Japanese legends Kazushi Sakuraba and Kiyoshi Tamura will finally collide when they meet in the main event at K-1 “Premium 2008 Dynamite” this Wednesday (1 a.m. EST/10 p.m. PST on Tuesday in the U.S.) at the Saitama Super Arena in Saitama, Japan. The bout highlights a 19-fight lineup, as K-1 and Dream promoter Fighting and Entertainment Group puts on its New Year’s Eve extravaganza for the sixth consecutive year.
The tradition of saving the most spectacular show for the end of the year dates back to the turn of the millennium when former Japanese power player Antonio Inoki started to organize his “Bom-Ba-Ye” events.
The stakes remain high for the latest “Dynamite” installment, as the future of Dream -- FEG’s mixed martial arts division -- depends on the commercial success of the show. Live attendance and television ratings have volleyed between mediocre and poor for the past two years, and television partner Tokyo Broadcasting System needs to see a noticeable increase in viewership in order to justify to shareholders its continued support of the Dream brand.
In order to attain the minimum 15 percent gain in ratings -- which would equal 19 million households -- FEG has brought in every big-name draw that was not nailed down, with the exception of former Pride Fighting Championships heavyweight titleholder Fedor Emelianenko and Olympic judo gold medalist Satoshi Ishii. Still, names like Sakuraba, Mark Hunt, Mirko "Cro Cop" Filipovic and Bob Sapp will provide welcomed star power as FEG tries to close the year with a bang.
Kazushi Sakuraba (24-11-1) vs. Kiyoshi Tamura (32-13-2)
Striking : 2.0
Grappling : 4.0
Submissions : 5.0
Experience : 5.0
Total : 4.0
Striking : 2.5
Grappling : 4.0
Submissions : 3.5
Experience : 5.0
Total : 3.8
Analysis: This fight’s four years in the making, and its participants share a common history that dates back to the early to mid 1990s. The legendary Pride superstar and “Gracie Hunter” Sakuraba will take on former master and decade-long nemesis Tamura in a Japanese domestic clash of the highest degree.
During their individual mixed martial arts careers, Sakuraba has been in the limelight far longer, headlining a total of 16 events, including the last two “Dynamite” shows against Yoshihiro Akiyama and Masakatsu Funaki. His last appearance inside the squared circle was a sad one, however, as he was brutally knocked out by Dutchman Melvin Manhoef at Dream 4 in June.
Tamura enjoyed his heyday in the late 1990s, as he became the first Rings heavyweight champion. His best year of the new millennium came in 2002, when he starred in many high-profile matches. Ever since, he has appeared sporadically, fighting on average less than twice a year.
Prediction: Even though he made the transition to MMA earlier and has a dozen more fights under his belt, Tamura appears to be the fresher of the two heading into the home stretch of their respective careers. Tamura has taken his share of beatings, but he has not endured the countless numbers of wars in which Sakuraba was involved against opponents like Filipovic, Igor Vovchanchyn, Ricardo Arona and Wanderlei Silva. Tamura has risen to the occasion in all marquee bouts against Japanese opponents in recent years, knocking out Nobuhiko Takada, Ikuhisa Minowa and Funaki. Take Tamura by knockout midway through the first round.