Due to the last-minute withdrawal of Joachim Hansen, who had an unspecified head injury that prevented him from passing a preliminary medical check to fight Gesias Cavalcante, grappling sensation Shinya Aoki and former Bodog welterweight champ Eddie Alvarez took co-main event honors before a sold-out Saitama Super Arena.
Alvarez stuffed a double-leg early, and Aoki chased him around the ring while butt-scooting. Realizing that the ground was the absolute last place he wanted to be with Aoki, Alvarez continued to backpedal until referee Noguchi stood Aoki up.
Alvarez then delivered a middle kick, which Aoki caught and used to capture the back clinch. In response Alvarez whipped Aoki over his hip with a harai-goshi, landing on top in mount, but Aoki escaped immediately and put Alvarez in guard. The Japanese fighter then dove for Alvarez’s leg, taking the American to the mat.
As neither man had worked up a sweat yet, Aoki had the adequate grip to lock on the heel hook and put away yet another opponent by the submission of choice according to the Nippon Top Team playbook. Alvarez tapped out at 1:32 in the opening frame.
Despite an entertaining night of fights, the Kiyoshi Tamura vs. Kazushi Sakuraba main event brought the evening to an anticlimactic end as Tamura capped their 15-year feud with a safe but dominant unanimous decision.
Stuffing Sakuraba’s single-leg attempts in the opening moments, Tamura bullied his way into the IQ Wrestler’s guard to drop hammerfists and punches -- much to the surprise of the 25,634 fans in attendance, who didn’t expect striking on the ground from this UWF throwback bout. Sakuraba attempted submissions from bottom, but Tamura shrugged them off to wear away at his one-time UWF Dojo junior with punches. Weary under the mounting damage, Sakuraba hung on and survived the 10-minute round.
The second period saw more of the same, prompting a double yellow card from referee Daisuke Noguchi, who warned both fighters for not fighting aggressively. Outside of slamming three hard low kicks that buckled Sakuraba’s legs, Tamura continued to punish from the top position in guard until a last-minute reversal from Sakuraba put him in top position. It was too little too late, however, as the previous 14 minutes clearly belonged to Tamura. As such, all three judges ruled the bout for Tamura.
Though a last-minute replacement, Dream middleweight grand prix semifinalist Melvin Manhoef shockingly and quickly put away Mark Hunt in brutal fashion. As Hunt jumped into action to throw punches, Manhoef backpedaled and planted a hard left-right hook counter square on the “Samoan Monster’s” jaw, knocking him stiff for the knockout at a mere 18 seconds into the first.
Mirko “Cro Cop” Filipovic took his time dispatching the “Techno Goliath,” Hong Man Choi, and backpedaled for the majority of the fight. Both Cro Cop and Choi received yellow cards for not fighting aggressively. However, a hard left low kick from Filipovic came shortly after the penalty and landed on Choi’s knee as he tried to check it. The blow sent the Korean crashing down, gripping his knee in pain, for the stoppage at 6:32.
Hayato Sakurai took a handy TKO over Katsuyori Shibata in a 7:01 beating that saw the pro-wrestling convert helplessly eat punches and knees off of his back for most of the bout. Sakurai ate a few punches early en route to getting Shibata to the ground, but once there, that’s where the fight stayed. Sakurai transitioned from side mount to full mount to knee on belly at will, dropping big punches and knees on a defenseless Shibata. Just beyond the halfway point, referee Moritaka Oshiro decided he’d seen enough, calling the bout to award Sakurai the TKO.
Three-time K-1 world grand prix champ Semmy Schilt bested Salia “Mighty Mo” Siliga in their MMA bout by way of submission. Mo surprised early, barreling the taller Schilt over to take the top position and drop big punches from guard. Schilt tried to control both Mo’s posture and his wrists, but Mo threw punches regardless, racking up the points as Schilt crept his legs up for submission attempts. Soon enough, though, Schilt’s efforts were rewarded as he triangled his legs on a tired Siliga for the tap at 5:31 in the opening frame.
In the battle of fighters with famous brothers, Andy Ologun separated Yukio Sakaguchi from consciousness. Sakaguchi cinched an early triangle attempt, but Ologun punched his way free to guard, prompting the stand-up call. Sakaguchi then lunged with a wide right, but was countered by a big Ologun right uppercut, left hook combo, dropping the Japanese fighter. Ologun lunged to finish and planted a big left hand on Sakaguchi’s chin that caused referee Samio Kimura to save Sakaguchi at 3:52.
In the grappling highlight of the evening, Daisuke Nakamura proved too heavy a test for Hideo Tokoro, as the former 176-pounder was just as nimble and quick as his featherweight opponent. Though Tokoro has faced larger opponents in the past, the story of his giant-slaying career was not much different on New Year’s Eve 2008 as Nakamura overwhelmed Tokoro’s spirited efforts on the mat. Wrenching out armbar and kimura attempts between defending a lone Tokoro armbar attempt, it was only a matter of time until Nakamura had one of Tokoro’s arms fully extended. With Tokoro tangled in Nakamura’s legs and with no avenue of escape, referee Oshiro called the bout at 2:43 of the opening frame.
Starting off the evening, Ikuhisa Minowa dispatched MMA neophyte Errol Zimmerman with ease, taking him to the floor to lock a scream-inducing toehold for the tap at 1:01 in the first round.
In the kickboxing bouts, all of MMA’s representatives did their sport proud by thoroughly whipping on their K-1 counterparts. Tatsuya Kawajiri destroyed the thoroughly shop-worn Kozo Takeda with four knockdowns -- one by a particularly brutal flying knee -- while Alistair Overeem knocked out 2008 World Grand Prix finalist and Moroccan Bad Boy Badr Hari, putting an exclamation point on the evening’s MMA dominance. Also, Dream middleweight champion Gegard Mousasi blitzed an unsuspecting Musashi until the referee was forced to save the Japanese kickboxer from suffering a third knockdown while eating punishment against the ropes.
K-1 Koshien Under-18 Kickboxing Tournament Results:
Hiroya def. Koya Urabe -- Unanimous Decision 3:00 R4 (extra round)
Hiroya def. Shota Shimada -- Unanimous Decision 3:00 R3
Koya Urabe def. Ryuya Kusakabe -- TKO (Doctor Stop) 2:21 R3
Taishi Hiratsuka def. Daizo Sasaki -- KO (Punch) 1:00 R2