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Tag: Japanese MMA

Beware the Bowing, Humble Man: 5 Things We Learned Over 5 Days in Japan

By Elias Cepeda 

I spent last week in Tokyo, Japan, to cover the Glory year-end championship kickboxing event and interview and train with luminaries of Japanese MMA. I’m only now beginning to process everything I experienced and saw but here are five immediate take aways.

1. Japanese Fans are No Longer Silent During Fights, But They are Still Hella Observant

Watching Pride events on television years ago, I used to marvel at how attentive and respectful the Japanese fans in live attendance seemed. During most of the action, it seemed as though you’d be able to hear a pin drop in even the largest of super arenas because the fans watched in almost complete silence.

Then, a fighter might make a minor adjustment towards a submission that most American fans would not be able to recognize as the offense it was, and the previously silent Japanese crowd would “ooohh,” and “ahhh.” In my American fight world of boorish booing, louder t-shirts and indifference to any aspect of fighting that wasn’t a competitor being knocked unconscious, Japan seemed like a magical place where people watched fights live with the understanding and respect they deserved.

This past Saturday, I watched a Glory kickboxing event live inside the Ariake Coliesum in Tokyo, Japan. It wasn’t MMA, but I was still excited to not only watch the great strikers on the card, but to experience a Japanese crowd in person for the first time.

Well, they are no longer silent during fights. Apparently that part of fight-viewing culture in Japan has changed in the past ten years or so.

Fans shouted throughout bouts and hooted and hollered. Still, they seemed to know what was going on much more so than American crowds I’ve been a part of or witnessed. Little bits of the fight were still appreciated by the crowd and they showed tremendous support to anyone who showed perseverance and heart in a fight, even if it wasn’t the crowd favorite.

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‘DREAM 18′ Full Fight Videos: Manhoef vs. Kang, Aoki vs. McKee, Baroni vs. Sakurai + More


(Melvin Manhoef def. Denis Kang via knee-to-the-body KO, 0:50 of round 1. Fight starts at the 3:44 mark, but we’ve got the video cued up to the *real* action.)

From Mirko Cro Cop arm-barring a professional wrestler, to Bob Sapp scoring a massive upset over Alistair Overeem (in arm-wrestling), New Year’s weekend in Japan was loaded with, shall we say, “sports entertainment.” But there was at least one legit event — the hybrid DREAM 18/Glory 4 MMA-kickboxing spectacular that went down December 31st at the Saitama Super Arena. Thanks to Suhwaniya Fight Club, we’ve got complete videos of all eight MMA fights that took place that night, which featured such stars as Shinya Aoki, Melvin Manhoef, Marloes Coenen, Phil Baroni, Michihiro Omigawa, and Bibiano Fernandes. Enjoy, and welcome to 2013 everybody.


(Shinya Aoki def. Antonio McKee via submission due to eye-punch, 0:24 of round 2)

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DREAM 18 Announced for New Year’s Eve


(Oh, well hello there.)

Ok, so the good news is that DREAM isn’t actually dead. The bad news is that it is a far cry from what it used to be. It was announced today that the organization will return with another New Year’s Eve show this year AND THERE ISN’T ONE FREAK SHOW FIGHT SCHEDULED ON THE CARD.

“Glory Sports International (GSI), owner and operator of the Glory World Series…will be responsible for presenting ‘DREAM 18 – Special NYE 2012’, a New Year’s Eve MMA mega-event taking place at the Saitama Super Arena on December 31,” a press release reads.

The press release also says that the card will have ten MMA bouts and three kickboxing ones. Featherweight champion Hiroyuki TakayaTatsuya Kawajiri and lightweight contender Satoru Kitaoka are the only three fighters confirmed for the event. Great fighters all, sure, but we had better see a Giant Silva or Zulu Jr. thrown into the mix before things are done or we will be incredibly disappointed. Does Minowaman have anything scheduled these days?

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CagePotato Exclusive: Quinton Jackson Talks ‘Rampage Punch,’ His Passion for Video Games, and the Japanese MMA Scene

By Jared Jones

I’m going to level with you for a second, Potato Nation. Last Friday, around 1 p.m. EST, I sat down for a twenty minute phone interview with none other than former UFC light heavyweight champion Quinton “Rampage” Jackson. As you may or may not know, Rampage has a series of IPhone/Android video games coming out, the first of which is aptly named “Rampage Punch.” You can learn all you need to know about the game in the above video, and you can download the apps for IPhone here and for Android here.

