Fight Picks and Predictions for Dynamite 2009

By Nicholas Bailey (

Despite having some of the biggest squash matches of the year and a preposterous juvenile kickboxing tournament, this year-end card is actually one of the least freakish and most relevant New Years Eve cards ever to come out of the Japanese MMA scene. Sadly, this will likely be the last MMA fans ever hear from the surprisingly serious and successful Sengoku promotion, as catering to the niche of hardcore fans has never been a wise business decision, even for a promotion with buckets of cash to waste due to outside business support. One can only hope that the promotion’s fighters can quickly move on to greener pastures and the horrible “must decision” judging system dies with the promotion.

As a disclaimer, while I’ve broken down the K-1 Kickboxing rules fights, my interest and scholarship in that sport is much more casual than the effort I put into MMA-rules endeavors.

Masato (-145) vs. Andy Souwer (+115) (K-1)

This fight, scheduled for 5 rounds plus an overtime round in the (more likely under K-1 scoring) event of a draw, is the biggest draw on the card. Masato has long been an enormously popular fighter, and possibly represented the best Japanese fighter (under his rule set) in all of fightsport. However, his star is fading, as a lifetime of full-contact has taken its toll and this is his final fight on a retirement tour.

Souwer has beaten Masato twice before, but this should still be a competitive fight, as both of those instances were in the later rounds of a one-night tournament, with Masato coming into both fights with substantial wear-and-tear. Masato may be retiring, but he’s doing it by choice, not because he is being forced out by an inability to compete at any level. Any doubts that he is no longer an elite kickboxer should have been silenced by his complete stomping of Tatsuya Kawajiri.

Nevertheless, in a five round fight, Souwer’s defense and power advantages should let him wear down the aging Masato and perform better in the very likely overtime round. Souwer by six-round decision.

Gary Goodridge (+600) vs. Gegard Mousasi (-1100) (MMA)

This is a horrible fight. Goodridge, after a long lifetime of beatings in MMA, kickboxing, and X-arm, totaling at least 21 KO losses, is nearly as old as Randy Couture and almost incapable of forming complete sentences. Mousasi outclasses him in every respect and thoroughly enjoys delivering big punishment with ground and pound, describing the kind of finishes he put on against Sokodjou and Babalu as his favorite way to win. Barring some kind of arm-wrestling showdown, Mousasi should win this one in nasty, brutish, and short fashion. Mousasi by KO round 1.

Satoshi Ishii (-275) vs. Hidehiko Yoshida (+220) (MMA)

Satoshi Ishii makes his long-awaited MMA debut against the very worn-down Hidehiko Yoshida. Ishii has been a popular commodity in Japan for his Judo achievements (notably a gold medal) but his MMA debut was delayed several times to let him grow as a fighter (supposedly due to not acclimating well at all to the striking game). That doesn’t bode well for Ishii, as getting punched in the face and not liking it at all is one of the greatest failings of new MMA converts, and Yoshida, despite being a Judoka, can brawl a bit.

Fortunately for Ishii, we know two things about Judo. One, you have to be a tough SOB with a high pain tolerance to get very far in it, and two, it’s very, very rough on the body if you make a career of it. Ishii is a young guy, so he should still be relatively intact physically but Yoshida, it has become clear, is very worn down from age and rough treatment. Even if Ishii is outmatched early on in the fight, unless he’s a complete wimp that can’t handle striking at all, he can use the advantage of youth to wear down the injury-prone Yoshida and take command after five or six minutes en route to a stoppage victory. Satoshi Ishii by TKO round 2.

Melvin Manhoef (+160) vs. Kazuo Misaki (-155) (MMA)

Manhoef is a phenomenally dangerous striker with no real ground game or wrestling, relying on his athleticism and strength in those areas. He also tends to get plonked when he can’t kill his opponent, as he’s very reckless and only has an average chin. Misaki is a cagey veteran fighter, with solid ground skills, a great beard, and good counter-fighting skills on the feet. Unfortunately, Misaki is terrible when it comes to wrestling.

Misaki’s inability to take Manhoef down makes this an awful style matchup for him. Manhoef is simply too dangerous on the feet for someone like Misaki, who doesn’t have big power, and will probably roll over him. Manhoef by KO round 1.

I like Manhoef here as a decent underdog. Everything here is set up for a disaster for Misaki, although he definitely has a chance to win by KO or submission.

