throwing elbows from his back and stayed really competitive throughout the first round. Hiro's best submission is his Rear Naked Choke and I was really impressed with Zulu for being able to hold out for over 20 seconds to make it to round two.
In the second round, Zulu came out a little more aggressive. He showcased the striking techniques that got him noticed and he definitely got the better of the stand up. He had Hiro hurt and moving backwards, but he ended up running right into a takedown. Once he had him on the ground, Hiro was able to shutdown Zulu at every turn. Zulu got mounted and ended up giving up his back, allowing Hiro to sink in that Rear Naked Choke that ultimately ended the fight.
With another week in the books and another great first round fight, team Flyweight continues to produce. With as great as these fights have all looked on TV, it really doesn't do it justice. Next fight up is Adam “Turtleman” Antolin against Damacio Page. Don't miss next week, you'll definitely want to see the exciting match up between these two vets.