Kron Gracie vs. Hideo Tokoro
and other Fights
September 25, 2016
Kron Gracie and former sumo wrestler Baruto impressed in Rizin 1. Could they
keep the momentum? Kron's opponent in Rizin 1 was Kid Yamamoto's inexperienced
nephew, Erson. Baruto's opponent in his debut MMA fight was also an MMA newby,
but vastly experienced (and old). Unfortunately his experience was in K-1, and
Baruto didn't stand still and exchange kicks and punches with Aerts. Baruto was not merely a
sumo wrestler, but a good "wrestler" and judoka as well. He went all
Gracie on Aert's ass, deposited him on the ground with an ashi-gaki, and
kept him there the remainder of the fight. Aerts never had a chance.
Baruto's next Kazuyuki Fujita, is a wrestler with plenty of MMA experience (and
like Aerts, old). Fujita is 45 years old and lost his last five fights. Time to
hang up the gloves? Not when there's another payday waiting. Same old story and
for the same reason. Baruto is rising star (one fight, one win, but with his
sumo and judo background, likely to prove popular with the Japanese fans).
Up-and-comers need suitable "opponents" to acquire ring experience.
People who have the experience to present problems, but without the physical
qualities to pose an insurmountable barrier to the emerging star's advancement. Could Fujita do what Aerts couldn't?
Kron Gracie also would be stepping up to a higher quality opponent in Hideo Tokoro, who,
despite a 17 kg. weight disadvantage, on December 31, 2005 held three-time UFC champion Royce Gracie to a draw
(dominating the Gracie representative throughout most of the two rounds) and one
year later (December 31, 2006) took a lopsided unanimous decision against Royler Gracie.
With a 33-28-2 record, Tokoro is as experienced as Kron is inexperienced (2 MMA
fights, both wins). Youth versus experience.
As the above was written one hour before fight time, Robert hazards two
predictions: Baruto and Kron will win (youth) but Fujita and Tokoro will put up
valiant struggles (experience). Roberto may turn out to be totally wrong, but
that's why they lace up the gloves and he personally never bets money on fights.
Nevertheless, you read it here. Baruto and Kron will win.
1. Charles Crazy Horse Bennett vs.
Minoru Phillip Nomura.
Minoru entered the ring with an
impressive highlight reel full of spectacular KOs (typical of highlight
reels, naturally). Vanderlie Silva was in his corner so he couldn't have
been totally oblivious to what was awaiting him. He apparently wanted to
make a big splash in his first MMA outing. He went for a jumping right knee
directly out of the gate. Unluckily for him, he dropped both hands when he
did it, and Crazy Horse met him with a right hand to the face. Minoru hit
the canvass, turned his back and curled up. End of story. It was over in 7
seconds, which must have set some sort of record. It was not an auspicious
2. Kyra Batara vs. Kana Murata
Kyra Batara, coached by Eddie
Bravo, brought a 5-3 record into the ring for her encounter with Olympic
Gold medal wrestler Kana Murata. No surprise, Kana had no problems putting
Kyra on the ground. Kyra generally survived there thanks to her
"rubber guard" and more often than not got back to her feet.
Kana did her boxing homework and despite being considerably shorter held
her own in the banging department. Wrestlers are tough, even if they are
small Japanese girls. Kyra lost but did a respectable job, showed
good technique, and looked rather sexy, meaning she's likely to develop a
following among the Japanese male fans. That's music to the ears of Rizin.
3. Gabi Garcia vs. Destanie
Gabi is not most Japanese
adolescent males' idea of a girlfriend, nor a role model for the average
Japanese girl, whether fan or potential MMA hobbyist. On the other hand,
"large" women have been popular in Japanese rings. Japan is a
country were no taste is too bizarre to attract a following (possibly true
everywhere, but more so here). The mere fact that it's bizarre is often
enough to make it attractive. There aren't many ways to be different or
"be yourself" in Japan, and this is (ironically) one of the
few. Nevertheless, fighting and winning is what it's about
(the bottom line is selling tickets and getting sponsors). Gabi, so far at
least, has delivered on that. "I'm the queen of Japan, man. I'm the
queen" Gabi declared after disposing of Destanie with a judo "udegarami"
(not classically executed, but undeniably effective).
