Japan's Fighting & Entertainment Group (FEG) this morning blew up the Nippon Gaishi Hall in Nagoya, Japan, for the DREAM 8 event that was stacked with a solid main card and plethora of intriguing match ups in its 2009 Welterweight Grand Prix.
The pinnacle of the event was of course the much anticipated showdown between Japanese mainstays and not-so-bitter rivals Shinya Aoki and Hayato Sakurai.
And like BJ Penn, "The Tobikan Judan" found out that moving up from lightweight to challenge the boys at welterweight isn't as easy as it looks.
"Mach" would finish the fight quickly, putting an exclamation mark on the bout with some vicious ground and pound and deadly knees that would leave Aoki out cold before he even had chance to contemplate working some of his ground magic.
Speaking of grappling chops, jiu-jitsu phenom Andre Galvao progressed to the next stage of the tournament by dominating his fight on the ground and eventually submitting opponent John Alessio by armbar late into the opening stanza.
Marius Zaromskis and Seichi Ikemoto had an all-out war that saw its share of crazy moments, such as Zaromskis trying to backflip into Ikemoto's guard. The bout would go the distance where all three judges saw in favor of Zaromskis for the win.
And the last spot in the Welterweight GP semifinals was earned by Jason High, who dominated Yuya Shirai from the get-go, coming out strong and landing a flurry of punches which would knock down Shirai and allow High to take his back and choke him unconscious.
In a carry over from DREAM 7, Daiki Hata garnered a decision victory over Hideo Tokoro for the final spot in the 2009 Featherweight GP.
"DJ.taiki" must now make a quick turn around and get set to compete again in just one month's time at DREAM 9 where he'll join the likes of Norifumi "Kid" Yamamoto (17-1), Masakazu Imanari (16-6-1), Hiroyuki Takaya (10-6-1), Yoshiro Maeda (24-6-2), Abel Cullum (14-2), Joe Warren (1-0) and Bibiano Fernandes (4-2).
Heading up the non-grand prix portion of the card was submission specialist Jeff Monson, who made short work of Russian gladiator Sergei Kharitonov, forcing the Russian to tap with a north-south choke early into round one.
Making his debut for DREAM was former PRIDE standout Murilo "Ninja" Rua. Unfortunately it was not a successful outing and he was outpointed via decision by last-minute replacement Riki Fukuda.
Vitor Ribeiro got back into the thick of it after a 19-month layoff from competition. He faced off against Olympic Greco-Roman silver medalist Katsuhiko Nagata.
"Shaolin" would end up winning -- although it probably wasn’t the most satisfying of victories. The bout was drawn to a close because of a cut sustained to Nagata.
Ribeiro looked to be suffering from a little ring rust. He had Nagata mounted and rattled off numerous submission attempts but the four-time CBJJ winner decided to ditch his bread and butter and instead focus on ground and pound, eventually leading to the fight ending laceration.
Here are the official results for DREAM 8:
Jeff Monson (30-8) defeated Sergei Kharitonov (16-4) by north south choke (1:42-R1)
Katsuyori Shibata (3-6-1) defeated Ikuhisa Minowa (41-30-8) via unanimous decision
Riki Fukuda (14-4) defeated Murilo Rua (16-10-1) via unanimous decision
Andrews Nakahara (2-1) defeated Shungo Oyama (7-12) by TKO (Strikes) (2:09-R1)
Vitor Ribeiro (20-2) defeated Katsuhiko Nagata (4-5-1) by TKO (Cut) (7:58-R1)
Welterweight Grand Prix:
Hayato Sakurai (35-8-2) defeated Shinya Aoki (20-4) by TKO (Knees & Strikes) (0:27-R1)
Andre Galvao (3-0) defeated John Alessio (24-13) by armbar (7:34-R1)
Jason High (7-1) defeated Yuya Shirai (15-8) by rear naked choke (0:59-R1)
Marius Zaromskis (9-2) defeated Seichi Ikemoto (18-15-5) via unanimous decision
Featherweight Grand Prix:
Daiki Hata (11-5-3) defeated Hideo Tokoro (21-16-1) via unanimous decision
The event will be shown stateside courtesy of HDNet on Friday, April 10, at 10 p.m. ET. In the meantime, be sure to keep it locked in to MMAmania.com for coverage surrounding the second round of the DREAM Featherweight Grand Prix scheduled for May 26.