OSAKA, December 31,
2007 -- Veteran Japanese fighter Kazushi Sakuraba, 36, beat Masakatsu Funaki in
the Main Event tonight at the K-1 Premium Dynamite!! Also victorious at the New
Year's Eve fightsport extravaganza were Kid Yamamoto, Bob Sapp, and 16 year-old
karate stylist Yudai
Since its inception
five years ago, Dynamite!! has become one of the world's most popular
fightsport productions, broadcast live across
Japan with viewer estimates of up
to 30 million. This is fightsport entertainment for the entire family --
featuring wily veterans and wide-eyed teens; popular Japanese television tarento;
foreign behemoths; and yes, enough elite-fighter matchups to satisfy the
martial arts purists
Dynamite!! was held
before a full house at the Kyocera Dome Osaka. Seven bouts were fought under
HERO's Rules (mixed martial arts), and eight under K-1 Rules (standup)
In the Main Event it was a couple of Japanese mixed martial
arts legends meeting under HERO'S Rules, with a 85kg/187lbs weight contract.
Kazushi Sakuraba and Masakatsu Funaki brought a wealth of experience and
illustrious careers to the ring. Both are grapplers and so this fight was
expected to go to the mat early.
There were a few low kicks and punches to start, both
fighters connecting smartly before an off-balance Sakuraba managed a takedown
to mount. Funaki coiled up, and after the pair spent some time locked in a
Greco-Roman embrace Sakuraba emerged standing over his opponent. Funaki used
bicycle kicks to keep his opponent at bay, smacking one up to the face, before
Sakuraba grabbed the feet and came down to a side mount to begin fishing for
the armbar. The pair were wrapped tight when Sakuraba worked Funaki's right arm
free, twisting it behind the back to force the submission and take the win.
"It's been seven years since I fought Funaki and I was
surprised at how good his punching and timing are," said Sakuraba in his
post-fight interview. "He is stronger than I remember, I was planning to
pound on his face, but he was so good at blocking that I couldn't." Asked
about FEG Event Producer Sadaharu Tanikawa's call for a Sakuraba vs Rickson
Gracie fight next year, Sakuraba replied, "I'm up for it, I've never
fought him, but I can only think of one fight at a time. This was a good year
and I was relatively uninjured, so I'd like next year to be like that!"
The card's penultimate matchup featured Japanese mixed
martial arts star Norifumi "Kid" Yamamoto and Brazilian jiu-jitsu
fighter Rani Yahya in a 61kg/135lbs HERO'S contest. Yahya charged in early
swinging away, only to have his momentum kiboshed by Yamamoto's surgical left
punch. Yahya made attempts with low and high kicks, but the Kid was better with
his counters, and repeatedly closed to point with a strike-and-retreat
strategy. Yahya several times saw his leg takedowns stymied, and when the
Brazilian did go to the ground Yamamoto declined the invitation, electing to
hang back for a re-stand. In the first and second there were periods of frantic
punching exchanges, but despite copious attempts, neither fighter could knock
the other down.
The Kid's low crouch contrasted with Yahya's upright stance,
and allowed the Japanese to both jump forward with punches and stave off
takedown attempts. Following more fruitless flailing of the fists in the third,
Yahya threw three high kicks, all of which were ably blocked, before Yamamoto
connected squarely with a right, then a left, to leave Yahya dazed and down in
the corner. The pumped-up Kid stepped in to fire kicks at his opponent's head,
making partial contact before the referee intervened to stop the fight, raising
Yamamoto's arm in victory.
"I kept a good distance to keep my opponent for coming
in with a tackle," said Yamamoto afterward. "His punches were
unorthodox so I hesitated a bit. A punch got through in the second round and I
was seeing double after that. But in the end I came out with a win!"
Five years ago, American fighter Bob "The Beast"
Sapp had one of the most recognizable faces in
Japan. Tonight Sapp returned for a
HERO'S bout with another very recognizable face, Japanese television tarento
and comedian Bobby Ologun of
Nigeria. The question was -- which
face would be more recognizable after the fight?
After a couple of unabashedly over-the-top ring entrances,
the pair set up for their showdown. From the bell, Sapp marched forward as
Ologun pranced about out of reach, until finally Sapp got a grip and a
takedown. The Beast muscled his way into a full mount which, given his mass,
offered Ologun little if any chance for escape. Sapp tried in vain to wrestle
his opponent's arm free before abandoning that endeavor and simply pounding
down the fists to earn a referee stop and the win.
