by Ricardo Mendoza – MMAWeekly.com
Hero’s, the Japanese MMA promotion that is operated by K-1, has announced the card for its August 5th show, and two of the promotion’s biggest stars will not be on the card. Both Norifumi “Kid” Yamamoto and Genki Sudo have withdrawn from the promotion’s 154-pound tournament.

Kid Yamamoto, who is one of the very biggest stars in the Japanese MMA scene, has taken an indefinite leave of absence from MMA competition, as he hopes to accomplish his life’s dream of representing Japan in Olympic wrestling. He will be working towards participating in the 2007 Emperor’s Cup and qualifying for the 2008 Beijing Games.

Yamamoto’s accomplishments in MMA (which include KO/TKO victories over Genki Sudo, Caol Uno, and Royler Gracie in the past year alone) are made all the more impressive by the fact that he has fought in the 154-pound weight class against fighters who often cut weight to get down to 154, while Yamamoto walks around at about 145 pounds and will easily be able to cut weight to 132 pounds for his Olympic endeavor. In addition to his MMA and amateur wrestling skills, Yamamoto is also a top-level kickboxer.

Genki Sudo will also be unable to compete in the Hero’s tournament due to a recurring neck injury that will not be healed in time for the event. In Sudo’s two most recent fights, he was knocked out by Yamamoto last December and then defeated Ole Laursen by decision in March.

Replacing Yamamoto and Sudo in the 154-pound tournament, which Hero’s is referring to the “Middleweight Tournament,” will be Hiroyuki Takaya and Kazuya Yasuhiro. The company also announced the final fighter who will be participating in the tournament: Hideo Tokoro, who fought Royce Gracie to a draw last December even though Gracie outweighed him by 38 pounds.

The match-ups for the tournament are as follows: former Shooto title-holder Caol Uno takes on Canadian Kultar Gill (who knocked out Tokoro earlier this year); former UFC fighter Ivan Menjivar takes on ZST ace Hideo Tokoro; American Top Team fighter Gesias “JZ” Calvancanti takes on 2004 Shooto Lightweight Rookie Champion Hiroyuki Takaya; and ADCC veteran Rani Yahira takes on K-1 Max veteran Kazuya Yasuhiro in the final match-up.

In addition to the 154-pound tournament, Hero’s will also hold its first ever 187-pound tournament, which the company is referring to as a “Light Heavyweight Tournament.” This 187-pound tournament will mark the Hero’s debut of Kazushi Sakuraba, who left Pride and signed with Hero’s in May. The 187-pound tournament also includes the return of Carlos Newton to MMA competition for the first time since 2004, as he goes up against rising British fighter Melvin Manhoef, who usually fights at 205 pounds.

Match-ups announced for the Hero’s 187-pound tournament: Cage Rage Light Heavyweight Champion Melvin Manhoef takes on the returning Carlos Newton; Japanese journeyman Shungo Oyama takes on Brazilian Rodrigo Gracie; former Japanese Judoka Yoshihiro Akiyama takes on K-1 veteran Kin Taiei; and MMA legend Kazushi Sakuraba makes his Hero’s debut as he takes on European Shooto veteran Kestutis Smirnovas.

Hero’s — August 5th, 2006

187-Pound Tournament Quarter-Final Match-Ups:
-Carlos Newton vs. Melvin Manhoef
-Kazushi Sakuraba vs. Kestutis Smirnovas
-Rodrigo Gracie vs. Shungo Oyama
-Yoshihiro Akiyama vs. Kin Taiei

154-Pound Tournament Quarter-Final Match-Ups:
-Caol Uno vs. Kultar Gill
-Hideo Tokoro vs. Ivan Menjivar
-Gesias “JZ” Calvancanti vs. Hiroyuki Takaya
-Rani Yahira vs. Kazuya Yasuhiro