To American fight fans, the
The 30-year-old K-1 kickboxer and Japanese crossover star fought his final bout here on Wednesday night. He's the reason the teenage girls turned out in droves for the public press conference outside Shinjuku Station the day before, squealing and snapping frantic photos with their cell phones as their favorite fighting celebrity posed with long-time foe
Inside the arena on fight night, a separate program was devoted to chronicling Masato's K-1 career, including his two previous losses to Souwer. Some merchandise stands sold nothing but Masato t-shirts. His fans had the opportunity to buy tickets to a special Masato cheering section, complete with free Masato swag and the chance to chant his name along with other devotees. The section was among the first to sell out.
The uncharacteristically raucous crowd may have played as big a part as Masato's own performance in convincing the judges to hand him the decision, though a second-round knockdown of Souwer helped seal the deal. After the decision victory was announced, an extended in-ring love fest complete with a bouquet of flowers and an enormous banner helped send the fighter/actor off in style.
One can't help but wonder how many American fans, watching the early morning broadcast on HDNet back home, were even still watching.
The portion of the proceedings that interested them may have ended when Dream lightweight champ
Aoki showed no more respect for his opponent in the ring, and after easily taking Hirota down and swarming all over him in the first minute of the fight, he secured a hammerlock and wrenched it until Hirota's arm gave way. Aoki's classless celebration included a taunting obscene gesture in the face of his injured adversary, more or less guaranteeing he'd be remembered by fans for something other than his dominant victory.
Another big star of the night,
After the bout, Overeem expressed his concern for Fujita's health before immediately detailing his future plans to fight
• As expected,
• Olympic judo gold medalist
• Dutch striker