"I'm happy overall," said Sapp in his post-fight
interview, "but I know what I need to work on. It's good to be back. I
think the audience wants more of the Beast and I want to do more. I plan to sit
down with FEG and see what 2008 has in store, it should be a happy new
In other HERO'S fights:
Kiyoshi Tamura of
Japan took on compatriot Hideo
Tokoro. These are a couple of mixed martial arts specialists, and not a strike
was thrown before they went to the mat courtesy a Tokoro takedown. After a
restand and a solid Tamura middle kick, the pair went to the mat once more
where, alas, not a whole lot happened. Tamura allowed his opponent to stand,
threw a kick or two and then they were down again. A round with plenty of ups
and downs but little apparent damage. More grappling in the second, Tamura not
capitalizing on a rear mount, Tokoro reversing but similarly unable to gain
good position before another of many referee-ordered re-stands. But for a solid
Tamura left hook, another round marred by a lack of action. With his 17kg/38lbs
weight advantage, Tamura had the edge in power, and hard low kicks earned him
some points early in the third. A relatively lackluster affair that finally
found its conclusion when the pair went to the mat midway through the final
round and Tamura extracted an arm and hyperextended for the submission.
Japanese former pro wrestler Minowaman went up against Zulu,
a Brazilian who weighs in at a whopping 185kg/408lbs. Minowaman declared before
the fight that weight difference was less important than spirit in a fight. But
as Zulu stood center ring, Minowaman showed only spirited jogging, circling the
ring's perimeter more than a dozen times -- perhaps intent on dizzying his
opponent? The cat and mouse game played out for several minutes before Zulu
finally got a hold of Minowaman and smothered him. Then the bell sounded.
In the second it was more perimeter play for Minowaman, who
only occasionally darted in with low kicks. Again, Zulu eventually caught his
opponent, throwing him to the mat like a rag doll. Soon, Minowaman managed to
get to his feet and began running circles again. Had the bout been fought on a
tennis court this might have gone on forever? As it was Zulu cut off the ring
and got another takedown, but was woefully unable to work a submission before
the bell sounded. Zulu tracked and downed his prey again in the third, and this
time his hammer punches prompted Minowaman's corner to throw the towel.
The ever-aggressive Dutch kickboxer Melvin Manhoef made his
Dynamite!! debut, testing his mixed martial arts skills against Japanese boxer
Yosuke Nishijima. The two strikers squared off from the start, Manhoef coming
in with a flurry of punches that left Nishijima stunned against the ropes.
Somewhat surprisingly, Manhoef then elected to execute a takedown, quickly
assuming a full mount to finish his opponent with the good old-fashioned ground
In a 70kg/154lbs bout, it was wrestler Kazuyuki Miyata of
Japan versus lean mean multidisciplinary
fighting machine Joachim Hansen of
Norway. After a bit of sparring,
Miyata got the takedown and mount, but Hansen's guard forced a stalemate and
re-stand. Miyata connected with a high kick and a left hook, but Hansen scored
a strong down with a left hook. As a vulnerable Miyata lay on his back Hansen
approached, only to be stopped by the bell. Miyata got another takedown to
start the second. Hansen was good in guard, and then suddenly rolled his
opponent into a choke sleeper for the tapout win.
There were some big names competing in the K-1 Rules side of
the Dynamite!! card.
World Max star Masato of Japan made his annual appearance,
hosting accomplished South Korean boxer Yong Soo Choi. This was a fast and
furious fight, Choi using his reach to chase Masato with straight punches in
the early going, Masato answering in kind. Choi would have loved to box with
Masato, but this is K-1, and Masato positively flummoxed the Korean with his
legwork. Choi never found his distance, as most everything he swung sailed
harmlessly past Masato. With excellent timing, Masato released a high kick that
rocked Choi's jaw and put him down in a heap. Masato turned away, apparently
believing that was the finish -- but Choi valiantly beat the count, and managed
to get out of the round. In the second, Masato controlled the fight with his
kicks and knees, and although Choi connected with a good right straight punch
here, so did Masato. In the third Masato kept up the pressure, unleashing his
full arsenal of attacks on an exasperated and exhausted Choi, whose corner had
little choice but to throw the towel.
"I didnt want the towel to be thrown in," said
Masato afterward, "I wanted to finish him with a punch. I could feel that
my punches were solid, but his punches didn't do squat. As for going for K-1
Max Championship again, I say this every year -- but yes, I want to. The
training menu has already been decided. My trainer said it's going to be tough,
with lots of running (laughs). As long as I'm in the game, I want to shoot for
number one. If I don't, I'll regret it. I'll fight until Im satisfied. I tried
a bunch of different things recently, but in the end I'm addicted to the fight
Seidokaikan fighter Nicholas Pettas of
Denmark pledged to mark the 20th anniversary of
his first-ever karate lesson with a victory over ssirium wrestler Young Hyun
This was no small challenge, as Kim brought a 37cm/12" height and
50kg/134lbs weight advantage to the ring. Both fighters had a plan -- Kim wanted
to close and bring up the knees; Pettas wanted to chop away with the low kicks.
Pettas' plan prevailed. The Dane avoided the knees while
repeatedly firing in hard low kicks, and as the clapper sounded, scored a down
when Kim's battered left leg gave out. In the second, incredibly, Pettas got a
high kick up to his opponent's head, then moved in with big overhand punches.
