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Bellator 146: Hisaki Kato ready for 'really explosive' fight with 'good-gened' Melvin Manhoef

After a spectacular debut at Bellator 139 with a Superman punch that obliterated Joe Schilling, Hisaki Kato returns to main event Bellator 146 opposite ferocious striking specialist, "No Mercy" Melvin Manhoef. And Kato has no intentions of backing down.

Bellator MMA

Bellator 146: "Kato vs. Manhoef" takes place tomorrow night (Fri., Nov. 20, 2015) inside WinStar World Casino in Thackerville, Oklahoma.

You never get a second chance to make a first impression. And at Bellator 139 five months ago, promotional newcomer Hisaki Kato made the best one possible in his North American debut.

Kato was not given an easy opponent to begin his Bellator MMA run at Middleweight. "Stitch 'Em Up" Joe Schilling had shown his mettle with a surprising knockout of Melvin Manhoef, but he faltered afterward and lost to Rafael Carvalho.

Schilling had hoped to prove the judges made the wrong call at Bellator 136, but instead proved that company executives Scott Coker and Rich Chou had made the right call bringing in Kato. One Superman punch later and Kato became an immediate MMA fighter to watch.

When we last spoke to Kato in June, he was riding high on succeeding in his announced plan to "become famous." To continue on that path to potential stardom, he'll have to beat the same man Schilling did, the fearsome Manhoef, in the Spike TV main event this weekend. recently spoke with Kato about moving up to main event status, a match up Kato says he is well prepared for and eager to take.

"I had a good camp, so I'm really confident this time, too. He's a really tough and famous fighter, so it's an exciting fight for me, too. Yes, I'm really happy with that and this opportunity to fight with him."

Manhoef's record as a striker is formidable -- almost 70 percent of his kickboxing fights end by knockout (27 of 39) and his percentage of wins by (technical) knockout is equally high in MMA (27 of 44). Kato knows what fans expect the two of them to do.

"Yes, yes! It's probably what is going to happen. I really like the striking game, too, so, yeah I think it will be like really explosive. Of course I look at video about my opponent and what he's capable of (but) I just try to improve my cardio, my techniques, my ground game, my striking, everything you know?"

The flipside of Manhoef's extensive history in combat sports is the wear-and-tear on his body at age 39, not to mention back-to-back losses (one overturned to a "No Contest") in Bellator. Nonetheless, Kato says Manhoef will be well prepared for "No Mercy."

"Yes, he's older than me, but you know he's really explosive (and) he's been a top athlete for several years. He has good genes and his last fight was half a year before. With a good camp, good conditioning he can still be a really tough fighter. I really think he's going to be ready."

From my viewpoint "good genes" is a polite way of describing Manhoef's chiseled physique, which at times has been his downfall as he seems to fade quickly in extended matches. Kato may use that to his advantage on the ground.

"In my team we have some really, really skilled fighters like Hatsu Hioki -- he's one of the best guys for the grappling game. We have a lot of different fighters and really good jiu-jitsu guys so ... I've been working my ground game for a long time. It's just like during the fight yeah my first option because I'm from karate is to use the striking part, but I'm confident with my grappling and my ground game too."

Even though Hioki was cut from UFC following his loss to Dan Hooker earlier this year, there's no doubt his ground game and Brazilian jiu-jitsu are strong with 12 submissions and 11 decisions.

Kato has combined the knowledge he gains in Japan and the training camp he has in France to present a formidable challenge to every opponent he faces.

"Being in France like compared to Japan is good for me because I have a lot of sparring partners (who are) bigger and more explosive. So, I think I have improved both parts of the game, like the striking part and the grappling part."

Training in two different parts of the globe can put a strain on any fighter's family life. For Kato, though, confidence going into the fight is high thanks to strong support back home in Japan.

"I've been away from my family for now like eight weeks for the camp, because everybody's in Japan and I'm training in France, but yes everything has been good. Well, of course, I will be really happy to go back to Japan and see my family after the fight. My family understands that. It's not a negative energy for me, it's an extra motivation to do good."

Kato is motivated with positive energy and prepared to deliver the power of the punch to Manhoef tomorrow night -- it's must watch.

Complete audio of our interview is below and complete Bellator MMA coverage can be found right here on fight night.


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