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Americans Pose Strong Presence On Inaugural K-1 MMA Card
By Michael Afromowitz
May 17, 2004 Sapp, Ludwig, Penn, Frye, and Barnett top May 22nd bill.
A highly anticipated showdown between American Bob “The Beast” Sapp (18-4 (9 KO’s) and Japan’s Kazuyuki Fujita (8-4 (3 KO’s) as well as one between rival Americans Duane “Bang” Ludwig (12-2 (5 KO’s) and BJ Penn (7-1-1 (4 KO’s) will highlight K-1’s explosive, first foray into the sport of mixed martial arts (MMA) on Saturday, May 22nd at Saitama, Japan’s Saitama Super Arena. Americans Don “The Predator” Frye (14-4 (5 KO’s) and Josh Barnett (14-1 (3 KO’s) will also return to action during the mega-card that will be spearheaded by K-1’s subsidiary enterprise, Fight Entertainment Group (FEG).
The 29-year-old Sapp, K-1’s biggest draw for the last two years, will make his seventh start under MMA rules. The 6 foot 3 inch, 375-pound former NFL lineman turned martial arts gladiator picked up his fifth MMA victory in Niigata, Japan on March 14th opposite Mongolia’s Dolgorsuren Sumiyabazar after Sumiyabazar’s corner threw in the towel in the midst of action. On Friday, April 30th, he scored a quick, 38-second knockout over fellow American Tommy Glanville in a K-1 “Battle At The Bellagio II” Superfight contested under K-1 rules. At 33 years of age, Fujita has made his mark in the fight world by earning victories over American ring legends Ken Shamrock and Mark Kerr. He was last seen in action during the New Years Eve Inoki “Bom-Ba-Ye” card where he submitted American boxer, Imamu Mayfield, with a triangle choke.
A barn burner is expected to ensue during the 170-pound limit matchup between Ludwig and Penn. For the last four years, Ludwig has brilliantly juggled careers in professional Muay Thai, K-1, and MMA. On April 25th of last year, he gained his most high-profile MMA victory to date by overcoming a bad cut to outpoint Japanese star, Genki Sudo, during the 42nd installment of The Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC). Earlier this year, Bang earned his first major world Muay Thai championship, the International Sport Karate Association (ISKA) Junior Middleweight crown, after being awarded a five-round judges’ decision over Thailand’s Malapaiet Sitprapom. An eight-time veteran of The UFC, Penn has become a favorite of fight fans worldwide with his repeated display of technical excellence. For his most recent effort on January 31st, Penn jumped from The UFC’s 154-pound limit weight division to its 168-pound limit weight division to challenge fellow American Matt Hughes for the latter’s welterweight title. An underdog against the naturally larger Hughes, who had made five previous title defenses, Penn overcame the size deficit he faced and slapped on a rear naked choke that prompted Hughes to tap out.
A legend worldwide, Frye will attempt to restore his elite standing in the martial arts fight world after suffering three consecutive defeats during his last three appearances. To date, Frye is best remembered for capturing the UFC’s 1996 Ultimate Ultimate (UU 1996) tournament crown after taking out three straight opponents, including brawler David “Tank” Abbott, by way of submission in one night of action. The American also placed as runner-up during UFC 10’s single-elimination tournament. Frye will square off with Japanese wrestler Yoshihiro Nakao, who gained his first win under K-1 promotion during the organization’s New Years Eve event. There, he pounded Judo stylist David Khakhaleichivili into submission while the pair tangled on the ground.
The 6’3,” 250-pound Barnett, also known to his fans as “The Baby Face Assassin,” is a former UFC Heavyweight champion. Since relinquishing his belt, he has made four consecutive, successful appearances overseas. An impressive New Years Eve win over martial arts fighting’s largest athlete, 7-foot Semmy Schilt, highlighted Barnett’s recent activity. The American fighter will be put to the test by Dutch knockout artist, Rene Rooze (6-5 (6 KO’s). A kickboxer by trade, Rooze is a protégé of three-time K-1 World Grand Prix champion, Peter Aerts. All five of Rooze’s wins in MMA competition have come by way of knockout.
K-1 superstar Alexey Ignashov (23-6 (15 KO’s) (1 No Contest) will pursue his second career victory under MMA rules when he takes on Japanese pro wrestling veteran, Shinsuke Nakamura, in a rematch. In a featured MMA rules bout during K-1’s New Years Eve 2003 event, Ignashov and Nakamura fought a heated battle which saw Ignashov defend himself surprisingly well against Nakamura’s takedowns and takedown attempts. In the third round, the Belarusian fighter escaped the dangers of a cut that had opened over his left eye by landing one of his notorious straight knee strikes on the wrestler. Nakamura fell hard and the referee halted the bout, giving Ignashov a technical knockout win. The fight was later declared a no contest.
In other action on May 22nd, Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu superiority will be tested when Sudo (10-6-1 (1 KO), aka “The Neo-Samurai,” will lock horns with Royler Gracie (3-1-1), a member of Brazil’s most celebrated family of Jiu-Jitsu sensations. Less than two months ago, Sudo picked up his ninth victory under MMA rules when he submitted Mike Thomas Brown by way of armbar at UFC 47.
Fresh off a remarkable comeback victory, “Big Daddy” Gary Goodridge (38-18 (28 KO’s) will take on one of K-1’s newest recruits in Sylvester Terkay, more commonly known as “The Predator.” Known for his go-for-broke style of fighting, Goodridge turned things around during his April 30th “Battle At The Bellagio II” Superfight with former Sumo wrestling champion, Toa. After being pinned in the corner by the New Zealand native, Goodridge found his way out of trouble and blasted his way to a first round knockout.
K-1 and Karate legend Sam Greco (18-6-2 (11 KO’s) (2 No Contests) will make his third appearance under MMA rules when he squares off with Brazil's Lyoto while Mongolian wrestler “Blue Wolf” will meet American Tom Howard.
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