The man who helped establish mixed martial arts on New Year's Eve was back at it again.
Antonio Inoki returned to December 31 as a promoter with his Inoki Genome Federation, a pro wrestling promotion. In true Inoki fashion, the promotion has both wrestlers and fighters engaging in pro wrestling matches. In the case of this card, there was a mix of pro wrestling matches and mixed martial arts fights.
The main MMA fight of the card was the return of Mirko Cro Cop and the debut of Shinichi Suzukawa. A fighter versus wrestler matchup has never worked out that great for Inoki since he started booking them in real fights as opposed to in pro wrestling matches. The desired effect of booking these types of fights years ago was that the pro wrestler would win or fight good at the very least. In most cases, the wrestler did not perform well or was finished quickly. This ended up being no different.
Suzukawa, a former sumo wrestler, chose to make his MMA debut fighting in a sumo thong. Suzukawa came out charging with something resembling a flying knee to begin the fight, but ended up accidentally poking Cro Cop in his left eye after landing.
Cro Cop got aggressive after the eye poke and quickly got Suzukawa to the ground. From there, Cro Cop got full mount and worked his way to an armbar. He locked the hold on and got the win just 78 seconds into the bout.
This fight brought back a lot of memories to Ishii's win on New Year's Eve a few years ago over Jerome Le Banner. They were both solid outings by Ishii where he wore down his opponent on the mat and did what he had to do when the fight was standing. The other thing that rings true about both of these fights is that they were unspectacular performances by Ishii. And that's why it's really appearing as though Ishii isn't going to ever be in a position to become a star in MMA in Japan. Because that's what people look for in a star: big performances, or at least entertaining ones. That's what made endeared Sakuraba to fan in his later years in the sport, but Ishii is a more cautious fighter than that. And there's nothing wrong with being that kind of fighter, it just won't make you a star.
Ishii did have two highlights, one accidental and one intentional. The intentional highlight was a cut that Ishii opened up above Sylvia's right eye in the opening round. While on the ground, Ishii landed a few elbows and opened up the cut with one of them. The accidental highlight was in the final round when, during a tussle, Ishii ended up throwing Sylvia through the ropes and out of the ring. Thankfully, Sylvia stayed on the canvas and was able to get back into the ring to finish the bout.
It wouldn't be a Dream card without an appearance from Ikuhisa Minowa, a.k.a. “Minowaman.” Bouts involving Minowa in Dream are noteworthy for their freakshow appeal. This is due to Minowa being booked to fight opponents that are either much taller or much larger than he is.
This was no exception as Minowa's opponent, Bor Bratovz, entered with a five inch height advantage, and it was noticeable. But this turned out to be another case where the larger or taller opponent was far less talented or far less experienced than Minowa, hence the pairing being more fair than its appearance. In this case it was less experienced with Bratovz being in only his ninth career fight in comparison to it being Minowa's 97th fight.
Bratovz offers Minowa resistance any time Minowa tried to get anything going early on the ground and in a corner. Bratovz even managed something of a takedown and seemed to have Minowa's back when the two were standing near the ropes.
Here, Minowa showed some fancy movement in rolling and then securing Bratovz's leg in the same movement. Bratovz managed to land a few punches after he fell to the mat, but ended up submitting to a heel hook 3:18 into the bout.
Also on the card, Rolles gracie submitted Yusuku Kawaguchi in two minutes with an arm-triangle choke.
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