by Al Yu for MMAWeekly.com
Sakuraba Perseveres While the Gracies Falter
In the opening fight, tough Killer Bee fighter Koutetsu Boku faced former Shooto champ Alexandre Franca Nogueira in a non-tournament superfight. The talented BJJ fighter was unable to keep Boku on the mat. The second round won the fight for Boku as he landed many strikes from the mount. The unanimous decision extends the Japanese fighter’s winning streak to six fights.
In what I considered the fight of the night, Ivan Menjivar and Hideo Tokoro entertained fans with a competitively high-paced fight. Both fighters asserted their control in this ground war. Many reversals, submission attempts and escapes highlighted the first round. Menjivar controlled the majority of the second and had Tokoro’s back on many occasions. Near the end of the round, a fatigued Tokoro attempted an armbar on the “Pride of El Salvador” but was unable to hold the lock. Menjivar would go on to earn a decision over the popular Japanese fighter.
It took only 30 seconds for American Top Team’s Gesias “JZ” Calvancanti to stop Hiroyuki Takaya. A perfectly landed flying knee put the Shooto veteran on his back. A couple of well placed punches forced the referee to put an end to the fight. With an impressive victory, Calvancanti’s stock rises.
In another 155-pound match-up, Canada’s Kultar “The Black Mamba” Gill met former Shooto champ Caol Uno. The fight started out with both fighters circling each other. As Uno went in for a takedown, he was hit with a knee that put him on the canvas. Though he was stunned, Uno would survive a barrage of strikes and regain his composure. Despite suffering a cut, Caol finished the round strong. Uno showed some of his ground prowess in the second round by quickly taking Gill’s back and sinking in a rear naked choke for the win.
Brazilian Rani Yahira faced karate practitioner Kazuya Yasuhiro. Yahira was aggressive from the start and immediately went for a takedown. Once on the mat, Yasuhiro was fortunate enough to escape a heel hook attempt. Taking the fight back to the ground, Rani would attain the north-south position and secure a choke to end the fight at 1:08 of the first round.
As the first 187-pound tournament match-up of the evening, Judoka Yoshihiro Akiyama faced K-1 veteran Taiei Kin in a fight that produced a controversial ref stoppage. Akiyama clinched early, seeking to take Kin to the ground. After scoring a takedown, Akiyama was able to attain a full mount. The Japanese Judoka applied an armbar that Kin would later spin out of in. Clearly not in danger of being submitted and with no expression of pain on his face, the referee unexpectedly stopped the fight. Kin stood in wonderment as the crowd expressed their discontent.
In the second superfight, K-1 champion Semmy Schilt made a successful return to MMA by submitting Olympic silver medalist Judoka Min Soo Kim. A few minutes into the round, Schilt was taken down by the Korean fighter. The fight would remain on the ground until the tall Hollander secured a triangle choke.
Pride and UFC veteran Don Frye faced Japanese pro wrestler Yoshihisa Yamamoto in the third and final superfight of the night. Sporting a soft belly, Frye remained content to stand and trade with Yamamoto. At one point in the fight, the Japanese fighter fell through ropes while trying to escape a guillotine choke. Frye dropped Yamamoto with a short right hook and secured a rear naked choke in the closing seconds of the first round. “The Predator” earns a victory despite his questionable conditioning.
Crosley Gracie replaced the injured Carlos Newton to face Cage Rage champion Melvin Manhoef. Unfortunately reminiscent of Mirko “CroCop” Filipovic vs Nobuhiko Takada, Gracie was reluctant to stand with the heavy handed Dutchman. Gracie looking obviously fatigued from taking the fight on about two days notice, the majority of the fight saw Gracie falling on his back after failed takedown attempts. Manhoef was reluctant to follow Gracie on the ground forcing the ref to stand the Brazilian fighter back to his feet on multiple occasions. After hearing the crowd’s discontent, Melvin would eventually follow into Gracie’s guard and unleash many unanswered strikes, causing a stoppage to an uninspired fight.
The Gracies went 0-2 for the evening as Judoka Shungo Oyama earned a decision over Rodrigo Gracie. In the most boring fight of the tournament, Oyama took the fight to the ground and controlled from the top. Shungo was content to stay in Rodrigo’s guard throughout the match.
Fans waited in anticipation for the debut of Japanese fighting legend Kazushi Sakuraba. In the main event, the “Gracie Killer” was pitted against current Shooto European champion Kestutis Smirnovas. Sakuraba took the fight to the Lithuania fighter early on. During an exchange of punches, Smirnovas landed a left hook that dropped the Japanese star to his hands and knees. Sakuraba was soon met with a barrage of punches as his head fell through the ropes. In a much debated about move, the referee pulled the barely conscious Sakuraba from the ropes and positioned him back into the ring. The questionable move allowed Kazushi a little time to recover.
Surmounting the ensuing offense from Smirnovas, Sakuraba would make an amazing comeback against the now fatigued Lithuanian. The exhausted Smirnovas could muster little offense against the rejuvenated Japanese star. Sakuraba would land many unanswered punches until the Shooto champion was chased to the mat. From there, the “Gracie Hunter” would extend an armbar and conclude the biggest comeback of his career.
Overall, K-1 Hero’s 6 was a decent event with its ups and downs. The middleweight tournament fights exceeded my expectations while some of the light heavyweight tournament match-ups nearly flirted with disaster. With the exception of the Boku vs Nogueira bout, the ‘superfights’ were merely mismatched space fillers. K-1 will need to address the questionable calls (and lack there of) with their referees. All controversies aside, the second round of the dual tournaments looks to be very exciting.