LAS VEGAS, August 10, 2006 -- The season's major international tournaments are done and the stage is set for the K-1 World Grand Prix '06, when this year's top fighters and last year's finalists go head-to-head at the Final Elimination in September at the Osaka Dome.
TOKYO, August 5, 2006 -- Kazushi Sakubara mounted a tremendous comeback to win his Light Heavyweight bout and Defending K-1 World GP Champion made short work of his Superfight opponent today in the Middleweight & Light Heavyweight Hero's World Championship Tournament at the Ariake Coliseum in Tokyo.
The event featured quarterfinal bouts for both Hero's Middleweight (70kg/154lb) and Light Heavyweight (85kg/187lb) classes, along with a trio of Superfights.
The Superfights were formatted with 5 min x 2R -- and for K-1 fans the center of attention was of course the showdown between Semmy Schilt of Holland and Min Soo Kim of South Korea. Kim won a silver medal in Judo at the Atlanta Olympics and made it to the final in the K-1 Asia GP this March. In Hero's action, he has taken on top K-1 fighters Bob Sapp and Ray Sefo. Kim is a spirited fighter, very good on the ground, and made a good go of it with Schilt, who had fought almost exclusively in stand-up bouts since winning the K-1 WGP Championship last November.
Schilt brought a 26cm/10" height advantage to this one, and Kim strove to neutralize that by going to the mat. This he managed early in the first, but not before Schilt had fired in a left straight punch to badly bloody Kim's nose, prompting a doctor's check. From resumption, Kim worked a side mount but Schilt escaped and locked up the Korean when he tried to pass from a standing position. With Kim's immobilized between Schilt's legs, the Dutch fighter pounded blows in on his defenseless opponent's head to earn a referee stop and victory.
"I was worried a little bit about being taken down because Kim has a judo style, but when the fight started I worried less and just did what I do best!" said Schilt post-bout. "I'm already the K-1 Champion, but I guess I proved I can win in Hero's as well!"
In a second Superfight, American mixed martial arts legend Don Frye took on Judo fighter Yoshihisa Yamamoto of Japan. The warhorses mixed it up pretty good here, trading hard punches through the early going before Frye set up with a front kick then brought in a right hook to down Yamamoto. The stunned Japanese fighter ate several Frye lefts before the American slipped his arm round Yamamoto's neck to put the sleeper on and pick up the win.
Japanese "Killer Bee" fighter Koutetsu Boku is a tough customer. In the event's opening Superfight, he went up against Alexandre Franca "Mr. Guillotine" Nogueira of Brazil.
Boku wanted to box, while Nogueira dove in for single leg takedowns throughout. Boku connected with a number of good right straight punches here, and while Nogueira showed superior positioning skills on the mat, he was unable to keep the fight there. In the second round Boku got in mount and put a few blows down, demonstrating his prowess on the ground. A unanimous decision for the Japanese fighter.
The Middleweight tournament bouts were conducted under 5 min. x 2R w/1 extra R). The winners of these four quarterfinals will clash at Yokohama Arena this October:
In the first of the quarterfinals, popular Hideo Tokoro of Japan took on Canadian Ivan Menjivar. After some fast-paced sparring, Tokoro got the single-leg takedown and put Menjivar into guard. A series of quick reversals followed, Menjivar threatening with a sleeper which Tokoro broke to end the round. More fast action in the second before Menjivar established a rear mount and punched punishment in on his opponent. Tokoro got out of trouble and attempted an armbar, but could not contain the Canuck, who was better overall and took a majority decision.
Brazilian J.Z. Calvan met shooto boxer Hiroyuki Takaya of Japan in the next matchup. The showy Calvan sashayed through a prolonged ring entrance, and then sprung a right knee up to Takaya's jaw to score a spectacular KO win just 30 seconds into this dance.
Next up, Seidokaikan fighter Kazuya Yasuhiro of Japan stepped in against 21 year-old submission specialist Rani Yahya of Brazil. A K-1 World Max fighter, Yasuhiro rushed in with punches from the bell, but Yahya quickly got a takedown, went to side mount and worked a choke hold to get a submission.
