Thursday, 13 November 2008

K-1 Dynamite USA - DVD Review

This coming Saturday Brock Lesnar will undertake the biggest challenge of his athletic career. Having already attained superstar status in the professional wrestling world, he’ll be looking to attain the same status in the mixed martial arts world when he attempts to dethrone current UFC Heavyweight Champion Randy Couture. So what better time is there to take a look at his MMA debut against Min Soo Kim on the DVD release of K-1’s Dynamite USA, held at the prestigious Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum. Handling commentary for this one is probably the best play-by-play guy in MMA, Mauro Ranallo, Jay Glazer, and another former pro wrestling superstar, Bill Goldberg.

The main feature disc begins with former NFL star Johnnie Morton, making his MMA debut, and Bernard Ackah in the heavyweight division. This one was quick. Morton immediately began to swing for the trees, scoring with the take down seconds later, with Ackah getting straight back up immediately. Then Ackah connected with a big right hand and knocked Morton out cold, with the referee stopping the fight immediately, with Morton carried from the ring on a stretcher. Explosive stuff from the African, getting the win in just 38 seconds.

Up to the really big guys next, the super-heavyweights, with Mighty Mo taking on Ruben “Warpath” Villareal. Another quick fight, which began in the same way as the previous fight, with both fighters exchanging blows before going into a clinch up against the ropes. When this went nowhere, they began to exchange blows again. Mo connected with a left hook, and with Warpath tripping over the ropes, he was soon down on the mat. Mo took the opportunity by taking Warpath’s back, finishing him off with a left hand to the face. That was it for Warpath, as the referee called a halt to proceedings, awarding the victory to Mo via strikes. I’m not really sure how to rate this one, but because Warpath’s downfall came because he tripped over the bottom rope, it’s a good example of why a cage is sometime better than the ring.

Then it’s down to the light-heavyweight division with Melvin Manhoef and Dong-Sik Yoon. This was originally meant to be the second fight on the show, but a backstage disagreement over ankle strapping saw Yoon originally pull out of the fight, before quickly changing his mind. So with that short explanation out of the way, let’s get back to business. The first round began with the feeling out process, and it wasn’t long before Manhoef went to work, unleashing with the big shots that sent Yoon to the ground. They soon got back to their feet, with Yoon stopping the assault by going for a clinch, before taking Manhoef down to the ground and into his guard. An armbar attempt failed, and saw Manhoef send down another barrage of blows, which Yoon, again, stopped with another clinch, eventually taking Manhoef down and gaining side control, soon getting the full mount. Yoon then connected with a series of blows, trying to set up for an armbar, which he almost synched in. The Dutchman’s response was to unload once more, before he almost fell out of the ring.

Round two began slowly, with each fighter looking for an opening. Yoon soon got the takedown from a clinch, soon gaining full mount and going for the ground and pound, before quickly taking Manhoef’s back, then quickly synching in an armbar. There was nowhere the Dutchman could go as he tapped out immediately. An amazing, action packed, back and forth fight.

Then it’s on to a bonus fight, with Britain’s Brad Pickett facing Hideo Tokoro in the lightweight division. It began with both fighters testing the waters as it were, with Pickett connecting with one shot that caught Tokoro unawares a little. Tokoro then got the take down, which was followed by a couple of quick transitions, and a Tokoro armbar attempt. An overhand right saw Tokoro go over, and when both men got to the mat the Japanese star went for another submission, this time a heel hook. More grappling followed until Pickett got into the half guard. But this didn’t do anything for him, as Tokoro soon succeeded with his second armbar attempt, with the Brit tapping almost immediately. Another fight with some great action. Just a shame that my fellow Brit didn’t get the win!

Main event time #1 in the middleweight division, the battle of the legends, with Kazushi Sakuraba facing Royce Gracie. This was the one I was really looking forward to. Round one began with the feeling out process, testing each other with feigning kicks, before a right hand from Sakuraba sent Gracie down to the mat. After a skirmish on the mat. Sakuraba got back to his feet, while Gracie stayed on the floor, intent on kicking Sakuraba’s legs, who responded with a few kicks of his own. After a few moments Sakuraba went down to the mat, and as both men grappled for position, they soon got back up to their feet in a clinch against the ropes. Sakuraba then failed with his throw attempt, before both fighters returned to the centre of the ring as the first round came to an end.

