by Ricardo Mendoza – MMAWeekly.com
K-1 will hold its first Hero’s card of the year on Monday night in Nagoya, and the event is highlighted by the return of Kazushi Sakuraba and the debut of Vitor “Shaolin” Ribeiro on the worldwide stage.

Other fighters like Caol Uno, Hideo Tokoro, Melvin Manhoef, and Mighty Mo round out the card in what should be their final show before making their U.S. debut in May. This card has some talented fighters on it but the majority of them are in mismatches.

Kazushi Sakuraba vs. Jurij “Playboy” Kiseliov

Kazushi Sakuraba returns to K-1 for the first time since his controversial fight with Yoshihiro Akiyama at K-1 Dynamite! 2006. Sakuraba was beaten badly in the fight as he was outclassed on the feet but the big controversy coming out of the fight was that Akiyama had been greased up. Akiyama had put lotion all over his body due to a skin condition; the end result being whenever Sakuraba went for a takedown, Akiyama was able slip out with ease. After a huge controversy, the fight was changed from a win for Akiyama to a no contest and led to Akiyama’s suspension from fighting and to being the most hated man in Japan.

Sakuraba now faces Jurij “Playboy” Kiseliov in what looks to be a blatant attempt by K-1 to get Sakuraba an easy win after taking two consecutive beatings. Kiseliov is 0-2 in MMA, being knocked out in both his fights. He is widely known in Europe because he has appeared in Playboy, hence his nickname. Sakuraba should win with ease as Kiseliov shouldn’t present much of a threat to him.

Prediction: Kazushi Sakuraba by submission in the first round.

Vitor “Shaolin” Ribeiro vs. Ryuki Ueyama

Shaolin finally makes his debut in HEROS as he takes on U-File Camp fighter Ryuki Ueyama. Shaolin, the world’s #7 lightweight in the MMAWeekly Rankings, is coming off a TKO victory over Daisuke Nakamura at Cage Rage 19, where he wrenched an armlock until the referee stopped the fight. Ueyama is coming off a decision loss to Rani Yahira at HEROS 5. Shaolin finally gets to make his debut in a big show after being recognized as one world’s top lightweights.

This is basically a showcase fight for Shaolin in his HEROS debut as Ueyama hasn’t shown any improvement in recent fights and I doubt we’ll see any in this fight. Yahira had no trouble in controlling Ueyama on the ground in their fight and I doubt Shaolin will either, being that he is a better grappler then Yahira. Shaolin should be able to take this fight by decision in his HEROS debut.

Prediction: Vitor “Shaolin” Ribeiro by decision

Melvin Manhoef vs. Yoshiki Takahashi

Dutch kickboxer Melvin Manhoef takes on former King of Pancrase Yoshiki Takahashi. Manhoef is coming off a submission loss to Yoshihiro Akiyama at HEROS 7. Takahashi is coming off a knockout loss to Vitor Belfort at Pride Critical Countdown Absolute 2006 and recently participated in BoDog Fight. This is just a showcase fight for Manhoef for him to get a win under his belt after losing to Akiyama. Takahashi has been knocked out in his last couple of fights and I see the same outcome here. Manhoef by super aggressive massacre.

Prediction: Melvin Manhoef by KO in the first round

Kazuyuki Miyata vs. Kultar “Black Mamba” Gill

Olympic wrestler Kazuyuki Miyata takes on K-1 Max and HEROS veteran Kultar “Black Mamba” Gill. Miyata is coming off a TKO victory over Ian Schffa at HEROS 7. Gill is coming off a submission loss to Rodrigo Damn at BoDog Fight: St. Petersburg. Miyata never got a chance to acclimate himself in MMA like most fighters as he was thrown in immediately with fighters like Royler Gracie and Genki Sudo. Gill is 1-1 in HEROS but has lost his last two fights by submission but nonetheless he is a dangerous fighter because of his striking. If Miyata can get this fight on the ground, he should be able to beat Gill. One thing that Miyata needs to be careful with is not to over commit to a takedown because Gill can end it all with just one knee. Miyata should be able to control the fight on the ground en route to a decision win.

