K1 Hero's: Final Battle 2007 review
by Scott Newman(MMA)
Posted on July 11, 2009, 7:25 AM
K1 Hero’s: Final Battle 2007
-Ah, Hero’s. The Japanese K1 promotion, primarily known for kickboxing events, branched into MMA with the Hero’s events in early 2005, and while the events were perhaps better known for their freak show fights, their Middleweight tournaments (the weight classes are naturally confusing as hell being in Japan, as Hero’s Middleweights = UFC Lightweights = 155lbs) featured some of the best fighters in the world, and this show, the finals of the 2007 tournament, had four of the top 155lbers in the world in Vitor ‘Shaolin’ Ribeiro, Gesias ‘JZ’ Cavalcante, Andre Dida and Caol Uno. Rules are basically similar to PRIDE rules albeit without the kicks and stomps to a grounded opponent. Round timings are a bit odd – according to the official K1 site the 155lbs fights are three five-minute rounds, with tournament matches being two five-minute rounds with a third round only if needed, and the upper weight classes are the same but with a ten minute opening round. No idea why they’d change the round times based on weights, but hey. It’s not like I’m going to be looking at any more of their shows after this anyway – Hero’s was finished in early 2008 when K1 parent company FEG formed the DREAM promotion with the former PRIDE execs.
-Your hosts are Dale Adams and former Cage Rage fighter Pierre Guillet.
-We join the fighter introduction about halfway through. Production levels here, it must be said, are incredible, rivalling the best PRIDE ever did even. Gotta love that part of Japanese MMA.
Olympic-level wrestler Miyata had been knocked out of the tournament by Shaolin Ribeiro on the previous Hero’s show and is perhaps best remembered for being the victim of Kid Yamamoto’s insane flying knee in the opening seconds of their fight, while Harra is a guy who I’ve never heard of personally, despite him apparently being a UK fighter! Harra comes out to O Fortuna dressed in full medieval knight garb, channelling the Excalibur movie from the 80’s I guess. Fucking awesome entrance!
Round One begins and Harra comes SPRINTING out of his corner and delivers a body kick. Double leg from Miyata puts him down, but Harra looks to grab a guillotine. Miyata pulls out right away and then passes to side mount for a second, before Harra secures a half-guard. Miyata works and passes to side mount, and then goes for a straight armbar, and after a little struggle from Harra the Japanese fighter extends the arm for the tapout.
Damn, after the entrance I was really pulling for Harra but he got tooled on the ground there. Quick and one-sided opener.
Chute Boxe’s Dida had beaten perennial 145lbs contender Hiroyuki Takaya and Russian prospect Artur Oumakhanov coming into this one, and generally looked like a pretty dangerous guy. He’s a charismatic little dude too, dancing to the ring to a Bob Marley track and wearing a Lucha mask. His opponent? The veteran Uno, whose only recent losses had come to JZ Cavalcante, Kid Yamamoto and Joachim Hansen. Not a bad list as Uno is a tough fight for well, anyone in the world at 155lbs.
1st round begins and both men head out with a low, crouched stance, circling around tentatively. Suddenly Dida strikes, landing a right hand that stuns Uno and drops him momentarily! Uno goes for a leg but Dida avoids and then lands a BIG flying knee as Uno stands! Uno looks in trouble and lunges for a leg, but Dida avoids it again and opens up with some wild strikes, landing uppercuts and another big knee. Uno hangs in there and drops to his back, looking for guard, but Dida wants none of the ground game and backs up, and the ref stops things to sort out a plaster-strap thing over Uno’s nose that’s moved to his cheek due to the strikes. I think! Lot of blood from Uno’s nose too but he looks okay to continue. They restart and Dida hits him with a vicious leg kick. They exchange and Uno shoots for a takedown, but Dida sprawls out to avoid and controls the Japanese fighter with a front facelock. Action slows a little as Dida looks unsure what to do with the position, and then he stands and looks to strike again. High kick from Uno is blocked. Uno begins to press the action more now, not landing with anything, but he’s preventing Dida from flurrying. Round ends with Uno pushing forward. Between rounds the announcers mention they think Uno may have a broken jaw as he’s moving it a bit strangely and his teeth don’t appear to be lining up right.
