December 31, 2009
Saitama Super Arena
Satoshi Ishii vs. Hidehiko Yoshida
Kid Nate: Yoshida is old. Unless Ishii just can't take a punch at all, he should be able to beat Yoshida handily. Ishii by decision.
Mike Fagan: I really dig this fight. It's a nice balance of having Ishii fight someone with name/relevance in Japan while also giving him someone beatable in his debut MMA fight. Yoshida was never a top guy, but he was always servicable. Now, at 40, he should still provide a test for Ishii without being incredibly dangerous. I don't see how you can pick against Ishii - at worst, he's probably a younger, stronger version of Yoshida - and I'll take Satoshi Ishii by decision.
Chris Nelson: Always tough to pick a neophyte in their MMA debut; double that when it's a decorated judoka making the transition. Ishii's been prepping for this so long that it almost seems like a bad omen. Despite being 40 and reportedly ready to retire after this match, I've got to side with experience. Yoshida via decision.
Eugene Schelfaut: Satoshi Ishii by submission.
Leland Roling: Ishii's performances in the Olympics were impressive in how powerful he executed tosses and takedowns of opponents, and that same power and tenacity is going to make for a rough ride for Yoshida. He'll win this match-up, but can he actually finish Yoshida? Age is definitely a factor for Yoshida, but I think the overall power that Ishii can display will give him an uncharacteristic submission victory here. Satoshi Ishii via submission.
Kazuo Misaki vs. Melvin Manhoef
Kid Nate: I've never been impressed with Misaki's grappling and his unconventional striking won't cut it against Manhoef. Manhoef by KO.
Mike Fagan: Misaki's the better all around fighter, but I think Manhoef lands a couple bombs and puts him away. If it hits the floor, though, all bets are off. Melvin Manhoef by KO, round 1.
Chris Nelson: Misaki's departure from Grabaka, plus his time away from the ring... it might have been alright against Sakuraba, but it just doesn't bode well against the constantly active and always dangerous kickboxer. Manhoef via TKO, round two.
Eugene Schelfaut: Kazuo Misaki by decision.
Leland Roling: Kazuo Misaki has the boxing to be a pest, but he'll get trucked by Manhoef's power if he tries to stand in front of him. Misaki's submission ability isn't great, but Manhoef's defense is terrible. With that said however, I'd pick Melvin Manhoef against anyone. I'm just that fanatical of a fan. Melvin Manhoef via incredible KO.
Shinya Aoki vs. Mizuto Hirota
Kid Nate: Aoki should slice through Hirota quickly and in dramatic fashion. Hirota has a puncher's chance, but so did Eddie Alvarez and JZ Calvancanti. Aoki by submission.
Mike Fagan: Hirota's no slouch, but I don't see him threatening Aoki too much. Aoki's got a huge size advantage, and Hirota gave up too many bad spots in the Kitaoka fight that Aoki will exploit. Shinya Aoki by submission, round 1.
Chris Nelson: Another "easy" fight to call which I can totally see ending in a dramatic upset. Aoki's length and glacially improving stand-up skills, coupled with his obvious ground advantage, should have him beating Hirota with ease. But Hirota's hungry, and despite his destruction of Aoki's teammate Kitaoka earlier this year, I do believe Aoki is severely underestimating Hirota. Hirota via TKO, round one.
Eugene Schelfaut: Shinya Aoki by submission.
Leland Roling: Hirota can't use the same tactics against Aoki as he did against Kitaoka. It just won't work. Aoki could simply pull guard as Hirota sprawls and catch him in a grappling clinic that will have Hirota all knotted up and tapping. Hirota's only real option is to come out like a starving gorilla and slam home an overhand into Aoki's dome a la Sakurai. I don't see that happening however, and Aoki's creative takedowns should get this fight to the ground and into Aoki's world. Shinya Aoki via submission.
Tatsuya Kawajiri vs. Kazunori Yokota
Kid Nate: Yokota is good but Kawajiri is in the top ten for a reason. Kawajiri can beat him up standing and dominate the grappling. Kawajiri by decision.
