Friday, 17 October 2008

Hero's 2007 Volume 2: The Ultimate Tournament - DVD Review

This edition of TSR sees us making a return trip to Japan and the Yokohama Arena, as we take another look at K-1’s mixed martial arts arm Hero’s, and the DVD release Hero’s 2007 Volume Two: The Ultimate Tournament, featuring the likes of Caol Uno, Vitor Ribeiro, Katsuhiko Nagata, Melvin Manhoef and more, and with commentary duties handled by Pierre Guillet and Dale Adams.

After the fighters are introduced to the capacity crowd, it’s on to the first bout, Shuichiro Katsumura against Alexandre Franca Nogueira. Round one began with a lengthy feeling out process, lasting well over two minutes, before a flurry of blows from both fighters ended with Katsumura bringing Nogueira down into his guard. Then the stalling began again, with the referee calling for action on a regular basis, as he had done during the early stages of the round, before he eventually pulled them back to their feet. The round ended rather tamely, with both fighters threatening to strike but not actually doing so. It didn’t really make for exciting viewing.

Round two began where round one had left off, another lengthy feeling out process with a couple of kicks thrown by both fighters. It wasn’t very exciting, until Nogueira suddenly sprang to life, unleashed with a flurry of punches, with a hard right sending Katsumura down. The referee stepped in seconds later, with Katsumura out cold, awarding the knockout victory to Nogueira. If I’m to be completely honest here this one didn’t exactly set my pulse racing. The knockout was good, but what came before it was just kind of boring.

Next up, Andre Dida against Artur Umakhanov. The first round began quickly, with both fighters exchanging punches, and Dida trying a jumping kick. Umakhanov carried his hands extremely low, and his tactic proved to be his downfall as Dida went to work on him, unleashing with a barrage of blows which the Russian just couldn’t defend against, and because there was no defence the referee jumped in and stopped the fight, giving the Brazilian the KO win. Explosive and impressive stuff from Dida here, taking advantage of the flawed game plan of his opponent.

Then it’s time for one of the endless line of Gracies, Ralek Gracie, to take on Katsuyori Shibata. Round one, fought over a ten minute time limit, saw both fighters start quickly. Shibata staggered Gracie early, before both men went for a body lock against the ropes, which lead to Gracie taking Shibata down to the mat. The Brazilian then went for the ground and pound, with Shibata constantly trying to defend himself. But the defence wasn’t good enough as Gracie worked his way into an armbar. Shibata tried to roll out but it didn’t work, and tapped out seconds later. A good performance from Gracie in his MMA debut, who looked like he was going to lose when Shibata tagged him early on.

The Brazil v Japan theme continued with Vitor “Shaolin” Ribeiro facing Kazuyuki Miyata. The first round began well for both fighters, both getting in their licks, with Miyata connecting with a good high kick that luckily Shaolin blocked with his guard. The exchange of blows continued until both fighters began to grapple for position, with Miyata taking Ribeiro’s back. But it wasn’t long before the Brazilian managed to work his way out, and the fight returned to the stand-up game. Both fighters worked well, although Miyata looked slightly better, and this was how things remained as the round came to an end.

Round two saw both fighters continue with the stand-up game, until Ribeiro went for a shot, with Miyata was able to defend against. A clinch near the corner followed, until Ribeiro took things back down to the mat. The mat work from both fighters, and especially Ribeiro, looked excellent, until the Brazilian suddenly applied a side choke and got the submission victory. A good fight from start to finish, and this is one I wouldn’t mind watching again.

Up next, Hideo Tokoro taking on Indian superstar Black Mamba. After the usual feeling out process at the beginning of the first round, Tokoro quickly went for one of Mamba’s legs. Lots of jockeying for position followed, with Mamba using strikes to good effect and Tokoro looking for submissions. Eventually Mamba took Tokoro’s back, maximising his position with a body triangle. Try as he might Tokoro just couldn’t break free of the Indian’s hold, and it was quite a while before Tokoro managed to work into Mamba’s guard, although his position of dominance only lasted for a few seconds. Mamba continued with his barrages of blows, and as the round was coming to an end and because Tokoro wasn’t defending himself, the referee stepped in. A great performance from Black Mamba, controlling every aspect of the fight, although it was a little surprising that Tokoro seemed to offer so little in this one.

The first all Japanese fight of the show followed, with Katsuhiko Nagata facing the ever popular Caol Uno. Round one began with both fighters using the stand-up game straight away, with both men connecting with good punches and kicks. This was how it remained for a few minutes, with large gaps of inactivity, until a brief body lock up against a ropes, which then saw them returning to their previous tactics, which they stuck with for the rest of the round.

Round two saw Nagata attempt a spin kick which went nowhere, before both fighters got up against the ropes with a body lock. As with the previous round, this didn’t last long, and they soon returned to their punch and kick tactics. A second body lock followed, in which both fighters scored with knees to their opponent’s thighs, before they returned to their favoured tactic, and this was how the rest of the round went - body lock attempts, followed by punch and kick exchanges, and even though the action and techniques they were using couldn’t be faulted, the fight was starting to get extremely predictable.