Into the 2nd and Uno is moving around a lot more now, with Dida missing a flying knee early on. Uno continues to push the action and ducks under an overhand right, getting a bodylock and looking for the takedown, but Dida does a good job of blocking it. Uno gets him down for a second using a whizzer, but Dida pops right back up. Uno’s still on him though and manages to trip him down, but Dida reverses into mount. Uno reverses that over into top position in Dida’s half-guard, fantastic little grappling sequence there. Full mount into side mount for Uno, and Dida rolls and gives his back for a second before getting back to half-guard. Uno works to mount again, but Dida once again turns and re-establishes half-guard. Uno tries to pass and then spins around onto Dida’s back, but the Chute Boxe fighter shakes him off and gets to his feet, dropping Uno down off his back and then telling him to get up. Big combo starting with the overhand right looks to have Uno hurt, but as always he’s very calm and recovers quickly. Dida starts to swing for the fences and Uno drops to the ground off an uppercut, but Dida calls him back to his feet. Uno has some bad swelling on his face. Nice takedown from Uno with seconds remaining and he hits a sweet guard pass, spinning into side mount and landing some hammer fists to end the fight.
Announcers discuss the possibility of a third round which is definitely possible as there’d be a fair argument for giving Uno the second round I guess, even though he took more damage. Judges call it a unanimous decision for Andre Dida though, giving us no third round and putting Dida into the final in the main event later on. I’d say that was the right decision as while Uno did get some good positions on him, he didn’t manage to do anything with them or threaten with a submission. Really fun fight as both men came in with a fast pace, and Dida caught Uno with some huge shots that the Japanese fighter did incredibly well to withstand. Not a shameful loss for Uno by any means and Dida looked really great in his first elite-level test.
At the time, with PRIDE’s final Lightweight champion Takanori Gomi having lost to Nick Diaz in a controversial match, UFC champion Sean Sherk under suspension for a positive steroid test, and most of the other top 155lbers sidelined due to the PRIDE buyout, a lot of fans considered this a fight that would unofficially decide the #1 ranked Lightweight in the world. American Top Team’s Cavalcante had beaten the likes of Caol Uno and Rani Yahya to win the 2006 Hero’s tournament, and hadn’t lost since a 2004 match with Joachim Hansen, while Shaolin had reeled off nine wins in a row since his last loss and was considered by myself as pound-for-pound the best grappler in MMA. Basically a dream fight to be honest and the winner of this one was my pick to take the tournament overall.
We get underway and JZ comes out aggressively with a right hook. Shaolin looks to change levels for a takedown, but JZ blocks and they clinch up along the ropes. MASSIVE trip throw drops Shaolin right onto his head, but he seems okay and gets his legs up as JZ looks to drop strikes down onto him. Right hand appears to have Shaolin hurt and he covers up and rolls, as JZ continues to drop punches. Shaolin tries to roll to guard but JZ’s having none of it and he keeps on pounding away, and Shaolin ends up stuck in the turtle position covering up and the ref calls it there!
Wow, did not expect that to go so quick and easy in favour of JZ, that’s for sure. Never seen Shaolin destroyed like that, even by Kawajiri in his only other loss. Post-fight it looks like Shaolin’s maybe taken a shot to the eye as he looks hurt, and the replay seems to show the first left and right that JZ landed as he hit the mat did the damage. As it goes Shaolin was badly hurt by this fight as he suffered a detached retina, and ended up taking almost a year on the shelf to recover. Overwhelming victory for JZ who moves onto the final round to take on Dida.
Never heard of Casey before and a quick check of his record tells me that this was his MMA debut. He’s a Rickson Gracie student, apparently, and he brings Rickson with him in his corner. Ahh, perhaps not another classic Minowaman freak show fight then. Rickson is looking really old actually, although that might just be in his face because he’s mad lean for his age. Surprisingly Minowaman looks like he’s bulked up a LOT here; I haven’t seen him since his PRIDE days but he’s huge compared to how he looked back then.