Mike Fagan: I don't know enough about Yokota, so Tatsuya Kawajiri by decision.
Chris Nelson: Under different circumstances, this is a gimme win for Kawajiri. But the "Crusher" sounds deflated about not getting his title fight with Aoki, and disinterested in the match he got instead. This could turn into a 'Jiri-Alvarez style barn burner. Kawajiri via decision.
Eugene Schelfaut: Tatsuya Kawajiri by decision.
Leland Roling: Yokota's Judo and clinch abilities were effective against Mitsuoka, but Kawajiri will make Yokota pay with power punching and "crushing" wrestling ability if they continually hit the ropes. Look for Kawajiri to either punch Yokota's lights out early or control Yokota from top control to a decision victory. Tatsuya Kawajiri via unanimous decision.
Norifumi "Kid" Yamamoto vs. Masanori Kanehara
Kid Nate: Kid Yamamoto should dominate this one in spectacular fashion. Yamamoto by KO.
Mike Fagan: Kanehara's the Sengoku featherweight GP champ who lost to the favorite (Hatsu Hioki) in the semis and then won a controversial decision in the finals after Hioki wasn't medically cleared. Kid's in the Shogun Rua spot, coming off a close loss to Joe Warren and an embarrassing disaster in a K-1 bout. I think he'll come back strong and shut up the doubters. Kid Yamamoto by TKO, round 1.
Chris Nelson: Kanehara's 2-1 in his last three fights, which is impressive considering I didn't have him winning any of the three. Coming off of a pair of tough losses after a long layoff, it's put up or shut up time for Yamamoto, and I expect him to absolutely flatten Kanehara. Yamamoto via TKO, round one.
Eugene Schelfaut: Norifumi Yamamoto by decision.
Leland Roling: Yamamoto has been in this style of a fight before. Kanehara will tell everyone who will listen that he's mostly a BJJ player with improved striking, and he doesn't have the BJJ chops that Yamamoto's previously defeated opponents such as Bibiano Fernandes possess. His striking has improved considerably, but Yamamoto's wrestling and punching will be too much for Kanehara here. Kid Yamamoto via TKO, Round 2.
Hayato "Mach" Sakurai vs. Akihiro Gono
Kid Nate: Neither of these legends of the sport is what he used to be but I can't really speculate on who is the most diminished. At their respective peaks, Sakurai was by far the more dangerous fighter. Based on that I'm picking Mach Sakurai by TKO.
Mike Fagan: On paper, fully motivated and in shape, I like Sakurai a lot here. He hasn't looked motivated to fight outside of the Aoki beatdown, and one has to wonder which way the motivation tilts in a fight with his friend, Gono. I'm gonna take Gono because I bet on him as a substantial underdog. Akihiro Gono by decision.
Chris Nelson: This fight intrigued me when it was announced, but the more I think about it, the more I see it as a one-sided win for DJ Gozma. Gono via decision.
Eugene Schelfaut: Hayato Sakurai by decision.
Leland Roling: Gono has fought bigger fighters for most of his career at middleweight while Sakurai has stuck to welterweight and lightweight fights. Gono has also happened to battle some much better fighters in the UFC, and he actually gave Dan Hardy a real run for his money in the Octagon. Sakurai has focused more on his power whereas Gono is more focused on peppering opponents and looking for openings. I think that's Gono's advantage. Akihiro Gono via decision.
Katsuyori Shibata vs. Hiroshi Izumi
Kid Nate: Izumi really ought to be able to beat Shibata who is the definitive "opponent" called on whenever a Japanese promoter needs a squash match but his debut was a disastrous KO loss. Shibata won't be KO'ing anyone. Izumi by submssion.
Mike Fagan: Shibata by pro wrestling.
Chris Nelson: I believe Izumi when he says he won't be dumb enough to stand and bang in his second fight. Even if he went down that path here, Shibata might not have the power to drill him like Antz Nansen did. Izumi via decision by playing it safe.
Eugene Schelfaut: Katsuyori Shibata by decision.
