TOKYO, March 26, 2004 -- The K-1 World Grand Prix 2004 Series kicks off tomorrow at the 35,000 capacity Saitama Super Arena. The one-match tournament will feature nine bouts and some of K-1's biggest stars. The fights will be under regular K-1 rules 3R x 3min, two possible extra rounds), with the winners receiving consideration for the September 25 World GP Semi Final Tournament. The 18 participating fighters met the press today at the Shin Takanawa Prince Hotel in central Tokyo.
NIIGATA, March 14, 2004 -- Bob Sapp overpowered Dolgorsuren Sumiyabazar in the Main Event, and the local boys swept a series of "Japan vs The World" bouts at the Japan Special K-1 Beast 2004 in Niigata. The old port of Niigata, on Japan's western coastline, is the hometown of legendary wrestler Giant Baba. On this day, it played host to a K-1 event featuring eight bouts -- four fought under regular K-1 Rules (3Rx3min), four under K-1 MMA Rules (3Rx5min).
The grand finale was an MMA matchup between Sapp and Dolgorsuren Sumiyabazar of Mongolia. Dolgorsuren, a two-time freestyle wrestling Olympian, is a brother of current Sumo Yokozuna (Grand Champion) Asashouryu.
At the pre-event press conference, Sapp first explained how he would use the small and light MMA gloves to outpunch Dolgorsuren, and then threw the gauntlet at the entire Sumiyabazar clan: "After I beat up Dolgorsuren, I wonder if his Sumo Champ brother will fight me? Or maybe his pro-wrestler brother, the Blue Wolf, who is more like the big chicken?" At that point, Blue Wolf himself stepped up from the audience to take up the challenge: "Shut up, Sapp! You will be KO'd!" A melee ensued, and the stage was set for this showdown.
Sapp is 17cm taller and almost 35kg heavier than Sumiyabazar, and used size, power, and smarts to good advantage here, illustrating just how much he has matured as an MMA fighter. From the bell, Sumiyabazar came in determined to go to the mat, and Sapp was happy to oblige. When Sumiyabazar got in, Sapp slipped to a full guard, locking up his opponent's legs at the knees. The Mongolian's head was now pressed down low on Sapp's chest, which was a good position defensively, but did not allow him to throw effective punches -- and also made it difficult to breathe well. The men were deadlocked for some time before Sapp suddenly bucked Sumiyabazar up and off him. The Mongolian recovered, and passed to a sidemount position, from which Sapp tried locking up his trailing (left) arm to no avail. Unperturbed, Sapp again bucked his opponent off and rose to his feet. The Beast was only semi-erect when Sumiyabazar charged back in on him -- the resulting impact sent Sapp to the canvas and Sumiyabazar trampolining off his body and into the ropes. Now Sapp took the initiative, getting up and into a G/R clutch before passing to a rear chokehold, which Sumiyabazar was happy to barely slip out of, twisting in again on Sapp, who took a full guard position, again.
But all the bouncing and twisting had hurt Sumiyabazar, and he waited out the balance of the round the way he had started in, locked in on Sapp's full guard, struggling to catch his breath, unable to do anything to hurt the Beast.
Sumiyabazar's corner had a good long look at their boy's injured lower groin during the break, and as he could scarcely stand, they elected not to answer the bell for the second, giving Sapp the KO victory and improving his MMA record to six wins in seven fights.
"I had a lot of stamina training before this fight," said a gleeful Sapp in the winner's circle, "and I feel great! I wish Sumiyabazar had come back for another round because you would have seen even better Beast technique in the second. I now challenge [Sumiyabazar's Sumo brother] Asashouryu to meet me in this ring!"
The other K-1 MMA Rules bouts also ended in the first round.
Canadian K-1 veteran Michael McDonald was outclassed by Brazilian wrestler Lyoto of the Antonio Inoki group. Such is the potential of Lyoto, who dojo-owner father started him practicing Karate kata when he was just four years old, he has been dubbed "The Second Inoki."
