Grab a Lion by the Tail

Lion Fight 21 Title Photo

In the much anticipated rematch of their Super Lightweight (140 lbs.) fight on September 20, 2013 – which took place outdoors on Fremont Street in front of The “D” Hotel & Casino in Las Vegas – Tetsuya Iwashita “Yamato” came hunting for Kevin Ross in LION FIGHT 21 at the Pechanga Resort & Casino in Temecula, California on Friday night, March 27, 2015. If their first fight was one of the bloodiest battles in Las Vegas Muay Thai history, the rematch promised to be monumental with Lion Fight’s Super Lightweight title in contention.

Controversy had erupted like a volcano out of the first fight’s split decision. Dissenting from the other two Nevada State Athletic Commission judges – G. Trowbridge and R. Hoyle, who’d both awarded Yamato the victory by a 48-47 margin on their score cards │ which is the same as a 3-2 win/loss differential in the round tally – Judge M. Smith saw Ross winning via a contrarian 48-47 parsing of the point spread. 

Ross Was OutspokenRoss later admitted that he’d expected a K-1 style (no clinch, no elbows) fight from the Japanese slugger. Kevin’s practice of focusing primarily on offense, his aggressive nature and his essential lack of interest in defense – coupled with Yamato’s numerous, clean, penetrating, elbow strikes – resulted in at least seven deep lacerations to the self-styled Soul Assassin’s face and head. The lacerations were inflicted primarily in rounds 1 and 3. Tetsuya said afterwards that he’d spared Kevin’s having to cross the line from injury to insult, with what ought to have been enough for WBC’s since crowned Super Lightweight World Champion to win that non-title Lion Fight.

In rounds 2 and 4, though, Ross had been busier than Yamato. Kevin scored repeatedly in those rounds, with technically excellent round kicks. The outcome of round 5 was open to debate. Both fighters scored with punches, elbows and round kicks. Hence, the Split Decision. After the fight, both sides were loudly outspoken about whom they thought had won the fight.


Tetsuya and his entourage were seen two hours later, cashing bets at The” D” Casino cashiers cage. They were fanning stacks of newly won money and posing jubilantly for a crowd of fans, who’d gone photo op with their cell phone cameras. Yamato had been observed in the casino with only two small bandages: one on each of his skinned elbows.

At the same time, Kevin Ross reportedly received more than 37 stitches to close his head lacerations. Kevin’s partisans posted photos on anti-social media of his lacerated face and head, declaring HIM to have been the winner. The Ross photos were captioned with profane condemnations of the Nevada State Athletic Commission’s judging. They were soon removed.

Both fighters were put on medical suspensions after the fight. Yamato got a 15 day suspension for a right cheek laceration. Ross was given a 30 day suspension for his multiple head lacerations.

Forcing Facts to Fit a Theory

 There’s no hiding in plain sight how the 10-Point Must System shaped the first fight’s numerical outcome, which then informed the controversy on anti-social media. The Nevada State Athletic Commission requires ringside judges to utilize the 10-point Must System in the scoring of individual rounds. The winner of a round MUST be awarded 10 points, while the loser of a round MUST get 9 or less points on the score cards.

Public OutcryWith knockdowns or penalties, say for fouls, 10-6 is the maximum differential you’re likely to see in scoring a round – making use of only five out of ten possible integers – where almost never do more than four numbers (10, 9, 8, and 7) come into play. In actual practice, the numbers 10 and 9 are used exclusively in the preponderance of round scoring. Virtually always awarding 10 points to the round’s winner and 9 points to the loser, thus, effectively reduces scoring to a win-loss tally of rounds.

Say for argument’s sake that Yamato won rounds 1 and 3 while Ross took rounds 2 and 4 on all of the score cards in their first fight. Then they’d have been tied at 38-38 going into the 5th round. Even a minor judgement call either way then would have produced a margin switch in the overall tally, as evidenced in the contrarian parsing of the 48-47 point spread for a Split Decision. 

Marginal differences in performance thus get quantified – like the functional equivalent of false positives – into 10-9’s on the basis of palpably subjective judgements. Such false positives are engineered into the circuitry of a 10-Point-Must System with Must-Have-A-Winner methodology. Splitting hairs in round scoring just increases the probability that the final tally of points will NOT quantify what just happened in the ring, giving rise inevitably to much of the public outcry, when the judges’ scores themselves are judged at the end of a fight. How many times have you seen that happen?