Prediction: Kazuyuki Miyata by decision

Yoshihisa Yamamoto vs. Katsuyori Shibata

Pride and HEROS veteran Yoshihisa Yamamoto takes on former New Japan wrestler Katsuyori Shibata. Yamamoto is coming off a submission loss to Don Frye at HEROS 6. Shibata’s only fight in MMA was back at Jungle Fight 2, where he submitted the Ice Man. This is being billed in Japan as Maeda vs. Funaki; being that Yamamoto started out in RINGS and Shibata has been training in the past months with Pancrase legend Funaki. This fight is entirely for the Japanese fans; I’m picking Yamamoto over Shibata because of his size advantage and the experience factor.

Prediction: Yoshihisa Yamamoto by decision

Caol Uno vs. Ali Ibrahim

Shooto and UFC veteran Caol Uno takes on relatively unknown fighter Ali Ibrahim. Uno is coming off a decision loss to JZ Calavan at HEROS 7. Uno was rumored to be making a comeback to the UFC against Joe Stevenson in April but it wasn’t meant to be. I know absolutely nothing about Ibrahim as do the majority of people who follow MMA. Ibrahim was simply brought in to give Uno an easy win and that’s what is gonna happen.

Prediction: Caol Uno by submission in the first round

Hiroyuki Takaya vs. Andre Dida

Former Shooto standout Hiroyuki Takaya takes on Chute Boxe prodigy Andre Dida. Takaya is coming off a quick knockout loss to “JZ” Calavan at HEROS 6. Dida is coming off a TKO win over Felipe Borges at Storm Samurai 12. Takaya likes to bang but might hesitant to do so after being knocked out. Dida is being touted as the next big thing to come out of the Chute Boxe Academy. This is probably going to end up being the fight of the night, just because I expect both fighters to slug it out. Takaya is the more experienced fighter but I’m going with Dida to pull off the upset, in what should be a great fight.

Prediction: Andre Dida by TkO in the second round.

Hideo Tokoro vs. Kazuya Yasuhiro

ZST ace Hideo Tokoro takes on K-1 Max veteran Kazuya Yasuhiro. Tokoro is coming off a decision win over Royler Gracie at K-1 Dynamite! 2006. Yasuhiro is a late replacement for Katsuhiko Nagata, who pulled out due to injury. Tokoro has immense talent but is probably one of the most inconsistent fighters in MMA today. Yasuhiro is 0-2 in MMA with both losses coming by the way of submission. If the fight stays on the feet too long, Yasuhiro can knockout Tokoro who has a suspect chin but I see Tokoro taking this fight to the ground quickly and submitting Yasuhiro.

Prediction: Hideo Tokoro by submission in the first round

Gary Goodridge vs. Jan “The Giant” Nortje

Crowd favorite Gary Goodridge takes on K-1 veteran Jan “The Giant” Nortje. Goodridge is coming off a TKO victory over Tadas Rinkevicius at HEROS Lithuania. Nortje last fought at NJPW: Ultimate Crush, losing to Shinsuke Nakamura by choke. It’s been a while since Nortje has fought in MMA or kickboxing and the lack of activity should get to him here. I see Goodridge landing a big punch and finishing the fight on the ground with strikes.

Prediction: Gary Goodridge by TKO in the first round

Mighty Mo vs. Kim Min Soo

K-1 veteran Mighty Mo takes on Korean judoka Kim Min Soo. Mo is making his Hero’s debut and is coming off a knockout win over Hong-man Choi at K-1 Yokohama 2007, which just happened last week. Soo is coming off a knockout loss to Don Frye at HEROS 7. I give Soo a lot of credit because he always tries his hardest but is usually overmatched in his fights and this one isn’t any different. Even though Mo comes into the fight just having fought a week ago, I see him knocking out Soo to win his Hero’s debut.

Prediction: Mighty Mo by KO in the first round

Shin Hyung-Pyo vs. Bernard Ackah

Ackah is a TV personality in Japan and Hyung-Pyo is a former Ssireum champion from Korea. Jeez, HEROS always has to have one fight involving a TV personality and this is it right here. I’m picking Hyung-Pyo over Ackah because he actually has some combat experience.

Prediction: Shin Hyung-Pyo by decision