by Mick Hammond
Heading into Final Conflict 2005, not many thought that the Yoshida Dojo’s fighters would win both their fights as Kazuhiro Nakamura took on Igor Vovchanchyn and Dojo namesake Hidehiko Yoshida took on Tank Abbott, but both won and did so in decisive fashion.
In the case of Nakamura, many felt that the stronger and more seasoned Vovchanchyn would dominate the fight with his superior striking and veteran skills, but that was not the case. Heading into the fight Kazuhiro was said to have worked in New Zealand with super striker Mark Hunt and so it was possible that he was going to stand with Igor, but Kaz got the better of everyone taking and keeping the fight on the ground.
Normally, Vovchanchyn is a solid ground fighter, he’s been in against some of the biggest and most experienced grapplers around and has come out on top more often than not, but this time he seemed completely out of his element, despite some solid submission defense. Being the stronger fighter physically would normally account for something, alas without any extended stand-up in the fight, Igor may be showing that he might have to go back and re-tool his game before taking a stab at the Chute Boxe fighters.
Nakamura on the other hand continues to impress, albeit in a strange and inconsistent manner. At times, he looks every bit the top student of 1992 Olympic gold medal winner Yoshida, but at other times, he looks like he should have taken more developmental fights before picking on the big boys of Pride. It’s an interesting dichotomy, he’s extremely gifted and is in demand as a Japanese fighter for a Japanese public demanding of heroes, yet he needs more time to mature and grow into facing the competition he’s pitted against. Still, he raised his record to 7-4 with wins over Murilo Bustamante, Kevin Randleman, and now Igor Vovchanchyn.
For Hidehiko Yoshida it was pretty much a forgone conclusion, he would take Tank Abbott down and submit him. The fight was pretty much slated to mirror Yoshida’s fight with Mark Hunt over a year ago, but Hidehiko had other ideas. Showing a continued desire to become a more complete and aggressive fighter, Yoshida stood with Abbott and was clearly the crisper and more dominant striker.
That’s not to say that Tank Abbott is exactly the most precise striker in the world, more often than not he swings for the fences and if it lands, it lands, if not, oh well. But still, against a fighter with proven knockout power, Yoshida stood tall and while at times not pretty, he was efficient and continues to get bolder each time out. Imagine that, this coming from the guy who looked nearly catatonic in a draw to Royce Gracie and a loss to Rulon Gardner, two fighters who aren’t exactly the epitome of activity.
And then there’s Yoshida’s opponent Tank Abbott… well… nothing more can be said other than there is always a market for people like Abbott and boxing’s Mike Tyson. Sure they are past their prime and no longer relevant in today’s version of their respective sports, but people will pay to see them perform if only in hopes of something catastrophic happening in the ring. Still, he received a sizable paycheck and may be called on again for Pride, a company that’s seen fit to continuously bring back fighters who don’t perform beyond their name, ala Giant Silva, Henry “Sentoryu” Miller, and Stefan Leko.
Going two for two is more than most people expected from the Yoshida Dojo, but it’s what happened and it sets a foundation for future performances. With the Japanese public clamoring for a hero and Yoshida’s willingness to sacrifice himself and his students at times against more experienced opposition for a possible win, the Dojo will continue to be in demand.
With continued maturation and acclimation to MMA, the Judokas of the Dojo may just be able to turn into a consistent and opposing force spearheaded by young talent like Nakamura and lead by the charismatic Yoshida. And if that happens, then Pride may have found a Japanese hope to counteract the growing dominance of Brazilian and Russian contingencies within their organization.