Shinya Aoki (-345) vs. Mizuto Hirota (+300) (MMA)

Hirota is an interesting style matchup for Aoki. As we saw in his performance against Kitaoka, Hirota has staying power, strong defensive grappling skills, and some pop in his hands. Aoki’s biggest weakness is his inability to absorb punishment, but he is a very intelligent fighter and has adapted his ultra-slick submission game to protect this vulnerability as best he can. Whereas Kitaoka recklessly went for leglocks and wore out his limited gas tank, Aoki will be sure to lock up Hirota as best he can and control his body to limit the amount of punishment he can deal out. If Hirota gets reckless trying to force action, he will likely end up getting submitted just as Joachim Hansen did, but without some risk-taking, he will have trouble doing anything aside from defending against Aoki. Shinya Aoki by decision.

Hirota is a very live underdog here. He isn’t as good a fighter as Aoki, and Aoki is smarter than Kitaoka, but Hirota still has all the tools needed to ruin Aoki’s night, so he represents some good value.

Tatsuya Kawajiri (-355) vs. Kazunori Yokota (+325) (MMA)

Yokota, like Hirota, is a solid product of the Sengoku lightweight tournament, but he’s been given a much worse stylistic matchup. Everything he depends on will fail against Kawajiri, who he will not be able to knock out, out strike, or take down. Whereas Aoki is a talented fighter vulnerable to Hirota’s skill set, Kawajiri is similarly talented but much more durable. Kawajiri is a fighter dedicated to diligently improving his game and expanding his skills into new areas, and this fight represents a perfect opportunity to test out new standup skills or improved ground-and-pound techniques. Yokota is a tough fighter, but this is the toughest test of his career, and he will fall quite short. Kawajiri by KO round 1.

Masanori Kanehara (+350) vs. Norofumi “Kid” Yamamoto (-375) (MMA)

While Kid Yamamoto has lost some of his luster and mystique after being out-wrestled by an enormous talent in Joe Warren for his first “legitimate” loss, he’s still one of the most naturally gifted fighters the sport has ever seen (right up there with BJ Penn). Kanehara is pretty good, but he’s not going to be able to pin Kid to the floor like Warren did, and nor is he tough enough to survive on the feet with Yamamoto. In short, he will get a serious beatdown here, perhaps to rebalance his Karma for the woeful burglary of Chan Sung Jung in May. Kid Yamamoto by KO round 1.

Akihiro Gono (+175) vs. Hayato “Mach” Sakurai (-190) (MMA)

Two fighters with an enormous amount of veterancy between them (Gono has been in the game for over 15 years, which is amazing) both of these men are in their twilight years of fighting, but are still quality competitors. Sakurai has better finishing power and takedowns, whereas Gono has more staying power and reach. While Dan Hornbuckle’s intensity shut off Gono’s lights, he is usually very resilient and should be able to make the fight go long with his counter-fighting skill, even if he takes some heat early in the fight. Sakurai’s commitment to the sport has been questionable since his loss to Anderson Silva, and with his increased age and nagging injuries, it’s likely he comes in out of shape yet again, so I expect him to be able to keep this close and out-work Sakurai down the stretch. Gono by decision.

I think this represents a good play, as betting against Sakurai so often is especially in heavier weight classes where he has even more leeway to get fat and not train.

Hiroshi Izumi (+125) vs. Katsuyori Shibata (-135) (MMA)

This fight is possibly the worst on the card outside of the kiddie kickboxing fluff. Izumi is a judo convert that displayed nothing whatsoever in his laughable debut match against Kickboxer and fellow MMA newcomer and gong-show participant Antz Nansen. I’d hoped he’d never fight again, since he looked tubby and unsuited to tee-ball, let alone fighting, but he’s returned against one of Japan’s greatest losers in Shibata. Shibata sucks and not even in a funny way, and that’s the nicest thing I can think to say about him. He should be giving up a weight advantage to Izumi, but it’s unclear how much of that weight is useful to Izumi for purposes other than keeping warm. This fight should be a gong show, and it might be best if you close your eyes during the proceedings. Shibata has made a career out of losing, so I don’t know why he’d quit now. Izumi by TKO round 2.

