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Yuta Kubo vs Nils Widlund, Masaaki Noiri vs Kengo Sonoda Added to DREAM NYE Event

The first two kickboxing matches have been added to Antonio Inoki's Genki Desu Ka!! (How Are You?!) DREAM New Year's Eve event and unfortunately they appear to be more or less squash matches showcasing two of Japan's top talents.

In the first bout, 2011 K-1 -63kg Japan Tournament champion Yuta Kubo will look to extend his win-streak to 8 against Swedish Sanshou fighter Nils Widlund. Kubo is arguably the hottest fighter in Japan right now, going 14-2 over the past 3 years with his only losses coming in tournament finals to Masahiro Yamamoto and Tetsuya Yamato. His most recent victory was a one-sided beating over French fighter Tristan Benard at Krush.13. While it's hard to find much information about Widlund in kickboxing, he has represented Sweden in Sanshou at the World Wushu Championships in the past, losing in the quarterfinals in both 2007 and 2009. I could not find any information regarding the 2011 World Championships. He has taken a few fights under K-1 rules under the Rumble of the Kings banner, as well. While Widlund is an unknown and certainly has skill, I do not think his Sanshou skills will do much under K-1 rules against someone with the skill of Kubo.

The other fight announced is 2009 K-1 Koshien and 2011 Krush Supernova Tournament champion Masaaki Noiri taking on fellow Supernova Tournament participant Kengo Sonoda. Noiri is fresh off his Supernova Tournament win in which he defeated HIROYA by decision in the semis and KO'd Koya Urabe in the finals in the same night. He was bested in the semifinals of both the Krush 60kg Tournament and the K-1 -63kg Japan Tournament this year, but showed significant defensive improvements in the semifinals and finals of the Supernova Tournament. Sonoda has put together a pretty decent year for himself as well. A fellow product of the K-1 Koshien system, Sonoda never made it past the round of 16. However, when he was placed into the Supernova Tournament, he scored an upset over J-Network Flyweight champion Tsukasa Fuji, the favorite to win his block, but was knocked out by Yukimitsu Takahashi in the quarterfinals. He was given a reserve bout against Daizo Sasaki which he won by decision. While Sonoda proved this year that he's improved from his Koshien days, Masaaki Noiri has improved tenfold and with his improved defense, shouldn't have much trouble with Sonoda. {jcomments on}

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Koji Yoshimoto vs Yasuomi Soda, Takafumi Morita and KENJI Announced for RISE 86

RISE has announced the first matchup of its 2012 year for RISE 86 on January 28th and it will be Super Lightweight champion Koji Yoshimoto defending his title for the second time against unbeaten Silver Wolf prospect Yasuomi Soda. At 31, Yoshimoto boasts a 24-13-3 (3 KO) record against some of the best fighters in Japan and South Korea at his weight including wins over Son Hyun Lee, Rashata, Ryuji Kajiwara, Hiromasa Masuda, Kanongsuk Weerasakreck, Shunsuke Inoue and Yusuke Sugawara. He has moved from J-Network to the now defunct AJKF into RISE where he captured the Super Lightweight title in a 4-man tournament, defeating Yusuke Sugawara in the finals and defending his title against Sugawara with a draw. He is currently on a 3-fight win-streak which includes a win over Shohei Asahara in a reserve fight for the K-1 2011 -63kg Japan Tournament and most recently, a close win over surging Korean prospect Son Hyun Lee. Soda has had a bit of a breakout year in 2011, going 4-0 with a pair of knockouts to improve his spotless record to 11-0 (4 KO) which included a knockout win over Masaru to earn him his shot at this title and back to back decisions over veteran Tomo Kiire and Shingo Yokoyama, brother of Go Yokoyama, in an opening fight at the K-1 2011 -63kg Japan Tournament. A win for either fighter could vault either man into a qualifying tournament spot for FIKA in 2012.