It happened, for example, when Chike Lindsay fought Yodsænklai Fairtex. As always, Yodsænklai gave away the first round. Yodsenklai was tap-tapping, as if he were in Thailand, taking time to get the bets down. But in second round, he began to carve up Chike. From then on, the fight was totally one-sided. By the fifth round, there was so much of Chike’s blood in the ring that it looked like a massacre.

Yodsænklai Fairtex vs. Chike LindsayJudges Glenn Trowbridge and John Baker scored the fight 49-46. Patrica Morse Jarman somehow scored it 48-47. Irrespective of whether Chike won more than one round, margin suppression in 10-Point Must System made THE FINAL SCORE look very close on that card, when in fact, it wasn’t close at all to anyone who saw the fight. AXS-TV broadcaster Michael Schiavello criticized the judging, calling Patricia Morse Jarman a “crazy imbecile” for having such a close score.

A Stitch in Time Saves Nine

Despite the fact that Kevin Ross was seriously lacerated in the first fight, requiring a substantial amount of medical treatment, and that Yamato was comparatively uninjured, having been seen grinning from ear to ear a few hours later, it remains the case that Ross was more active in rounds 2 and 4. Most of the damage to Kevin was inflicted in rounds 1 and 3. Given the artificially compressed margins in scoring each of those rounds, controversy probably would have been averted with a more meaningful point spread where Tetsuya drew so much blood from Ross. So 10-8’s for the Japanese slugger in rounds 1 and 3 with an EVEN 10-10 in the 5th would’ve tallied an uncontroversial 48-46 Yamato victory, despite three 10’s for the self-styled Soul Assassin, where he’d earned them. If we’ve got to teach to the test, a stitch in time saves nine.

On Friday night, March 27, 2015, both fighters arrived at the Pechanga Hotel & Casino ready to settle any debate about who should’ve won Yamato vs. Ross I. The arena was reportedly sold out. Tetsuya was heard beforehand by Master Bob Chaney to state that this time he would show “no mercy to Ross”…and “will not feel sorry for Ross’s damage” and…”will not carry him” as he did in the first fight…thereby “allowing all of the controversy to happen”. He also said that he “would cut him [Kevin] up”.

Both fighters weighed in just under 140 pounds. Tetsuya Iwashita “Yamato” (33-11) is 27 years old, while Kevin Ross (30-8) is 34 years old. Kevin paraded into the arena with a motorcycle rider’s skeleton mask covering his face. He was accompanied by his trainers: Kirian Fitzgibbons, Mark Beecher, and Chaz Mulkey. Yamato entered the ring with his own trainers from the Yamato Gym in Nagoya, Japan.

Kevin’s Low Kick CounterTetsuya Iwashita “Yamato” (Yamato Gym Aichi in Nagoya, Japan)
vs. Kevin Ross (Combat Sports Academy Dublin, CA)
Lion Fight Super Lightweight Championship │ 140 lbs. │ 5×3

When referee Coban summoned them, both fighters met in the center of the ring with a mutual two glove tap. Off first bell, Tetsuya launched into five consecutive, quick, snapping, left and right, inside and outside low kicks that Kevin absorbed without checking, essentially ignoring them. After Ross threw a couple of his own round kicks, Yamato fired off two more quick, low, round kicks to Kevin’s legs that scored.


At this point, only 35 seconds into the fight, Kevin’s left leg was already showing blood red patches above the knee and on his large exposed posterior left quadriceps. Yamato continued with more low kicks and attempted a high kick that missed. Ross countered with technically sound, sit-down low kicks. Yamato did not react to the strikes. Kevin then scored a singular Teep kick to the right side of Tetsuya’s abdomen and seemed to be developing a rhythm to his offense. Yamato volleyed off more left and right low leg kicks, while Ross maintained the pace with his own low leg kicks.

Rhythm to His OffenseExcept for several pawed and pushed left jabs by both fighters, at this point, virtually no punches had been thrown by either of them. Except for Kevin’s Teep kick, all hard contact was by the legs and to the legs. Ross then threw an effective left round kick. His shin made contact with the right side of Tetsuya’s abdomen. Yamato again did not react. He continued to whip more low kicks into Kevin’s legs. Both fighters exchanged more essentially unchecked low leg kicks, while moving around the ring. Tetsuya struck Ross right of center in the abdomen with a solid left hook punch. Kevin attempted to clinch, but Yamato pulled loose and moved back into firing range.


