The New Year is finally upon us, and the New Year's Eve tradition is still alive as Fight Entertainment Group and World Victory Road have teamed up this year to bring us a collaboration of battles you won't want to miss. The FieLDS Dynamite!! 2009 event will take place on December 31st, 2009 from Saitama Super Arena in Saitama, Japan. It will air LIVE on HDNet on December 31st at 3:00 AM EST -- That's TONIGHT/TOMORROW MORNING.
The main event will feature K-1 MAX fighters Masato and Andy Souwer facing off in a third installment as a potential retirement fight for Masato. The event will also see DREAM and Sengoku lightweight champions Shinya Aoki and Mizuto Hirota battling one another, 2008 Olympic Judo Gold Medalist Satoshi Ishii making his debut, and some intriguing bouts featuring Melvin Manhoef, Kazuo Misaki, Norifumi "Kid" Yamamoto, Tatsuya Kawajiri, Kazunori Yokota, Akihiro Gono, Hayato Sakurai, and many, many more.
DREAM vs. SRC (Lightweight): Shinya Aoki (22-4) vs. Mizuto Hirota (12-3-1): One of the most highly anticipated battles of the evening on the MMA portion of the card will feature a champion vs. champion showdown between DREAM champion Shinya Aoki and Sengoku champion Mizuto Hirota. While we probably wouldn't be talking about this fight if Aoki's training partner and friend, Satoru Kitaoka, hadn't lost to Hirota back in August, Kitaoka's loss does add a little drama too this match-up as Aoki may be looking to send a message to Hirota after defeating such a close friend.
Unfortunately for Hirota, Aoki doesn't run with the same style of attack as Satoru Kitaoka. Hirota's sprawl and brawl tactics combined with Kitaoka's inability to shoot for takedowns at opportune times severely degraded Kitaoka's chances to win. Aoki is a much smarter fighter in that he'll be able to pull guard to gain takedowns if Hirota tries to sprawl takedown attempts, and he's a far more creative takedown artist that Kitaoka. Aoki should be able to create a grappling nightmare on the ground for Hirota in this showdown. I'll take Aoki via submission.
Raiden Cup, SRC Rules (Heavyweight): Hidehiko Yoshida (8-7-1) vs. Satoshi Ishii (0-0): Size and strength will ultimately be the deciding factors in this showdown between Olympic gold medalist judokas as the 2008 Beijing gold medalist Satoshi Ishii will make his MMA debut against the experienced PRIDE veteran and 1992 Barcelona gold medalist Hidehiko Yoshida. The Japanese MMA market is hoping that Ishii will be the fighter who can revive the interest in MMA in Japan, and this battle should be the first step to seeing if Ishii has what it takes to become a force among heavyweights in the world.
Most analysts are pointing at Ishii's impressive performance at the 2008 Beijing Olympics as a sure-fire indicator that he'll be able to overpower Yoshida in the clinch and control him on the ground. I'd tend to agree with that assessment due to Yoshida's fairly lackluster striking game and aging athletic ability. With no threat to be knocked out unless Yoshida can catch Ishii coming in, I think Ishii could actually finish Yoshida quickly in the first round.
DREAM x SRC (Featherweight): Norifumi "Kid" Yamamoto (17-2) vs. Masanori Kanehara (15-7-5): The storyline surrounding this fight hasn't really focused on the actual fight, but the drop of Yamamoto's popularity due to his divorce, streak of inactivity in the past few years due to injury, and losses to Joe Warren and Jae Hee Cheon in DREAM and K-1 respectively. A fighter who normally is featured in the top three fights on any given card will make his appearance barely in the top five. This will be his chance to get back on track following his recent defeats despite the drop from the top three fights on the card. An impressive finish could go a long ways to helping Yamamoto gain some popularity once again.
As for the match-up, Yamamoto has all the advantages here as this is a style of fight he's seen more often than not. Kanehara's solid conditioning and ability to work at a good pace are great attributes in a fighter, but his overall skill level won't be able to contend with Yamamoto's wrestling ability and powerful punching. He should be able to control Kanehara and pepper him with blows on his way to a decision victory.