RISE also announced two additional participants for the event and they are Middleweight champion Takafumi Morita and recently crowned Bantamweight champion KENJI. Morita also had a breakout year in 2011, defeating Soichiro Miyakoshi by decision then knocking out former RISE Middleweight champion Yukihio Komiya to capture the title. He was then selected as a participant for the 2011 K-1 MAX 70kg Japan Tournament where he upset fellow prospect Hiroki Nakajima before losing a close decision, his first professional loss, to tournament champion Yuji Nashiro in the semis. KENJI, brother of K-1 star Yuta Kubo, has had a pretty good year, too. He started the year having his 4-fight win-streak snapped in the semifinals of the Krush 55kg tournament against Shota Takiya, but put on a great showing, forcing an extension round against the red hot Takiya. Since, he has put together another 4-fight win-streak which saw him capture the vacant RISE Bantamweight title against Dyki back at RISE 85 in November. RISE did not indicate whether either fighter would be in a superfight or defending their title, though superfights for both would be likely. {jcomments on}

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Fight Code Dragons Winner Yury Bessmertny Already Has Two Fights Lined Up

Fresh off two wins yesterday over Norbert Balogh and Sudsakorn Sor Klinmee to win the Fight Code Dragons Series tournament, Yury Bessmertny is already reaping the benefits. Aside from winning $80 000, it seems as if winning the Fight Code Dragons tournament has also landed him some fights. This can be attributed to Carlo di Blasi, Fight Code's promoter, who has rewarded Bessmertny in more than one way for winning the tournament.

First off on February 4th in Turin, Italy, Bessmertny will face Gago Drago at the annual Thai Boxe Mania event. Even though Drago probably isn't the best opponent he's faced, he is the most high profile one, stemming from his K-1 days. A win over Drago would definitely garner Bessmertny some more interest from fans. I think it's a pretty favorable match-up for the Belarussian. Roberto Cocco vs. Artur Kyshenko also takes place on this card.

Next, he'll fight the Italian fighter Fabio Sicilliani in Milan on the Oktagon-Fight Code card that features Giorgio Petrosyan vs. Artur Kyshenko on March 24th. It's definitely a short turn-around from his fight in February, but he's shown he can do that this year when he beat Armen Petrosyan twice in a month's span and then won the Fight Code tournament under a month after. To me these two fights look like Yury Bessmertny will be kicking off 2012 with two straight wins.

 

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Strikeforce: The MMA World's Purgatorio

In the realm of Mixed Martial Arts, there are some clear levels, much like Dante Alighieri wrote in his epic La Divina Commedia (The Divine Comedy). For Dante, there was a clear progression as he toiled through the afterlife, he was first led through Hell, then he was led through Purgatory before finally having a glimpse at Heaven. If you wanted to compare it to MMA, the smaller, regional promotions are the veritable Hell. Low pay, bad attendance, poorly organized and promoted, but for most fighters, a necessity to move on to the “big leagues.” For many fighters, the biggest achievement is to be accepted into the UFC, to walk amongst the gods themselves beyond the steel gates of the Octagon. For fighters, the UFC is Heaven.

For a promotion like Strikeforce, though, there is a sense of being left-behind, like a middle child. Strikeforce finds itself not a containing the same rigors and lack of pay like the small minor leagues, but does not include the perks and the money that comes with fighting for the UFC. Instead, it is a virtual Purgatory for fighters. Fighters are left to reflect on their careers and see that they aren’t deemed as good enough to be called into the UFC, but are beyond the toiling in the reigional promotions.

Last night proved to be the first bigger Strikeforce event since the Showtime deal was re-negotiated, and something about the show did not come off as planned. On paper, the card was exciting and showed a lot of promise, but in execution it was a mess. If a fighter is competing within a promotion that stands on its own, there is something for them to achieve, but when the promotion is a feeder league with parallel divisions, the whole scope of the game changes. Part of what helped with Strikeforce’s charm was the attitude and identity of the promotion. It felt like a spiritual successor to some of the bigger Japanese events, with a focus on entertainment and promoting the fighters, not just the brand.

Continue Reading about the Harrowing of Strikeforce...

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