“JZ” Repeats as K-1 HERO’S Champ

By Tony Loiseleur and Stephen Martinez Sep 17, 2007
YOKOHAMA, Japan, Sept. 17 -- K-1's 2007 HERO'S middleweight tournament saw its concluding chapter this evening at the Yokohama Arena, where American Top Team's "JZ Calvan" Gesias Calvancanti (Pictures) took the top spot once again, defeating two fellow Brazilians in "Dida" Andre Amade (Pictures) and the vaunted "Shaolin" Vitor Ribeiro (Pictures).

Contrary to the wishes inferred by K-1 in the weeks previous to the event, two Brazilians indeed met in the main event final bout. "JZ" and "Dida" fought a brief but tense single round, which saw the American Top Team representative submitting the Chute Boxer.

Dropping Calvancanti to one knee with a crisp left hook counter in the bout's opening, Amade was unable to capitalize and finish, as JZ quickly rallied and returned fire.

As both men began swinging at each other, it was Amade's hooks which found their marks, prompting Calvancanti to take the fight to the floor, where from guard and half guard, he was able to occasionally put in several pounding punches between Amade's up-kick responses.

Continuing his attempts to improve position, Calvancanti locked in the arm triangle while in half guard before wrenching out his leg to finish the choke in the side mount. With a bit of quick thinking, Amade rolled with JZ and managed to escape the choke, only to fall into the fight-ending armbar soon after, forcing the tap at 4:48 in the first round. With this victory, Calvancanti wins the K-1 tournament for the second year in a row.

"Shaolin" Ribeiro had little opportunity to strut his stuff in his semifinal tournament bout with Calvancanti. With "JZ" coming out swinging, Ribeiro immediately looked for a takedown down, dropping levels and shooting in.

Calvancanti was ready however, stuffing the attempt and bringing his opponent back into the clinch, where with pure strength, Calvancanti shoved Ribeiro forcibly onto the canvas. Immediately following up with savage punches hammer fists, Calvancanti proceeded to beat the living daylights out of a retreating "Shaolin."

With Ribeiro covering up but showing no attempt at intelligent defense, the referee stepped in to end the bout at a meager 35 seconds into the first round.

Late replacement for Kultar Gill (Pictures), Andre Amade (Pictures), continued his aggressive march forward this evening by banging out fan favorite Caol Uno (Pictures) throughout two rounds. Putting the Japanese fighter into dangerous territory early in the first period with a well-placed uppercut that forced Uno to scramble out from the under a fierce barrage of punches from above, "Dida" set the bout's theme in getting the better of the stand-up exchanges, despite Uno's best efforts to cut off the ring and take the Brazilian down.

On the mat, Uno busied himself less with scoring damage and more with advancing position, in turn receiving a great deal of damage to his person for his troubles. Thus, Uno gave the judges no option but to award Dida the unanimous decision victory by bout's end.

Prior to the tournament final however, Bibiano Fernandes and "Kid" Norifumi Yamamoto (Pictures) fought a highly competitive three round battle that saw the popular Japanese fighter walk away with the unanimous decision. Coupled with what may have been a minor case of ring-rust, Fernandes gave the HERO'S poster boy perhaps the toughest in-ring battle he's had in some time.

It may not have helped, however, that K-1's inept refereeing struck again in this bout, as repositioning mishaps and unnecessary delays abounded, prompting raucous booing from the typically positive and enthusiastic Japanese crowd -- a particularly evocative and rare occurrence for Japanese fight fans. When one is being booed in the land of the rising sun, one knows that one has bungled fairly severely.

Despite the snafus, either fighter's games went largely unaffected as they played to their strengths. Yamamoto gave a fair amount of respect to the grappling genius of Fernandes, doing his best to keep the fight standing where his use of combinations ending in leg kicks, inside and out, helped him to pull ahead on the scorecards.

In the few moments "Kid" fought on the mat it was spent mostly in Fernandes' guard, where he narrowly escaped an armbar in the first round and dropped a modicum of heavy punches from above throughout the remaining two.

"I apologize for not getting the KO win," Yamamoto said to the crowd upon receiving his win. "Next time, even if it hits the ground, I'll get that KO."

