Ufc Xxvi Is Shaping Up To Be A Huge Success!
UFC XXVI IS SHAPING UP TO BE A HUGE SUCCESS!
June 9th Cedar Rapids, Iowa
Heavyweight Title on the Line…
Kevin Randleman vs. Pedro Rizzo (both signed)
Coliseum 2000 Fight Card and Preview
By Mike Onzuka
Rickson Gracie vs. Masakatsu Funaki
Jose Mario Sperry vs. Hiromitsu Kanehara
Jeremy Horn vs. Kiyoshi Tamura
Andre Pederneiras vs. Genki Sudo
Saulo Ribeiro vs. Yuki Kondo
Another big NHB event in Japan that hopes to battle Pride approaches on May 26, 2000. This event pits Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu versus Japan fighters in a one on one match up. The title fight features the return of Rickson Gracie against a fighter who some will say is his most credible opponent, Masakatsu Funaki. Funaki is one of the founders of Pancrase, and was known as one of the most complete fighters long before cross training has been the “in thing.” A majority of his experience comes from Pancrase events where he has fought NHB notables such as the Shamrock brothers and Bas Rutten. Open hand shots to the face and the elimination of heel hooks has tamed Pancrase of late, which poses a big question as to the effectiveness of the transition of Pancrase fighters to present NHB fights. Rutten and both Shamrocks have made a smooth and successful transition to closed-fist fights. Funaki has participated in a few NHB rules matches within the Pancrase organization and may be sharper, as far as recent experience, than Rickson. Both fighters are at the twilight of their careers and many fans feel that this may be Rickson’s last fight. Can Rickson continue his status as the king of BJJ fighters or will he be dethroned like his brothers Royce and Royler?
Jose Mario Sperry also returns after a long hiatus from the NHB scene to face a formidable opponent, Hiromitsu Kanehara. Many felt that Sperry would be the dominant big man from Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, being heralded as the “Zen Machine.” After a rocky first fight against Igor Zinoviev, Ze Mario found success in Australia in both NHB and in an academy that he opened there. Since hitting the videotape market with a vengeance and the sport Jiu-Jitsu scene, he has taken a break from fighting. With the break in the union with his long time instructor Carlson Gracie, it will be interesting to see if Carlson is worth the 20 or 30% training fee that he was said to be charging his fighters. Sperry has been training with Murilo Bustamante who recently made an impressive showing at the latest UFC Japan. Sperry would like to join Bustamante in building an undefeatable post-Carlson team. Kanehara has had a mixed 1999 with two wins and two losses. Kanehara eliminated Jeremy Horn before running in to the Rings Champ and $200,000 man, Dan Henderson. Primarily a Rings fighter, it will be seen if Kanehara can switch gears to face Sperry in this NHB event.
The man who made an impact on the competitive lightweight Shooto circuit, Andre Pederneiras, returns to Japan to face Genki Sudo. Pederneiras knocked out the most exciting fighter (in my opinion) in NHB today, Rumina Sato after escaping an incredibly tight arm-bar. I still do not know how he got out of that. One of the founders of the successful sport Jiu-Jitsu team, Nova Uniao, Pederneiras stepped up in weight to fight UFC Lightweight Champ Pat Miletich. Although a cut stopped the fight, Pederneiras stood his ground against a powerful and experienced Miletich. Andre returned to action against the current Shooto champion, Kaoru Uno, and fought him to a draw. All doubts about Pederneiras being able to compete against the top guns of the lightweight division are all but vanished. His opponent Genki Sudo is relatively unknown and hopefully, Pederneiras does not underestimate this warrior with views of future bigger fights.
American Jiu-Jitsu/NHB star Jeremy Horn is paired with Kiyoshi Tamura, which should be an interesting and technical battle. Horn has had a busy 1999 and has said that he plans to be more selective with his fights in 2000. After five months in to the new millennia, Horn has a win and a loss. After triangle choking Yamamoto in Rings, he hopes to continue on his last win in Japan. Tamura, like his American counterpart, is a submission specialist with many wins by submission holds. He has shown that he can grapple and fight with the best, which included Tsuyoshi Kosaka, Renzo Gracie, and Frank Shamrock. Durability is also a strong suit for Tamura who had made it far in the Rings tournament, losing to Renato Babalu. Tamura seems to be on the lighter side, which may be to Horn’s advantage. It looks to be another great fight.
Last, but not least, Saulo Ribeiro makes his NHB debut against Yuki Kondo. Kondo was the fifth and eighth King of Pancrase, a title that has been won over the years by Ken Shamrock, Frank Shamrock, Guy Mezger, Bas Rutten, and headliner Masa Funaki. Besides Funaki, Kondo is the only two-time winner of the prestigious title. Saulo, who is known as the best sport Jiu-Jitsu player on the planet, held out entering the NHB world, wanting only to fight the champions. Kondo more than fits this bill. Ribeiro has proven that he is one of the best grapplers with and without a kimono by taking the 2000 Abu Dhabi Submission Wrestling World Championships. Along with being a black belt in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu and Judo, Saulo also holds a black belt in Kyokushinkai Karate and is training with Brazilian boxing coach Claudio Coelho, who is the boxing trainer of choice for mostly all the Jiu-Jitsu NHB fighters. Ribeiro, who is the top student of Royler Gracie, is the unofficial heir to defending Grandmaster Helio Gracie’s side of the family, which includes Rickson, Royler, and Royce (Renzo is a cousin). With Kondo possessing a win over kingpin Frank Shamrock, Saulo hopes that a big win will propel him immediately to the top of the middleweight division.
This card seems to be another Japanese masterpiece on paper. With the conclusion of this event, the world will know where Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu stands among the next generation of styles and techniques of the Japanese, who often lead the trends to the future of NHB. Japan seems to hold the financial cards to make the quality match ups with the top fighters. If Coliseum is successful, this could be the beginning to NHB events gaining on the purses that are paid in boxing. Pride will have competition, which will open new opportunities for the top fighters to receive compensation for all the hard training that is required to stay at the top.