It was a right that proved the decisive blow, as Kim began to sway, and like a
tired old redwood, lumbered slowly to the ground and just lay there. A
triumphant performance by Pettas that brought the crowd to their feet in
Japanese seidokaikan fighter Musashi took on the card's
second African-born Japanese television comedian when he meets Bernard Ackah of
Musashi chided Ackah at the pre-event press conference, "I love comedians
and respect Ackah for what he is, but this is K-1
" The remark prompted
Ackah to retort, "I'm also a fighter, don't worry, there will be no comedy
in the ring when we meet."
The Osaka-born Musashi did not come out particularly hard in
front of his hometown crowd. Instead he found himself eating a lot of leather
as Ackah put him on the ropes and unloaded a dozen quick punches. Musashi's
guard stayed high and close, but a number of the blows, especially a couple of
uppercuts, made good contact. The second round saw Musashi looking truer to
form, pressing well and hurting Ackah with low kicks, pumping in the body blows
and a good right hook. Ackah answered with straight punches but Musashi simply
had more power on his stuff. In the third Musashi took total control, throwing
middle kicks and hooks past his opponent's clumsy guard, pounding in a right
then a left hook to drop Ackah and pick up the KO win.
In an undercard bout, Japanese fighter Takashi Tachikawa
withstood a determined early challenge before cutting down Yoshihisa Inoue with
Dynamite!! 2007 also featured a special K-1 Rules tournament
for fighters aged 18 and under, with a 60kg/132lbs weight limit. Meant to
develop the next generation of Japanese K-1 fighters, the K-1 U-18 Japan
Tournament mirrored the classic K-1 elimination format, but with four fighters
participating instead of eight.
The preeminent Japanese K-1 prospect is undoubtedly
kickboxer Hiroya, who will turn 16 next week and names Masato as his hero.
Hiroya had prevailed in all three of his previous K-1 bouts. In his semifinal
bout here, he faced karate stylist Kizaemon Saiga.
Hiroya went with the hard low kicks from the start, while a
flashy Saiga responded with flying and flip kicks before being stopped by a low
blow. After resumption Saiga was again quick and creative with the legs, just
missing with an ax and then making partial contact with a kyokushin kick.
Hiroya stayed with the low kicks, and brought the knees up late in the round.
Throughout, the boys showed very good balance and blocking. The second saw
Hiroya using the front kick to control the distance while firing in more hard
low kicks; Saiga mostly missing, albeit spectacularly, with his jazzy legwork.
In the third Saiga landed a good right straight punch early, but Hiroya came
across with the better stuff later, including a nice left hook, to wrap up the
win with a unanimous decision
The second U-18 semifinal featured kickboxers Kenji Kubo and
Yudai. Both youngsters mixed up the punches and kicks nicely and had their
chances in the first. Yudai put a good high kick up in the second, and
connected well with straight punches and an uppercut. Kubo was aggressive in
the third, but Yudai's positioning was near-perfect, as the 16 year-old met his
opponent's advances confidently and scored points with precisely-delivered
counters. A unanimous decision, putting Yudai into the final against Hiroya.
The U-18 Final between Hiroya, 15; and Yudai, 16, started
with a tentative first round, the boys light on their feet, looking for
openings, only testing with the jab and low kicks. Minimal fisticuffs again in
the second, Hiroya landing a right straight, Yudai getting his licks in but
neither sustaining pressure. After being admonished by K-1 legend and bout
referee Nobuaki Kakuda, the boys took it up a notch in the third, Hiroya
getting in with a right straight and a couple of body blows; Yudai planting a
front kick on his opponent's face. It went to the scorecards, where one judge
liked Yudai but the others saw a draw, prompting a tiebreaker round.
Fast -paced action here, Hiroya good with a right straight
punch but Yudai's positioning and evasions sparing him any other damage. Yudai
was more assertive, threading through another high front kick and scoring with
low kicks and combinations to earn the win by split decision and become the
first fighter to win the K-1 U-18 belt.
"Ever since I saw the belt, I knew that I wanted
it," said Yudai in his post-tournament interview. "I was calm coming
in, I was even less nervous than my amateur fights! I did what I wanted to do,
I said that I would win and I did it! Next year, I want to get stronger and
fight even stronger opponents!"
In the U-18 Reserve Fight, Ryo Murakoshi used a knee to KO
While all this was happening in
there was also an affiliated fightsport event taking place at the Saitama Super
Arena just outside
In the YARENNOKA! 2007 marquee fights, Russian MMA master Emelianenko Fedor
took a few punches to the face before submitting South Korean fighter Hong-Man
Choi by armbar in the first round; while Kazuo Misaki escaped from an early
scare to score an upset KO win over Yoshihiro Akiyama in a battle of Japanese