Marius Zaromskis shocked the mixed martial arts world on Monday in Japan, pulling off a huge upset by knocking out Hayato Sakurai in the semifinals of the Dream 10 welterweight grand prix, then returning to the ring a couple hours later and knocking out Jason High in the final.
Zaromskis entered the day as a major underdog, and hardly anyone thought he had much of a chance against the Japanese Sakurai. In fact, it was widely believed that the Dream MMA promotion handed the native Sakurai an easy opponent because it wanted to see a Japanese fighter advance to the final.
But Zaromskis showed impressive stand-up skills in the semifinal fight, opening up two cuts near Sakurai's eye, forcing a pause in the contest for treatment to the cuts. Once the fight resumed, Zaromskis went right back to work, dropping Sakurai with a head kick and finishing him off with punches on the ground.
And that, amazingly, wasn't even the best highlight of the day for Zaromskis. In the final he took on High and knocked him cold with a vicious first-round head kick -- one of the knockouts of the year in MMA. It was a brilliant performance.
High, a Kansas City native who was the only American entrant in the Dream welterweight grand prix, pulled off a major upset of his own by defeating Andre Galvao in the semifinals. And just minutes after he was knocked out, he got back up, grabbed the microphone and addressed the Japanese fans.
"I'm a little disappointed, but Marius is a good champion," High said. "I look forward to a rematch."
High fought well and has nothing to be ashamed of, but the story of the day in MMA is Zaromskis, a fighter who was little known in the sport at the start of this welterweight grand prix, but who looks like a budding star now.