Their last showdown took place in the championship bout of the 2007 K-1 MAX World Championship Tournament Final event. Souwer's brilliant gameplan of covering up to defend strikes while throwing heavy outside leg kicks slowly chipped away at Masato, and while Masato landed significant combinations throughout much of the first round -- Souwer's chin withstood the flurries and produced an impressive victory in the second round via TKO.
In this third installment, Masato should know what to expect from Souwer. The same gameplan could probably work, but this match-up is a tad different in that both men aren't running through a field of other fighters to make it to a final showdown. Both men will be fresh for this fight, and Masato should benefit from that since he's more of an explosive fighter than Souwer is in the early rounds.
The real problem I see for Masato is that the fight is scheduled to go five rounds, and if he can't stop Souwer's leg kicks from damaging him early -- Souwer will surely end his night in the latter rounds. The special rules change how this fight could go, and I expect a patient Masato as opposed to an aggressive Masato like we saw in 2007. I expect Souwer to win here, but Masato has a great chance to win. Don't count on the 30-year-old Masato to retire though.
DREAM x SRC (Lightweight): Tatsuya Kawajiri (25-5-2) vs. Kazunori Yokota (11-2-3): Two top lightweight contenders in their respective promotions will face off at Dynamite!! 2009 in a battle between the Judo black belt abilities of Kazunori Yokota and the ground and pound power of Tatsuya Kawajiri. Both men are coming into this bout with perfect campaigns in 2009 as Yokota defeated Brazilian jiu-jitsu ace Leonardo Santos, IFL veteran Ryan Schultz, and fellow potential lightweight contender Eiji Mitsuoka. Kawajiri took out Ross Ebanez, Melchor Manibusan, and Gesias Cavalcante this year.
Yokota has the Judo abilities in the clinch to be a real pest, but Kawajiri's strength and wrestling ability should be too much for Yokota. I felt his win over Mitsuoka was a solid performance, but it was obvious that a stronger grappler could probably nullify those clinch abilities much better than Mitsuoka. Kawajiri isn't a jiu-jitsu ace or submission artist by any means, but he'll live up to his moniker "The Crusher" in this fight. Look for a dominating top control win via decision.
DREAM x SRC (Featherweight): Hideo Tokoro (25-21-1) vs. Jong Man Kim (21-10-3): Marlon Sandro's injury has created a much more interesting match-up in this featherweight tilt as Tokoro will now have a good chance of winning as opposed to being completely outclassed. His opponent will now be Jong Man Kim, who will obviously come in with a disadvantage in taking this fight on short notice. Unfortunately for Kim, he's been on a bad run as of late having gone 0-5-2 in his last seven bouts.
I can't offer too much insight here with Kim coming in very late. Kim's striking isn't that horrible, but Kanehara was able to put on a clinic against him back at Sengoku VII. I do know that Tokoro will bring in an exciting pace and some solid action as his main appeal is his excitement factor. I'll take Tokoro due to Kim's last minute substitution.
DREAM x SRC (Middleweight): Kazuo Misaki (22-9-2) vs. Melvin Manhoef (23-6-1): This is easily one of the more entertaining match-ups of the night as the very heavy-handed K-1 fighter Melvin Manhoef will face off with the 2006 PRIDE Welterweight Grand Prix winner and former judoka Kazuo Misaki in middleweight action. While a lot of fans see this fight as a potentially easy win for Kazuo Misaki due to his judo background and the poor submission defense that Manhoef has displayed in the past, most fans aren't as ridiculously biased as I am.
Sure, Kazuo Misaki will probably win this bout by submission. His Judo background is obviously a huge plus, and he's always had a solid base in the striking department. Unfortunately for Misaki, granite chins go out the door against Manhoef. Just ask Mark Hunt.
