Sakuraba/Rickson Inching Ever Closer

K-1’s Dynamite!! 2007 card has come and gone and one thing that is for sure is that Kazushi Sakuraba isn’t even thinking about retiring. A lot of the pre-fight hype before the Sakuraba/Funaki showdown amongst MMA insiders was the apparent need for Sakuraba—deteriorated he is—to call it a career after this dream match. Well, Sakuraba for the most part dominated the former Pancrase legend submitting him in 6:25, but mentioned nothing about retirement in his post-fight interviews.

With Rickson Gracie’s appearance at one of HERO’S’ Yokohama Arena shows this year, the impossible seems almost possible: a fight between Rickson and The Gracie Killer himself. Long looked at as the Sakuraba/Gracie fight that would forever be part of fantasy warfare amongst MMA fans, this match may in fact take place in 2008. Had it happened in 2000, it would’ve likely broken attendance records, now it’ll be something that fans of the two and fans of the sport can give thanks for, if it in fact does happen.

The other return of the night ended better for the returnee as Bob Sapp made his K-1 return to Japan after his walkout of the company last year at a show in Amsterdam. Sapp returned against comedian Bobby Olgun, a strictly 12/31 MMA fighter, and demolished him in 4:10 via TKO.

Another big man was triumphant this New Year’s night as Zuluzinho defeated Japanese fan favorite Ikuhisa Minowa when Minowa’s corner called it at 2:13 into round 3.

In a battle more fitting as a RINGS reunion than anything, Kiyoshi Tamura rebounded from a loss earlier this year by submitting Hideo Tokoro at 3:08 of the third round with former RINGS founder and fighter and HERO’S figurehead Akira Maeda sitting at ringside.

K-1 did showcase a lot of kickboxing, as they do, on this New Year’s eve as well with K-1 holding a one-night under 18 tournament, which saw kickboxer Yudai take home the title with decision wins over Kenji Kubo and Hiroya. In other kickboxing matches, fan favorites Musashi and Masato along with Nicolas Pettas were victorious all winning by knockout with Pettas scoring the only KO with the others coming by TKO.

Joachim Hansen and Melvin Manhoef began the night’s MMA action with victories, Hansen submitting Kazuyuki Miyata by Rear-naked Choke in the second round, and Manhoef KO’ing the popular Yusuke Nishijima in 1:39.

Yet, as the night neared its climax, all eyes were on HERO’S golden boy, Narofumi “KID” Yamamoto. Yamamoto returned to MMA after his Olympic dream was dashed due to injury and won a decision victory this past July. After that match, Yamamoto promised a knockout in his next fight. Against Brazillian Ju-Jitsu champion Rani Yahya, Yamamoto fulfilled his promise by knocking out Yahya 3:11 into the second round in a fight that was, like the main-event, dominated by the more active fighter.

K-1 claimed around 48,000 for the show.

The night as a whole did offer variety, a few winners you’d expect, some winners you wouldn’t expect, but overall a night of action fitting of the standard for December 31 that has been set. In other words: not that bad, could’ve been worse.