Bellator 170 will mark Ralek Gracie’s first mixed martial arts appearance since a decision victory over Kazushi Sakuraba at Dream 14 on May 29, 2010.
Not having any recent video footage to study is no issue for opponent Hisaki Kato, however. The Japanese knockout artist has a pretty good idea of what the Brazilian jiu-jitsu practitioner’s intentions will be when they square off at the Forum in Los Angeles on Saturday night. The last name says it all.
“Of course I watched the videos, but they are quite old so he could have changed a lot. The guys he fought with were wrestlers, and I’m a striker,” Kato recently told Sherdog.com. “Of course I watched the videos, but I didn’t really focus on them. I just focus on myself because I know he is a Gracie; he’s gonna put the fight to the ground. For me, I know what I have to train and I have to train for. I didn’t really analyze his videos.”
Gracie, the founder of the Metamoris grappling series, is the son of Rorion Gracie and the nephew of Royce Gracie. While his grappling credentials are unquestioned, his MMA ledger features just three fights, and Kato believes the lengthy layoff could affect his performance come fight night.
“That’s a long time. He hasn’t been in the cage for seven years,” Kato said. “I don’t know how he’s been training, but not being in the cage and not fighting in MMA for seven years is a long time. I don’t know, but I think it’s going to be hard for him.”
Even if ring rust proves to be a factor, Kato says he is well prepared to handle the strongest part of his opponent’s skill set.
“I’ve been doing a lot of grappling. One of the best grapplers, jiu-jitsu guys is in my gym, even if he’s lighter: Hatsu Hioki,” Kato said. “He’s like a technique book when it’s about the ground. He knows everything. So I’m quite confident even if I have to go to the ground.”
Of course, Kato hasn’t made a name for himself in Bellator MMA for his ground exploits. “The Japanese Musketeer” turned heads with his spectacular knockout of kickboxing standout Joe Schilling in his promotional debut at Bellator 139, one of seven KO/TKO triumphs for the 34-year-old middleweight. Kato knows he will have to adopt a different approach to his fight with Gracie than he has for recent, more striking-minded foes.
“This time i will have to be more cautious with the striking part. I will have to really focus on the fighting distance, being light on my feet because we all know that he will try to put me down and finish me on the ground,” Kato said. “And he knows that I will try to knock him out. It will be different because I will have to be light on my feet and control the distance.”
A victory at Bellator 170 would give Kato four victories in his last five outings, with three of those coming under the California-based promotion’s banner. If all goes well, Kato hopes that finishing a foe with a famous last name will improve his title hopes.
If it’s a good win, a good knockout, I believe I will be able to contend for a title shot,” he said. “It would be three wins in a row. And a lot of knockouts. If I win, I will try to have a title shot.”