This was the MMA debut for perennial K-1 contender McDonald, who threw a smart high kick as the fight started, and surely would have preferred to stand and strike for the entire bout. But Lyoto had other plans. The Brazilian rushed McDonald, got arms round waist, and twisted a takedown early in the round. With Lyoto in and McDonald struggling to maintain the half guard position, Lyoto methodically wriggled in his right forearm up and brought down a guillotine choke. The wrapped-up McDonald had no choice but to tap out at 2:30, giving Lyoto the victory.
The next fight was decided even quicker. K-1 veteran Sam Greco of Australian met Stefan Gamlin of Germany, a former-NFLer still looking for his first win in a K-1 ring. Gamlin fumbled on his early attempt to tackle Greco, who stepped back nimbly to escape his opponent's thrusting hands. The Aussie then pounced on Gamlin's back, crab-wrapped his legs around the waist and submitted Gamlin with a rear choke sleeper just 25 seconds in.
And, remarkably, the card's much-anticipated penultimate MMA bout between Belorussian superstar Alexy "The Scorpion" Ignashov and veteran American wrestler Steve "Dr Death" Williams ended still faster. From the bell an intrepid Williams dove in on Ignashov -- and really, didn't someone warn him about Iggy's legs? In any case, Williams soon found out as the Belorussian brought his left knee up to his head. Williams stumbled, but did not go down, and so Ignashov fed him a second knee, and then a third. Now Williams did go down, to the four point position. But, recklessly, the American choose to try and stand up, which prompted Ignashov to kick him in the head a coupla times, which caused him to crumple to the canvas. Quickly, and mercifully, the referee stepped in to put an end to the basting. Elapsed time: 22 seconds.
Ignashov has been doing a lot of work with respected trainer Marco Cavalcante of Brazil's Varig Gym, who says the Belorussian is more powerful than Mirko CroCop. After his win, Ignashov told reporters, "Tonight the match was over so quickly, I didn't really get a chance to show my fans what I can do. This is a new and exciting experience for me, I'm still learning a lot of things in MMA." To think, this guy is only going to get better!
The card's K-1 Rules matches, meanwhile, followed a Japan vs The World format. And Japan shone.
Masaki Miyamoto, Bob Sapp's trainer, promised to "show the Samurai spirit" in his bout with 33 year-old American Cliff "Twin Tyson" Courser. The cocky Courser claims to be Mike Tyson's half brother, and boasted at the pre-event press conference: "I'm stronger than my brother, and faster." In a reference to Tyson's antics, Courser also joked that he was hungry: "I'd rather knock Miyamoto out, but I'm hungry, so I may bite off his ear!"
But in the aftermath of this one, Courser was eating crow.
Miyamoto, who had not fought in K-1 for almost two years, looked none the worse for the layoff -- certainly he had not forgot how to throw the low kicks which proved the difference in this bout. Miyamoto used kicks and his 10cm height advantage to keep Courser outside, really the American never had a chance to show his boxing skills here. Courser got two dozen low kicks in on Courser's left leg in the first round alone, Courser absorbed them all, and threw no kicks of his own. The American looked to be totally lost in the K-1 ring, although to be fair there was one moment, in the second round, when he got a right uppercut in, and followed up smartly with a left hook. These punches rattled Miyamoto, but Courser could not sustain the attack -- the fighters went to the clinch, and Miyamoto was fully recovered after the break. In the third Miyamoto was very confident, and tossed some nice kick and punch combinations Courser's way to finish with a unanimous decision. The lesson for boxers looking to break into K-1? A lack of experience with and respect for kicks can finish you before you get started.
The next bout pitted Karate fighter Tsuyoshi Nakasako against a 29 year-old German-American wrestler named Maverick. With an eight centimeter height advantage (and a lot more K-1 experience), Nakasako wanted very much to break a five-bout losing streak which dated back to September 2002. For his part, Maverick, a two-time Kage Kombat Light Heavyweight American Champion, was just happy to be here: "I want to thank the K-1 organization for allowing a street fighter to enter their prestigious event," he said at the pre-event press conference.
