by Ricardo Mendoza – MMAWeekly.com
Tonight’s K-1 Dynamite!! USA event is headlined by the MMA debut of Brock Lesnar and the long awaited rematch between MMA legends Kazushi Sakuraba and Royce Gracie.
Other fighters scheduled to appear include Dutch striker Melvin Manhoef, top ten welterweight Jake Shields, rising lightweight star Gesias “JZ” Calvancanti, and former NFL star Johnnie Morton, who is also making his MMA debut.
KAZUSHI SAKURABA VS. ROYCE GRACIE
In a rematch of their epic encounter in Pride, MMA legends Kazushi Sakuraba and Royce Gracie collide once again. Sakuraba has a 21-9-1 record in MMA and trains out of Japan. Gracie has a 13-2-3 record in MMA and trains out of Gracie Jiu Jitsu with Royler Gracie. Sakuraba recently submitted Yurij Kiseliov at HEROS 8. Gracie comes off his disappointing loss to Matt Hughes at UFC 60.
Here we go again… can they put on another classic fight like they did the first time they met? That is what the MMA world is hoping for, as they will no doubt have their eyes on this fight come Saturday night.
Their first fight is a classic that shaped the sport into what it is today and made Sakuraba the star that he is today, while also cementing Gracie’s legacy as a legend in MMA. Will it be the same story on Saturday night? Probably not, as age and injuries have caught up to both fighters in recent years, but hopefully they have enough magic left to put on another classic fight.
On to the actual fight itself: Sakuraba has been training on and off at Chute Boxe in preparation for this fight and that will make the difference. He will be able to dictate the pace of the fight in the stand-up and he will duel it out for position with Gracie on the ground.
Gracie was dismantled by Matt Hughes and one of the things that came out of that fight was that Gracie’s age is starting to catch up to him. Sakuraba has taken more than his fair share of punishment, too, but he still has what it takes to beat Gracie and that is what will happen on Saturday.
Prediction: Kazushi Sakuraba by decision
BROCK LESNAR VS. MIN SOO KIM
Former NCAA wrestling champion Brock Lesnar takes on Korean judoka Min Soo Kim. Lesnar will be making his MMA debut and has been training with Greg Nelson in preparation for his debut. Min Soo Kim has a 2-5 record in MMA and trains out of Korea. Kim was recently knocked out by Mighty Mo at Hero’s 8.
Lesnar was originally scheduled to face K-1 star Hong-Man Choi, but that bout was scrapped after Choi was unable to pass his required medicals. Kim is stepping in on short notice, which isn’t out of the norm.
This is an entirely different fight for Lesnar because Kim is a grappler, while Choi is a striker. It will be easier for Lesnar to take Kim down, as he doesn’t have to deal with the large size disadvantage. Kim hasn’t demonstrated in his past MMA fights that he is a danger from his back and that is going to be a big advantage for Lesnar. As long as Lesnar stays on top of Kim, he should have no problem in winning this fight.
Prediction: Brock Lesnar by decision
MELVIN MANHOEF VS. DONG SIK YOON
Dutch striker Melvin Manhoef meets Pride veteran Dong Sik Yoon. Manhoef has a 16-3-1 record in MMA and trains out of Holland. Yoon has a 0-4 record in MMA and trains out of Japan with Kazushi Sakuraba. Manhoef comes off a dominant beating of Yoshiki Takahashi at Hero’s 8. Yoon recently dropped a decision to former UFC Middleweight Champion Murilo Bustamante at Pride Bushido 13.
FEG has three Koreans on the card in an effort to draw from the large Korean population in Los Angeles, and Yoon is the only one of them without a win in MMA. Manhoef is a relentless striker who never stops coming forward, which is a style that has its advantages and disadvantages.
The key to the fight will be whether or not Yoon will be able to withstand the initial barrage from Manhoef. If he does survive, then his chances increase greatly, as Manhoef has shown a tendency to gas out later in his fights. Manhoef needs to be precise with his strikes in order to be effective against Yoon. If he’s not, he will be in for a long night.
Yoon took some hard, clean shots from Quinton “Rampage” Jackson and didn’t buckle under the pressure, so his chin has certainly improved since his MMA debut. This is going to be the upset of the night. Yoon should be able to withstand Manhoef’s initial barrage and work over a tired Manhoef for the rest of the fight.