Round two began in the same way as the first, until Sakuraba went for a take down that was well defended by Gracie. The Brazilian began to mix up his strikes and kicks, until both fighters got into a clinch in the ropes, with Gracie using knees and kicks to attack Sakuraba’s right leg. But when the action stopped, the referee separated them. Back in the middle of the ring Sakuraba went for a take down that Gracie was able to defend, only for Sakuraba to unleash a series of blows and knees against him. Another clinch against the ropes followed, which continued until the end of the round.

Round three saw the same beginning, with both fighters exchanging kicks and, until Gracie pulled Sakuraba into his guard, looking for a submission. But Sakuraba defended well, stopping Gracie’s attempts, until he took the fight back up, with both fighters still looking for a submission. But then the action along the ropes stagnated a little, until Gracie unloaded with a series of shots to Sakuraba’s head. Then the clinch returned, this time in one of the corners, but the lack of activity saw the referee call for a break. As the fight entered the last thirty seconds, both fighters exchanged blows, before going to the ground in the final few seconds with Sakuraba attempting an armbar. So with the fight going the three round distance, it went down to the judges decision, with all three scoring in favour of Royce Gracie. A very good fight here, although some of the fans in attendance clearly didn’t understand what was going on half the time, and given Gracie’s victory, it’s a shame that it was tarnished by his failed drug’s test afterwards.

Main event time #2 in the heavyweight division, with the debuting Brock Lesnar facing Min Soo Kim, a late replacement for the giant Hong Man Choi. This one was quick. Lesnar took Kim down early, and immediately went for the ground and pound, even though Kim was trying to smother him. This was the only defence that Kim seemed to offer, and as Lesnar continued to pound away, Kim tapped. While there wasn’t much to look at it this fight, Lesnar’s power was more than apparent, as it seemed as it Kim had totally underestimated him.

But that’s not all as far as fighting action goes, because as well as the K-1 fights, there’s a few EliteXC fights here with their own separate show in the same venue. This segment begins with heavyweights, as Tim Persey faces Jonathan Wiezorek. Round one began slowly, until Persey came rushing forward into a clinch, which took them to the ropes. This resulted in a stalemate, with the referee rightfully separating them. This only resulted in another, and this saw a little more action as Wiezorek scored with an inadvertent low blow. Persey only took a short rest period, and when the fight re-started he rocked Wiezorek with a big left, sending him to the mat before taking the guard, and while Wiezorek looked to go for a submission, Persey looked for the knockout blow. Wiezorek looked to be winning the battle as first he went for a kimura and then went for a straight armbar. Persey retaliated with a big blow, and with thirty seconds to go in the fight Wiezorek got the take down.

Round two, and Persey unloaded with a couple of shots before Wiezorek got the body lock and took his man down, taking Persey’s back and going for the ground and pound. Persey offered no defence to this onslaught, and it wasn’t long before the referee stepped in and stopped the fight. Good stuff here, the kind of back and forth fight I, and probably millions of others, really like.

Fight two sees welterweight action, with Jake Shields taking on Ido Pariente. The beginning saw Shields test the waters with a kick, before taking Pariente down to the mat. Shields then easily transitioned into the full guard, going for the ground and pound. Pariente tried to buck his hips to escape, but this tactic had little effect. Shields then took Pariente’s back, synching in the rear naked choke. Pariente resisted for a moment, but eventually tapped. A dominating performance from Shields, and an impressive one as well.

There’s also two more bonus fights on this disc, lightweight action with J.Z. Calvancanti facing Nam Phan, and Katsuhiko Takada taking on Isaiah Hill. But that’s not the end of the extras - there’s two more discs worth of them, including special countdown shows, special features on some of the fighters, training session footage, interviews and the complete opening ceremony.

In conclusion - this is a very enjoyable show. I was a little disappointed that some of the fights didn’t last long, but then again that’s the unpredictable nature of the mixed martial arts business, and you can’t have long, drawn-out classics all the time, can you? All the fighters featured on this collection put in good showings. As for Lesnar’s MMA debut, he did a good job here, and it’s interesting to see how far he’s come in such a short space of time.

Production wise, commentators Ranallo, Goldberg and Glazer did a great job of calling the action. However, I’m not sure about the choice of venue for this show. The L.A. Coliseum may have been good for Olympics and big American football games, but there just didn’t seem to be much of an atmosphere for an MMA show, and if I was the head of K-1’s MMA arm, and I wanted to hold a debut show in America, I would have chosen a smaller venue.

But if my only criticism of this show is the choice of venue, then it must have been a good show.

K-1 Dynamite USA is available to buy online at www.mmauniverse.com