Round three, and the fight continued in exactly the same vein, until Nagata accidentally caught Uno with a low blow - a knee to the groin. After Uno a brief rest, Nagata scored the first take down of the fight, although it wasn’t long before Uno was back on his feet. Another brief interlude followed, as the doctors checked over a cut above Nagata’s left eye, and after getting some treatment he was allowed to continue. When the action re-started, both fighters returned to their favoured tactics of the day, and it wasn’t long before Uno himself was cut open. Nagata then scored with another take down, although Uno soon worked his way into Nagata’s guard. But once again the fight was stopped so the doctor to look at Nagata’s ever worsening cut situation, having now sustained one over the other eye. Nagata was allowed to continue, and the fight re-started on the mat with Uno on top. As Uno unleashed with the ground and pound, Nagata was constantly trying to work his way out. He did once, but Uno soon regained control. However, Nagata soon escaped via the back door, and as the fight entered it’s final minute, the favoured tactics returned, with more punch and kick exchanges as the fight came to an end. So with the fight going the distance, it was down to the judges, with Uno getting the unanimous decision, and rightfully so, because even though this one was quite repetitive at times, Uno’s work was clearly superior.

So with the first fight that went the distance complete, it was on to Melvin Manhoef against Bernard Ackha. The first round, scheduled for a ten minute distance, began quickly, with Ackha looking to take it to the ground, and Manhoef doing all he can to stop that. But then, to almost everyone’s surprise, Manhoef took Ackha down, before both fighters got back to their feet and went for the banging game again. This was extremely fast paced at times, and only slowed down when the fighters went for body locks against the ropes. When nothing happened, the referee separated both men, and that was when Manhoef went to work. A right knocked Ackha down, before a left sent the Ivorian down for a second time. Ackha looked out before he hit the canvas, and the referee called an immediate stop to the fight. Explosive stuff from this one, with a great performance from the Dutchman.

Then it’s on to the second all Japanese fight, with Taiei Kin facing Kiyoshi Tamura. The first, ten minute round began with an exchange of kicks, before Tamura took Kin down to the mat. They only stayed there for a few seconds before they went back to exchanging kicks. Tamura scored with a second take down, again achieving this defending against one of Kin’s kicks. Again, it wasn’t long before they were back on their feet exchanging blows and kicks. It was slow at times, although both men got off some good shots. Tamura then went for a shoot, which Kin was able to sprawl against this time, although Tamura held on to one of his legs, still trying to take him down. But once again, the referee separated them due to inactivity, so it was back to the stand-up again, and again, Tamura took Kin down after blocking a kick. More inactivity followed, except for the moment when they were moved away from the ropes, and it wasn’t surprising when the referee stood them up again. After the fighters exchanged more kicks, with Tamura’s left thigh now starting to bruise quite heavily, Tamura took him down with his best take down of the round so far, with Kin attempting an armbar, although Tamura was easily able to escape from this. The round ended with Tamura in Kin’s guard.

Round two, and the kick exchange continued. With more and more kicks aimed at his right leg, Tamura went for the take down, which Kin was initially able to defend against, but not for long. Kin’s tactics on the ground was now obvious - hold Tamura as much as possible so the referee will stand them back up. It worked, again, but immediately after they were stood up, Tamura went for another take down, which Kin again defended against. But he was successful when Tamura went for another after they were separated in the corner for inactivity. Kin again tried to spoil Tamura’s superior grappling ability as the round came to an end.

So with the fight going the distance, the decision went to the judges, who couldn’t separate them, so an extra round was called for. Despite having fought for fifteen minutes, the fighters exchanged kicks and blows as soon as the bell sounded, before Tamura scored with another take down, but with Kin adopting his usual tactic, Tamura just didn’t seem to do anything, which saw the referee stand them up. Tamura quickly took Kin down again, but this time both men put in a little extra work, before they returned to their usual tactics, which resulted in the referee doing his thing again. As the fight entered it’s final two minutes both men began to look fatigued, as Tamura tried a flying arm bar which failed, with Kin taking Tamura’s guard. This time he was more active, going for the ground and pound, and this was how the extra round came to an end. So it was decision time for the judges again, with Kin getting the unanimous decision in a fight which was quite uninspiring, due in part to the somewhat negative tactics of both of the fighters.

Disc two is where you’ll find the extras, which include two bonus fights, training sessions and post-fight interviews.

In conclusion - this is definitely a mixed bag as far as fight quality goes. Don’t get me wrong, there are some very good matches on this release, but there are some that don’t merit a second viewing, so while past Hero’s releases have been impressive, this one hasn’t been. It’s worth buying for the good stuff, namely the performances of Ralek Gracie and Melvin Manhoef, but you’ll have to put up with the bad stuff as well.

With thanks to the good people at MMA Universe for supplying a copy of this release. Hero’s 2007 Volume Two: The Ultimate Tournament is available to buy online via www.mmauniverse.com