It should be noted that Nakasako's five consecutive losses came against the likes of top K-1 fighters such as Musashi, Peter Aerts, and Remy Bonjasky. Tonight, he faced a newcomer, and made short work of him. Maverick came out swinging, but had no focus and ate a knee just a minute into the bout. He turned away, stunned, and was assessed a standing count. Soon afterward, Nakasako delivered a nice tight right hook to Maverick's kisser to put the lights out and take the win by first round KO.
Tatsufumi Tomihira took on Czech kickboxer Petr Vondracek in the next matchup. Tomihira is a very tough competitor, while Vondracek was the fighter of the night last month in Okinawa, where he owned Nobu Hayashi, scoring three quick downs en route to a first round KO.
This was a classic K-1 bout, from the first bell both fighters were focused, the attacks technical but spirited. There were low kicks, knees and punches in the first, with neither fighter really getting the better of it. In the second, Tomihira got some solid body blows in, and did more damage with his low kicks; while Vondracek looked unsteady throughout, slipping and falling several times. In the third Vondracek turned away from a punching attack and was assessed a standing count, and although the Czech fighter rallied soon afterward with a right that sent Tomihira stumbling, it was too little too late. The round ended with an exhausted Vondracek backed up against the ropes, guard down, absorbing a volley of punches. A well-deserved unanimous decision for Tomihira.
The never-say-die, three-time Japan GP Final Eight fighter Hiromi Amada went up against American boxer Butterbean in the last of the K-1 Rules matches. There was a funny exchange between the two at the pre-event press conference: "I respect Butterbean," said Amada, "but the winner gets the better paycheck, and I need the money to feed my children." Quipped the corpulent Butterbean, "I need to feed my children too, and my children are much bigger than yours, so I'll be taking home the prize money, thank you!"
The showmanship continued in the fighters' entrances, Amada with his dark shades Yakuza act, trailed by a cornerman brandishing a placard reading "I'll eat pork cutlets tonight" in reference to his opponent's girth. Butterbean then waddled in, decked out in his trademark Old Glory trunks, to the sound of the redneck anthem "Sweet Home Alabama." (Alas, Butterbean cannot be considered a redneck, as he has no neck.)
As usual, Butterbean outweighed his opponent, in this case by some 80kg. And so the Japanese crowd, which enjoys the big guy, were as stunned as the boys in the press room when he opened the fight with a low kick! The first round saw Amada connect with some good lefts, a couple of neat combinations, and generally he looked the better fighter. But a feisty and surprisingly agile Butterbean stayed with his opponent throughout, and delighted the crowd in the second when he dropped his guard and took six fast Amada punches with no apparent ill effects. Unfortunately, these counted on Amada's side of the judges' cards. In the third Butterbean did some mock bowing which also drew laughter from the crowd, then got his opponent on the ropes and pumped in body blows. But he could not really damage Amada, who stayed cool and by the end had collected enough points to prevail with a unanimous decision.
In a two-round undercard fight, American MMA veteran Ivan Salaverry won on points to spoil Mongolian Haliun Boldbaatar's K-1 debut. Salaverry was the more aggressive fighter here, deftly stymieing Boldbaatar's attempts to take the fight to the mat. With a longer reach and superior kick and punch attack, Salaverry controlled throughout. When the two finally did go to the mat in the last minute, it was Salaverry who got in, passed to a side mount position, threw punches and did most of the damage.
The Japan Special K-1 Beast 2004 attracted a sellout crowd of 9,413 to the Toki Niigata Messe Convention Center in Niigata, and was same-day broadcast across Japan on the NTV network. The official results can be found here: http://www.so-net.ne.jp/feg/k-1gp/top587.htm
Special thanks to Monte Dipietro and K-1 for this write-up. For more information about K-1 visit thier official website