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Gracie falls into his guard, Sakuraba won't engage; rinse and repeat

Some have described it as disastrous. Some have described it as a joke. However, this week I try to take an objective look at DYNAMITE!! USA.

From the looks of the major news outlets that carried stories on FEG’s first promotional foray into the US, DYNAMITE USA was an unmitigated disaster. A show light on great matches and heavy on one-sided exhibitions, DYNAMITE did not have the massive impact for which FEG had hoped. In a way, it dispelled some myths that promoters may have about mixed martial arts and how to promote it in the US.

Many have viewed Southern California, a hotbed of mixed martial artists, to be a key area for the establishment of their national promotion in the US. However, the numbers do not lie. The UFC’s shows in Los Angeles and Anaheim have performed way below other markets in the US. UFC 63, the second show at the Honda Center in Anaheim, had under 9,500 paid in an arena which can holds around 15,000 for MMA. UFC 60, which had Hughes/Gracie as the main event, got just 10,500 paid to the Staples Center and was not a capacity crowd. For all the talk of boxing being dead, this is a smaller crowd than the Peter Manfredo-Sergio Mora “Contender” rematch had in the same building.

Then we have the rebirth of the World Fighting Alliance, which did so poorly in the Forum that the owners cut their losses. Even then, we must consider that the WFA’s 2,300 paid attendance was better than the mooted 1,000 paid in attendance at the Los Angeles Coliseum on Saturday.

To quote Dilated Peoples, “these California streets ain’t paved with gold”. While the Bay Area and the Central Valley have provided some excellent houses, including the biggest paid attendance in US MMA history for Strikeforce: Shamrock vs. Gracie, Southern California has continually disappointed.

You can’t go back, or so they say. I couldn’t help but think the pounding Gracie received from Matt Hughes last July was not only to his head but to his credibility. Royce Gracie, still considered a huge name, was roundly booed throughout his fight. Last year, he looked an irrelevance as a modern fighter. It would seem to me that he is now perceived not as a great fighter but as somebody who took advantage of their time. We’ll have to see what happens when the pay-per-view comes in but I feel that Royce only has one option; entice Ken Shamrock out of retirement. This is the only fight which, if properly promoted, could possibly generate any interest. This bout will be an awful spectacle but it would still likely shift tickets.

When you combine these two factors; Gracie not being as big a seller as you would think and the underwhelming performance of Southern California, it is no surprise that this overambitious show failed to fire.

At the top, Brock Lesnar did what he was supposed to do and knocked over the tomato can with a massive shot. Min Soo Kim couldn’t take the natural power and was overwhelmed. I’ve heard much said about Brock but I will always err on the side of conservatism when it comes to judging a fighter. He has top-class wrestling ability and top-class wrestling ability can take you to the show, look at Josh Koscheck for proof of that. He passed Kim’s guard seemingly through pure grit and strength but what does this fight really tell us about Brock that we didn’t already know?

We know he’s aggressive, we know he’s a ferocious competitor, we know he’s freakishly strong and we know he can wrestle. However, we did not see any evidence of striking ability, we did not see how strong his chin is and we did not see any grappling ability. As I said, Brock knocked over the tomato can and that is fine. However, now he needs to go back to the gym, train and get another fight under his belt as soon as possible. Tim Sylvia got through fourteen fights in the first two years of his career and Ricco Rodriguez got through ten. Brock doesn’t have five years to pay his dues, he needs to get wins and experience as quickly as possible.

The co-main event featured the rematch between Royce Gracie and Kazushi Sakuraba. In a previous column, I had expressed intrigue, even excitement about this bout but all of that dissipated inside the first round. Here we had a defensive fighter, totally at odds with modern MMA, fighting against a broken down shell of a fighter. I am surprised Sakuraba didn’t keel over after coming down the Olympic steps.

After three rounds of “action”, the judges gave a unanimous decision to Royce. I have little more to say on this match, other than it was a huge anticlimax that we should have all seen coming. Royce arguably won the fight due to being more active for most of the bout, whereas Saku was active for occasional short bursts. You couldn’t help but feel both men were being exploited.

Speaking of exploitation, Johnnie Morton, the former NFL wide receiver that was a massive hero for USC, returned to the site of his record-breaking college exploits to open the PPV and get knocked out inside a minute, leaving the ring in some distress. Thrown to the lions with a minimum amount of training, Morton was quickly exposed and deposited by Bernard Ackah. I expected to see this sort of mismatch elsewhere but the normally fastidious Armando Garcia of the California State Athletic Commission obviously dropped the ball here.

In the sole competitive bout of the evening, Yoon Dong-Sik showed that he may have finally cracked this MMA game with a second round submission victory over Dutch kickboxer Melvin Manhoef. Yoon has never had it easy in the MMA game and has gone the distance with Quinton Jackson and Murilo Bustamante. All he ever really needed was a winnable bout and he got it here.

At times, it felt like a Titanic see-saw battle but maybe it just stood out because it was exciting and competitive in a sea of dross. Manhoef looked to have the fight won early when he dropped Yoon and rained down blows. Yoon recovered and managed to exert his ground dominance, gaining the mount and almost getting an armbar. In the second round, he managed to secure the armbar and take his first MMA victory in what has to be considered a mild upset. All in all, Yoon should be proud of his victory, it has been a long time coming and he took the opportunity when it came. He took a hell of a licking during the fight though. If HERO*s ever gets round to doing such crazy things as establishing titles and trying to create contenders, Yoon may well have turned a corner here and established himself as a somebody at 85kg. It’s a shame it has come just shy of his 35th birthday.

Mighty Mo is a likeable Samoan brawler but he is hardly the sort of fighter you face unprepared. However, once again, Ruben “Warpath” Villareal is one to step in at late notice to make a quick buck. I suppose when you’re a four year veteran that didn’t start fighting until you’re 33, you somewhat accept your role as a gimmick fighter but this “contest” was over before it started. Mo has heavy hands, Warpath has nothing; the quick stoppage was a foregone conclusion.

In a match that was shunted up from dark match status, Hideo Tokoro showed his marvellous grappling abilities against British brawler Brad “One Punch” Pickett. While Pickett showed vastly improved jiu-jitsu, it was clear that Tokoro was onto a winner here. I can’t help but think, again, K-1 have created an exhibition bout that was never meant to be a contest.

There are many problems with this card and they all come down to credibility. FEG have carved out a niche in the kickboxing world and in Japan. K-1 rules have become popular worldwide and their shows in Japan are popular but what they do in Japan just won’t fly in the US. K-1 GPs have been promoted by outside promoters and were largely ignored. However, this was a very public calamity. If you sign up some of the most visible fighters in mixed martial arts and conduct your business in a slapdash way, you deserve to be shown up. Right here, FEG deserved to be shown up. They needed good matches and this sort of matchmaking was counter-productive in front of a crowd with free tickets who just wanted entertainment.

The concept behind the K-1/ProElite alliance was that it was supposed to make everybody stronger. However, K-1 embarrassed themselves and they embarrassed their business partners. In two weeks, Strikeforce get to right the wrong made here. I hope they don’t fail. I also hope Baroni beats Shamrock’s head like a drum.


Written by Michael Farrow

June 5, 2007 at 2:12 pm

Posted in MMA

Tagged with ,

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