Press Release by Monty DiPietro for K-1 (Photo courtesy of K-1)
(Photos courtesy of FEG)

OSAKA, Japan – Dynamite!! was held before a full house on Monday at the Kyocera Dome in Osaka. Seven bouts were fought under Hero’s rules (mixed martial arts) and eight under K-1 rules (kickboxing).

In the main event it was a couple of Japanese mixed martial arts legends meeting under Hero’s rules, with an 85kg/187lbs weight contract. Kazushi Sakuraba and Masakatsu Funaki brought a wealth of experience and illustrious careers to the ring. Both are grapplers and so this fight was expected to go to the mat early.

There were a few low kicks and punches to start, both fighters connecting smartly, before an off-balance Sakuraba managed a takedown to mount. Funaki coiled up, and after the pair spent some time locked in a Greco-Roman embrace, Sakuraba emerged standing over his opponent. Funaki used bicycle kicks to keep his opponent at bay, smacking one up to the face, before Sakuraba grabbed the feet and came down to a side mount to begin fishing for the armbar. The pair were wrapped tight when Sakuraba worked Funaki’s right arm free, twisting it behind the back to force the submission and take the win.

“It’s been seven years since I fought Funaki and I was surprised at how good his punching and timing are,” said Sakuraba in his post-fight interview. “He is stronger than I remember. I was planning to pound on his face, but he was so good at blocking that I couldn’t.”

Asked about FEG Event Producer Sadaharu Tanikawa’s call for a Sakuraba vs. Rickson Gracie fight next year, Sakuraba replied, “I’m up for it. I’ve never fought him, but I can only think of one fight at a time. This was a good year and I was relatively uninjured, so I’d like next year to be like that!”

The card’s penultimate matchup featured Japanese mixed martial arts star Norifumi “Kid” Yamamoto and Brazilian jiu-jitsu fighter Rani Yahya in a 61kg/135lbs Hero’s contest. Yahya charged in early swinging away, only to have his momentum kiboshed by Yamamoto’s surgical left punch. Yahya made attempts with low and high kicks, but Kid was better with his counters, and repeatedly closed to point with a strike-and-retreat strategy.

Yahya several times saw his leg takedowns stymied, and when the Brazilian did go to the ground Yamamoto declined the invitation, electing to hang back for a re-stand. In the first and second there were periods of frantic punching exchanges, but despite copious attempts, neither fighter could knock the other down.

Yamamoto’s low crouch contrasted with Yahya’s upright stance, and allowed the Japanese to both jump forward with punches and stave off takedown attempts. Following more fruitless flailing of the fists in the third, Yahya threw three high kicks, all of which were ably blocked, before Yamamoto connected squarely with a right, then a left, to leave Yahya dazed and down in the corner. The pumped-up Yamamoto stepped in to fire kicks at his opponent’s head, making partial contact before the referee intervened to stop the fight, raising Yamamoto’s arm in victory.

“I kept a good distance to keep my opponent for coming in with a tackle,” said Yamamoto afterward. “His punches were unorthodox so I hesitated a bit. A punch got through in the second round and I was seeing double after that. But in the end I came out with a win.”

Five years ago, American fighter Bob “The Beast” Sapp had one of the most recognizable faces in Japan. He returned for a Hero’s bout with another very recognizable face, Japanese television tarento and comedian Bobby Ologun of Nigeria. The question was — which face would be more recognizable after the fight?

After a couple of unabashedly over-the-top ring entrances, the pair set up for their showdown. From the bell, Sapp marched forward as Ologun pranced about out of reach, until finally Sapp got a grip and a takedown. He muscled his way into a full mount which, given his mass, offered Ologun little if any chance for escape. Sapp tried in vain to wrest his opponent’s arm free before abandoning that endeavor and simply pounding down the fists to earn a referee stop and the win.