Much to my chagrin, when I tried to pry into Quinton’s beefs with everyone from the UFC to Chael Sonnen, I was pretty much denied any worthwhile answers, and told by MEDL Mobile’s publicist, who was also on the line, to keep the questions within the realm of video games. I’m not sure how many of you consider yourselves “gamers,” or care to hear what Rampage has to say about video games, but needless to say, I was at a loss for words. I do not own a smart phone, and the last console I ever purchased was an N64, because there is no point trying to find a console that will top perfection. I understand that Mr. Jackson is a busy guy, and probably has to do hundreds of interviews with low-level bloggers/writers like myself, but considering how vocal he has been about all of the goings-on in his MMA career as of late (ie. the stuff you’d actually be interested in), the fact that I was more or less relegated to a puff piece on a video games, for an MMA blog no less, was disappointing to say the least.

This is in no way a jab at Quinton, because I was more than appreciative to be able to talk to him, but rather a truthful statement of how the interview went down. So it is with this fair warning that I present to you my conversation with Mr. Jackson as it played out, and allow you to decide upon it’s merit. There are definitely some interesting things to take away from this interview, but if you are not a gamer, most of it will likely not be your cup of tea.

CAGEPOTATO.COM: So I’ve been playing your Rampage Punch app for the past few days and I was wondering, could this game actually help the keyboard warriors of the world improve their punching power?

Rampage: “I’m sure it will help a lot of people. It’s just basically a game showing you where [your punching power is] at. You might need to go back and work on it some more if you’re not getting high numbers.”

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Kazushi Sakuraba vs. Shinya Aoki Reportedly Booked for Next DREAM Event

Kazushi Sakuraba Ricardo Arona photo eye face bloody MMA photos gallery
(Kazushi Sakuraba during his PRIDE glory days in 2005.)

By Elias Cepeda

When does a person not eagerly anticipate the next time one of his favorite fighters competes? When that fighter should have retired years ago due to the damage he’s endured over the years. That’s the way I’ve feel each time Kazushi Sakuraba gets a new match — not excited, but filled with genuine concern for his well-being. The legendary “Gracie Hunter” may be the best MMA fighter the warrior-nation of Japan has ever produced, but he’s lost four fights in a row, hasn’t won a bout since 2009, and has suffered enough beatings for 12 lifetimes. (This guy knows what I’m talking about.)

What makes Saku’s situation worse is that so many of his early losses were the result of savage abuse at the hands of much larger opponents (Wanderlei Silva, Mirko Cro Cop, Ricardo Arona, etc.), leaving him completely broken down at the age of 42. Sakuraba competed just once in 2011 — getting choked out at Dream 17 by unheralded Brazilian prospect Yan Cabral — and has yet to fight this year, while venturing back into pro wrestling just to stay active.

It is now being reported that Sakuraba will return to the ring at Dream’s next event, for a welterweight match against Shinya Aoki. If there’s a silver lining to rolling out Saku for another pay day, it’s that Aoki is foremost a grappler like Sakuraba, so it’s possible that we could see a technical wrestling and Jiu Jitsu match with minimal blunt strikes hitting the legend. Also, Bloody Elbow’s Anton Tabuena is reporting that the fight, now signed according to him, could be Sakuraba’s final MMA appearance.

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Kazushi Sakuraba to Dig Out the Ol’ Orange Wrestling Briefs for DREAM/IGF New Year’s Eve Show


(Human speed-chess: Kazushi Sakuraba and Kiyoshi Tamura put in work at a UWFi show in March 1996. Video via theperfectone)

If you’re a student of Japanese MMA history like we are, you know that legendary fighter Kazushi Sakuraba got his start as a professional wrestler in the 1990s, honing his grappling chops in the UWFi and Kingdom Pro Wrestling leagues. But once he tasted success at the UFC Japan tournament in December 1997, Saku’s career shifted away from worked matches, and he soon became PRIDE’s most beloved native hero.

