YOKOHAMA - Gesias Calvancanti prevailed in two fights tonight to defend his Belt in the Hero’s Middleweight World Championship 2007 Tournament Final at the Yokohama Arena.
The twenty-four year-old mixed martial arts fighter was one of three Brazilians in the final four of the 70kg/154lb tournament. The bouts were fought under Hero’s Rules, two five-minute rounds.
The first of the semis featured chute boxer Andre Dida of Brazil and fan favorite, accomplished grappler Caol Uno of Japan.
With a edge in striking, Dida was content to stay on his feet, while Uno wanted to take this one to the mat. Dida did better in the early going, powering a couple of uppercuts and a hard knee to Uno’s face to bloody an eye and send the Japanese fighter to the mat. But Uno was capable on his back, employing bicycle kicks to keep the aggressive Brazilian at bay. Uno dove in looking for a leg takedown but Dida intercepted and the two were re-stood. Now it was Uno who tested with the jab while Dida circled, and the first ended without further damage.
In the second Uno wrapped up his opponent’s midsection and the pair eventually went to the mat. And after a bit of twisting that saw Dida briefly on top, Uno worked his way into a side mount. But Dida broke and got to his feet, whereupon he again began to fire in the fists. Uno went to the mat, inviting his opponent in, but Dida would have none of it. A tough one for Uno and the partisan fans, the unanimous decision putting Dida into the final.
In the second semi it was Calvan, who beat Uno by decision last October to capture the inaugural HERO’S Middleweight World Championship, fighting compatriot Vitor “Shaolin” Ribeiro.
Calvan wasted no time whatsoever here, sweeping from the clinch to put Ribeiro on the mat, then coming in with a ground and pound on his turtling opponent to force a referee stop just seconds into the bout.
And so it was Dida and Calvan in all-Brazil final.
One thing—those Brazilians love their entrances. Calvan performed a sort of magical juju dance with the Brazilian flag on his protracted trip to the ring, before the glitter-green-and-gold masked Dida skanked in to Bob Marley’s “Could you be Loved.” Then it was time for a fight.
Calvan started with jabs, Dida countering with the left straight and right hook. Calvan grabbed the trunk for a takedown to half mount, occasionally rising to put in a punch but otherwise stymied by Dida’s ground defense. There was a long period of close grappling here with Calvan briefly getting round to the rear, but Dida again slipping out of trouble. Finally Calvan got the full mount he was looking for, and when Dida bucked was able to extract the right arm. Dida very nearly got out of it, but Calvan pushed his opponent’s head down, wrapped the legs round and effected the hyperextension for the armbar tapout and the tournament win.
“I feel very happy to succeed here today,” said the jubilant Calvan afterward. “I didn’t expect the first fight to go so quickly but I saw my chance and took it. Against Dida, I felt whether we were standing or were on the mat I’d be ok. I’m very glad, but even if I didn’t win again this year, I know I have the love and support of my family back in Brazil. Winning is nice but the important thing is to come and enjoy it, to enjoy every day, and to have respect for all these hard fighters!”
In the tournament reserve, Kazuyuki Miyata of Japan used an armbar to submit Harvey Harra of the UK early in the first.
There were six Superfights on the card.
First up was a showdown between Japanese fighter Minowaman and Kevin Casey of the United States, a newcomer to mixed martial arts who has been training with Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu seventh degree black belt Rickson Gracie.
Gracie was in Casey’s corner for the bout, witness to Minowaman’s acrobatic flipping ring entrance and Casey’s quick body takedown to partial mount. Then things slowed considerably. Minowaman managed to break and get back to his feet, where the pair were to lock in the clinch repeatedly. Casey could not make much of his takedowns here, looking less than confident as he worked in vain for the choke from a rear mount. With limited action the pair were re-stood again and again.
A lively start to the second as the fighters stood and exchanged strikes, and it was Minowaman who connected with a left and then a hard right hook to put Casey down. The Japanese fighter seized the opportunity, coming in from behind with blows to the side of the head, and after Casey had absorbed more than a half-dozen the referee stepped in to call it for Minowaman.
Next up, Dong Sik Yoon of South Korea met Zelg “Benkei” Galesic of Croatia in an 85kg/187lb matchup.
Galesic started nicely with a knee to the head, but when the two went to the mat it was Yoon who got the mount. The two rolled, Yoon wrapping the legs, extracting an arm and hyperextending to coerce a tapout.
