New Years Eve Previews: K-1, Shockwave, and Inoki

Inoki Bom Be Ye 2003

Dec 30, 2003
Kazuyuki Fujita vs. "Merciless" Ray Mercer

Japanese pro-wrestler and former IWGP Heavyweight Champion Kazuyuki Fujita is an Antonio Inoki protégé and brings in a record of 9-4 in MMA. He's built like a truck at 6'0 and 230lbs, is very strong and has a huge, NFL helmet-sized head. Fujita also trains with Pancrase fighter Kengo Watanabe at the PANCRASEism gym. Professional boxer "Merciless" Ray Mercer is 32-5-1 with 24 KOs and a former WBO Heavyweight Champion. He's fought Lennox Lewis, Larry Holmes, Wladimir Klitschko, Tim Witherspoon and Tommy Morrison but is nearing the end of his athletic career at 42 years old. Apparently it took a lot of work to sign this bout and with Fujita working his hands regularly now I imagine he'll bring down the fading ex-champion.

Fedor Emelianenko vs. Yuji Nagata

After weeks of intrigue and behind-the-scenes war games, current Pride Heavyweight Champion Fedor Emelianenko will indeed fight. The sambo and judo champion is 22-1 in MMA with wins over Herring, Schilt, Arona, Fujita and Nogueira. Yuji Nagata has held the IWGP Heavyweight Title and the IWGP Tag Team Title and has wrestled Mark Coleman, Josh Barnett and Kazuyuki Fujita. In his only MMA bout, he was stopped by Mirko "Cro Cop" Filipovic at the Inoki '01 New Year's show. Don't blink. Nothing will keep Emelianenko from obliterating Nagata quickly and taking a quick flight back home.

Josh "The Baby-Faced Assassin" Barnett vs. Semmy "The Viking" Schilt

Josh Barnett, 16-1 in MMA, is the current and 10th Open Weight King of Pancrase and recently beat the current Middleweight KOP Yuki Kondo at the Pancrase 10th Anniversary show. Barnett was the youngest UFC heavyweight champion ever but was stripped of the title due to drug use and now competes regularly as a New Japan pro wrestler. 6'11 and 260lb Semmy Schilt from Holland's Golden Glory Team is 22-12-1in MMA and 3-0-1 in K-1 competition. Semmy is a former Open Weight King of Pancrase and has his eyes set on getting that title back in this rematch of UFC 32. This bout has a good chance of stealing the show but I expect Barnett to repeat as champion.

Stefan "Blitz" Leko vs. Kazunari "Terrorist of Heisei" Murakami

German fighter Stefan "Blitz" Leko is a highly decorated kickboxer having won the K-1 Europe GP '98, the K-1 Dream '99 Tournament and the K-1 World GP 2001 in Las Vegas. The Team Golden Glory fighter is 49-12-1-1 as a kickboxer with 29 KOs and has wins over Remy Bonjasky, Alexey Ignashov, Cyril Abidi and Peter Aerts. The name of judo stylist and IGWP pro wrestler Kazunari Murakami may ring a bell for some in the U.S. He fought in Extreme Fighting: Battlecade 3 (a TKO win over Bart Vale) and 4 (a KO loss to Maurice Smith). The former New Japan/Inoki UFO wrestler also competed in Pride 1and has a 5-5 MMa record. With all of Leko's experience and Golden Glory behind him, he'll likely walk over Murakami.

Rene Rooze vs. Tadao Yasuda

Dutch kickboxer and MTBN Super Heavyweight Champion Rene Rooze fights MMA for just the 7th time in his 8-year career. Rooze is 4-2 in MMA and 1-3 in the K-1 but has an overall kickboxing record of 32-6-1 with 4 KOs. His biggest MMA bouts have been against Enson Inoue, Heath Herring and Ivan Salaverry. Tadao Yasuda is a former sumo wrestler and currently the IWGP Heavyweight Champion of New Japan Pro Wrestling. At 6'4 and nearly 300lbs, Yasuda beat Jerome LeBanner and Masaaki Satake but he is a mere 2-3 in MMA. This Rooze/Yasuda fight is a rematch of bout at the K-1 Andy Hug show won by Rooze by KO. I don't think much will have changed in the 2 and a quarter years since they last met.