Why is Melvin Manhoef such compelling fighter? Because there is a very good chance that Manhoef could completely incapacitate his opponent at any given moment with six ounce gloves on his hands. There is always a good chance for an upset when Melvin Manhoef is involved, and that's why he's been one of the more popular fighters among MMA fans.
In true biased fan fashion, I'm picking Melvin Manhoef via devastating jaw-dropping knockout that horrifies the beautiful Japanese model commentary girl into a crying fit. Sure, it isn't a good pick at all. In fact, I might actually bet on Misaki, but I'm also a Chicago Cubs and Chicago Bears fan. I'm used to disappointment, and a Manhoef win would bring some joy to this year.
DREAM x SRC (Welterweight): Hayato "Mach" Sakurai (35-9-2) vs. Akihiro Gono (30-15-7): In terms of evenly matched fights, this could be considered the best match-up on paper when you look at both fighters' careers. Gono enters the contest following a 1-3 record in his last 4 fights as he had an unsuccessful three-fight stint in the UFC and was finished by rising star Dan Hornbuckle at Sengoku IX. Sakurai is currently 3-1 in his last 4 fights, suffering a head kick knockout loss to Marius Zaromskis in the DREAM.10 Welterweight Grand Prix semi-final.
While their records in their last four fights is quite different, Gono did take on some better competition in the UFC in perpetual welterweight contender Jon Fitch and current welterweight contender Dan Hardy. In fact, Gono gave Hardy a very close fight that some fight fans felt he won. Sakurai's huge win was over a much lighter Shinya Aoki at DREAM.8 in the opening round of the Grand Prix.
Historically, Gono has fought bigger opponents at middleweight whereas Sakurai has stuck to welterweight and lightweight fighters. That could be a significant advantage for Gono as he's used to facing stronger fighters. I'll take Gono via split decision here as I think he can edge out Sakurai in a very hard fought war between great Japanese veteran fighters.
DREAM x SRC (Featherweight): Hiroyuki Takaya (12-7-1) vs. Michihiro Omigawa (8-8-1): DREAM's Featherweight Grand Prix was certainly a great string of wins for Takaya as he finished Jong Won Kim, Yoshiro Maeda, and Hideo Tokoro in impressive fashion over the course of the tournament. He was stopped by Bibiano Fernandes in the finals, but he did show that he is still a force despite his losses in the WEC to Cub Swanson and Leonard Garcia.
Omigawa equaled Takaya's run in the Sengoku Featherweight Grand Prix tournament as he upset L.C. Davis, Nam Phan, and Marlon Sandro before being defeated by Masanori Kanehara in the finals after Hatsu Hioki couldn't continue. Hioki got a shot at Omigawa at Sengoku XI, but the fight ended in controversy as Omigawa was handed the decision despite what many fans believe was a convincing win for Hioki. In fact, Omigawa's win over Marlon Sandro ended in similar fashion.
I definitely like this match-up as Omigawa and Takaya will likely slug it out for periods of time in this fight. Omigawa's chin should be able to withstand Takaya's power, but Omigawa has shown some crisp striking in the early moments of his last few fights. If the fight drags on, Omigawa's Judo and ground game should become a huge factor. Takaya has solid takedown defense, but Omigawa's power at 145 has been overwhelming to say the least. I'll take Omigawa by an unanimous decision.
DREAM x SRC (Light Heavyweight): Katsuyori Shibata (4-6-1) vs. Hiroshi Izumi (0-1): 2004 Olympic Judo silver medalist and 2005 World Judo Championship gold medalist Hiroshi Izumi will make his sophomore splash into MMA against the former Japanese professional wrestler Katsuyori Shibata in light heavyweight action. Izumi's first foray into MMA didn't go so well as Antz Nansen, a New Zealand kickboxer, was able to punish him on the feet and defeat him inside the first round of action back at Sengoku X.