4. Erson Yamamoto vs. Kizaemon
Erson was back after losing to
Kron in Rizin 1. His opponent this time out was a
kick-boxer, Kizaemon Saiga. Saiga previously KOed Shinya Aoki with knees
and had a 3-2 MMA record (Erson was 0 and 1). Saiga's strategy was to not
play his opponent's game. That is, to not excessively resist the
take-downs, wasting energy in the process, but to follow Bruce Lee's
advice and "be the water, man". That is, go with the inevitable,
minimize the damage, and if possible, make it work for yourself. After
all, getting taken down doesn't mean anything if the wrestler can't take
advantage of the position. The stereotypical strategy is to jump or pull
guard, but as Saiga demonstrated, that isn't even necessary. It's what
happens after the take-down that matters. Erson took Saiga down almost at
will, but Saiga didn't care and wasn't intimidated. After each take-down,
he got back up
without too much difficulty, and stalked Erson. In the 2nd round, Saiga
threw a jumping left knee at Erson's face, driving him into the corner.
But Erson survived. Erson walked away with a split decision but it could
have gone either way. Probably he got credit for the numerous take-downs,
despite not being able to do anything with them. That's the way it goes.
fans don't like draws, someone had to win. It was Erson.
4. Andy Souwer vs. Daren
Andy is a K-1 fan fav in Japan.
But Rizin is MMA. Daren had a 17-8 record in MMA. Andy had one MMA fight
(he won it). Andy was confident that his striking superiority would carry
the day. Daren was equally confident that Andy wouldn't get a chance to use
his striking. Daren turned out to be right. Daren by judo hadaka jime
(rear naked choke). It was a refreshing throwback to the early days when
jiu-jitsu fighters didn't try to exchange punches with punchers and
punchers didn't know how to sprawl.
5. Baruto vs. Kazuyuki Fujita
It was King Kong against
Godzilla, Rizin said. Baruto had Dan Henderson in his corner. Dan is a
Greco wrestler who figured out how to play the MMA game and had
considerable success with it, being blessed with a gift for throwing hard
punches. Baruto needs more of that if he hopes to make his new career work
out. He had an easy time with Peter Aerts in Rizin 1, because Aerts had no
sprawl. But Fujita is a wrestler. To beat a wrestler you have to be
a better wrestler, or if not, a puncher who can sprawl, or a jiu-jitsu
fighter who can punch, or a much better, and younger fighter (see Kron
vs. Tokoro below).
out with the right idea, getting a double collar tie and pumping in knees,
Vanderlie Silva style. Fujita survived thanks to his 15-11 record, or
maybe Baruto's 1-0 record. In other words, Baruto's tie up
"worked" at keeping Fujita in one place where knees could be
thrown. but the knees weren't effective. Baruto needs to work on that.
Fujita shot, Baruto sprawled. After that Fujita convinced Baruto that
upper body wrestling wasn't
going to be the answer. Fujita basically forced Baruto to engage in a
boxing contest (between two men who didn't know how to box, but because
there was always a possibility of an effective take-down shot, they had to be
cautious with their hands. Consequently, no effective hands landed on
target, with one exception. Fujita
connected with his legendary "Gorilla Punch" (an over hand
right) that caught Baruto's attention and precipitated copious bleeding. Baruto
climbed on his bicycle and retreated. With 21 seconds Fujita applied for a
guillotine choke, but too little too late.
Baruto got the decision. Not because
he did anything to earn it, but (probably) because Rizin sees potential in
him for the future (Fujita has had his day). Rizin will need to be more
intelligent in matching him going ahead however. No more wrestlers. More
over age strikers like Peter Aerts would be ideal for Baruto. Since
Vanderlie Silva and Mirko still want to fight, they would be perfect. But
they are going to fight each other in the next Rizin event December 31.
Roberto's prediction (above) that Fujita would struggle before
losing turned out to be literally correct, but in fact, Fujita did more
than Baruto to merit the nod. He was shafted but it was a personal
sacrifice for the sake of the greater collective good. Japanese people
know all about that.
