The Ultimate Fighter: Australia vs Canada representative, Zein Saliba made a successful return to competitive fighting on Saturday night when he submitted previously unbeaten Maui Tuigamala in the main event of Australian Fighting Championships 11.
The event took place at the Melbourne Pavillion in Victoria, Australia and was streamed live via GFL.tv.
Fighting out of the TP Gym in Sydney, Saliba landed an early right before the 26 year-old initiated a takedown attempt. Tuigamala defended which allowed Saliba to throw constant knees to the thighs of his opponent. The two continued to battle for superior position against the ropes before the referee broke it. Both were cautious on their feet, before Saliba was finally able to takedown as Tuigamala threw a leg-kick. The fighters straight away got tangled in the ropes which forced the fight to be restarted in the middle of the ring. There, Saliba landed short strikes from the top. Tuigamala escaped back to his feet but had to defend a guillotine as the round came to an end.
The 23 year-old Queensland fighter started the second round with a heavy leg-kick, however Saliba wrestled the fight to the ground where he quickly secured mount position. Nicknamed the “Coach”, Saliba controlled the action there throwing elbows and punches, as Tuigamala struggled to free himself. Saliba transitioned to the head-arm choke which put Tuigamala to sleep.
With the technical submission victory, Saliba remains undefeated in what was his first bout since defeating current UFC fighter Vik Grujic back in December 2012. Saliba had spent time in the TUF house, where he was eliminated in his opening bout to Elias Theodorou who would end up winning the season. The win takes his record to 5-0 while Tuigamala loses for the first time in his pro career to go 4-1.
Nineteen year-old teenager Kitt Campbell showed that he’s a prospect to keep an eye on in the semi-main event, scoring a submission win inside a minute. His opponent, Chris Birch, was dropped by a straight right as he came forward. Campbell immediately punished him, throwing a series of strikes, before taking his back and locking up the rear-naked choke submission to get the tap. The official win came only 46-seconds into the fight for the Evolve MMA trained fighter.
Also impressive was 27 year-old Lance Ettia who stopped his opponent James Londrigan with just over two-minutes gone in the bout. Ettia cornered his opponent early where he got he better of the exchange. The fighters momentarily hit the canvas, however they popped straight back up where Ettia started to swing wildly. The strikes found there mark though, as Londrigan was dropped and the follow up punches forced the referee to halt the fight at 2:18.
In a technical battle, Gamebred MMA fighter Jason Lonigan rightfully was awarded the split-points decision against Nick Davis. The 39 year-old stayed light on his feet as he chose to strike from outside the pocket. With both suffering cuts over their eyes, Davis did have his moments late in the fight as he looked for that knock-out blow but in the end, two judges scored the fight to Lonigan 30-27, while one judge unusually scored it 29-27 to Davis.
In a back-and-forth bout, charismatic John Beirouti overcame nearly being stopped in the first round to come back and score a second-round TKO win over Chris Lindner while former Commonwealth Games wrestler, Stevie Kelly made a successful MMA debut with an impressive unanimous decision win over Alexandra Muir in a women’s bout.