When kickboxing powerhouse Melvin Manhoef of Holland and Fabio Silva of Brazil took the stage at the pre-event press conference, there was a prolonged staredown and a curious bit of forehead-on-forehead drama. The pumped-up pair brought that energy to the ring today for a fast and furious fight.
Both these fellows like to stand and strike, and that is exactly what they did. It was the explosive Manhoef who was more, well, explosive—throwing in a low kick and then stepping in and answering Silva’s counter with big haymakers. A left softened up the Brazilian, and the right that followed put him down hard. Manhoef leapt atop his opponent, raining down the fists to get the referee stop for victory in scarcely a minute.
In a heavyweight contest, Sergey Kharitonov of Russia stepped in against Dutchman Alistair Overeem, who hails from the famed Golden Glory Gym. Overeem won the last time these two fought, but Kharitonov, who has been training with both the Russian military and mixed martial arts legend Volk Han, said pre-event that his improved power and technique would make for a different result this time.
And he was correct. Fists from the start, both fighters making partial contact, with Overeem also bringing the low kicks and knees into play. Kharitonov absorbed everything his opponent could muster, and showed no apparent ill effects. Then, the Russian began to assert himself. Power was the difference as a Kharitonov right rattled Overeem badly. The Dutchman first turned his back, and then commenced to trot away. Overeem might have liked a longer ring for his retreat, because Kharitonov quickly caught up and pounded in another right. Again Overeem moved away, and again Kharitonov closed. Even as the referee chased the pair down, presumably to issue a standing count, Kharitonov planted another punch and now Overeem was not standing, but hanging gracelessly over the lower rope. An impressive performance from Kharitonov for the decisive win.
In an all-Japan Superfight, 38 year-old mixed martial arts legend Kazushi Sakuraba met a man 10 years his junior, pro-wrestler Katsuyori Shibata.
Shibuya cocked Sakuraba’s head back with a tight hook soon after the opening bell, and put in a bunch of rights from guard after Sakuraba got a takedown. Things improved for Sakuraba when he went to the side mount, as he was able to constrain Shibata and put the fists in. Suddenly, Sakuraba went for Shibata’s right arm, overcoming a strong resistance to finally wrest it free and hyperextend for the submission. A virtual love-in followed as Sakuraba went to the stands to greet and thank his legion of adoring fans.
“I wasn’t very impressed with Shibata’s technique,” said Sakuraba afterward, “but he has great fighting spirit. Sometimes mixed martial arts fights can get deadlocked, I’m glad fans could see some action in this one!”
The highly anticipated Main Superfight saw Norifumi “Kid” Yamamoto, whose bid for a spot on the Japanese Olympic wrestling team was thwarted by a training injury, make his return to HERO’S in a 63kg/139lb contest with jiu-jitsu fighter Bibiano Fernandes of Brazil. This was one of the few fights on the card that went the distance, and really both men were in it up to the final bell.
Yamamoto started things off with a couple of hard low kicks before a Fernandes takedown deposited the fighters under the ropes. Fernandes didn’t care for the referee’s suggested center-ring reset position, but nevertheless soon achieved excellent positioning for an armbar. However, even as Yamamoto appeared compromised beyond hope, he somehow rotated himself out of the hold and out of danger. Toward the end of the round, after the two again got tangled in the ropes, there was another, longer, resetting delay, drawing no fewer than four befuddled officials into the ring for consultations as Fernandes protested, Yamamoto laughed and the crowd jeered. Otherwise a good round, Fernandes scoring with a solid right hook, the Kid landing a number of good low kicks.
Throughout this one, Fernandes guarded with bicycle kicks, Yamamoto backing off rather than trying to pass There was plenty of speed and creativity here, Yamamoto reversing a Fernandes takedown and mount in the second, landing a good right straight punch, and always charging in with punches when the two were standing. The third saw Fernandes looking for takedowns and inviting his opponent to grapple, Yamamoto remaining happy to stand and score with low kicks, racking up enough to take the win by unanimous decision.
“I think it was my recent work with a Brazilian trainer that helped me to get out of that armbar,” said Yamamoto afterward. “Bibiano has great takedowns and grappling, and although I’ve been working on my ground fighting I still prefer standing, so I tried to stay up in the fight. I’m only sorry I couldn’t get a KO!”
In undercard action featuring Japanese fighters, Takenori Sato beat Kengi Nagai and Tashiro Nishiuchi beat Wataru Takahashi.