Monday, 17 September 2007

K-1 Hero's 2005 Volume One: The Beginning - DVD Review

Having thrilled fight fans around the world with their hybrid kickboxing shows for over a decade, the K-1 Corporation then decided to branch out into the world of mixed martial arts with their Hero’s promotion, holding their first show in 2005, featuring stars such as Bob Sapp, Jerome Le Banner, Heath Herring, Caol Uno, Gary Goodridge, B.J. Penn and Genki Sudo, before 13,000 fans in the Saitama Super Arena in Tokyo. It’s this first show we’re going to take a look at here, with the DVD release of Hero’s 2005 Volume One: The Beginning, available online through the MMA Universe website at www.mmauniverse.com. Our hosts for the evening are Howard Hughes and Pierre Guillet.
After the introductory parade of fighters at the beginning of the show, it’s on to the action with the first fight of the evening, Velentijn Overeem against Shungo Oyama. Now this was an interesting one. After the initial feeling out process, the action went down to the mat, and as Overeem tried to apply a leg lock, Oyama moved himself so he could counter with a heel hook. Applying the pressure, Overeem quickly tapped out in what was a good show of counter wrestling by Oyama.
Then it’s on to Kazayuki Miyata versus Ian Schaffa. A very interesting, if slightly unspectacular fight here. The first two rounds were more or less a battle of wills between the fighters, and Miyata good at the takedowns, and Schaffa connecting with a few good shots. The third round was somewhat plodding, and didn’t really light up until the last couple of minutes, especially when Schaffa almost synched in a kimura, which, after some difficulty, Miyata was just about able to escape from. With the fight going the three round distance, Schaffa won by split decision.
Next up, Joachim Hansen against Caol Uno. Now this was more like it, a bout between two fighters willing to give it their all to obtain victory, and with hardly any dull moments at all. Both Uno and Hansen put in impressive performances here, not only showing great grappling and submission techniques, but some great strikes as well in a match where if one fighter applied a hold, his opponent quickly countered that hold. It certainly made for thrilling viewing over the three rounds, before Hansen connected with a knee to Uno’s jaw towards the end of the third round, knocking him out cold for the KO victory. A great fight here, and certainly one I would recommend to other MMA fans.
The next fight sees Genki Sudo go up against Ramon Dekker. Sudo, of course, comes to the ring in his usual extravagant way. This was your typical submission fighter v stand-up fighter confrontation here, and in most cases, the submission fighter wins, which was the case in this one. Sudo quickly went for the shoot, and began to work over Dekker’s legs, possibly the weak point of a Thai boxer with over two hundred fights under his belt. Dekker tried to counter by grabbing hold of Sudo’s foot, but just didn’t seem to know what to do in this situation. It wasn’t long before Sudo locked in a heel hook, Dekker tapping out seconds later. A good showing for Sudo here, and another example that stand-up fighters really have to improve on their ground game before entering the MMA world.
A battle of the big men follows, as Gary Goodridge faces Alan Karaev. Now here’s the thing about Gary Goodridge. Every time I’ve seen him fight, whether it be in Pride or in K-1, the commentators always tell me what a great fighter Goodridge is, and how tough he is, yet the number of times I’ve seen him defeated far outweighs the number of times I’ve seen him win. So it was somewhat surprising to me that Goodridge won this one. At the beginning of the fight the big Russian, making his MMA debut, used his superior power to take Goodridge down and simply overpowered him, so much that it looked like Goodridge could lose at any moment. It was then that Goodridge was able to move out of Karaev’s grasp, getting on top and forcing his forearm onto Karaev’s throat, choking him out. Well, this is certainly the best I’ve seen from the guy in a while.
The next fight features B.J. Penn against Lyoto Machida. The thing that surprised the announcers here was that Penn had put on quite a bit of weight to go up from the welterweight to the heavyweight division. The only way I could describe this fight would be good, but unspectacular. Both fights were good technically in their ground games and their stand-up combinations, but the fight just seemed to move along, with neither man willing to go for that one big take down or that one big shot that could have ended the fight, instead preferring to do just enough to get the victory. The victory went to Machida, perhaps showing that Penn’s decision to jump up two weight divisions was perhaps the wrong one.
Following this somewhat disappointing encounter, we get Sam Greco against Heath Herring. As always, Herring has one of those crazy haircuts of his, blonde stripes this time. An unfortunate incident saw the ending of this fight. After Herring controlled Greco on the ground, the referee stood the fighters up in the middle of the ring. Then, as Herring tried to connect with a left kick, his right leg buckled underneath him, and he collapsed to the mat, grabbing his knee. The referee had no choice but to stop the fight and award the victory to Greco via TKO. A shame that the fight had to end this way, as it was shaping up to be a corker.
Then it’s the turn of Japan’s favourite American import, Bob Sapp, to take on Kim Min Soo, making his MMA debut. Very much a fight of two halves here. Early on, Kim connected with a flurry of punches to Sapp’s face while Sapp kept a hold of Kim’s gi, bloodying his nose. But after being checked out by the doctors, the referee re-started the fight, and Kim walked into a huge right hand from Sapp which knocked him to the mat and forced the referee to stop the fight. Although I’ve never really been a fan of Sapp’s work, he certainly got the job done in this one.
The final fight sees K-1 stand-up legend Jerome Le Banner face Yoshihiro Akiyama. Now the interesting thing here is that while Le Banner is firmly in the heavyweight division, Akiyama is actually a middleweight, and some forty kilos lighter, meaning that, unlike B.J. Penn in his fight, he didn’t add the weight on for the fight. This striker v grappler contest was compelling to watch. Akiyama looked impressive in taking the Frenchman down, showing some good skills, but the superior power of Le Banner meant that he could simply power out each and every time, and the last time he got back to his feet, he unleashed with a series of blows, finally knocking Akiyama out with a knee to the face for the KO victory in the first round.
Disc two is where you’ll find the special features, and these include a dark match between Chalid Arrab and Yujiya Naito, a training session featuring Bob Sapp and Yoshihiro Akiyama, as well as pre and post fight interviews.
In conclusion - this is the first K-1 event, of any kind, that I’ve seen outside of Eurosport, that was heavily clipped in one way or another, and that didn’t feature the endless moronic, clich�d sayings of Will Vanders, so without constant comparisons between Pepsi cola and holy wine, this DVD release was a hell of an improvement. Fight-wise, it can’t be faulted. Production-wise, the Japanese MMA promotions really know how to put on a show, and this is easily on a par with the K-1 stand-up shows or their Pride counterparts. Announcers Howard Hughes and Pierre Guillet, MMA fighters themselves, did a great job at putting over the action and explaining what was happening, which would be a great deal of help to those just getting into mixed martial arts.
Hero’s 2005 Volume One: The Beginning is highly recommended, and a worthy addition to any MMA collection, a worthy alternative to both Pride and UFC, and I look forward to seeing other volumes in this series.
With thanks to MMA Universe for supplying a copy of this release. To purchase a copy of this release online, visit www.mmauniverse.com.