HELPLESS against a master of the ground game, Crisanto Pitpitunge relinquished the Pacific X-Treme Combat bantamweight title to Michinori Tanaka via unanimous decision in PXC 37 Saturday night at the Ynares Sports Arena in Pasig.
The 26-year-old cop from Baguio failed to survive the toughest challenge of his career as his 22-year-old Japanese opponent relied on a wide array of ground moves that further exposed the weakness of the Filipino and the rest of Team Lakay.
All three judges scored the fight that went the five-round limit at 48-46 in favor of the visitor, whose 20-day US training with Ultimate Fighting Championship fighter Urijah Faber paid off as he remained undefeated in eight matches and snapped the Filipino’s four-fight win streak.
“I couldn’t believe it,” an emotional Tanaka addressed the crowd through an interpreter shortly after the fight. “My opponent was really tough, but I had to maintain my undefeated record.”
Pitpitunge, who suffered only his second loss in six bouts, took the fight to Tanaka with his striking and conjured a couple of surprising ground moves that could’ve turned the game around.
But once Tanaka caught his kicks, the Filipino would always go and stay down.
“Frustrating,” Pitpitunge told Spin.ph inside the dugout after the title fight. “Pero ayos na rin para makita kung anong kulang at mga pagkakamali. Sa susunod, alam na anong dapat gawin.”
“(Magaling yung ground game niya) as expected,” added Pitpitunge, who worked on his ground defense with his more renowned Lakay teammates in Honorio Banario and Eduard Folayang. “Yun lang, naunahan ako at ang hirap maka-escape. Kailangan doblehin `yung training, more on ground.
“Lagi namin ginagawa `yung drills pero hindi naman in-expect na ganun ka-lakas `yung Hapon,” Pitpitunge’s coach and Team Lakay founder Mark Sanglao said.
“Kung sana pag suntok sa kanya at pinilit niyang tumayo, siguro maraming chance pang nakatayo siya at pumunta sa advantage niyang position,” the 35-year-old mentor added.
“A high-level MMA fight,” PXC CEO EJ Calvo said. “Tanaka got the edge and worked his opponent quite a bit. But one thing I got to say, Crisanto Pitpitunge’s got heart and he deserved the belt he won. There’s nothing to be ashamed of.”
In the main undercard, Korea's Jang Yong Kim clinched a shot at the featherweight title bout as he scored a first-round kimura submission victory over Nate Thorell of Hawaii.
Ernesto Montilla carried the Philippine banner as he scored a technical knockout win against Jerome Wanawan in an all-Pinoy bout.
Rolando Dy, son of former world boxing champion Rolando Navarette, also made an impression as he dealt Arex Montalban his first loss by forcing his compatriot to submit via armbar with only three seconds to go in the first round of the night's opening fight.
Troy Bantiag, another Filipino who saw action, came out unsuccessful, however, as he lost to Guamanian Trevin Jones via unanimous decision.
In other bouts, Reno Remigio deafeated Hong Seung Chan, Takumi Nakayama beat Johnny Pecina, and Shafiq Samad scored a submission win versus Wesley Machado.