Leland Roling: Izumi looked absolutely horrible in his debut. Sure, he's a judoka who should be able to toss people around and submit them, but his punching was comical to watch. Shibata actually looked good against Minowa, and he's improved quite a bit in his last couple of fights. He'll never be a top fighter, but he'll beat Izumi.
Hideo Tokoro vs. Jong Man Kim
Kid Nate: Tokoro by decision.
Mike Fagan: Tokoro pulls a Korean without a wiki page when Sandro pulls out. Hmm...Hideo Tokoro by decision.
Chris Nelson: Tempted to go with Kim for the upset, but it sounds like he's been having a rough time with the short notice weight cut. Tokoro via submission, round two.
Eugene Schelfaut: Hideo Tokoro by decision.
Leland Roling: Hideo Tokoro via decision.
Hiroyuki Takaya vs. Michihiro Omigawa
Kid Nate: Should be a throw down but Omigawa will lose another tough one here. Takaya by decision.
Mike Fagan: This is a coinflip, though a coinflip slighted weighted towards Takaya. Hiroyuki Takaya by decision.
Chris Nelson: Almost too close to call. If someone doesn't get clipped early, this should be Fight of the Night. Takaya via decision.
Eugene Schelfaut: Hiroyuki Takaya by decision.
Leland Roling: This is probably one of the better match-ups of the evening, and while most people are probably leaning toward Takaya's striking -- I'm going with the Japanese fighter with a giant chip on his shoulder. Omigawa's chin is pretty solid, but I think he might be able to catch Takaya with some punches and wear him down into a clinch battle that he will surely win. Michihiro Omigawa via unanimous decision.
Alistair Overeem vs. Kazuyuki Fujita
Kid Nate: Squash match. Overeem by KO.
Mike Fagan: As long as there aren't an any appetizing looking horses around, Alistair Overeem by TKO, round 1.
Chris Nelson: Just a few years ago, this would've been a competitive fight, but Overeem's gotten so much better (and, of course, bigger) and "Iron Head's" chin has really diminished. Following Alistair's recent trend, I'll go with Overeem via submission, round one.
Eugene Schelfaut: Alistair Overeem by KO, round 1.
Leland Roling: Fujita is going to think about retiring after this fight. Alistair Overeem via KO, Round 1.
Super Hulk Openweight Tournament Final:
Rameau Thierry Sokoudjou vs. Ikuhisa Minowa
Kid Nate: Sokoudjou needs a win and he'll get it here. Sokoudjou by TKO.
Mike Fagan: If Minowa wins, Japanese MMA is rigged. Sokoudjou by TKO, round 1.
Chris Nelson: Sapp and Choi were tailor-made Minowa opponents, but the least Super Hulk-y of his foes should prove his undoing. I see ways for Minowa to win - if he catches Sokoudjou sleeping early, or maybe by DQ - but more likely it'll be Sokoudjou via TKO, round one.
Eugene Schelfaut: Rameau Sokoudjou by TKO, round 2.
Leland Roling: If Minowa wins, Saitama Super Arena may crumble. Rameau Sokoudjou by TKO, Round 1.
K-1 Rules Bouts:
Masato vs. Andy Souwer
Mike Fagan: I hate feel good stories. Souwer by decision.
Chris Nelson: Determined as Masato will be to get revenge in his grand send-off, I think Souwer's got his number. The extra rounds should prove unnecessary. Souwer via TKO.
Eugene Schelfaut: Masato by TKO.
Leland Roling: Souwer's rope-a-dope to outside leg kicks strategy crushed Masato in their 2007 match-up, but there won't be two previous fights to deal with in this match-up. Masato should have more power to explode on his combinations early, but Souwer's chin is exceptional. If he can withstand the flurries and work the leg kicks once again, Masato won't be able to last five rounds. Souwer via decision.
Yosuke Nishijima vs. Ray Sefo
Chris Nelson: Should be an easy win for Ray over the spent Nishijima. Sefo via decision.
Eugene Schelfaut: Ray Sefo.
Leland Roling: Ray Sefo via TKO.