First round starts and Casey throws out the front kick into the takedown attempt ala Royce Gracie in UFC 1. Minowaman stuffs it, but Casey uses a whizzer to get him to the ground in half-guard. Good reversal from Minowa brings the fight back to standing, but Casey sticks to him in the clinch. Crowd begin to chant loudly for Minowa as Casey keeps him pressed against the ropes, until the referee breaks them. Front kick from Casey and he clinches again, where they exchange some knees and short strikes. Ref breaks them up again but they go right back into the clinch and continue where they left off exchanging knees. Single leg attempt from Casey and he gets Minowa down, but Minowa swiftly secures a half-guard. Casey controls him without landing any strikes or anything, and being a Gracie student you have to assume he’s looking for some sort of submission. Minowa sits up and it looks like he’s leaving himself open for a guillotine momentarily, but then he manages to stand and they end up clinched again. Very dull fight thus far. Ref breaks them again but Casey closes the distance right away. Single leg from Casey into full mount this time and Minowa gives his back, working to turn into Casey’s guard. Minowa actually goes for the really risky tactic of looking for a footlock with Casey in back control, leaving his neck open ala the first BJ Penn-Matt Hughes fight. Casey can’t get his arm under the chin though and he’s taking some deep breaths as well. Ref breaks them up, which is ridiculous – you don’t call a stand-up with a guy in a dominant position like that regardless of how much action there is (see Couture-Sylvia), but then again this is Japan I guess. Anyhow, they restart and go right back to the clinch, and the round ends shortly after. Well, that sucked. Announcers discuss who took the round and Adams is disgusted with himself that he has to give the round to Casey, it was that bad.
Into the second round and Casey quickly closes the distance and clinches again. Yawn. This time though Casey decides to break and trade wild strikes with Minowa, which proves to be a mistake as the mulleted one catches him clean with a right hand that drops Casey to his knees, where Minowa pounds him for the stoppage.
Well, thank God that’s over. Ending was exciting but the first round was perhaps one of the worst I’ve ever seen in MMA.
Christ, did anyone have a tougher beginning to their MMA career than Yoon? When you consider that of his first five fights, four of them were against Sakuraba, Rampage, Bustamante and Melvin Manhoef I’d say no. Incredibly he’d beaten Melvin to pick up his first win in the sport, too. Croatian Galesic, known in Cage Rage as Little Mirko, had lost to a similar fighter to Yoon in PRIDE – judoka Takimoto – and was looking to avoid a similar result here. Yoon isn’t wearing his gi here for the first time that I can recall seeing, unless my memory is failing me.
We begin and Zelg throws a mid-level kick out before Yoon clinches. They exchange some knees inside and then Yoon looks to trip him down, but Galesic blocks. Good bodylock takedown from Yoon lands him in side mount, and Zelg tries to turn into Yoon to escape. Yoon steps beautifully into full mount, then inches into a high mount and as Zelg bucks his hips in an attempt to escape, the judoka catches him with a straight armbar and extends it for the tapout.
Very impressive win for Yoon as he took a dangerous striker down and finished him off quickly with the submission. It’s frustrating in a way as you wonder what Yoon could’ve done had he been built up gradually rather than thrown in with the wolves from the start of his career, but such is MMA in Japan.
Announcers are pushing Chute Boxe’s Silva as a guy as aggressive as Manhoef himself and sure enough he looks it, borrowing Wanderlei’s infamous wrist-rolling ritual pre-fight, even if he’s a little chubby. The book on Manhoef had basically been written at this point – deadly striker who very few can stand with, but take him to the ground and he’s like a fish out of water. However, what’s the fun in booking him with someone who’ll take him down? K1 obviously felt the same, looking to recreate the last Melvin vs. Chute Boxe fight, the insane Manhoef-Cyborg war from Cage Rage 15. Manhoef’s entrance is INSANE, as he’s sporting a spiked dog collar of all things and generally looks like a caged animal as his cornermen rant and rave at him to get him fired up before leading him to the ring on a chain. Good lord.
First round starts and Silva pushes forward, but doesn’t swing for the fences, instead going for the clinch where he looks to secure the plum. Manhoef avoids that and they end up stalling in the corner before the ref breaks them. Announcers think Silva might’ve landed a low knee which is why the action stalled and indeed they give Melvin some time to recover. They restart once he’s ready and Melvin lands a hard leg kick before NAILING Silva with a right hook! Silva buckles and falls to his knees, and he’s basically out as he comes up and gets dropped with a left. Manhoef pounces and starts wailing with hammer fists, and the ref steps in to stop it.