Jong-Man Kim (+175) vs. Hideo Tokoro (-200) (MMA)

Kim is a late replacement for Marlon Sandro, which is unfortunate because Sandro vs. Tokoro would be a meaningful and competitive fight between two fighters with some amount of relevance in the division, while Kim hasn’t had a win in two years or 8 bouts. Tokoro is highly fallible, with a poor chin, no ability to gameplan, insane risk-taking, and questionable cardio, but he should have the chops to handle Kim the bulk of the time, especially since Kim doesn’t throw serious heat to exploit a fragile chin. Tokoro by submission

I think this fight is more tilted in Tokoro’s favor than -200 indicates, but I’m wary of risking much on such a fallible fighter.

Michihiro Omigawa (+105) vs. Hiroyuki Takaya (-120) (MMA)

Omigawa looked born to be a loser when he entered the MMA world as a very raw amateur fighting one of the sport’s most seasoned veterans and was promptly kicked to death. He did nothing to dispel this notion for much of his career, but he’s emerged in Sengoku’s grand prix as a solid fighter with a versatile boxing and ground-and-pound attack that has brought him a surprising amount of success.

Takaya is a formidable test for such a fighter, as he didn’t get the awesome nickname ‘streetfight bancho’ by being a pushover in a standup affair. What Takaya brings to the table that Omigawa lacks is serious fight-ending power, giving him a slight edge over the surging Omigawa.

In the end, this is the kind of fight where whoever wants it more, trains harder, and has better luck will emerge victorious, with either man having a reasonable shot at victory. Due to a more diverse standup repertoire and the aforementioned power, It’s most likely that Takaya will be able to take control. Takaya by decision.

Kazuyuki Fujita (+600) vs. Alistair Overeem (-1100) (MMA)

In his heyday Fujita’s offense consisted entirely of absorbing punishment and using his wrestling to wear down opponents until he could overwhelm them to win. Unfortunately for him the years have not been kind and the enormous physical strength he once possessed deflated along with his physique, seemingly taking his chin with it. At the same time, Alistair Overeem’s body and power has been swelling to absurd proportions, which makes up for, in part, his weak chin.

The moment the monstrous Overeem lands a shot on Fujita’s chin, this fight will be over, likely in horrific fashion. When you depend on your iron chin and never bother developing solid defense, the results are not pretty when your chin abandons you and the lack of defense is still hanging around. This will really be ugly. Overeem by KO round 1.

While it’s often tempting to bet on the squashee in an Overeem squash match, due to his poor durability and gas, this is a case where even the massively long odds don’t tempt me.

Yosuke Nishijima (+315) vs. Ray Sefo (-385) (K-1)

This fight should be sad, either way, but the odds offer some potential joy to bettors. Nishijima is a former professional boxer that has had an abysmal record in a sport he never took seriously. Sefo, formerly a high-level kickboxer, should be able to plow over him in a K-1 bout, but Sefo’s best days are long gone. Nishijima is giving up size and versatility to Sefo, but the K-1 rules have taken away what has been his biggest weakness in fightsport: the ground game. With Sefo being very shot and not having the boxing skill Nishijima does, or the height that let Aerts work low kicks and avoid Nishijima’s hands, it’s very likely he wears out, gets beat up, possibly finished. Nishijima by decision.

I like the bet here. It really seems people don’t realize how shot Sefo is.

Ikuhisa Minowa (+262) vs. Rameau Thierry Sokoudjou (-290) (MMA)

While many of Minowa’s fights are fishy, they are usually against fishy sorts of opponents: freakshows and pro wrestlers. Here he is facing a legitimate MMA fighter, and one that is several weight classes above him. Losing to Shibata does not make a strong case against even as limited a fighter as Sokoudjou. Nothing Minowa does should wear Sokodjou down enough to make him gas out (and Minowa’s cardio is often lacking) and none of his strikes are hard enough to make Sokoudjou quit.

In short, this fight will probably last around 45 seconds, with Sokodjou either completely starching Minowa on the feet, or throwing him down and pounding him nearly unconscious nearly instantaneously. Minowa’s Cinderella story as the giantkiller is over. At least until Jose Canseco needs another fight. Sokoudjou by KO round 1.

2u on Manhoef at (+160) to win 3.2u
1u on Hirota at (+300) to win 3u
1u on Gono at (+175) to win 1.75u
2u on Tokoro at (-200) to win 1u
1u on Nishijima at (+315) to win 3.15u


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