Undefeated Whanganui kickboxer Swade Wallace added a new string to his bow with a head kick knockout of Auckland's Sean Luatua in the co-main event of Night of Assassins 4 at Springvale Stadium on Saturday night.
Bringing the home town faithful to their feet, Wallace extended his record to six straight victories as he caught the desperate Luatua coming forward with his head low while throwing overhand punches nearing end of the three round fight at 78kg.
City Kickboxing's Luatua had been cautious of Wallace's power throughout the bout, backing towards the corner from the opening bell, with Wallace patiently looking to connect with combinations of straight punches and leg kicks.
Lutatua countered with straight midsection kicks of his own to maintain the distance, before a big leg kick by Wallace buckled him momentarily, having to block and duck a flying knee from the Assassins Muay Thai fighter.
The punishment led to a standing eight count, with Luatua looking to defend with a leg trip towards the end of the round, which Wallace countered.
Continue to move back and look to counter, Wallace continued with the leg kicks, which Wallace basically walked through while looking to connect with hook punches and low kicks of his own.
Luatua then pressed forward momentarily, with 1-2 jab combinations, as Wallace was breathing hard and conserving some strength at the next bell.
After a exchange of kicks for the final round, with the combatants then grappling along the ropes, Luatua looked to get the jab going and with the ten-second warning coming he sprang out throwing non-stop, leaning forward with his head low.
Wallace's kick was right on the button, as Luatua dropped down with his leg folded underneath him and eyes rolling back, signifying an immediate wave off by the referee.
After being helped back to his corner, the Aucklander recovered shortly afterwards for the official announcement of the winner.
"It was a bit of a surprise, but I listened to my corner when I was in there," the delighted Wallace said backstage about his first head kick finish.
"I played my game, hurt his leg.
"My corner said he was ducking his head, so [the kick] was there.
"It's just another day at the office, back in the gym on Monday.
"We're talking about title fights next year. We're in no hurry, I've had five fights this year, so I've been active.
"We never fold under pressure."
Wallace thanked his trainer and event promotor Kyle Gallacher for continuing to provide a platform for local fighters to be seen and heard.
In the main event, Maranui Muay Thai's Gene Elbourne won the battle of the Aucklanders with Wimbledon Muay Thai's Ale Taumalolo to lift the Pro IKBF NZ Super Lightweight (66.67kg) title by a narrow split decision after five rounds of three minutes each.
In a more patient and technical matchup than was seen in the other fights, with three rounds of two minutes, Elbourne and Taumalolo were feeling each other out with light kicks early on, plus a little gamesmanship as they smiled at each other following exchanges.
Both them looked to lower the other with leg trips and sweeps off kick counters, while a cut began to open up underneath Taumalolo's eye in the second round.
Elbourne tried a leaping knee and then followup knees in the tight clinches, as both men would tumble to the mat a couple of times.
That tumbling got dangerous in the third round as Elbourne tried another leaping knee that led to both men going up and over the top rope, Elbourne's momentum seeing him do a 180 degree roll as he landed hard on the wooden floor.
After a recovery period, the action resumed with trips and grappling still the order of they day, while both men exchanged elbow strikes before the bell.
Into the championship rounds and Taumalolo looked to increase his workrate despite getting tied up in clinches, as both men continued to tumble to the canvas or grapple at the ropes, while Elbourne looked to sneak a spinning back fist through his opponent's gloves.
The wrestling continued in the final round, to the point a frustrated Taumalolo ended up with a waistlock and drove Elbourne down with a rugby-style tackle.
Elbourne got off more strikes and a spinning fist, and later in the round got a good trip on a head kick block, before both men were tumbling around again at the final bell, with Elbourne ultimately getting his hand raised and the title strapped to his waist.
For the locals on the undercard, Assassins' Justin Mitchell showed the step up from padded fights was no problem as he defeated TPK's Mason Doyle when the referee stopped the fight in Round 2.
Mitchell flew at Doyle with a knee right from the opening bell, leading to a wild scrap on the ropes before they were separated and warned by the official to heed instructions.
Mitchell then looked to put together the combinations going with the knee and hard punches back into the corners, before locking up the clinch to make four straight knee strikes before the bell.
A side kick to the ribs had Doyle immediately grimace in pain and Mitchell went straight at the spot, prompting the referee to interject and wave the bout off when it was clear the TPK fighter was hurt.
Awa Kings' Bruce Ihaia pleased his clubmates after grinding his way to a split decision victory over exhausted Assassins' fighter Rewi James Peki, who had been slowed by a couple of accidental groin shots from knee strikes in the clinch in the opening round.
Ihaia fought on defence against Peki, hooking the arm around the shoulder to pull him into clinches and turn the bout into a fight in a phone booth, with the Assassin needing recovery time after the groin shots.
Both men fell in the grapples in the second round, with one Ihaia trip to the canvas looking like it came from a Peki punch, but the referee was on the other side of the maul and ruled it another slip with no standing eight count.
A leg kick by Ihaia and some more knees from the clinch looked like it might turn momentum his way with Peki very drained.
Ihaia then used his petrol reserves to pound on the weary Peki in the corner in the third round,and while he fired back a few wild shots before the final bell, the strikes did not have the same accuracy.
The timing of the rally was perfect, with Ihaia doing enough to convince two of the three judges to get his hand raised.
And it was a good homecoming from Wellington for TLP's Mohi Waihi, as the former Marist rugby player picked up a unanimous decision win over Awa Kings' Haimona Tamati.
Unlike the previous bout, both men wanted to use distance and space early on, before Tamati moved back into the ropes, looking for counter strikes, which ended up with a grapple.
The fight kept a crisp pace early in Round 2, Tamati trying a high knee, while Waihi connected with jabs, followed by countering a kick and getting one of his own.
He looked for the big overhand right shots, but snuck a solid jab through the gloves before the bell.
In the final round and both fighters still continued to circle at range, Waihi getting some hook shots in to see Tamati move back to the ropes, where he was pressed and had to cover up.
Tamati tried one more late rally, but ending up in a mid-ring clinch, they were separated for the last time, and it wasn't enough to prevent Waihi getting the decision.
Gene Elbourne bt Ale Taumalolo by split decision.
Co-Main Event: Swade Wallace bt Sean Luatua by knockout.
Undercard: Mike Kapi bt Jethro Campbell by unanimous decision; Mohi Waihi bt Haimona Tamati by unanimous decision; Eden Phillips bt Jared Eveleigh by unanimous decision; Bruce Ihaia bt Rewi James Peki by split decision; Justin Mitchell bt Mason Boyle by referee stoppage; Tony Jaggard bt Luke Texas by unanimous decision.
Padded Fights: Ryan Brown bt George Roberts by unanimous decision; Liam Gillies bt Puakeri Winterburn by unanimous decision; Tuhau Williams bt Damien Abrams by unanimous decision; Noah Payne bt Dion Wilson by unanimous decision.