Kazushi Sakuraba doing... something. Photo by Taro Irei for Sherdog.com
If there's one thing you can say for Japanese MMA, it's this: they sure know how to put together an entertaining card. This year's big New Year's Eve show is the Antonio Inoki/Dream co-promoted Genki Desu Ka!! and will be headlined by Fedor Emelianenko vs. Satoshi Ishii. Now, we have a number of other fight announcements - and some are pretty fun.
First up, Japanese MMA legend Kazushi Sakuraba will return to action, but for the first time since the 1990's, it will be in a pro wrestling match, not MMA. Sakuraba will team with fellow wrestler turned MMA fighter Katsuyori Shibata to wrestle against Shinichi Suzukawa and Atsushi Sawada. Sakuraba started his career as a pro wrestler training under Nobuhiko Takada before making the switch to MMA when Pride started. Good move for Sakuraba here, who has looked increasingly bad inside the MMA ring in recent years.
More on the pro-wrestling side: Peter Aerts, the legendary, multi-time K-1 champion, will face Kazuyuki Fujita. And there are rumblings of a possible Mirko Cro Cop vs. Jerome Le Banner wrestling match.
Back in the world of real fighting, they've also announced the sequel of sorts to one of last year's most bizarre fights. Yuichiro "Jienotsu" Nagashima, the cosplaying K-1 fighter who shockingly defeated Shinya Aoki in last year's mixed rules fight, will face Dream veteran Katsunori Kikuno. Again, the fight will be mixed rules, with a 3 minute K-1 rules round to start, and a 5 minutes Dream rules round for round 2.
One last announcement: in women's MMA action, it will be Bellator's Megumi Fujii vs. Karla Benitez.
The Japan MMA scene may have had a rough year in 2011, but it's good to see there will still be a night of crazy action on New Year's Eve - it wouldn't be the end of the MMA year without it!
Complete card (for now) is as follows:
Fedor Emelianenko vs. Satoshi Ishii
DREAM Lightweight Title: Shinya Aoki vs. Satoru Kitaoka
DREAM Featherweight Title: Hiroyuki Takaya vs. Takeshi Inoue
DREAM Bantamweight Tournament Semi-Final: Bibiano Fernandes vs. Rodolfo Marques Diniz
DREAM Bantamweight Tournament Semi-Final: Antonio Banuelos vs. Masakazu Imanari
DREAM Bantamweight Tournament Reserve: Hideo Tokoro vs. Yusup Saadulaev
DREAM Bantamweight Tournament Final
Tatsuya Kawajiri vs. Kazuyuki Miyata
Hayato Sakurai vs, Ryo Chonan
Megumi Fujii vs. Karla Benitez
DREAM/K-1 Mixed Rules: Yuichiro Nagashima vs. Katsunori Kikuno
IGF (Pro Wrestling) Rules: Peter Aerts vs. Kazuyuki Fujita
IGF Rules: Kazushi Sakuraba/Katsuyori Shibata vs. Shinichi Suzukawa/Atsushi Sawada
UPDATE: Three more new fights just added, including, at last, some K-1 action:
K-1 Rules: Yuta Kubo vs. Nils Widlund
K-1 Rules: Masaaki Noiri vs. Kengo Sonoda
IGF Rules: Josh Barnett vs. Hideki Suzuki