Now 42 years old and riding a four-fight losing streak — the last three losses by stoppage — Sakuraba has agreed to re-capture some of his lost youth in a tag-team wrestling match at Fight For Japan: Genki Desu Ka Omisoka 2011, the New Year’s Eve show promoted by DREAM and IGF at the Saitama Super Arena. Sakuraba will team up with fellow wrestling/MMA crossover star Katsuyori Shibata, against Shinichi Suzukawa and Atsushi Sawada. (I’ve never heard of the second guy, but Suzukawa is that dude who beat Mark Coleman even though he wasn’t supposed to.)

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Hot (?) Potato: 17 Photos of Rin Nakai, Jacked Female Fighter

Rin Nakai photos women's MMA japan japanese blog photo gallery
(Full gallery is after the jump.)

A 5’1 ball of solid muscle, Rin Nakai isn’t the first woman you’d expect to become an MMA sex symbol. And yet Nakai has become an object of fetishistic interest in her native Japan due to the risqué photos that she regularly posts to her blog. The 24-year-old judoka has racked up a 10-0-1 professional record (seven wins via stoppage) as a 145-pounder, competing in Pancrase, Smackgirl, and Valkyrie, and was crowned the Valkyrie Open Weight Women’s Tournament champion last November. Check out our gallery of Rin Nakai photos below, and let us know in the comments section — would you or wouldn’t you?

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UFC Announces Return to Japan on February 26th, 2012

UFC Japan Japanese fighters 2012 Kid Yamamoto Yushin Okami Yoshihiro Akiyama Takeya Mizugaki
(“…In situations that the Planeteers cannot resolve alone, they can combine their powers to summon ‘Prime Sakuraba‘, a magical entity who possesses all of their powers magnified.” / Photo via BloodyElbow)

The UFC held a press conference earlier today in Tokyo, formally announcing their plans to host an event at the Saitama Super Arena on February 26th, 2012. No matchups were announced, but Japanese stars including Yushin Okami, Yoshihiro Akiyama, Takanori Gomi, Norifumi “Kid” Yamamoto, Hatsu Hioki, and Michihiro Omigawa were all mentioned as likely participants. Former PRIDE stars like Wanderlei Silva, Mirko Cro Cop, Quinton Jackson and Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira are also possibilities.

Though the UFC held four events in Japan from 1997-2000, this will be the first Japanese show organized by the UFC while under Zuffa ownership. The prelims will begin at 10 a.m. local time (with the main card starting at noon) so that the event can be broadcast live at the usual time slot for North American viewers. It’s not clear yet whether UFC Japan 2012 will be a pay-per-view or “Fight Night” card, and no details were given regarding the event’s local broadcast plans.

Following a recorded video message from Dana White at the press conference, Zuffa LLC Asia Executive Vice President and Managing Director Mark Fischer addressed the media in attendance, saying:

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Dream 17 Just Got a Little Less ‘Mandingo’

Shinya Aoki skirtantonio mckee
(Well, that’s a shame.)

Despite recent statements from DREAM and ‘Mandingo’ himself, Antonio McKee will not be facing Shinya Aoki at Dream’s “Bantamweight Japan Tournament” event on May 29th in Saitama. Andrew Simon of HDNet first broke the bad news yesterday evening. Afterwards, MMAWeekly reported that the withdrawal was due to McKee being unable to secure a visa in time to travel and fight in Japan, though FEG USA’s Mike Kogan denied that the situation was visa-related.

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DREAM Finally Announces First Event of 2011; Japan Bantamweight GP Slated for 5/29

Masa Kazu Imanari Shinya Aoki funny MMA photos schoolgirl
(Imanari and Aoki: The [lady-]boys are back in town.)

While Sengoku’s tail-spin has been widely publicized, news about DREAM has been almost non-existent since Dynamite!! 2010 on New Year’s Eve. The silence was broken today at a press conference in Japan, where DREAM organizers announced a May 29th event at the Saitama Super Arena — the promotion’s first show of 2011.

DREAM.17 will feature the quarterfinals and semifinals of their Japan Bantamweight tournament, which will feature the following native competitors: Hideo Tokoro, Masakazu Imanari, Kenji Osawa, Darren Uyenoyama, Keisuke Fujiwara, Atsushi Yamamoto, Takafumi Otsuka, and Yoshiro Maeda.

According to Nightmare of Battle, the finals and third-place fight (between the losing semi-finalists) will take place at a subsequent event in July. The winner and loser of the final match and the winner of the third-place fight will advance to the DREAM World Bantamweight Tournament (date TBA). N.o.B passes along even more details…

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