Preview: ROTR “Hawaii vs. Japan”

Wesley Correira vs. Kazuhiro Hamanaka

Apr 20, 2006
CORREIRA: Hawaiian native brawler Wesley Correira (Pictures) has a professional MMA record of 17-9. “Cabbage” trains in Hilo with Falaniko Vitale (Pictures) and Egan Inoue (Pictures) at Grappling Unlimited. “Cabbage” is a moniker he earned as a boy because he supposedly looked like a Cabbage Patch Kid.

Correira states he never got into a fight all through high school but trained in boxing, judo, karate and wrestling and took up MMA as an afterthought. Inoue has worked to improve Correira’s ground game, as Wesley’s stand-up striking and solid chin are what got him where he is in the sport. His ability to absorb punishment in the heavyweight division, where many competitors rely on power rather than technique, made him a prime candidate for MMA.

“Cabbage” began fighting in the local shows and competed in the short-lived RINGS USA event (lost to Eric Pele (Pictures)) when part of the tournament took place in Hawaii. From 2000 to 2003, he was a regular on Super Brawl cards, battling Travis Fulton, Justin Eilers (Pictures) and the infamous Marcelo Tigre.

After pounding Aaron Brink (Pictures) at the Shogun show in Hawaii and Francisco Bueno protégé Renato Bruzzi in Super Brawl, “Cabbage” competed in the huge Super Brawl 24: Return of the Heavyweights tournament and took out Kevin Jordan (Pictures) and Travis Wiuff (Pictures) in consecutive days. He stopped KOTC 10 tournament winner Kauai Kupihea (Pictures) at the Force Fighting Championships and made his Octagon debut at UFC 39 against current UFC heavyweight champion Tim Sylvia (Pictures).

This bout was the fight of the night as “Cabbage” took everything “The Maine-iac” could dish out for the first round. Correira’s corner threw in the towel nearly two minutes into the second round after “Cabbage” took too much abuse.

He went on a terror at that point, winning his next six fights, including two wins in the UFC, and stopping five of his six opponents with strikes — Jason Lambert (Pictures), Joe Riggs (Pictures), Sean Alvarez (Pictures), Steve Sayegh and David Abbott.

He accepted a bout as a last-minute replacement with former UFC heavyweight champion Andrei Arlovski (Pictures) and took a serious beating. He returned to ROTR for three of his next four bouts and lost all of them, dropping decisions to John Marsh and Yoshihiro Nakao (Pictures) and getting knocked out by “Tank” Abbott in the rematch last May. His lone win since ’03 was a quick KO of Walt Pels (Pictures) at World Extreme Cagefighting 14.

HAMANAKA: Kazuhiro Hamanaka (Pictures) (2-2-1) trains out of the Takada Dojo with Ryuichi Murata (Pictures), Kazushi Sakuraba (Pictures), Daijiro Matsui (Pictures) and Nobuhiko Takada (Pictures), among others.

He joined the camp in 2001 after graduating from college. Hamanaka is a grappler with a great deal of amateur wrestling in the Japanese circuit. He intends to keep competing in amateur wrestling whether his MMA career is successful or not.

Hamanaka made his MMA debut at PRIDE 26 against Chute Boxe fighter Antonio Schembri (Pictures). “Nino” was handpicked by Nobuhiko Takada (Pictures) (over Ryan Gracie among others) to be Hamanaka’s debut opponent and Takada was very confident he’d win. Hamanaka did win a unanimous decision and he went on to face Ryan Gracie at PRIDE Bushido 1 where he was knocked out by a kick late in the first round. Following eight months away from the ring, Kazuhiro fought someone named Ice Man (not Chuck Liddell (Pictures)) at a New Japan Pro Wrestling show and again disappeared from the sport for nearly a year and a half.

He battled Yukiya Naito (Pictures) at the GCM D.O.G. 3 show and fought to a draw. And in recent action, Hamanaka was knocked out in his bout with American Top Team fighter Wilson Gouveia (Pictures) at the Euphoria “USA vs. Japan” event last November.

MY PICK: Correira. Hamanaka has skills but he may be in over his head here. “Cabbage” likes to bang and Hamanaka has a decent right hand but he’d be a fool to stand and trade with this guy. Kazuhiro’s advantage would usually be on the ground, but with a significantly larger man pounding away at your head, it may work against him. Something tells me Takada Dojo doesn’t have too many hombres like “Cabbage” (in terms of brutality and tenacity) running around. A win here could be a good springboard for Correira to get noticed and be brought in as fodder for some Japanese hero, only to win and rejuvenate his career in Japan (ala Phil Baroni (Pictures)).
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