Last Updated on Thursday, 11 July 2013 08:36
Written by admin
Thursday, July 11th, 2013
Japan was once the go to for combat sports on New Years Eve. Having a history for bringing in a number of celebrities, boxers, super heroes, true fighters, and anyone else that would bring eyeballs to a screen.
Some of the most memorable matches in combat sports occurred on New Years Eve, and yet some of the most memorable mismatches also took place. Japan’s boxing federation was so irate with what was happening to their boxers that crossed over to K-1 (legkicks deluxe) that they told any boxer that performed within the K-1 ranks they would never be welcomed back to professional boxing if they fought with K-1.
So, we give you – the top 10 fights of Omisoka Nippon. Enjoy.
1. BOB SAPP VS. AKEBONO (K-1 2003) – 42.5 TV Rating (Nearly 60 million watched this fight)
This is was the one that fans will remember forever. The legendary Akebono, a huge sumo star from 10 years before and the monster, The Beast, Bob Sapp. The two appeared in front of nearly 60 million viewers on Japanese TV. This Bob Sapp knocked the sumo wrestler out in the first round, scoring what was to be the most popular fight in Japanese history.
2. MASATO VS. KID YAMAMOTO (K-1 2004) 31.6 RATING
After the hype of 2003, Masato and KID Yamamoto would bill the most talented fighter from MMA against the most talented kickboxer from the lighter weight ranks. Yamamoto, noted as the “Son of God”, and Masato would both be paid in excess of a million dollars to fight one another. This would be the fight in which KID and Enson parted ways as the two had a disagreement in ideology, or so it seemed. In what was the biggest night of KID’s career, he scored a first round knockdown of the legendary Masato before falling to the multiple time World Grand Prix winner. This was the pinnacle of KID’s career and would be the brightest moment for both the Silver Wolf and The Son of God.
3. BOB SAPP VS. JEROME LEBANNER (K-1 2004) 28.6 RATING
In an attempt to capitalize on the Bob Sapp ratings from the year before, FEG put Sapp in a mixed rules match with Jerome Le Banner. The four round fight saw a mix of kickboxing and mixed martial arts rules. Ultimately the fight ended in a draw and saw Sapp hanging on for dear life at the end.
4. BOBBY OLOGUN VS. CYRIL ABIDI (K-1 2004) 28.1 RATING
Ologun became famous for having his eyes shoot out of his skull on Japanese TV. That translated into a combat sports gig for him, which saw him make even more cash. In what was a extremely surprise decision, Ologun took Abidi down at will and scored a unanimous decision. This was not only a huge shock as Ologun defeated a top tier striker, but it wrote Ologun’s ticket onto future NYE cards, as late as 2010.
5. KEN KANEKO VS. CHARLES “KRAZY HORSE” BENNETT (PRIDE 2005) 27.7 RATING
Shockwave 2005 marked the entrance of one of Japan’s famous television personalities in Ken Kaneko. Kaneko, a frequent on Japanese television, has also played roles in a dozen or so movies in Japan, thus a popular face among the Japanese people. Kaneko also had trained Brazilian jiu jitsu, which automatically qualified him to fight Charles Bennett, nicknamed “Krazy Horse”. Bennett was just that, crazy as sin, and would often times mimic referees, pick fights back stage (Chute Boxe), and anything else he could do to get under the skin of people. Bennett went on to easily submit Kaneko in the first round as it became apparent that mixed martial artists are just that and television personalities, well, they’re just that as well.
6. RULON GARDNER VS. HIDEHIKO YOSHIDA (Pride Shockwave 2004) 25.9 RATING
Billed as a match up of gold medalists, Rulon Gardner and Hidehiko Yoshida would settle a score in the ring between two of the countries most famous Olympic competitors. Yoshida won a gold medal in the 1992 Barcelona games and is one of Japan’s most famous judoka to date. Gardner lacked on the fame that Yoshida enjoyed, but quickly became a face in Pride, even with one fight. It would later be heard that Gardner was offered Fedor Emelianenko in a PrideFC fight and offered over a million dollars for doing so. That never happened.