Well, it’s pretty clear at this point that if you trade leather with Melvin Manhoef, you’re likely leaving on a stretcher, and this was no exception. Silva didn’t even have a chance to get anything off as Melvin just killed him dead with the first punch that landed clean. If this guy had a ground game he’d be absolutely terrifying. Well, he’s a scary guy anyway I guess, Jesus does he hit hard. Guillet says post-fight that if he was training for Manhoef he’d take three months just to perfect the art of keeping his hands up. Good point.
This was Overeem’s Hero’s debut and his first fight at Heavyweight since his initial run there in 2006, a run that saw him gain some hype by beating....Sergei Kharitonov, who many ranked in the top five at that point. Sergei had never looked the same since a late 2005 shoulder injury though, and this was his big chance to regain some momentum by taking the win back from the Demolition Man.
We get underway and Overeem opens up with a pair of leg kicks. Sergei comes back with one of his own and looks to land with the jab, as Overeem moves around on the outside. Overeem is landing some hard leg kicks here, and he follows with a pair of good right crosses. Sergei looks for a takedown from a caught low kick, but Overeem blocks it. Overhand right glances off Kharitonov’s head. Clinch from Overeem and he turns to take the back, getting a rear waistlock, but Kharitonov looks for the kimura ala Karo Parisyan and trips Alistair down. Overeem manages to keep back control and then they stand and he backs up. Exchange back into the clinch, where Overeem lands some knees inside before they break. Good right uppercut from Sergei and they clinch again, where Overeem trips him down and takes the back again. Kharitonov stands with Overeem holding the rear waistlock again, and does a good job of blocking the Dutchman’s suplex attempt using wrist control. Alistair lets it go and lands a low kick, but misses one high. They continue to exchange strikes and it looks like an overhand right might have Overeem hurt as he covers up. Kharitonov follows with a knee to the body and a right uppercut, and indeed, Overeem is rocked and in trouble! He tries to answer back, but misses with a wild hook and Kharitonov lands a left hand that has Overeem turning his back and retreating! Sergei chases him down, but takes some good knees as Overeem fires back, and now a big one-two and a jumping knee seems to have Kharitonov in trouble! Big overhand right lands from Alistair and they trade off into the clinch, where Overeem botches a takedown and winds up on the ground. He comes back up, but takes a combo from Sergei and now he looks badly hurt and winded, too. Overeem tries to back up but Kharitonov keeps pouring it on, landing uppercuts and right hands, and finally a BIG RIGHT HAND to the back of the head sends Overeem tumbling through the ropes for the KO!
Really good heavyweight stand-up contest there as both men landed heavy, heavy blows and it looked like the fight could’ve gone either way. Overeem started off more brightly, but seemed to fade towards the end of the round and that cost him big time, as Sergei caught him with some big shots and never let up. It’s weird because after this fight Overeem’s stock has gone way up after a really good run, while Kharitonov hasn’t really looked this good since.
PRIDE legend Sakuraba’s 2006 move to Hero’s had shocked many MMA observers, although credit to K1, at this point they hadn’t booked him in any dangerous fights as PRIDE had tended to towards the end, although Lithuanian Kestutis Smirnovas had almost killed him before Saku had come back to win with an armbar in that fight. Shibata is the very definition of Japanese Tomato Can, nothing else needs to be said really. Not only is he a terrible fighter but he FALLS OVER during his ring entrance as he comes charging down the ramp, the idiot. Pre-fight Rickson Gracie presents both men with flowers and naturally the announcers are talking about Rickson vs. Sakuraba. Which would still be cool today I guess even if it’s like a decade late.
We begin and they circle around tentatively before Sakuraba clips Shibata with a short right hand. Nice leg kick follows before Sakuraba gets a single leg to guard. Shibata immediately begins to throw short blows from his back, but they don’t really have any effect as they’re more flailing shots as opposed to power punches. Sakuraba works to pass the guard and gets into half-guard, and then into side mount, avoiding a triangle attempt from Shibata in the process. Total control thus far for Sakuraba but he’s done no damage and hasn’t really attempted any submissions either. Sakuraba starts to slap Shibata from side mount now, and then changes it up and lands some heavy punches clean to the head. Couple more punches land and bounce Shibata’s head right off the canvas. Surprising to see Saku showing so much power in his ground-and-pound. With about five minutes to go in the round he looks for an armbar, but Shibata manages to scramble into half-guard to block it. Easy pass to side mount from Saku though and then he takes full mount and goes for the armbar, and despite Shibata trying to block it by getting a headscissors hold with his legs, eventually Sakuraba straightens it for the tapout.
