by Al Yu – MMAWeekly.com, Photos by Scott Petersen


After making their American debut in June, K-1 returned to Japan with the ninth installment of its Hero’s show. This event marked the first round of the 155-pound tournament, the third in the organization’s history. Norifumi “Kid” Yamamoto was crowned the Grand Prix Champion in its inaugural year while Gesias “JZ” Calvancanti dominated last year’s tournament. Also on the card was the debut of former Pride and Rings veteran Kiyoshi Tamura and the return of former Shooto Champion Alexandre Franca “Pequeno” Nogueira.

Vitor “Shaolin” Ribeiro, the #6 lightweight in the MMAWeekly World MMA Rankings, advanced to the second round of the tournament with a submission victory over Kazuyuki Miyata. The fight began slowly with both fighters trying to get a feel for each other. Ribeiro was the aggressor early on and tried to close the distance on his opponent while Miyata sidestepped and threw a few kicks. The Olympic wrestler did better than most expected as the first round came to an end. In the second, “Shaolin” was able to get into Miyata’s guard and eventually advance his positioning to secure a side choke. With the Katagatame in tight, Miyata had no choice but to tap.

K-1’s Cinderella Boy Hideo Tokoro failed to avenge his previous loss to Kultar Gill as he was stopped via strikes in tournament action. The much smaller Tokoro attempted a heel hook early on which eventually gave the “Black Mamba” dominant positioning. The remainder of the fight saw Gill landing many strikes and elbows from Tokoro’s back. At one point, Hideo was able to reverse himself and land in Gill’s guard but went for another unsuccessful heel hook attempt, giving up the dominant positioning to his opponent again.

Last year’s Grand Prix runner-up Caol Uno took on wrestler Katsuhiko Nagata in the final tournament match of the evening. The first round started tentatively with neither fighter willing to over commit. Caol was able to land the cleaner shots on their feet as the fight progressed. Most of the action occurred in the final round which was highlighted by a few exchanges, some clinch work and dominant positioning by Uno. After three rounds, Caol Uno advanced to the semi-finals with a unanimous decision. Nagata was impressive in defeat and has shown a lot of improvements.

Lightweight prospects Andre Dida and Artur Oumakhanov faced off in a superfight. Oumakhanov was a late replacement for defending Grand Prix Champion Gesias Calvancanti who suffered a hand injury from his recent fight against Masato. Originally scheduled as a tournament match, the status of the bout was changed after K-1 announced that Calvancanti would receive a bye into the next round.

Oumakhanov started the fight overconfident, slowly stalking Dida with his hands very low. The Chute Box striker landed a right hook that staggered Oumakhanov about a minute into the round that signified the beginning of the end for the Russian. Sensing his opponent in trouble, Dida followed up with more than ten unanswered blows before the ref stopped the fight. With the win, Dida earned himself the status of tournament alternate.

In one of the most entertaining fights of the night, relative MMA newcomer Bernard Ackah took the fight to Dutch striker Melvin Manhoef. Ackah came out aggressively throwing a high kick followed by a clinch. After many fast-paced scrambles it was apparent that Ackah lacked the striking skills to land one of his many straight right hand attempts. About two minutes into the opening round, Manhoef landed a three punch combo that dropped the Japanese comedic personality, forcing the referee to call an end to the bout.

Former Shooto Champion Alexandre Franca Nogueira earned his first Hero’s victory in knockout fashion over Shuichiro Katsumara. Taking a page out of Ganjo Tentsuku’s fighting style, “Pequeno” was much more aggressive with his strikes and flurries in his latest outing. Nogueira landed a right hook in the second round that sent Katsumara to the canvas. The Brazilian landed a few more strikes before the fight was halted.

Kiyoshi Tamura made his K-1 Hero’s debut with an uninspired decision loss to kickboxing veteran Taiei Kin. The man with the red pants consistently took his opponent down but was unable to mount much of an offense and the fight was stood back up on many occasions. On their feet, Kin got the better of Tamura and the results showed in the U-File fighter’s knees. After three rounds, the judges felt that Kin did more to earn a unanimous victory.

In his MMA debut, Ralek Gracie defeated pro wrestler Katsuyori Shibata via armbar. Ralek came out throwing lazy front kicks to feel out his opponent, a tactic used by his more famous relative Royce Gracie. The Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu black belt clinched Shibata against the ropes and was able to throw his Japanese opponent towards the center of the ring, landing in his guard. From there, the Gracie bided his time while throwing strikes before securing an armbar.

K-1 Hero’s 9 Results:

Akihiko Mouri def. Syuya Arimura – Unanimous Decision
RYO def. Hiroki Ozaki – Unanimous Decision
Alexander Franca Nogueira def. Shuichiro Katsumura – KO, RD2
Andre Dida def. Artur Oumakhanov – TKO (Strikes), RD1
Ralek Gracie def. Katsuyori Shibata – Armbar, RD1
Vitor Ribeiro def. Kazuyuki Miyat – Side Choke, RD2
Kultar Gill def. Hideo Tokoro – TKO (Strikes), RD1
Caol Uno def. Katsuhiko Nagata – Unanimous Decision
Melvin Manhoef def. Bernard Ackah – KO (Strikes), RD1
Taiei Kin def. Kiyoshi Tamura – Unanimous Decision