TOKYO -- After 12 years and nearly 40 fights, Japanese fan-favorite
Misaki said farewell to the ring Saturday in front of a packed
Korakuen Hall at Deep “Haleo
In his final appearance, Misaki took on teammate and close friend
Gono in an exhibition kickboxing match. The bout began with
shin-guards, but Misaki removed his before the second round and
directed Gono to do the same. The two friends brawled for two
rounds and embraced one another in tears after the final bell.
“I fought 40 fights over 12 years. What I learned from all of that
was two important things: the terms ‘thank you’ and ‘challenge,’”
Misaki told the crowd before giving thanks to his teammates, family
and fans, bowing out with tear-filled eyes.
Misaki’s career saw him win the 2006 Pride Welterweight Grand Prix
and includes notable wins over Dan
Henderson, Denis Kang and
most recently, Paul
Prior to Misaki’s retirement ceremony, muscle-bound Olympian
Miyata took on South Korea’s Jae Eun Kim
in a featherweight bout that lasted little more than half a round.
Miyata used his superior wrestling to take Kim to the ground early
on. When Kim tried to scramble back to his feet, Miyata cinched a
rear-waist lock and threw the Korean with his signature suplex. Kim
made a second attempt to get to his feet, but Miyata locked up a
tight guillotine choke and walked Kim into the corner, forcing the
tap at 2:46 of the opening frame.
At bantamweight, former Sengoku champion Masanori
Kanehara needed one less second than Miyata to finish off
late-replacement Tom McKenna
in a one-sided affair. Kanehara took his time picking off his
opponent with quick jabs and straight punches before landing a big
hook that rocked McKenna. The Japanese fighter stalked his opponent
around the ring, backed him against the ropes and landed a big left
uppercut that sent McKenna to the mat. Kanehara dove onto his
opponent, but only landed a handful of punches before referee
Umeki called a stop to the fight at the 2:45 mark.
With the words “We’re Still Fighting” appropriately emblazoned
across his trunks, Ryuta
Sakurai took on fellow fight veteran Hiromitsu
Kanehara in a grinding middleweight bout. Sakurai chose to
grapple early with his pro-wrestler opponent, taking him down and
passing to mount on multiple occasions in the first round. Kanehara
let his experience show, though, avoiding submissions and reversing
position on Sakurai.
The second round saw more of the same, as Sakurai worked takedowns
and superior positioning, and Kanehara countered with reversals and
a kimura-armbar submission chain that had Sakurai in danger. The
fight’s decisive moment came in the opening seconds of the final
round, when Sakurai landed a heavy right hand that sent Kanehara
toppling to the mat. The R-Blood team leader swarmed and tried to
pound out Kanehara, but Kanehara managed to hold on and continue to
defend. Sakurai decided to take another route to victory and set up
a strong arm-triangle choke that forced Kanehara to submit only 46
seconds into the third round.
In the night’s first main-card bout, Pride veteran Daiju Takase
faced off against Pancrase heavy hitter Yuji
Sakuragi in a light heavyweight affair. The opening round saw
almost no action, with Takase warily staying away from Sakuragi’s
power punches and Sakuragi waiting for the right moment to land a
heavy counter shot. The second round started out much the same,
until Takase rushed into clinch and quickly jumped up for a
guillotine, making Sakuragi tap 1:33 into round two.