Shibata is coming off two wins as he impressively defeated Ikuhisa Minowa at DREAM.8 in a surprising upset and punched out Tokimitsu Ishizawa at DREAM.12. Shibata's improvement in the striking department coupled with his wrestling ability should bring him a win here. Izumi looked absolutely terrible in his striking ability against Nansen, and he actually looked fairly lost as he was receiving blows to the face. Shibata's experience and improvement should give him a stoppage victory here.
Super Hulk Tournament Final: Ikuhisa Minowa (43-30-8) vs. Rameau Thierry Sokoudjou (7-5): The final of the Super Hulk Tournament has finally arrived, and it's one of the most lopsided fights on the entire card in every aspect. Sokoudjou is not only a heavier fighter, but he has a reach advantage combined with more power and strength. He also happens to be a judoka who should be able to hip toss Minowa into unconsciousness with the amount of size he has on him.
Unfortunately for Minowa, the Cinderella story has to end sometime. Minowa shouldn't win this bout unless he can catch Sokoudjou in some sort of heel hook or ankle lock. If he can do that, bibles should replace David vs. Goliath with Minowa vs. Goliath.
DREAM x SRC (Heavyweight): Alistair Overeem (30-11) vs. Kazuyuki Fujita (15-8): If this fight were to have happened in 2000 or 2001, there would probably be some interest as Fujita's heavy hands and wrestling ability were a formidable danger to any opponent in those days. Today, his abilities as a fighter have succumbed to his near 40-year-old age while Alistair "Megareem" Overeem has become a behemoth muscular monstrosity of power that appears to have propelled himself into the limelight of popularity in Japan through his K-1 appearances. Out with the old, in with the new.
Overeem should defeat Fujita inside the first round in this showcase match-up, and he'll likely try to do it in spectacular fashion for the fans. Interestingly enough, some fans believe Fujita's wrestling experience can put this fight on the ground to nullify Overeem's striking power, but the bout with Blagoi Ivanov was one of the worst wrestle-boxing fights I've seen this year with the exception of TUF 10. Overeem should give Fujita some thoughts of retirement after this fight.
DREAM Rules (Heavyweight): Gegard Mousasi (27-2-1) vs. Gary Goodridge (23-19-1): This is a match-up that screams ridiculous for a number of reasons, but I suppose if the aim was to promote Mousasi to the Japanese market with a spectacular knockout or submission -- Gary Goodridge would be your guy. Goodridge is riding a five-fight losing streak in mixed martial arts while also riding a 0-9-1 record in his last ten fights in kickboxing with his last win coming back on March 12th, 2007.
I understand the whole point of showcasing fighters for future match-ups and giving your stars a platform to produce impressive results, but Gary Goodridge shouldn't be allowed to fight anymore or provide himself as a lamb. A lot of the strange interviews in which Goodridge can't put together a sentence make me believe the brain damage he's suffered over the years should be a concern to promotions booking him, so it's a bit sad to see FEG matching him up against one of the best young light heavyweights in the world.
Sadly, Gary Goodridge will get crushed by Mousasi quickly. Hopefully, Goodridge doesn't get knocked out cold, but rather submitted to save a few extra brain cells.
Dynamite!! Special Rules (Heavyweight): Ray Sefo vs. Yosuke Nishijima
Nishijima is a former cruiserweight professional boxer who transitioned to MMA back in 2006. He was previously a cruiserweight champion fighter who compiled a 24-2 record over the course of his career, but he's currently 0-5 in MMA and 0-1 in K-1.
This should be Sefo's fight to win, although Sefo has also fallen off the wagon. The major difference is that Sefo was still fighting the best of the best in the latter moments of his K-1 career while Nishijima was being dominated in MMA, losing four out of the five fights in the first round. It took Peter Aerts three rounds to defeat Nishijima via leg kicks, but I imagine Sefo will work the kicks as well and hinder Nishijima immobile pretty quickly.
K-1 Koshien 2009 Tournament Final 4: Nobody actually cares about this tournament because Hiroya will win gift decisions or actually beat all of these fighters. The only way this interests me is if Hiroya actually knocks out everyone in the final.