by Al Yu – MMAWeekly.com
Brevity best described last evening’s event at the Yokohama Arena in Japan. With only two matches going to a decision, short fights highlighted the seventh installment of K-1 Hero’s. Two new tournament champions were crowned and an intriguing match-up was potentially set for K-1’s New Year’s Eve show.
Cage Warriors super heavyweight champion Antonio Silva made short work of Georgy Kaysinov in the opening fight of the evening. Silva dropped the Russian with a left hook about one minute into the first round. Silva followed up with strikes on the ground, forcing the ref to stop the fight.
It took less than two minutes for Hideo Tokoro to submit actor turned MMA fighter Ken Kaneko. Tokoro took his opponent down early and the fight remained there until Hideo secured an armbar. K-1 Hero’s executive Akira Maeda expressed his displeasure regarding Kaneko using his celebrity status to get the opportunity to fight on a major show instead of earning his way through the ranks.
In the first 154-pound tournament match of the night, American Top Team’s Gesias “JZ” Calvancanti submitted Rickson Gracie protégé Rani Yahira to move on to the finals. Rani pulled guard early in the fight and was unable to take Gesias down. It was apparent Gesias had a size and strength advantage over the smaller Yahira. About twenty seconds into the first round, Yahira shot in deep for a takedown which Calvancanti transitioned into a guillotine choke. Shockingly, the BJJ black belt was forced to tap shortly after.
Caol Uno earned a unanimous decision over Ivan Menjivar in the second 154-pound tournament semi-final. Uno landed low kicks early while Menjivar’s punches missed their target. The remainder of the fight consisted of Uno landing low and mid kicks while Ivan began to open up more with his strikes. Surprisingly, this fight only went to the mat once.
In the first 187-pound tournament semi-final, Korean Judoka Yoshihiro Akiyama faced off against Shooto European middleweight champion Kestutis Smirnovas. Akiyama wore a gi into the ring but took it off before the start of the fight. The two circled each other early on with Akiyama landing low kicks. The kicks were hitting their mark as the Lithuanian fighter’s thigh began to discolor. About three minutes into the first round, Akiyama hits Smirnovas with a straight right that stunned him. Yoshihiro followed up with a clean high kick and some strikes to win via TKO.
It took a little over a minute for heavy-handed Dutch striker Melvin Manhoef to finish Shungo Oyama and advance into the finals. These two fighters first met at K-1 Hero’s 4 with Manhoef emerging the victor. The rematch started off tentative until Oyama failed to secure a single leg takedown. Manhoef countered with a left hook that staggered the Judoka. The Dutchman proceeded to chase Shungo to the other side of the ring while landing a barrage of strikes. The referee halted the action after a right hook dropped Oyama.
In the 154-pound reserve match, Kazuyuki Miyata rebounded from his 4-second loss to Norifumi “Kid” Yamamoto with a TKO win over Ian James Schaffa. Miyata took Schaffa down early with a throw and began to land multiple right hands. Schaffa suffered a cut from all of the punishment and the fight was stopped due to the doctor’s recommendation.
Carlos Newton made a successful return to MMA after a near two year layoff from competition. In the 187-pound reserve match, Newton finished Tokimitsu Ishizawa with strikes in the first round. “The Ronin” made quick work of Ishizawa and landed just three punches.
PRIDE and UFC veteran Don Frye knocked out heavyweight Korean Judoka Kim Min Soo with a right hook in the second round of their exhausting battle.
In the 154-pound finals, Gesias Calvancanti earned a majority decision over Caol Uno to win the K-1 Hero’s 2006 middleweight tournament. Calvancanti steadily moved forward on the former Shooto champion while staying busy with more strikes. “JZ” rushed the Japanese fighter with a big flurry in the first round that pushed Uno to the mat. Most of the punches didn’t land clean and Uno eventually got back to his feet. Later, a slip from a kick had Uno fighting from his back until the end of the round.
The second round was controlled by Calvancanti. The American Top Team fighter scored three takedowns and nearly finished Uno with strikes at the end of the round. I’m not sure how one judge ruled the bout a draw as Calvancanti clearly won this fight.
Yoshihiro Akiyama withstood an aggressive onslaught from Melvin Manhoef to win the K-1 Hero’s 187-pound tournament. Manhoef chased the Judoka around the ring throwing left and right hooks. The two fighters clinched and Akiyama was able to reverse Manhoef’s throw, landing into a full mount. The Dutch striker didn’t stay there for long and eventually made it back to his feet. Akiyama secured Melvin’s left arm in a standing clinch and Manhoef tried to break his hold by slamming him to the mat. The move proved to be Manhoef’s downfall as Akiyama was put into an advantageous position. Yoshihiro secured an armbar shortly after, forcing his opponent to tap.
The crowd cheered loudly as Akiyama lied on the mat in tears. Afterwards, the Judoka said he looked forward to fighting Kazushi Sakuraba, possibly at K-1’s New Year’s Eve show.
Overall, K-1 Hero’s 7 was a very good event. Two new stars were born in Gesias “JZ” Calvancanti and Yoshihiro Akiyama. Having been criticized for the quality of his past opponents, Akiyama defeated two solid fighters and gained the admiration of the Japanese fans. On paper, this event didn’t seem very intriguing but it turned out to be a very entertaining evening.