Prediction: Dong Sik Yoon by decision
JOHNNIE MORTON VS. BERNARD ACKAH
Former NFL player and USC standout Johnnie Morton makes his MMA debut against Japanese TV personality Bernard Ackah. Morton has been training with Mike Guymon and Renato “Babalu” Sobral in preparation for his MMA debut. Ackah has a 1-0 record in MMA and trains out of Japan. Ackah comes off a successful debut, knocking out Hyun Pyo Shin at Hero’s 8.
There’s not much to write about this fight, as it’s an attempt by FEG to put butts in the seats with the MMA debut of local star Johnnie Morton. Although not a professional fighter by trade, Ackah did display some serious skills in dismantling Korean Ssireum champion Hyun Pyo Shin. Neither has much experience in MMA, but Ackah does come from a Tae Kwan Do background and that should be the difference in the fight.
Prediction: Bernard Ackah by TKO in the first round
JAKE SHIELDS VS. IDO PARIENTE
Rumble on the Rock welterweight tournament champion Jake Shields takes on largely unknown Ido Pariente. Shields has a 17-4-1 record in MMA and trains out of Jake Shields Fight Team with Gilbert Melendez. Shields is the #9-ranked welterweight in the MMAWeekly World MMA Rankings. Pariente has a 6-2 record in MMA and trains in Israel. Shields last saw action at Bodog Fight: Costa Rica, submitting Ray Steinbeiss. Pariente stopped Nardu Debrah with strikes at Ring of Combat 14.
Shields is probably one of the most underrated fighters in all of MMA. He has never really been on the big stage, but that will change on Saturday. Pariente will be moving up from lightweight to welterweight for the biggest opportunity of his fight career, with both fighters getting national exposure on Showtime.
Shields is an excellent fighter but has been labeled as a boring fighter by some because of his slow and methodical (and dominant) style. More than likely, this is one of the reasons that Shields has yet to fight in one of the bigger shows, but he has been making strides in changing his style to a more exciting one. Pariente has a tall order ahead of him, but without a doubt he was brought in as a showcase for Shields to display his skills. Shields will take full advantage of the size difference and stop Pariente.
Prediction: Jake Shields by TKO in the first round
GESIAS “JZ” CALVANCANTI VS. NAM PHAN
Gesias Calvancanti, the K-1 Hero’s 2006 Tournament Champion at 154 pounds, faces off with the always-entertaining Nam Phan. Calvancanti has an 11-1-1 record in MMA and trains out of American Top Team with Din Thomas. Phan has a 12-3 record in MMA and trains out of Ma Du Entertainment with Jesse Miramontes. Calvancanti became the Hero’s 2006 Lightweight Champion by topping Caol Uno at Hero’s 7. Phan was impressive in defeat at Stirkeforce: Triple Threat, losing an entertaining decision to Josh Thomson.
JZ has been on the shelf for the past couple of months because of injuries, but this fight starts off a busy month as he is scheduled to face Masato later this month in a K-1 Max bout under kickboxing rules. Phan looks to improve off his gutsy performance against Thomson, but he faces an uphill battle with the more talented JZ.
Calvancanti became a breakout star in 2006 with his Hero’s 2006 Lightweight Tournament victory, and 2007 will be another excellent year for him. Phan is certainly a good fighter, but he simply isn’t going to beat JZ. On the feet and on the ground, JZ is the better fighter. Phan will undoubtedly give the fight of his life here, but he is simply outclassed by the more skilled and talented JZ. Look for JZ to win a comfortable decision over Phan.
Prediction: Gesias “JZ” Calvancanti by decision
BRAD PICKETT VS. HIDEO TOKORO
Former Cage Rage British Featherweight Champion Brad Pickett squares off against Hero’s star Hideo Tokoro. Pickett has a 10-3 record in MMA and trains out of American Top Team with Marcus Aurelio. Tokoro has a 17-11-1 record in MMA and trains out of Reversal Gym in Japan. Pickett comes off a tough decision loss to rising British fighter Alex Owen at Cage Rage 21. Tokoro last saw action at Hero’s 8, submitting K-1 Max veteran Kazuya Yasuhiro with an armbar.
We have a classic clash of styles in this fight, with Pickett being the striker and Tokoro being the grappler. Pickett has a tough task ahead of him, as he hasn’t done well against grapplers in the past and Tokoro is probably the best grappler he has ever faced.
Tokoro faces the same problem with Pickett; he is susceptible to getting caught on his feet. Tokoro has been down that path before, but there is a difference here: Pickett doesn’t have much power behind his strikes. Tokoro should be able to get the fight to the ground and work his magic. Pickett will put his ATT training to good use, but will eventually succumb to the crafty Tokoro.
Prediction: Hideo Tokoro by submission in the second round