Kitaoka Headlines Pancrase's Karl Gotch Memorial
This Wednesday perennial Japanese promoter Pancrase will hold the
next chapter of its 2007 RISING TOUR, bringing together an
interesting mix of homegrown talent pitted against fighters from
France, Russia, Brazil and USA.
The Pancrasists and their opponents, who represent other promotions
like bodogFIGHT and the IFL among others, will meet at the Mecca of
fightsport in Japan, Korakuen Hall, to pay respect to the memory of
the man known to the Japanese as "The God of Pro-Wrestling," Karl
Gotch, who passed away in July, was instrumental in the development
of MMA in Japan, including Pancrase. He headlined the first ever
New Japan Pro Wrestling event in 1972 against Antonio Inoki, and
would go on to become a trainer for New Japan. More importantly,
Gotch's students included Akira
Maeda (Pictures), Satoru Sayama, Nobuhiko Takada (Pictures) and Yoshiaki Fujiwara. Maeda
founded the RINGS Network and now plays a role in K-1 HERO'S,
Sayama founded Shooto, and Takada played a pivotal role in PRIDE.
Fujiwara's two top students, Masakatsu Funaki (Pictures) and Minoru Suzuki (Pictures), broke away from pro-wrestling to
found Pancrase in 1993.
It was on the advice of Gotch that Funaki and Suzuki broke away to
create their "hybrid wrestling brainchild." Also inspired by Gotch
was the very name "Pancrase," as well as the early rules used by
the promotion from 1993 until 1999.
For the event's headliner, Pancrase originally intended to place
Japanese sensation Satoru
Kitaoka (Pictures) against Brazilian Top Team member
Milton Viera, but the Brazilian was nixed from the bout when he was
unable to secure a visa to compete in Japan.
As a replacement, Pancrase choose IFL fighter Jason Palacios (Pictures), who curiously enough competed
for the league's Tokyo Sabres. Palacios, who holds an MMA record of
4-2-0, faces his toughest competition to date in Kitaoka, a crafty
Pancrase and DEEP veteran who holds a record of 18-7-9.
Kitaoka's last victory, a submission win over "Pitbull" Fabricio Monteiro
(Pictures) in DEEP, would have given
him the opportunity to fight in the planned 2007 PRIDE Lightweight
Grand Prix, which was scrapped when Zuffa purchased PRIDE from
Dream Stage Entertainment.
Current Pancrase featherweight champion Yoshiro Maeda (Pictures) and French newcomer Johnny Frachey will lock horns
in a non-title affair as the evening's semifinal bout. Maeda, whose
last victory was a dominant decision over Cage Warriors
featherweight champion Danny
Batten (Pictures) in April, has labeled his bout
with Frachey as the next installment of "Maeda's European Invasion"
and says he plans on exposing the Frenchman to European MMA
In a middleweight King of Pancrase title eliminator, Pancrase
mainstay Izuru Takeuchi
(Pictures) will take on newcomer and
hot prospect Bryan Rafiq
(Pictures), with the winner gaining a
shot at current champ Yuichi Nakanishi (Pictures).
It was Takeuchi that Nakanishi defeated for the then-vacant title
last Dec. in a bloody brawl, and Takeuchi has said he wants
revenge. However, the 21-year-old Rafiq impressed the Japanese fans
in his Pancrase debut in April, in which he took a page out of
instructional and annihilated Pancrase's eccentric resident showman
Hikaru Sato (Pictures). The star student of UFC
competitor Roan Carneiro
(Pictures), Rafiq is seen by many as
one of the best young up-and-comers in the division.
The card will also see Pancrase 'babyface' Ryo Kawamura (Pictures) return to action. Seen as one of
Japan's best hopes in the higher weights, the young fighter
suffered a devastating KO loss to Chute Boxe prospect Fabio Silva (Pictures) in May. Now, Kawamura will look
to rebound against American Shark Tank product Jaime Fletcher (Pictures), who is also coming off the first
loss of his young career.
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