DREAM 17 preview for 'Fight for Japan' on May 29

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After a long hiatus, Japanese promotion, DREAM, will make its return in a special event, "Fight for Japan," this Saturday (May 29, 2011) night at the Saitama Super Arena Hall in Saitama, Japan.

The event will be held in support of Japanese tsunami victims.

Headlining the main event will be a lightweight match up between top 10-ranked lightweight Shinya Aoki and UFC veteran Rich Clementi. There was a merry-go-round of opponents for Aoki in this event, but when the music stopped it was "No Love" who was awarded the high profile fight.

Also on the card will be an intriguing featherweight fight between Joachim Hansen and Mitsuhiro Kikuno, as well as a compelling lightweight bout as Katsunori Kikuno and Daisuke Nakamura square off.

The main card will also be a precursor for the opening round of the 2011 DREAM Bantamweight Grand Prix, which will hold its first two rounds on the same night, leading up to the finals for a later event.

Check out our complete DREAM 17 preview after the jump:

155 lbs.: Shinya Aoki (27-5) 1 No Contest vs. Rich Clementi (40-19-1)

The original match ups that were announced for Aoki -- such as former WEC lightweight champion Jamie Varner and former MFC lightweight champion Antonio McKee -- were significantly more compelling than Clementi. Nonetheless, the mixed martial arts/UFC veteran still has a name, but he is 35 years old and is definitely in the twilight of his career.

Aoki has the advantage in every department except striking, but he's so slick with his Judo trips and pressure in the clinch that he likely won't be standing for long. If Aoki takes this fight to the ground, this bout could be over very quickly. Clementi has some solid jiu-jitsu of his own, but that didn't stop him from getting choked unconscious by Aaron Derrow at Titan Fighting FC 16 this past January.

145 lbs.: Mitsuhiro Ishida (20-6) vs. Joachim Hansen (21-10-1)

This bout is an intriguing match up of wrestling versus jiu-jitsu. Ishida has been able to take his opponents down at will and work his stellar top control game. He holds some very solid victories in his career over Gilbert Melendez and top Strikeforce lightweight contender Justin Wilcox. Ishida even fought for the Strikeforce lightweight title in a rematch against "El Nino," but he came up short. He'll look to take "Hellboy" down and keep him there, while avoiding the Norwegian's active guard.

Hansen's chin has deteriorated a bit as of late, resulting in a bad knockout at Dream 14 and a stretch of three consecutive losses through the first half of 2010, but he closed the year with two straight submission victories. Hansen is a talented grappler and he's dangerous off his back or anywhere on the canvas. This match should be a stellar ground battle. Hansen can win if he can catch Ishida, but it won't be easy. Ishida trains out of a solid camp and no doubt he's been working very hard on his submission defense coming into this bout.

155 lbs.: Katsunori Kikuno (14-3-2) vs. Daisuke Nakamura (23-12)

This lightweight bout looks to be very entertaining as the power-punching Katsunori Kikuno takes on the always dangerous Daisuke Nakamura. Kikuno has had a successful career, but he's always come up short against the best fighters like Gesias Cavalcante and Eddie Alvarez. The loss to "JZ" was a split decision, however, so he is still competitive in his bouts. One thing's for sure, if he can keep this fight standing or get on top, he can hurt Nakamura -- a fighter who's not going to be able to hang with him in the striking department.

Nakamura is a guy who is definitely not afraid to take risks. No where was that more prevalent than in his last fight, a flying arm bar submission victory over Toshikazu Iseno at Deep 51 Impact this past December. He's not the most well-rounded fighter, but he's creative and wildly entertaining. Don't count him out of this fight unless he's unconscious, and that's not something easy to do. Nine of his 12 career losses have come by way of decision, and Kikuno isn't exactly the top control type of guy who can grind one out over him.

Bantamweight tournament

The DREAM bantamweight tournament also takes place on this card. Expect fireworks in the Keisuke Fujiwara versus Masakazu Imanari match in the quarterfinals. Iminari was the defending Deep bantamweight champion so he's a favorite to do well in this grand prix. Fujiwara was also the champion of the ZST promotion, but he'll take on significantly more credible opposition now.

Kenji Osawa was a WEC veteran who held his own in the promotion. He'll look to take his experience into the tournament and continue to get back on track. Osawa isn't a great finisher, but he's still very capable of grinding out decision victories against anyone in this field.

The tournament is full of fighters who were competitive at 145 pounds and are dropping down 10 pounds; therefore, expect some very entertaining scraps, especially in the first round of the night when everyone is still fresh.

So what do you say, Maniacs? Will you be tuning in to Dream 17 or will a wild weekend of Shark Fights, Titan FC and UFC 130 be too much on your plates?

Let us know what you think in the comments below. 

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