Proving that Kazushi Sakuraba (Pictures) is still firmly entrenched in the hearts and mind of Japanese fight fans, the IQ Wrestler had tonight's crowd on the edge of their seats throughout the course of his bout against the tenacious Katsuyori Shibata (Pictures).

Countering with a picture perfect right hook when Shibata missed with a left of his own, Sakuraba soon took the fight to the ground, at first receiving a number of small, harrying shots to the left side of his head while in Shibata's guard.

Transitioning to side-mount shortly thereafter, Sakuraba was able to deliver a number of punishing right hands squarely onto the face of his opponent, much to the audience's approval. Amidst cries of support and gasps of concern from those in attendance, Sakuraba struggled for some time to confirm the fight-ending armbar while Shibata put up a valiant effort to fight the submission off.

At the 6:20 mark, a Sakuraba that could not be denied pried out Shibata's arm for the full extension, forcing the tap to boisterous applause.

In-ring after his fight, Sakuraba challenged the returning Masakatsu Funaki (Pictures), requesting a bout from the Pancrase co-founder in the near future. Humbly and respectfully entreaties, "give me this fight, big brother!" the Japanese crowd could not help but voice their vocal approval.

Sergei Kharitonov (Pictures) avenged his PRIDE loss to Alistair Overeem (Pictures) by KO in the first after an exciting round of back-and-forth stand-up action. With the striking favoring the Dutchman in the earlier portion of the fight, Overeem was able to tag Kharitonov with hard low kicks, winging right hooks, and stiff jabs.

In the clinch, Overeem was able to slip in several knees as well, but the tide turned when Kharitonov switched gears to pursue strikes from within the clinch instead of from the outside.

Employing excellent dirty-boxing uppercuts from the clinch, Kharitonov was able to sap the energy, as well as the consciousness, of Overeem in the later stages of the bout.

Rocked and winded, a backpedaling Dutchman was caught by a savage right hook the back of the head that sent him out cold through the ropes and prompted the referee to call the bout at 4:41 in the first round for the KO victory.

Despite acting and otherwise appearing for all the world like Wanderlei Silva (Pictures) 2.0, Chute Boxer Fabio Silva (Pictures) was unable to replicate his avatar's bombastic displays of striking dominance, having been put away in quick and tidy fashion by Melvin Manhoef (Pictures) via TKO in the first period.

Clinching up with the Dutchman off of a missed hook flurry, it was an unintentional elbow off of a returning Manhoef combo that put Silva on the canvas. Manhoef was in place to capitalize immediately thereafter, dropping punches and hammer fists with abandon until the referee called the bout 60 seconds after the opening bell.

Dong Sik Yoon (Pictures) made very quick work of "Benkei" Zelg Galesic (Pictures), armbarring the Croatian bomber early into round one. Coming out with a smarting high kick, Yoon immediately took away further opportunities for Galesic to strike by clinching up and tossing the Croat to the mat, judo-style. From here, Yoon calmly transitioned to mount to lock on the textbook armbar. Knowing he was caught, Galesic tapped even before the arm was fully extended at only 1:09 in.

Taking an entire 10-minute round to do essentially nothing, Ikuhisa Minowa (Pictures) defeated Kevin Casey at a brief 42 seconds into the second period when the Japanese pro wrestler got locked into a heated exchange with Casey, knocking him down and pounding him out for the TKO win.

With the first round largely consisting of both men in the clinch or with Casey on top in the half guard, neither scored significant damage or points in these positions, essentially wearing each other out for the 10 minute period.

Breaking the pattern of the first stanza however, it was Casey who, perhaps unwisely, chose to disengage from the clinch and start punching, to which "Minowaman" happily returned, allowing him to get in and knock down the Rickson Gracie student for the ground and pound finish.

For all of Harvey Harra's bluster, opening the fight by charging in with a kick and immediately locking on the guillotine attempt, Kazuyuki Miyata (Pictures)'s cool prevailed, allowing the former Olympian to pop out of the choke and pass to side-mount. From there, Miyata easily set up the armbar and leisurely fell into it, forcing the tap at 1:13 in the first round.

In other in-ring happenings this evening, the most notorious Gracie family fighter, Rickson Gracie, came into the HERO'S ring to announce his intention to return to fighting.

Though no opponent or date was specified, Gracie expressed to the fans in attendance that "I'd like to fight forever, but that's not possible. But, I think there's still one good fight left in me though."
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