Once again aging star Kazushi Sakuraba will be called on to anchor a New Year's Eve show in Japan.
There's been a great deal of speculation about this year's Dynamite!! show -- the annual New Year's Eve spectacular put on by the parent company of K-1 and Dream. Not long ago, New Year's Eve in Japan was unquestionably the biggest night of the year for world-wide MMA. As many as 50 million Japanese fans would tune in for a mix of spectacle and sport featuring stars like Bob Sapp and Bobby Ologun in big draw freakshow matches as well as the best athletes in the sport like Fedor Emelianenko, Mirko Filipovic, aka Cro Cop, Kazushi Sakuraba, Wanderlei Silva, Hidehiko Yoshida and Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira.
Those days are long forgotten. This year the biggest buzz around Dynamite!! is whether or not it will even be aired on network television.
It does appear to be happening though and several fights were made official at FEG's Monday the press conference. MMA Fighting's Daniel Herbertson has more:
It was well short of the 10 fights we were promised, but on Monday at the ANA InterContinental Hotel in Tokyo, FEG President Sadaharu Tanigawa, DREAM Executive Producer Keiichi Sasahara and the newly announced Dynamite!! Executive Producer Antonio Inoki made five bouts official for FEG's end of year effort.
Marius Zaromskis will defend his DREAM Welterweight Title for the first time against Kazushi Sakuraba who will be making his debut as a welterweight at 41 years old; 2010 K-1 MAX 63 kg Japan Tournament Champion Tetsuya Yamato will return to the FEG ring for the first time since capturing the promotion's first belt at that weight limit to face K-1 débutante Akiyo "Wicky" Nishiura; and UFC veteran Caol Uno will debut as a featherweight against Kazuyuki Miyata.
Also made official were the "special rules" bout between DREAM Lightweight Champ Shinya Aoki and cosplayer Yuichiro "Jienotsu" Nagashima and the MMA bout between Tatsuya Kawajiri and Strikeforce's Josh Thompson. The bout between Jerome Le Banner and Tatsuya Mizuno has not yet been made official despite the Frenchman's management confirming it last week.
Zach Arnold has the more entertaining behind the scenes gossip:
The big development, if you want to call it that, today was the announcement of Antonio Inoki as "executive producer" of this year's Dynamite event at Saitama Super Arena. If you believe that Inoki would book the kind of fights listed up above, I have a bridge in Brooklyn I'd like to sell you. Any how, Inoki will play the Hulk Hogan role of being the face for the event and promising some ‘big surprises' for the show.
The bigger political game here for K-1 is Satoshi Ishii. Inoki and his power base (Tatsuo Kawamura) have the juice and hold the cards. I would fully expect to see some of the IGF wrestlers, like a Josh Barnett or Wakakirin the ex-Sumo fighter, get booked. That could also mean a Mark Coleman sighting as well. Intriguingly, a match between Alistair Overeem and Josh Barnett would suddenly turn a (largely) meaningless Dynamite event into a show where Strikeforce would see two major matches taking place between Barnett/Overeem and Thomson/Kawajiri. It would be funny to see those fights happening in Japan as opposed to the States. Michael Schiavello, the HDNet voice for K-1, says that Alistair Overeem "would sodomize Barnett." If they can't book Barnett, the other name being mentioned is Andrei Arlovski.
A source with knowledge of the major television happenings in Japan indicated to me today that Tokyo Broadcasting System will discuss NYE plans for programming by this Friday. (More below.) The same source also noted, when watching the K-1 World GP event from over the weekend in Tokyo at Ariake Colosseum, that the promotion had a lot of little sponsors supporting the show but no big heavyweight companies showing up. Of note was a ring sponsorship by Fashion TV.
Head Kick Legend reports that K-1 and Dream might survive 2010 and keep booking fight cards through 2011:
Head Kick Legend went on to confirm today with Mike Kogan that K-1 has indeed found an investor for at least the upcoming year and things are being worked out right now to solidify the deal. This is gigantic news for the company that has been facing an uncertain financial future after a rough year and a funding deal with Chinese investment bank PUJI fell through in the last minute. The deal supposedly fell through because FEG and PUJI were not seeing eye-to-eye for the future.
In the full entry we'll break down one of the matchups.
Fraser Coffeen has some analysis of the mixed rules fight featuring Shinya Aoki and the cross-dressing kickboxer Yuichiro Nagashima:
How this fight goes depends largely on how they start. If round 1 is MMA, then Nagashima is screwed. Aoki has made a career out of latching on to his opponent, dragging them to the ground, and twisting them until they submit. And as we learned last year, if you don't submit, he'll twist until you break. Many of the sport's best have been unable to stop Aoki's submission game, and an MMA novice like Nagashima will stand little chance of surviving long in an MMA round. I see that going down much like Minowaman v. Errol Zimmerman two years ago.
Where things get interesting is the K-1 rounds. Nagashima has a significant advantage here, but I think many fans are being too quick to write Aoki out standing. Is the Dream champ's standing a weakness? Yes, clearly. But in his weird kickboxing-styled fight with Shaolin, Aoki demonstrated patience on his feet. Combine that with a serious reach advantage and I think Aoki can survive 3 minutes of stand up. And survive is all he has to do because again, once that K-1 round ends, Nagashima is in a world of trouble.
So, is this somewhat of a freakshow fight? Absolutely. And no, it doesn't really have much significance at all. But it is exactly the kind of odd thing that I love about fighting in Japan, and I'm looking forward to the weirdness of it.
I'm far more interested in a possible Alistair Overeem vs Josh Barnett heavyweight bout. With Barnett failing to get his license renewed in California, he might very well be willing to risk his reputation as a relevant top-tier heavyweight against the fearsome Overeem.