“The reason why I was able to get his leg was because I was really scared of his power. If he punched me, I thought he’d kill me,” said Aoki with a jovial laugh. “So instead, I thought I’d go straight to my finishing move.”
Aoki was cagey when answering whether he and his peers at Nippon Top Team employ leg locks thanks to the notion that Western fighters aren’t proficient in defending them, yet his comments were telling given their evasiveness.
“We are obsessive about developing the strongest grappling in MMA,” he said. “My finishing technique, the outside heel hook, is really difficult to finish in MMA. It’s not something I invented, but something that Masakazu Imanari has taught me. I think we are the best in researching the most effective submission techniques.”
Aoki’s submission of Alvarez earned him the World Alliance of Mixed Martial Arts lightweight championship. Following his win, though, perhaps inadvertently Aoki drove the message home that even he still believed in the dominance of UFC lightweight champion B.J. Penn.
“I think there’s no doubt that B.J. Penn is still the best at 155 pounds. He’s most likely the best fighter in the world. I don’t ignore the UFC,” Aoki commented. “I respect the UFC because it’s a very high level organization -- a high summit in the sport.”
The UFC lightweight king also figures into Aoki’s hopes for the as-yet uncertain future.
Alvarez was unavailable for postfight comment because he was being held at a nearby hospital for observation, according to Dream event producer Keiichi Sasahara. While there appeared to be no bone damage to the American bruiser, Sasahara stated that Alvarez suffered ligament damage and would likely require several months to recover.
MMA Trounces K-1: Reaction from the Fighters
It was a thoroughly dominant evening for MMA’s own at Dynamite, as Tatsuya Kawajiri, Gegard Mousasi and Alistair Overeem racked up first-round stoppages in kickboxing bouts, handily destroying their K-1 opponents at their own game.
“I practiced evading low kicks, punching to get under his guard and lots of flying knees. It’s rare, but you actually got to see me do everything I trained for in this fight,” Kawajiri said.
“The Crusher” also said that while he was happy with the result, he would likely decline future offers to fight under K-1 rules, opting instead to aim for the Dream lightweight title in 2009.
Kawajiri’s opponent, Takeda Kozo, was naturally not in high spirits after his TKO loss.
“For me, a fight is a fight between two men,” Takeda said when asked to explain why he lost to an MMA fighter. “But it is also hard for us to accept that the K-1 fighters lost against MMA fighters under K-1 rules. I regret that I could not win tonight.”
Ever improving, Overeem came into his own as a kickboxer with his shocking knockout of World Grand Prix 2008 finalist Badr Hari.
Asked if he would fight Hari under MMA rules, Overeem replied, “He challenged me, and I was the one who said we’ll fight with his rules first. This was confirmed by his management, FEG and my management. A deal’s a deal, so why not?”
Despite Overeem’s answer, Hari was of a different mind.
“It’s nothing against the offer, but I’m a standup fighter. It’s what I do, and MMA is not my sport. There will be no MMA fight soon or in the future.”
Hari also noted fatigue and an inability to stay motivated for the fight.
“I fought three fights in the Grand Prix [Final], and then two and a half weeks later, I had to appear here,” he said while explaining why he lost. “It’s hard for a fighter to keep their focus and be motivated to fight four big fights in one month.”
Though a rematch with Mirko Filipovic looms, Overeem is in no rush to fight the Croatian, particularly given Filipovic’s upcoming knee surgery. With Hari defeated, Overeem indicated that he’d like to split his time between hunting the current K-1 king while aiming for Fedor Emelianenko in the MMA sphere.
“I think [Cro Cop is] a great fighter and I’d like to fight him, but he’s not a priority right now. In the last fight, I clearly showed that I’m the better fighter, so I want to look further and challenge Remy Bonjasky,” Overeem said. “When I challenge somebody, I challenge them to fight their rules. Challenging to fight them at my rules is stupid. I challenged them, so I’m going to do it in their rules.”
For Dream middleweight champion Gegard Mousasi, the K-1 rules bout was all business and did not reflect an inclination toward future kickboxing bouts.
“I just wanted to prove that I can also fight in K-1,” Mousasi said. “Maybe later in my career, I’ll fight more in K-1, but I’d need to gain weight to fight there cause the guys are [265 to 287 pounds].”