Gardner and Yoshida put on one of the most boring fights in Pride history. Gardner surprisingly kept a decent distance on Yoshida and tossed little jabs the entirety of the fight. Yoshida was unable to capitalize and ended up on the wrong side of a decision. This would be Gardner’s one and only pro fight and he would end up broke, looking for work after enjoying time on The Biggest Loser. In an interview in 2012, he explained the money Pride had paid him and offered him to take fights with some of their best heavyweights, fights that he passed up on due to not being the fighter he thought he could be. Admirable.
7. BOBBY OLOGUN VS. AKEBONO (K-1 2005) 25.8 RATING
Quite possibly the worst match in Japanese MMA history, Akebono came into the bout at very obese 500 pounds. That said, Ologun was quite the specimen for not being a career fighter. Ologun was far too athletic for the sumo wrestler and threw an abundance of leg kicks and jabs to the point Akebono was physically unable to move. That said, the referee wasn’t having it and let the bout go forward until the final bell sounded. The judges obviously handed a decision to Ologun after the one sided affair. Being Akebono’s second fight, he would return two more times for the K-1 promotion. Akebono would never win a professional fight, having been submitted in 3 out of his 4 pro fights.
8. HIDEHIKO YOSHIDA VS. NAOYA OGAWA (PRIDE 2005) 25.5 RATING
Olympian’s were a hot commodity during the combat sports heyday in Japan and this fight was a ground breaker. Ogawa, the silver medalist in the 92 games versus Yoshida, the gold medalist. Additionally, Ogawa was a successful fighter, thus the legitimacy of the fight was just that. Prior to his last fight with Fedor Emelianenko, one of which saw the judoka horribly over matched by the Russian, Ogawa was an undefeated fighter. Having defeated some decent fighters in the ring, it was thought that an Ogawa Yoshida match would entertain the fans. Entertain it did.
Yoshida and Ogawa enjoyed an exciting fight, one that saw the gold medalist arm bar the silver medalist and end any discussion of who was the better fighter. It would also mark the end to Ogawa’s career as he proceeded onto professional wrestling, where he still is a name to this day.
9. KAZUSHI SAKURABA VS. YOSHIHIRO AKIYAMA (K-1 2006) 25.0 RATING
Before there was the GSP Penn grease gate, there existed Akiyama and Sakuraba grease gate. The fight matched K-1′s most famous middleweight against PrideFC’s most famous middleweight (who competed at every weight). Sakuraba immediately went to his shoot style and was desperately going for submissions only to find Akiyama not there. Akiyama had a snake like ability to slip away and avoid Saku’s submission attempts. Akiyama would eventually defeat Sakuraba but that was only the beginning.
An outcry by Sakuraba’s camp and the fighter himself appealed the decision and it was still stated by the powers that Akiyama was the winner. It wasn’t until long after the fight that officials with FEG changed the contest to a no contest. While never outright admitted, it was apparent that Akiyama was a cheater during this fight.
This would mark Japan’s turn on Akiyama as since this fight he was boo’d horrendously by Japanese fans, even in his UFC fight in 2012. Akiyama would have to take homestead in Korea to find a crowd that would love him.
10. KID YAMAMOTO VS. ISTAVAN MAJOROS (K-1 2006) 25.0 RATING
KID Yamamoto was riding a huge win streak going into the fight and appeared to be the best lighter weight fighter in the world. Seeing that his weight class (145 at the time) was far from popularity in the west, Yamamoto made a living in Japan, notably with his NYE bouts. Istavan Majoros was one of the world’s best greco wrestlers, having won gold in both the Olympic games and the World Cup. Wrestling is not MMA, however and KID had hands that were able to floor Masato.
The ending to this fight saw a Yamamoto knee to the liver, something that is not trained in wrestling. As typical with New Years Eve, the mismatches are aplenty. This would be KID’s final New Years Eve bout for 3 years as he suffered injury after injury. Yamamoto would never be the same fighter again.