Then, at 2:21 in the first round, Tetsuya struck Ross with a left diagonal kick to the liver area. He followed immediately with a solid straight left hand punch to that same liver area. These strikes prompted Kevin to coil and drop his right elbow while backing up. Despite maintaining his poker face and only dropping his right elbow to guard his liver area, Ross now seemed to be injured.

Solid Left HookKevin attempted a left jab. Up until the two liver strikes, virtually all of Yamato’s solid hard strikes had been directed at the abdomen level or below. But simultaneously with Kevin’s defensive left jab and lowered right elbow guard, Tetsuya followed with a high, swinging, horizontal, flat left elbow. It crashed onto the front side of Kevin’s right temple, visibly stunning and injuring him. Ross then staggered back to the nearby neutral corner with his back to the center of the ring.

Referee Coban immediately came over to check on Ross. He signaled a standing 8-count. Ross indicated that he was alright and wanted to continue. Yamato charged in. He whipped a high, thudding, left round kick into Kevin’s upper body. All of Tetsuya’s offense was now aimed high. He swarmed in, throwing a barrage of left and right elbows with punches to Kevin’s head. Ross tried to defend himself with both hands and arms up.



The Skull Crusher

After several elbows connected, a laceration was visible on Kevin’s upper left forehead. Blood gushed from the wound. Tetsuya’s swarming onslaught of explosive strikes to Kevin’s head continued. Referee Coban correctly blocked Yamato away and waved both hands to stop the fight. Lacerated and bleeding but apparently lucid, Ross acknowledged the stoppage. The stunned audience watched Yamato celebrate jubilantly. It was officially over at 2:43 in the first round. Yamato had decisively won Lion Fight’s 140 lbs. Super Lightweight title without recourse to the judges.

Winner: Tetsuya Iwashita “Yamato” by TKO at 2:43 of Round 1



“Oh, somewhere in this favored land the sun is shining bright,
The band is playing somewhere, and somewhere hearts are light;
And somewhere men are laughing, and somewhere children shout,
But there is no joy in Mudville – mighty Casey has struck out.”

No Mercy

Tony Fausto (Pacific Training Center in San Diego, CA)
vs. Nick Chasteen (Best Muay Thai in Phoenix, AZ)
Professional Welterweights │ 145 lbs. │ 5×3

In his first professional fight, Tony Fausto took on the more experienced Nick Chasteen – with a long, amateur career and 3-1 as a professional – in a crowd-pleasing, hard hitting, action-packed fight that lasted until the last minute of the fourth round. Consistent with his pre-fight bravado, Tony started with a challenging stare-down in the center of the ring.

Chasteen's combinations made contactAt the opening bell, Tony fought very aggressively with Muay Thai low kicks and punches in the first half of Round 1, moving Nick rearward. In the latter part of the round, however, Chasteen’s superior and repeated combinations on both offense and defense began to make hard contact with the less experienced Fausto.

In rounds 2 & 3, Nick continued to dominate the numerous exchanges with a large variety of skilled combinations of kicks and punches – taking a substantial toll on the less-experienced but still-aggressive and competitive Fausto. By the end of the third round, Tony was bleeding from the mouth and broken down physically, but he maintained his position despite the punishment. After taking a standing 8-count, Chasteen finally overwhelmed Tony with combinations that all connected.

Injured and stunned, Fausto took a standing 8-count in Round 4. For the rest of the round and until the end, Tony was out on his feet. He was being held up by sheer will. In the last minute of the round, after a final onslaught, Tony finally fell to his knees. The referee stopped the fight coincidentally with Fausto’s corner throwing in the towel, which does not stop a fight in Nevada.

Winner: Nick Chasteen by TKO at 2:19 of Round 4

Jose Lopez (Undisputed in El Cajon, CA) vs.
Josh Shepard (One Kick Gym in Las Vegas, NV)
Professional Super Welterweights │ 155 lbs. │ 5×3

Midway through the first round, a clearly-aggressive and forward-moving Josh Shepard (3-1) resumed his winning way by defeating Jose Lopez (5-3) with an extremely accurate upward left knee strike directly into Jose’s liver – dropping Lopez straight down like rock. The knee strike brought back memories of Ronda Rousey’s dropping Sara McCann with a similar knee strike in UFC 170. Some minutes later, Jose Lopez was still standing at the ropes and still grimacing in pain, standing but unable to bend over.