In the last tournament bout, popular shooto boxer Caol Uno of Japan went against Black Mamba of India, a muay thai fighter who needed just 43 seconds to score a KO win against Tokoro in his last fight. Mamba got a knee up and a takedown to assume control early, badly bloodying Uno's right eye in the process. Uno reversed but could not make the rear choke dangerous, and after some rolling about it was Mamba in mount to end the first.
Mamba fought well on his feet again in the second, aggravating Uno's cut to force a doctor's check. After resumption Uno went for the legs but it was Mamba who got into mount once again. But a desperate Uno marshaled the strength to get out and round to his opponent's back. In no time, the Japanese fighter had set up a clean choke hold, and held on tight to induce the tapout.
The Light Heavyweight bouts employed a different format -- the first round a set at 10 min., the second at 5 min, with a possible tiebreaker round of 5 Min. Victors in these contests also advance to Yokohama.
The first bout featured Judo Olympian Yoshihiro Akiyama and Karate stylist Taiei Kin in an all-Japan veterans' matchup.
This started briskly with strikes from both sides. Midway through the first the pair were tangled on the mat, Akiyama with a good grip on and twisting at his opponent's arm. The referee had a good look at the situation and called a stop in favor of Akiyama. Kin briefly protested, but to no avail.
The next bout saw kickboxer Melvin Manhoef of Holland face off against jiu-jitsu fighter Crosley Gracie of the United States. Manhoef made good with the quick strikes, fighting intelligently here. Gracie repeatedly lay on his back, inviting his opponent to join him for a grapple, but Manhoef prudently declined, always stepping back to force a standing restart. Gracie could not get past the fists and kicks for a clean takedown, and Manhoef's strategy paid off handsomely as he continued to inflict damage with impunity. Gracie grew visibly frustrated as the first wore on. Late in the round, when Manhoef finally did oblige by coming in, he visited a jaw-rattling barrage of punches on his opponent to earn a referee stop and take the win.
Another member of the of the famous Brazilian fighting family, Rodrigo Gracie, went in against judo specialist Shungo Oyama of Japan in th enext bout. This started out a lot like a K-1 fight, the two firing in low kicks and testing with jabs. The first takedown found Gracie on his back with bicycle kicks, Oyama looking to pass with punches. With his opponent tangled in the ropes, Oyama got a few through to pick up points before getting into mount, where Gracie ably defended to end the first.
Gracie made good with the low kicks again in the second, but could do little to answer from guard when the two went to the mat. An entertaining technical contest, which went to Oyama by majority decision.
In the card's main event, mixed martial arts superstar Kazushi Sakuraba of Japan made his Hero's debut against wrestler Kestutis Smirnovas of Lithuania.
A quick start, Smirnovas putting in a straight punch to down his opponent then quickly establishing position and pummeling the fists in on Sakuraba, who could not defend effectively or muster a counter attack. When the two got to their feet, a wobbly Sakuraba valiantly stood his ground before launching an improbable rally -- flailing in punches to bloody Smirnovas' nose.
And now, somehow, Sakuraba took the initiative. The fight went to the mat, the Japanese fighter twisting his legs round his opponent's head and seizing his arm to work an armbar. Smirnovas struggled, then tapped, and the crowd leapt to their feet with a roar.
The battered but beaming Sakuraba congratulated his opponent afterward, then told the crowd: "I very am happy and very honored to win my first Hero's match!"
Popular Japanese K-1 and Hero's fighter Kid Yamamoto took center ring to update the crowd on his wrestling training -- he plans to go out for the Japanese national team at the 2008 Olympics. "It's hard work," he said, "but I hope to do well!"
A full house of 11,900 were at the Ariake Coliseum for the event, which was broadcast live across Japan on the TBS Network and in South Korea on OnMedia. For delay-broadcast information in other areas, check with local providers. See the K-1 Official Website (www.k-1gp.com) for official results. Special thanks to K1 and Monte Dipietro for the Photo's.