After Johny Hendricks knocked out Jon Fitch, after Nate Diaz and Donald Cerrone settled their differences by beating the tar out of each other and even after Alistair Overeem body kicked Brock Lesnar out of the UFC, a wholly different type of mixed martial arts (MMA) show was taking place a world away.
The latest -- and quite possibly the last -- in a long line of New Year's Eve combat sports offerings from Japan took place in the wee hours of the morning for those of you living stateside. "Genki Desu Ka Omisoka" replaced "Dynamite!!" as the year-end extravaganza but the name wasn't the only change that was made.
In addition to the usual mixture of kickboxing and MMA bouts, this year's show also included professional wrestling matches courtesy of Inoki Genome Federation (IGF) founder Antonio Inoki. While that may seem odd to American fans, having all three on the same card made perfect sense in Japan where the histories of each are intertwined much more closely than they are here in the states.
The entire event clocked in at just under nine hours, beginning right about when UFC 141: Lesnar vs. Overeem went off the air and ending just in time to catch the breakfast menu at McDonald's. Featuring the likes of Kazushi Sakuraba, Josh Barnett, Tim Sylvia and of course Fedor Emelianenko, "Genki Desu Ka Omisoka" -- which translates to "How Are You! New Year!" -- provided all the action and wackiness that has become par for the course as Japanese fight fans ring in the new year.
Read on if you dare!
Starting off the show were a trio of MMA bouts in the bantamweight division. All part of a 135-pound grand prix, the first fight was a reserve bout that very well could have stolen Knockout of the Year at the last second. Ever since winning a tournament held earlier in the year, Hideo Tokoro hasn't been able to get back into the win column and that streak continued tonight when he was the victim of an absolutely brutal slam at the hands of Russian Yusup Saadulaev less than a minute into their tilt.
With the win, Saadulaev earned the right to take the place of either Bibiano Fernandes or Antonio Banuelos -- who defeated Rodolfo Marques and Masakazu Imanari, respectively -- should they have gotten injured. But the Russian's services wouldn't be needed as both winners were healthy enough to take part in the finals. There, the former DREAM 145-pound kingpin once again became champion albeit in his new, smaller weight class.
Representing kickboxing were two K-1 MAX bouts that pitted Masaaki Noiri against Kengo Sonoda and Yuta Kobo against Nils Widlund. Noiri took his bout by unanimous decision but Kobo ended his fight a bit more dramatically. The Japanese kickboxer lit up the Swede with a head kick and then finished him off with a knee that put him down for the count.
In MMA action, Japanese veteran Hayato Sakurai outlasted Ryo Chonan, earning "Mach" his first win since April 2009. He had since lost four straight which fueled rumors that he may soon be hanging it up. Picking up his second straight win at 145-pounds, Tatsuya Kawajiri disposed of Kazuyuki Miyata in easy fashion. "Crusher" forced his opponent to tap to a second round arm triangle after dominating the pace of the fight with his perfectly timed takedowns. And in women's action, Bellator veteran Megumi Fujii made quick work of Karla Benitez when she secured an armbar in 75 seconds. The win was "Mega Megu's" 25th of her career.
There were a total of four IGF pro wrestling bouts on the card but only two of them were worth watching. The matches between Tim Sylvia and Jerome LeBanner -- huh? -- and Kazuyuki Fujita and Peter Aerts were essentially a waste of time but Josh Barnett's catch wrestling bout with Hideki Suzuki was fantastic and reminiscent of the classic UWF-i wars from the early 1990s. Japanese legend Kazushi Sakuraba teamed up with Katsuyori Shibata to take on the duo of Atsushi Sawada and Shinichi Suzukawa. That match ended with "Saku" sinking a choke in on Sawada and was followed by an all-out brawl.
But the pro wrestling wasn't even the craziest part of the show. Just like last year, K-1 MAX star Yuichiro Nagashima was involved in another mixed rules fight that saw the first round play out as a kickboxing match while the second round had an MMA ruleset. But unlike last year where the costume play fan knocked out Shinya Aoki, Nagashima was on the receiving end of a beatdown as Katsunori Kikuno was able to get a stoppage victory in the second round.
The gems of the show, however, were the two title fights and the main event. Hiroyuki Takaya looked to defend his 145-pound title against Takeshi Inoue. Inoue is also known as "Lion" but fought like anything but. He allowed the champ to control the pace of the bout for the entire 25 minutes and offered little to no offense. It was a disappointing effort form the challenger but marks the second defense for Takaya who won the belt from the aforementioned Fernandes a year ago today.
Shinya Aoki returned to New Year's Eve after an embarrassing showing last year that saw him avoid a K-1 round against Nagashima only to get kneed into unconsciousness mere seconds into the MMA round while shooting in for a takedown. He came back in impressive and dominant fashion, beating Satoru Kitaoka in every aspect of the fight over the course of 25 minutes. The first two rounds were a grappling affair as excepted but rounds three and four included glimpses of the submission specialist's ever-improving striking.
And in the main event of the evening, Fedor Emelianenko made his return to Japan for the first time since the 2007 New Year's Eve show where he submitted human giant Hong-Man Choi. An equally impressive win was his reward as he knocked out Olympic judo gold medalist Satoshi Ishii. The MMA newcomer had absolutely nothing for "The Last Emperor" who knocked out his opponent with a powerful jab that crushed the Japanese fighter's nose. Emelianenko has now won two in a row after dropping three straight during his Strikeforce tenure.
If this is indeed the final year-ending show in Japan, it's only fitting that it included a little bit of everything: MMA, kickboxing and pro wrestling.
For complete DREAM: "Genki Desu Ka Omisoka" results, including blow-by-blow coverage of the MMA portion of the eclectic fight card, click here.