Total squash match as you would expect I guess, but then you never know what to expect from Sakuraba these days so perhaps it wasn’t so predictable. Thank God this fight went easy for him and didn’t end up getting him hurt is all I can say really.
Alright, so remember when I said nobody had a tougher start to their MMA career than Yoon Dong Sik? I take that back. Two of BJJ champion Fernandes’s first three fights were Urijah Faber and this clash with pound-for-pound contender Kid Yamamoto. Insane stuff. Yamamoto though was coming off a long layoff due to his attempt to wrestle in the Olympics (and a subsequent injury which robbed him of that dream), which is a bonus for the Brazilian I guess.
Round One and Kid opens right away with a BRUTAL leg kick that buckles Fernandes. Fernandes charges in with a low kick of his own, but Kid grabs him and slams him to the ground. Armbar attempt right away from Fernandes and then he transitions to a takedown attempt, putting Kid on his back. Ref stops it to move them to the center of the ring and then we get a bit of a frustrating moment as the referee and Fernandes can’t decide over the exact position they were stopped in. Use a cage, people, use a cage! Finally they restart and right away Yamamoto pops up to his feet. High kick from Fernandes is blocked and Kid comes back with a low kick. Kid tries another, but Bibiano catches it and gets him down, passing into side mount. It looks like he’s going for an armbar and he almost gets it straightened out, but Kid hits a beautiful escape and reverses into top position, where he bombs at the head of the Brazilian as Fernandes tries to get the armbar from the bottom. Finally Kid gets his arm free and the ref stops it to move them to the center of the ring, and it becomes clear that poor Bibiano doesn’t understand this rule one bit, as again he keeps trying to improve position before they restart the fight. Kid is outright cracking up at this point as they bring a couple of extra refs in to explain to Bibiano what the deal is I guess. Hilarious. We’ve got FOUR officials in the ring now. Finally they just decide to forget about it and start them from scratch standing. Sigh. Kid circles around and then avoids an overhand right, but Bibiano shoots and jumps to guard. Right away he’s looking to roll into an armbar from the bottom, but Kid manages to avoid it this time and lands some stiff punches from the top. Fernandes comes back with a pair of good upkicks from his back, and so Kid stands over him and kicks at the legs instead. Bibiano stands back up and now Kid closes in and lands a kick to the body. Nice step-in combo lands for Yamamoto. Low kick ends the round for Kid. Well, that was a good round outside of the weird bit of confusion.
Second round and Kid swings some heavy leather, but Bibiano ducks under and gets a double leg, putting him on his back. Kid secures butterfly guard and takes some punches to the body, before reversing position and getting Fernandes on his back in guard. Bibiano rolls for the armbar again but Kid does a tremendous job of blocking it, and then stands above him and tries to drop some punches down over the top. Good kick to the leg from Kid before the ref brings Fernandes up. Kid rushes in, but doesn’t land anything and Bibiano attempts to jump guard, but Kid avoids it and backs up. Bibiano comes back up and he takes a combo from Kid, who looks a little more tentative at this stage. Overhand right into a takedown attempt from the Brazilian but Kid avoids it. Nice left to the body from Kid, reminiscent of Melvin Guillard on Gabe Ruediger in fact. Superman punch misses for Kid and he takes a body kick from Bibiano before the Brazilian jumps to guard. Fernandes peppers the head with punches from his back, and the round ends just afterwards. This is a really close fight as it goes, which I didn’t expect at all.