“I’m happy overall,” said Sapp in his post-fight interview, “but I know what I need to work on. It’s good to be back. I think the audience wants more of the Beast and I want to do more. I plan to sit down with FEG and see what 2008 has in store, it should be a happy new year.”

In other Hero’s fights:

Kiyoshi Tamura of Japan took on compatriot Hideo Tokoro. These are a couple of mixed martial arts specialists, and not a strike was thrown before they went to the mat courtesy a Tokoro takedown. After a re-stand and a solid Tamura middle kick, the pair went to the mat once more where, alas, not a whole lot happened. Tamura allowed his opponent to stand, threw a kick or two and then they were down again. A round with plenty of ups and downs, but little apparent damage.

More grappling in the second, Tamura not capitalizing on a rear mount, Tokoro reversing but similarly unable to gain good position before another of many referee-ordered re-stands. But for a solid Tamura left hook, another round marred by a lack of action.

With his 17kg/38lbs weight advantage, Tamura had the edge in power, and hard low kicks earned him some points early in the third. A relatively lackluster affair that finally found its conclusion when the pair went to the mat midway through the final round and Tamura extracted an arm and hyperextended for the submission.

Japanese former pro wrestler Ikuhisa Minowa went up against Zulu, a Brazilian who weighs in at a whopping 185kg/408lbs. Minowa declared before the fight that weight difference was less important than spirit in a fight. But as Zulu stood center ring, Minowa showed only spirited jogging, circling the ring’s perimeter more than a dozen times — perhaps intent on dizzying his opponent? The cat and mouse game played out for several minutes before Zulu finally got a hold of Minowa and smothered him. Then the bell sounded.

In the second it was more perimeter play for Minowa, who only occasionally darted in with low kicks. Again, Zulu eventually caught his opponent, throwing him to the mat like a rag doll. Soon, Minowa managed to get to his feet and began running circles again. Had the bout been fought on a tennis court this might have gone on forever. As it was, Zulu cut off the ring and got another takedown, but was woefully unable to work a submission before the bell sounded. Zulu tracked and downed his prey again in the third, and this time his hammer punches prompted Minowaman’s corner to throw the towel.

The ever-aggressive Dutch kickboxer Melvin Manhoef made his Dynamite!! debut, testing his mixed martial arts skills against Japanese boxer Yosuke Nishijima. The two strikers squared off from the start, Manhoef coming in with a flurry of punches that left Nishijima stunned against the ropes. Somewhat surprisingly, Manhoef then elected to execute a takedown, quickly assuming a full mount to finish his opponent with the good old-fashioned ground and pound.

In a 70kg/154lbs bout, it was wrestler Kazuyuki Miyata of Japan versus Joachim Hansen of Norway. After a bit of sparring, Miyata got the takedown and mount, but Hansen’s guard forced a stalemate and re-stand. Miyata connected with a high kick and a left hook, but Hansen scored a strong down with a left hook of his own. As a vulnerable Miyata lay on his back Hansen approached, only to be stopped by the bell. Miyata got another takedown to start the second, but Hansen was good in guard, then suddenly rolled his opponent into a choke sleeper for the tapout win.

Dynamite!! 2007 attracted a sellout crowd of 47,918 to the Kyocera Dome in Osaka and was broadcast live across Japan on the TBS Network.

Mixed Martial Arts Results:
-Kazushi Sakuraba def. Masakatsu Funaki by Submission (Armbar) at 6:25, R1
-Norifumi “Kid” Yamamoto def. Rani Yahya by KO, R2
-Bob Sapp def. Bobby Ologun by TKO at 4:10, R1
-Kiyoshi Tamura def. Hideo Tokoro by Submission (Armbar) at 3:08, R3
-Zuluzinho def. Ikuhisa Minowa by TKO at 2:13, R3
-Melvin Manhoef def. Yosuke Nishijima by KO at 1:49, R1
-Joachim Hansen def. Kazuyuki Miyata by Submission (Rear Naked Choke) at 1:33, R1