x_1_world_champions_poster_vitale_starnesHonolulu, HI (USA): Hawaiian fighting favorite Falaniko Vitale (27-9) proved he is still a force to be reckoned with in MMA, as he was victorious in his return to the sport at X-1 World Event’s “CHAMPIONS II” event this past Saturday, March 20th, at the Neal Blaisdell Arena in Honolulu.

Vitale retained his X-1 World Middleweight title against fellow UFC veteran Kalib Starnes (10-5-1), submitting his foe with a front choke just 2:22 into the first round. Starnes hung tough early on, taking the champion down in the opening minutes of the bout. “I know I got a few takedowns there. I felt like it was easy to take him down,” Starnes told Sherdog.com. “I feel like I could have kept doing that over and over again.”

But Vitale was able to weather the storm, and he capitalized on positioning to trip his Canadian opponent to the ground and took top position before transitioning to side-mount. “Once I get somebody in side control, I know I have him,” Vitale said. “I was trying to go for a crucifix, trying to land some punches, and that didn’t work out. Then he put me in half guard and I applied the hammer choke, and I was fortunate to get him.”

The Ultimate Fighter season 3 semi-finalist had never been submitted before. “It was just a tight pin, and he got a front choke. He was starting to slide it on, and usually those front chokes aren’t very effective; you can just peel them off. I didn’t feel like I was in much danger. Just the way he slid it in with the back of his hand — and he has big arms — and the way he laid on it with his shoulder, I wasn’t able to peel it off.”

In the co-main event, Harris “The Hitman” Sarmiento (29-20) garnered a controversial split-decision win over The Ultimate Fighter season 9 competitor Richie Whitson (6-1). The two lightweights battled for five rounds, with Whitson pushing the pace with his takedowns and boxing.

However, it was the power punches of Sarmiento that damaged Whitson’s face and ultimately earned him the favor of two out of the three ringside judges. “The crowd booed. They thought I won,” Whitson said. “But it happens, you know. You leave it up to the judges, and it can go either way.”

Meanwhile, Dave Moreno (8-7) captured the X-1 featherweight crown, as he took the back of Kurrent Cockett (4-1) and flattened him out before sinking the tap-inducing rear-naked choke 3:30 into the second frame. The X-1 bantamweight title was also on the line, as Bryson Hansen (5-0) defeated Riley Dutrob (2-1) via split-decision.

The unbeaten Hansen remains perfect through five professional bouts. Finally, Sengoku veteran and 2008 Olympic gold medalist Satoshi Ishii made quick work of Sasae Paogofie in an exhibition match, as he submitted him with a kimura in 2:49.

“What a great night of fights it was!” exclaimed X-1 owner/promoter Mike Miller. “The fighters put on a great show, and the fans went home happy. It can’t get much better than that!”