Touch of gloves to begin the third and final round. Good leg kick from Kid to open, but Bibiano throws a combo and then looks for the takedown. He ends up pulling guard and tries to land some upkicks, but Kid chooses to stand and brings it back up to their feet. Bibiano rushes in with punches again and this time double legs Yamamoto through the ropes, but they restart the fight standing. Couple of leg kicks land for Kid again, an outside one clearly hurting the Brazilian. Yamamoto is trying to pick him apart. Overhand right from Bibiano leads into a clinch in the corner, but the ref calls the separation to check a cut over Bibiano’s right eye. Not sure what caused that. Restart and they exchange standing, with Kid getting the better of it with his leg kicks. Clinch from Fernandes and he pulls guard again, but this time Kid lands with some good punches from the top. Yamamoto stands over him and kicks at the legs, and then avoids a takedown when the Brazilian is brought to his feet. Fight ends with Kid landing a couple more leg kicks.
Close fight to call but it’s probably Kid’s as he did more in the later rounds as Fernandes slowed down, although Bibiano came closest to finishing things with the armbar in the first round, and he was able to get Yamamoto down on multiple occasions which was surprising. Sure enough Yamamoto gets the decision, disappointing Fernandes, but hey, the guy acquitted himself incredibly well for just his third MMA fight. Probably a mix of Kid having some ring rust and Bibiano turning out to be a really good fighter in his own right. First round was excellent, second and third slowed down a little but this was a solid fight overall.
And so we’re into the final round for all the marbles, with two Brazilians clashing (which I guess was predictable when you consider three of the four semi-finalists were from Brazil). American Top Team vs. Chute Boxe, too! Both guys look supremely relaxed pre-fight, with JZ even dancing in the ring to Dida’s Bob Marley entrance theme. Bit of a weird thing going on pre-fight too as Melvin Manhoef, who as far as I’m aware isn’t with ATT, comes out with JZ, while Dida has Sakuraba of all people dancing to the ring with him. It’s as if Saku just heard the Bob Marley track and felt like a dance to the ring or something.
Round One and we’re underway, and it’s Dida pushing the action early on. Couple of jabs from JZ keep the distance, but he gets wobbled by a short right although he recovers very quickly. Dida starts to swing some heavy punches at him, but JZ fires back with some jabs and then gets a double leg down to half-guard. Dida does a good job of scrambling back to full guard, but he takes a couple of hammer fists before tying the ATT fighter up. JZ works to pass to half-guard again and then stands and opens up with some big shots from the top, before Dida lands an upkick that causes JZ to go back down into the guard. More punches from the top from JZ and he passes to half-guard again and avoids a good attempt at a sweep. JZ works to pass, and it looks like he’s going for an arm triangle as he pushes his way into side mount, but Dida manages to slip free although he ends up mounted instead. JZ inches up into a high mount and as Dida tries to buck out, he gives his arm and JZ locks up the armbar and extends it for the tapout with seconds remaining.
Well, the final wasn’t as explosive a fight as I’d hoped as JZ just ran right over Dida, but how can you complain about two dominant performances like that from Cavalcante, as he used his heavy striking to take out Shaolin before dismantling Dida from the top position on the ground. And so JZ becomes the Hero’s tournament champion for the second year on the bounce. Despite having a couple of setbacks since this point, to me he’s still one of the top 155lbs fighters in the world and I’d love to see him in the UFC at some stage.
-Akira Maeda presents JZ with the tournament title, and the show ends there.
Final Battle 2007 is a really good show and it’s a good introduction to the Hero’s series too – despite it being one of their final shows before the series was amalgamated into DREAM. You’ve got the excellent production values as are expected with a Japanese promotion, and the majority of the fights are either very good (Dida-Uno, Yamamoto-Fernandes, Overeem-Kharitonov) or short, explosive and fun (Manhoef-Silva, Yoon-Galesic). Of course there are a few slower fights on the card – namely the Minowaman debacle – and there’s no outright classic – the fight that had that potential (JZ-Shaolin) was over before it had a chance to get going – which means it’s not a truly great show, but it’s certainly worth a look, particularly if you’re a big fan of JZ Cavalcante. Thumbs up.
Best Fight: Dida-Uno
Worst Fight: Minowaman-Casey
Overall Rating: ****
UFC: 94-99, Fight Nights 17-18, and TUF VIII Finale.
Elite XC: Uprising, Renegade, Street Certified and Unfinished Business.
King of the Cage: 23, 29, 30, 32, 33, 36, 42, 48, 52, and 58.