Rich "Ace" Franklin vs. Ryoto "Lyoto" Machida

Rich Franklin is an American submission fighter out of the Miletich Fighting Systems and Meat Truck Inc. camps. He is 17-0 in MMA and has beaten Evan Tanner, Marvin Eastman and Travis Fulton. As a top contender for the light heavyweight title in the UFC, Franklin waits for his opportunity to prove himself. Ryoto "Lyoto" Machida is another budding Antoni Inoki protégé who blurs the lines between work and shoot. He is 2-0 in MMA with wins in the New Japan "Ultimate Crush" show and the Inoki/Wallid Ismael half work/half shoot event Jungle Fight. Machida looks capable but at this point in his career, he's just a warm-up for Franklin.

Alistair "The Demolition Man" Overeem vs. Vladimir "The Janitor" Matyushenko

Dutch kickboxer Alistair "Demolition Man" Overeem trains on Team Golden Glory with Lucien Carbin, Cor "Obi-Wan" Hemmers and others. Alistair is a RINGS, Too Hot To Handle, M-1 and Pride veteran with a MMA record of 18-4 and 7-0-1 in kickboxing. Vladimir "The Janitor" Matyushenko is a Russian wrestler with a huge pedigree that includes being a USSR National Wrestling Champion and the five-time Belarus National Wrestling Champion. Matyushenko is 14-3 in MMA and is a UFC, IFC, WEF and Shooto veteran. He currently trains with Rico and Lou Chiapparelli as part of the RAW Team. Although little has been mentioned about this fight, it could easily be the match of the night. Overeem has the edge in my opinion.

Amar Suloev vs. Din "Dinyero" Thomas

In another bout of interest to MMA purists, UFC veterans Amar Suloev from the Red Devil Sports Club and Din Thomas from the American Top Team square off in their Inoki Bom Be Ye debuts. Amar sports a 36-6 record in MMA and has two 4-man tournaments wins (in the M-1 and the Pankration Cup) and two 8-man tournaments wins (WVC 11 and Too Hot To Handle 3) to date. His background features kickboxing and wrestling and coupled with the Russian military training and he is just 27 years old. Din Thomas is 18-2, undefeated in World Extreme Fighting competition and held the WEF Super Lightweight Championship and WEF Super Featherweight Championship titles with his biggest win coming over former UFC Lightweight Champion Jens Pulver. He is also the former WVC Lightweight Championship and the ISCF World Lightweight Champion. Who wins? I'm a big Suloev fan. I think he'll deliver a head kick to KO Thomas early in the bout.

Aleksander Emelianenko vs. Angelo Araujo

Aleksander Emelianenko, brother of current (or are they stripping him?) Pride Fighting Championships Heavyweight Champion Fedor Emelianenko takes to ring for just his second pro fight. The large Russian (about 6'6 and 260lbs) made his debut at October's Pride Bushido show against then Chute Boxe fighter Assuerio Silva. Aleksander won a decision and now prepares for his second Brazilian opponent. Angelo Araujo is 7-1in MMA and will fight outside Brazil for the first time. The Brazilian Top Team member is a MECA, IVC and HEAT veteran. Emelianenko was slow, lacked his brother's power and easily gassed with Silva. Araujo seems like he'd be tough for anyone at 100% but you can never count out an Emelianenko.

Michael "The Black Sniper" McDonald vs. Hiromi Amada

Canadian kickboxer Michael "The Black Sniper" McDonald is 17-10 in K-1 competition and 41-10 (14 KOs) in overall kickboxing competition. He's beaten Rick and Jeff Rufus, Jean Claude Leuyer and stopped Mirko "Cro Cop" Filipovic in the 1st round with strikes. K-1 fighter Hiromi Amada has a record of 15-10-1(3 KOs) and has fought Mirko Filipovic, Andy Hug, Mike Bernardo, Jerome LeBanner and Mark Hunt. He KO'd Tom Erikson last April and has won a number of amateur boxing tournaments in Japan. It's K-1 vs. K-1 in Inoki's territory. Their records at this level are virtually the same but McDonald has faced more solid competition and will likely take the win here.
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