TOKYO -- After 12 years and nearly 40 fights, Japanese fan-favorite Kazuo Misaki said farewell to the ring Saturday in front of a packed Korakuen Hall at Deep “Haleo Impact.”
In his final appearance, Misaki took on teammate and close friend Akihiro Gono in an exhibition kickboxing match. The bout began with shin-guards, but Misaki removed his before the second round and directed Gono to do the same. The two friends brawled for two rounds and embraced one another in tears after the final bell.
“I fought 40 fights over 12 years. What I learned from all of that was two important things: the terms ‘thank you’ and ‘challenge,’” Misaki told the crowd before giving thanks to his teammates, family and fans, bowing out with tear-filled eyes.
Misaki’s career saw him win the 2006 Pride Welterweight Grand Prix and includes notable wins over Dan Henderson, Denis Kang and most recently, Paul Daley.
Prior to Misaki’s retirement ceremony, muscle-bound Olympian Kazuyuki Miyata took on South Korea’s Jae Eun Kim in a featherweight bout that lasted little more than half a round. Miyata used his superior wrestling to take Kim to the ground early on. When Kim tried to scramble back to his feet, Miyata cinched a rear-waist lock and threw the Korean with his signature suplex. Kim made a second attempt to get to his feet, but Miyata locked up a tight guillotine choke and walked Kim into the corner, forcing the tap at 2:46 of the opening frame.
At bantamweight, former Sengoku champion Masanori Kanehara needed one less second than Miyata to finish off late-replacement Tom McKenna in a one-sided affair. Kanehara took his time picking off his opponent with quick jabs and straight punches before landing a big hook that rocked McKenna. The Japanese fighter stalked his opponent around the ring, backed him against the ropes and landed a big left uppercut that sent McKenna to the mat. Kanehara dove onto his opponent, but only landed a handful of punches before referee Yoshinori Umeki called a stop to the fight at the 2:45 mark.
With the words “We’re Still Fighting” appropriately emblazoned across his trunks, Ryuta Sakurai took on fellow fight veteran Hiromitsu Kanehara in a grinding middleweight bout. Sakurai chose to grapple early with his pro-wrestler opponent, taking him down and passing to mount on multiple occasions in the first round. Kanehara let his experience show, though, avoiding submissions and reversing position on Sakurai.
The second round saw more of the same, as Sakurai worked takedowns and superior positioning, and Kanehara countered with reversals and a kimura-armbar submission chain that had Sakurai in danger. The fight’s decisive moment came in the opening seconds of the final round, when Sakurai landed a heavy right hand that sent Kanehara toppling to the mat. The R-Blood team leader swarmed and tried to pound out Kanehara, but Kanehara managed to hold on and continue to defend. Sakurai decided to take another route to victory and set up a strong arm-triangle choke that forced Kanehara to submit only 46 seconds into the third round.
In the night’s first main-card bout, Pride veteran Daiju Takase faced off against Pancrase heavy hitter Yuji Sakuragi in a light heavyweight affair. The opening round saw almost no action, with Takase warily staying away from Sakuragi’s power punches and Sakuragi waiting for the right moment to land a heavy counter shot. The second round started out much the same, until Takase rushed into clinch and quickly jumped up for a guillotine, making Sakuragi tap 1:33 into round two.