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


After a controversial end to 2006, K-1 returned with its first Hero’s show of the New Year. Headlined by K-1’s “Cinderella Boy” Hideo Tokoro, FEG hoped to rebound from a ‘greasy’ situation with a solid event showcasing some of its familiar names and a few new faces. Brevity best described the evening as none of the main card fights advanced to the second round. 2006 K-1 Hero’s 187-pound Tournament Champion Gesias “JZ” Calvancanti was originally scheduled to fight on the card but was not be able to participate due to a lack of training time. The American Top Team fighter recently recovered from hand surgery.

In the main event of the evening, Hideo Tokoro faced Karate practitioner Kazuya Yasuhiro. The match started tentatively with both fighters trying to feel each other out. After more than two minutes of circling, Tokoro scored a takedown and transitioned into a full mount. Yasuhiro was able to reverse the position but rolled into a triangle choke attempt. As Yasuhiro tried to escape, the former janitor secured an armbar and earned his third straight victory.

UFC and K-1 Hero’s veteran Caol Uno overcame an aggressive Ali Ibrahim to win via submission. Ibrahim landed a few good shots early and secured a takedown. The Olympic Judoka began throwing punches aggressively from Uno’s guard. Keeping his composure, “Uno Shoten” eventually attempted an armbar from his back. Ibrahim tried to slam his way out of the hold but was forced to submit.

Kazuyuki Miyata submitted Kultar Gill in the eighth fight of the night. After scoring a double leg takedown, Miyata slammed out of an armbar attempt by the “Black Mamba”. As Gill tried to counter a kimura by Miyata, the Japanese wrestler transitioned into a brabo choke, forcing his opponent to tap. With the loss, Gill extended his losing streak to three fights, all by submission.

In his first fight since the ‘greasing’ incident with Akiyama, Kazushi Sakuraba took on relatively unknown and inexperienced Yurij “Play Boy” Kiseliov. Sporting a black gi with a playboy symbol on the back, Kiseliov was easily taken down by the “Gracie Hunter” early on. Yurij threw many rabid punches from his back and was warned for hitting on top of Sakuraba’s head. The Japanese star attained side mount and attempted to secure an armbar. Yurij was able to escape but Sakuraba transitioned into a triangle choke/armbar. After tapping out, Kiseliov was gracious in defeat and congratulated Sakuraba in the ring.

Gary Goodridge faced Jan “The Giant” Nortje in a rematch from their first encounter back in 2001. Usually not one to hold back his strikes, Goodridge seemed tentative and I didn’t recall the K-1 veteran throwing a single punch during the first few minutes. “Big Daddy” was content to lean against the corner and block all of Nortje’s punches and knees while the referee carefully watched on. Halfway through the round, Gary scored a takedown and landed strikes from side mount. After many unanswered blows, the referee ended the fight.

Katsuyori Shibata made short work of journeyman Yoshihisa Yamamoto with a first round TKO victory. Yamamoto came out aggressive early and was caught with a right hand that knocked him down. Consequent strikes from Shibata forced the referee to halt the match.

In what was the most competitive and entertaining fight of the evening, Hiroyuki Takaya faced Chute Boxe prospect Andre Dida. The majority of the fight stayed standing with both men taking part in some good exchanges. The first round progressed and it seemed that Dida’s striking did more damage as Takaya’s eyes swelled up. After the round ended, the doctors determined that Takaya was unable to continue due to a broken nose. Replay video showed that a right uppercut from the Chute Boxe fighter caused the injury. Dida’s striking was reminiscent to that of Wanderlei Silva’s but more controlled and refined. The Brazilian fighter is one to watch for in the future.

Fans long waited for the major organization debut of former Shooto Champion Vitor “Shaolin” Ribeiro and they weren’t disappointed. The Nova Uniao fighter made quick work of Ryuki Ueyama, submitting him in the opening round. Vitor had Ueyama’s back early on while working for submissions. As Ryuki tried to counter, “Shaolin” transitioned into a reverse triangle choke which consequently extended into an armbar. Vitor was impressive in victory and will be a favorite in Hero’s upcoming tournament.

2004 K-1 World Grand Prix Champion Siala “Mighty Mo” Siliga made his K-1 Hero’s debut against Korea’s Min-Soo Kim. The first few minutes consisted of a feeling out process with neither fighter willing to over-commit with their strikes. After a few failed clinch attempts by Kim, “Mighty Mo” stunned the Judoka with a right haymaker. The K-1 veteran battered Kim to the other corner of the ring where another right hook sealed the deal. The win was the second for “Mighty Mo” under MMA rules. Siliga last fought back in 2003 where he knocked out Mark Smith at UAGF 4.

Prior to the start of his fight with former King of Pancrase Yoshiki Takahashi, Dutch striker Melvin Manhoef was given a yellow card for apparently having some sort of moisturizer/lubricant on his body. In order to prevent another incident akin to Yoshihiro Akiyama’s ‘greasy’ situation, K-1 Hero’s staff wiped down his body and legs with towels to ensure the fight would go on without any negligence. Manhoef threw a few kicks early and displayed good takedown defense. About two and half minutes into the round, Melvin landed a short right hook that dropped Takahashi. The former Cage Rage Champion followed his opponent with strikes to the head after he fell to the mat. In my opinion, the ref allowed Takahashi to absorb too much punishment before stopping the fight.

Comedian/variety show personality turned MMA fighter Bernard Ackah made a successful foray into the sport with a first round TKO over Hyun-Pyo Shin. After a brief exchange of strikes and kicks, Ackah landed a nice high kick that dropped his opponent. The Korean fighter would get back up and the two exchanged again. Clinching his opponent near the ropes, Ackah threw four unanswered uppercuts that forced the referee to stop the fight.

Overall, K-1 Hero’s 8 was average at best. It was rare to see an event with thirteen fights that didn’t go past the first round. Although it was entertaining, the poor matchmaking that K-1 has been notorious for ensured that the fans were robbed of the most competitive fights they could see. The fight of the evening belonged to Hiroyuki Takaya vs. Andre Dida. With the inclusion of Vitor “Shaolin” Ribeiro and Andre Dida, fans can look forward to this year’s Hero’s lightweight tournament.