Winner: Josh Shepard by TKO at 1:33 of Round 1

Shepard’s Knee

Sam Poulton (Chaisai Muay Thai in Seattle, WA) vs.
Victor Saravia (Muay Thai America Gym in North Hollywood, CA)
Professional Featherweights │ 122 lbs. │ 5×3

In a competitive and entertaining Muay Thai fight, Victor Savaria (2-1) outlasted and finally wore down the relentless and swarming Sam Poulton (2-1). Both fighters were aggressive in the fight with numerous Muay Thai strikes that connected. However, the ultimate difference in the fight appeared to be Victor Saravia’s incredible strike accuracy, coupled with his hand and leg speed.

By the end of Round 3, Sam was clearly bruised and bloodied with a severe nose injury. By the fifth round, and still looking fresh, the non-stop onslaught of the superbly conditioned Saravia had completely worn down and overwhelmed the beaten but still pursuing Poulton. Victor won a unanimous decision from the ringside judges. Similar to Tony Fausto earlier, Sam Poulton showed great heart in a losing effort.

Winner: Victor Savaria by Unanimous Decision: 50-45, 50-44 and 49-45.

Hard Kicking Malaipet

Ben Yelle (Warriors Muay Thai / U.S. Muay Thai / Al’s Boxing Club in Marquette, MI)
vs. Malaipet Sasiprapa (Sasiprapa USA; Fresno, CA)
Professional Welterweights │ 145 lbs. │ 5×3

In a fight characterized by Ben’s lack of contact and beginning in Round 1, Yelle (23-16) was continually active and went through the motions of generating a lot of Muay Thai strikes against Malipet (145-29). Ben was never physically close enough to the hard kicking Maliapet, clearly, to have any of these numerous strikes actually land. In keeping a very safe distance, pushing punches and swinging at air, Yelle did not generate any form of effective offense and never damaged Maliapet. Even though Maliapet – who reportedly took the fight on one week’s notice – faded in the fourth and fifth rounds, he received a unanimous decision from the ringside judges

Winner: Malaipet by Unanimous Decision: 50-46, 49-46 and 49-46.

Chajmaa Bellekhal (Hemmers Gym in Breda, Holland) vs.
Tiffany Van Soest (Black House in Redondo Beach, CA)
Professional Female Featherweights │ 125 lbs. │ 5×3

Along with her theatrically animated ring entry, her blatantly disrespectful attitude and her odd center-of-the-ring face-off, Chajmaa Bellekhal (44-10-2) exhibited the most grotesque facial expressions and unconventional body postures in anyone’s ringside memory. In the fight itself, Tiffany Van Soest (10-2) – with a brand-new, slimmed-down, and angry-girl approach (à la Ronda Rousey) – gave her typically valid Muay Thai fight performance.

Bellekhal absorbed a substantial amount of one-sided punishment

Chajmaa’s vocally amplified facial grimaces with every move, frequently turning her back, and her total clumsiness during the fight — coupled with an apparent lack of any visible skill – raised the question of how this could possibly be her 55th professional Muay Thai fight? Ultimately, Bellekhal absorbed a substantial amount of one-sided punishment from Van Soest. Even though Tiffany wasn’t able to stop the absorptive and obviously out-classed Dutch visitor, she won every round in a unanimous decision.

Winner: Tiffany Van Soest by Unanimous Decision: 50-45, 50-45 and 50-45.

Tiffany Won Every RoundAXS-TV credits its biggest ratings success in Lion Fight Muay Thai broadcast history to the efforts of Paulo Tocha, who brought together USMTA and WMC to organize this epic event. Paulo promoted in Thailand at Pattaya Threpasit Stadium and Pattaya Fairtex Stadium. He also worked inside Thailand’s prison system and was the first American to promote Friday night fights at Lumpinee Stadium. (For more on Paulo Tocha, see “From Desperation to Inspiration: Paulo Tocha” in Muay Thaimes®, Summer of 2010, Vol. IV, No. 2, pp. 69-79).

Dream Team

End Story MarkAXS-TV broadcasts the Lion Fight Muay Thai events LIVE on selected Friday evenings with announcers Michael Schiavello and Pat Miletech. Unlike difficult Friday evenings in Las Vegas — drawing limited numbers of locals, while tourists and visitors from California and around the country are still arriving at various times throughout the evening – north San Diego County apparently has abundant volumes of fans willing and able to fill the Muay Thai fight arena.


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