May 26, 2009
It was completely ridiculous to hand Norifumi "Kid" Yamamato a fighter with just one professional mixed martial arts fight under his belt. Unless that guy is the 2006 Greco-Roman World wrestling champ Joe Warren. Warren has stormed onto the scene of MMA with one of the bigger upsets in recent memory. The NCAA All-American from Michigan walked right through Yamamoto's legendary knockout power scoring takedown after takedown. The bigger shocker may have been the fact that an American took a decision from a Japanese fan favorite in Japan. Warren got the nod from two of the three judges to advance to the semifinals of the DREAM 9 Featherweight Grand Prix in Yokohama.
Yamamoto (17-2) hadn't lost since 2002 but he was coming off a 512 day break fighting back from elbow and knee injuries.
Warren's skill set was really impressive considering he only started training mixed martial arts last year. He's got a solid right hand. His knees out of the clinch are very good. The shocking part of his game is his toughess. Warren took some nasty kicks to the body and legs, and he walked through some huge punches landed by Yamamoto, who had finished eight his last nine opponents by KO or TKO.
Warren's wrestling was the key to the win. He had Yamamoto, 32, on his back during the middle of the first round and latter parts of the second round. Kid is no slouch in the wrestling department. He made a run at the 2008 Japanese Olympic wrestling team before being injured in the trials. Warren's elbows, punches and hammerfists open a cut on Yamamoto's nose and under his left eye.
This is a huge win for Warren against a guy who is still arguably one of the 15 best fighters in the world. There aren't too many bantamweights and featherweights who could've taken some of the shots landed by Yamamoto.
When Warren, 32, won gold in 2006 he became just the fifth American in history to do so. His quest for 2008 Olympic gold was thwarted by a positive drug test. It wasn't steroids that ruined Warren's dream but a positive test for THC which generally results from smoking marijuana.
Other 138 pound winners in the tournament included Bibiano Fernandes, Hideo Tokoro and Hiroyuki Takaya.
In a lightweight fight, JZ Cavalcante was upset by Tatsuya Kawajiri. The main event was called a no-contest as Ronaldo "Jacare" Souza suffered a bad cut on the top of his head just 90 seconds into the fight when he was kicked illegally by Jason Miller. Miller soccer kicked Jacare with his shin. The fight had to be stopped when the blood flow couldn't be stopped.
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