6. Mirko Filipovic vs. Hyun Man
Mirko always understood that you
don't strike with a striker, you don't wrestle with a wrestler, you don't
ground grapple with a BJJ fighter. Learn enough to stop, stymie, and
frustrate them at what they want to do, leaving yourself room to do what
you do best and what they do worst. For a striker there are basically two
thing that you need to know and be able to do well. One is to sprawl. The
other is to get back to your feet. Mirko proved that he could do both. In
the course of his preparations he also learned how to apply for kata-gatame
(shoulder choke). Which he applied on Hyun Man Myung. The striker (Mirko) won with
7. Kron Gracie vs. Hideo Tokoro
This was the main event but was
broadcast in Tokyo before the Rena vs. Miyu match (below). Kron has a 2-0
record. His first fight was just to get his feet wet. The second was a
tougher test, but he passed with flying colors. Kron is being guided
intelligently. Nothing is more important than picking to right
opponents at a fighters stage of career development, as Mike Jacobs said
about Mike Tyson. Or as Jack Dempsey said, rushing young fighters prevents
them from reaching their full potential. Which is why we have champions
whose idea of fighting is running away from the fight (to be clear, having
a defense is good, running away is not).
Kron's opponent for his third
test was Hideo Tokoro, with a 33-28 record, which includes a draw with
Royce in 2005, and a one-sided win over Royler in 2006. That's a lot
of fights. Tokoro is also an old man now, at 39. Roberto predicted that
Tokoro would give Kron a run for his money before losing. He did, sort of.
That is, he didn't make it easy for Kron to submit him with a rear naked
choke. But Tokoro was never on attack. Kron showed intelligent use of his
hands. He didn't try to box with Tokoro (who isn't a boxer but why take a
chance?). When Kron did throw a hand it had a strategic purpose behind it,
which was to close the distance, take the back, stay there, submit the
man. That's what he did. It was a decisive win, earned with what Japanese
fans like to see, "aesthetic technique", and in the case also
"branded technique" (or rather, what they expect or hope a BJJ
guy, a Gracie especially, will show them).
So, another impressive,
crowd pleasing performance from Kron Gracie, who is thereby assured of another
visit to a Rizin ring in the future, probably December 31. The problem
will be finding a suitable opponent for him. Someone with the right
talent level, and a name to go with it. It doesn't seem, at present, that
there is anyone in Japan who fills the bill (and the fans will want to see
a Japanese fighter in there with Kron). The promoters will figure
something out, we can assume.
8. Rena Kubota vs. Miyu Yamamoto
It was billed as "Queen vs.
Queen", "Queen kills Queen", and "Fighting Queen
Bee". Despite Gabi's bold proclamation (see above), Rena and Miyu are
more what a Japanese fans thinks of as a "queen" . Miyu is
a member of the Yamamoto clan, (she's Kid's older sister, and Erson's mum) and
represented wrestling at a highly competitive level. But Miyu
is 41. Rena is a young and very cute shoot fighter (i.e, lots of fan
appeal). We could have assumed that Miyu would get the take-down whenever
she wanted. That's what world-class wrestlers do and there isn't a lot
you can do to stop them apart from sitting down on your own initiative.
What we said above about strikers preparing to confront wrestlers applies
to shoot fighters as well. A good sprawl and the ability to get back up
off the ground will
take you far in MMA against superior wrestlers who haven't adapted to the
MMA environment yet. So as expected Miyu took Rena down. Rena
survived and in the end applied a front naked choke. Not a
guillotine, which Miyu probably could have dealt with, but rather a locked
in front naked, with her (Rena's) left hand posted against Miyu's
shoulder, blocking her from getting close enough to try for a fireman's
The Glory Days of the
2000's have not quite returned yet, but Rizin 1 and 2 are good starts.
See Rizin 1, December 31, 2015, here.
(c) Roberto Pedreira, 2016. All rights reserved.
Revised September 27,
2016. Minor corrections regarding Yamamoto family. Thanks to Japan MMA expert
Yoko Kondo for the heads-up.