Brazilian Dynamite: Gracie Submits Akebono

K-1 Dynamite Report

Dec 31, 2004
OSAKA, December 31,2004 -- Royce Gracie submitted former Sumo Yokozuna Akebono to cap off a night of action at the K-1 Premium Dynamite 2004. Held at the Osaka Dome, the annual New Year's Eve extravaganza featured seven bouts under a variety of Free Fight Rules (based on K-1's ROMANEX Rules); a trio of regular K-1 Rules fights; and a unique meeting between Bob Sapp and Jerome LeBanner, which saw the combatants alternate sets of rules in each round.

The main event saw Akebono, in his Free fight Rules debut, fighting for Japan against Jiu-jitsu master Royce Gracie of Brazil. Bred of the mixed martial arts world's most respected family of fighters, Gracie is a three-time UFC Tournament Champion.

With his pedigree, one might have expected this to be an easy fight for Gracie -- but the weight difference here was incredible. Gracie tips the scales at just 81kg (179lb), while Akebono weights in at a whopping 220kg (484lbs), darn close to three times as much. Plus, Akebono had been working with famed personal trainer Mak Tanaka (Oscar De La Hoya, B.J. Penn, Magic Johnson). And so there was some reckoning, from the standpoint of physics in particular, that Akebono might be able to simply smother Gracie into submission.

The bout, scheduled for two ten minute rounds, lasted just 133 seconds.

Things started with Gracie light on his feet, throwing a kick or two, looking confident. When Akebono lumbered forward to engage his opponent, Gracie offered minimal resistance and the two tumbled to the canvas.

Akebono ended up on top, but did not have a favorable mount. As Akebono shifted his weight in an attempt to reassert himself, Gracie slowly began to squirm for position. He first got a leg up, then commenced to work his magic. Methodically, the Brazilian Jiu-jitsu master delved, deeply, into the blubbering mass atop him, finally extracting an arm. Then, with consummate skill, he worked a wrist lock. Poor Akebono began to wince in pain, and with no chance of escaping, had no choice but to submit.

"I did everything my trainers told me not to do," said the dejected fighter afterward.

Gracie, meanwhile, was delighted with his performance: "I had a strategy and I discussed it with my family and my team. I knew I had to bring Akebono to the ground, and I knew the best way to do that was to let him come to me! It worked perfectly, what you saw tonight was exactly what I trained to do!"

There was tremendous fan anticipation for the penultimate bout, a clash of the titans between K-1 veteran Jerome Le Banner of France and American Bob "The Beast" Sapp. This four-rounder was fought using two distinct sets of rules -- the first and third rounds conducted under regular K-1 Rules (three minutes each), the fighters switching to open-finger gloves to mix it up under Free Fight Rules (five minutes each) in the second and fourth rounds.

Although Sapp had wanted to start this one with a Free fight Rules round, LeBanner of course preferred the first round be conducted under K-1 Rules, and used his 10 years of experience to pull rank. And so, with K-1 Rules set for round one, the Frenchman came out looking for a quick KO, which he very nearly got.

This was not a pretty sight for Sapp fans -- after a signature charging start, the big guy spent the balance of the round doubled over, his guard pressed close to his face, absorbing punch after punch from LeBanner. Midway through, after a dozen unanswered blows, Sapp collapsed and LeBanner looked in great position to finish his dazed opponent. But Sapp retreated, turtled over, ran away, and otherwise did whatever he could to get through the round and stay in the fight.

In the second, under mixed martial arts rules, things improved greatly for Sapp. Here The Beast was able to execute a quick takedown and get into a full mount position. He began to rain down the punches, but luckily for LeBanner, ran out of steam after a minute or so. Although he stayed on top for almost the entire round, Sapp was unable to use his dominant position to inflict the damage required to win. Neither was he able to work any sort of submission hold here, and soon it was time for round three and the 10 ounce gloves, and LeBanner again had his chance.

Sapp had some success with a defensive charge-and-clinch strategy in the early going of the third, but soon LeBanner was again throwing in kicks and punches at will which put an exhausted Sapp in graceless retreat. Despite all the punishment, Sapp showed a lot of heart and stayed on his feet, and soon it was LeBanner who was tired and unable to finish.

The fourth saw some new variations on the same theme, Sapp using his size to dominate but not able to put the necessary power into his blows to end it. There was a reversal, though, and when the two went north-south, LeBanner got a number of knees in on Sapp's head. Again, however, there was not enough sustained pressure. LeBanner spent some time in side mount in the late going here, as did Sapp, but neither man was able to punish for a tapout or position for submission. Sapp was on top and threatening to maybe do something with LeBanner's right arm when time ran out. Under the agreed upon rules, the fight was declared a draw.

Said LeBanner post-bout: "I wish I could have beaten Bob in the K-1 Rules rounds, but I made it through the mixed martial arts rounds so it was a learning experience for me, and I am happy with the result."

Sapp, who dedicated the fight to the memory of sparring partner Masaki Miyamoto's father, who recently passed on, said he was also pleased with the fight: "I took some damage in the K-1 rounds and got tired, but I was better in the mixed martial arts rounds. I think if a mixed martial arts round had come first I'd have had more energy and could have done better, but that's the way it goes."
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