Damon Martin – MMAWeekly.com
Pride won’t be the only show in Japan on New Year’s Eve with a lightweight tournament final…K-1 puts the finishing touches on their “Hero’s” lightweight tournament with UFC veteran Genki Sudo taking on Norifumi “Kid” Yamamoto.
Genki Sudo, one of the most skilled and yet unorthodox fighters in the lightweight division, has long been seen as a top competitor, but also has a great many critics for his lack of top named opponents. “The Neo-Samurai” is however one of the most well rounded fighters in the entire world with very slick submissions and surprisingly good stand-up.
The last time Americans had the chance to see the always colorful and entertaining fighter from Japan was in his impressive win over Mike Brown at UFC 47 in Las Vegas. Sudo was able to secure a triangle choke in the middle of round 1 and leave the Mandalay Bay Events Center a winner. It was almost exactly the same time the year before when Sudo suffered his only defeat inside the octagon when he lost a very controversial decision to kickboxer Duane “Bang” Ludwig at UFC 42.
Since his time in the UFC, Genki Sudo has made a name for himself back in his home country of Japan as one of the rising stars signed by K-1 to feature in their MMA only bouts. Sudo had fought in K-1 once before beating the much larger Eric “Butterbean” Esch on the New Year’s Eve show in 2003, and in his return knocked out Brazilian jiu-jitsu legend Royler Gracie.
It was his entrance in the K-1 lightweight tournament that made a lot of people stand up and realize what kind of fighter that Genki Sudo was capable of being. In his three fights making it to the finals, Sudo won by submission and showed why he may very well be the top lightweight fighter in the world, not just in K-1.
Sudo’s opponent in the finals is the very hard hitting and extremely popular, Norifumi “Kid” Yamamoto. A “mini-Mark Coleman” as he’s been referred to by the press in previous months, Yamamoto is a very strong wrestler who his harder than possibly any fighter in the lightweight class.
Training with Enson Inoue, “Kid” Yamamoto is a one time Olympic hopeful, but is now focused 110% on MMA and a win in the K-1 tournament could go a long way to testing his mettle. With more than 10 professional fights under his belt, Yamamoto is out to prove that his game is ready for the next level.
Fighting most of his career between lightweight and featherweight, “Kid” Yamamoto will actually come into this fight giving up almost 5 inches of height to Genki Sudo, but never one to back down from a fight, the fighter who stopped both Royler Gracie and UFC veteran Caol Uno on his way to the finals, “Kid” Yamamoto will be ready for his chance at greatness.
The real question going into this fight is truly who wants this prestigious title more? Genki Sudo has long been considered a top flight competitor but hasn’t stepped into any major fight yet in his career. “Kid” Yamamoto has fought some very good opponents but never one as well rounded in every aspect of his game as Genki Sudo.
With a win, either competitor will make a name for themselves as one of the very best in the lightweight class in the world, but it will be interesting to see how the crowd perceives this fight knowing that two other Japanese heroes in Takanori Gomi and Hayato “Mach” Sakarai will be battling it out for a similar crown in Pride on the same night. Neither Genki Sudo or “Kid” Yamamoto had to go through the same level of competition to get to the finals as their Pride rivals, but now that the finals are set, this looks to be an absolutely tremendous match-up.
Genki Sudo and “Kid” Yamamoto will square off on New Year’s Eve in the finals of the K-1 Hero’s lightweight tournament.