Dameron Kirby was cautiously optimistic entering last Saturday’s mixed martial arts bout against Jason Brown, having earlier defeated his 170-pound rival but lost twice previously to others at Royal Farms Arena in Baltimore.
“I actually lost here to one of Jason’s teammates,” said Kirby, winner by second-round TKO over Brown nearly a year ago. “The goal is always to dominate all three rounds or to put my opponent to sleep, but I knew Jason could take a hell of a punch.”
Although Kirby failed to earn a repeat stoppage of Brown, “The Bruiser” outmaneuvered and out-boxed his adversary for a split-decision in the first of a 12-bout card of the 26th Shogun Fights, an event that takes place twice yearly in October and April at Royal Farms Arena.
“Jason takes a hell of a punch. I stuck him a few times really good, but he ate all of them,” said Kirby, 36, who trains out of the Evolve Academy in Gaithersburg.
“After the fight, he came up to me and said, ‘I think you broke my jaw with one of those punches.’ But he kept coming forward, and I respect him for that.”
A father of four children ages 3, 5, 7 and 9, Kirby lives in Jessup and works as a striking instructor and a co-owner at the Annapolis-based facility Team Randori Mixed Martial Arts. Kirby’s oldest of two sons, Elijah, was cage-side in Virginia when his father rained a number of elbows and right hands on Brown that caused profuse bleeding from a cut over one of Brown’s eyes.
“Elijah loves it, and he takes classes also,” said Kirby, a 1999 graduate of Gwynn Park High in Prince George’s County, where he played football, basketball and ran track.
“I’ve been in martial arts since I was 11, so the first time I saw UFC and MMA, I wanted to be involved. Elijah plays football and other sports, but he can do whatever he wants to do. I’m not pressuring him in an particular direction.”
By alternating from orthodox to southpaw stance, Kirby kept Brown off balance throughout most of the first round, preventing his rival from closing distance on attack. But Kirby spent much of the second on the floor with Brown on top, avoiding Brown’s submission attempt via rear naked choke.
“First round, I was just pacing myself to wait him out because I knew he was looking for the takedown. I also knew he was waiting for the overhand right to come over the top, so I switched it up to confuse him a little bit with jab being the right hand and the overhand coming from the left,” said Kirby.
“Even in the second round, I felt like I was safe and not in danger of being choked. He had his legs in tight, so I couldn’t get out. But I just figured I’d wait it out, come back in the third round, make sure he didn’t get another takedown and then pick him apart by boxing.”
The final round was similar to the first, but with Kirby briefly securing a takedown, allowing Brown to escape and resuming his stick-and-move tactics.
“He’s a dangerous man on the ground, so I didn’t wanna play his game. I wanted to get a takedown for the points, let him back up and pick him apart,” said Kirby.
“I knew he’d won the second round, so I picked it up. He definitely made adjustments from the first fight, not rushing in and taking his time to look for the takedown, but I was prepared for that.”
Kirby-Brown was among six bouts refereed by Fernando Yamasaki, a Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu guru and who runs the Rockville-based Yamasaki Academy and also instructs 45-year-old Ronald Mann, the lone American among 65 competitors chosen to compete in inaugural World Para Jiu-Jitsu Festival on April 16 in Abu Dhabi.
An amputee who lost the lower half of his left leg below the knee during a 1995 motorcycle accident, Mann was in attendance on Saturday in support of the 49-year-old Yamasaki.
The product of a Japanese father and a Brazilian mother, Yamasaki finished second at the South American championships in Greco-Roman wrestling in 1986. In freestyle wrestling, Yamasaki qualified for the 1988 Olympics in Seoul, Korea.
Yamasaki retired from competition after winning a lightweight title in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu in the 2004 Pan American Games.
“My [paternal] grandparents emigrated from Japan. I started into judo when I was 3, and my whole family’s comprised of martial artists,” said Yamasaki, who arrived from Brazil 14 years ago. “My father practiced judo and worked in the Barcelona Olympics as a referee, my uncle went to four Olympic games, and my cousin went to Barcelona as a fighter.”
Yamasaki’s Academy instructors teach Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, Muay Thai, self-defense and strength and conditioning, with classes for both adults and children.
“I’ve been teaching since I was 13, and it was a natural transition into coaching when I retired,” said Yamasaki. “The thing about the martial arts is that it can instill a real fighting spirit. It can teach you to always overcome, and that’s a powerful message.”