Preceding the first caged fight card by a major Japanese MMA organization, DREAM 11 will storm the Yokohama arena in Yokohama, Japan, this Tuesday (Oct. 6) on HDNet at 7 AM ET.
DREAM 11 hosts the conclusion of the Featherweight Grand Prix and the Lightweight title match between Joachim Hansen and Shinya Aoki. As if those were not enough, the semi-final bouts of the spectacular Super Hulk Tournament are thrown in as a bonus.
Joachim Hansen (19-7-1) returns from a year-long hiatus to put his Lightweight belt on the line against Shinya Aoki in a rubber match. This will be Hansen’s first title defense after his serendipitous run in the Lightweight Grand Prix last year: He lost to Eddie Alvarez in the quarterfinal but replaced the injured Alvarez in the final against Aoki to snatch the title.
In the final match of the GP, he successfully avenged his loss to Aoki at PRIDE Shockwave 2006 with a TKO victory. Originally scheduled to make his title defense on New Year’s Eve last year against Gesias Cavalcante, he was forced to withdraw after a last-minute training mishap afflicted him with concussion.
Contrary to Hansen, Shinya Aoki (21-4) has kept himself busy.
During Hansen’s absence from the ring, Aoki has compiled a 4-1 record with wins over Todd Moore, Eddie Alvarez, David "Hello Japan!" Gardner, and Vitor "Shaolin" Ribeiro. Skewered by some fans after a monotonous, inopportune showcase of his developing striking ability against Ribeiro at DREAM 10, he likely will return to his domain this time around.
Given Hansen’s possible ring rust and the ease with which he lured Hansen to his grappling spider web, odds are stacked in favor of Aoki.
A decorated Brazilian Jiu Jitsu practitioner, Bibiano "Flash" Fernandes (5-2) collides with Greco-Roman world champion, Joe Warren, in the first semi-final match of the Featherweight GP.
Fernandes defeated Takafumi Otsuka and Masakazu Imanari to reach the semi-final round. Interestingly, he took on arguably two of the best featherweights in the world, Urijah Faber and Kid Yamamoto, within the first three fights of his professional debut. Against Yamamoto, he let his submission savvy shine in a surprisingly competitive contest. Still somewhat of an unknown quantity, Fernandes looked anemic against Otsuka in the opening round, struggling to mount effective offense on the feet and on the ground. In a boner-killer of fight for grappling aficionados, he staged a somnambulant, 15-minute striking session against the seemingly lifeless Masakazu Imanari at DREAM 9.
Joe Warren (2-0) comes off an upset-of-the-year victory over Japanese MMA icon, Kid Yamamoto. After dispatching fellow American wrestler, Chase Beebe, with a TKO in the opening round, Warren spoiled Yamamoto’s return to the ring after a 17-month layoff. He utilized his world-class Greco-Roman wrestling prowess to score numerous takedowns. Also, he relentlessly wore down Yamamoto with the Team Quest-patented dirty boxing and knees from the clinch en route to a split decision victory.
A must-watch fight for casual Japanese fans based on the disparate personas of the combatants, the second Featherweight GP semi-final match pits Hiroyuki Takaya (11-6-1) against Hideo Tokoro (22-16-1). A gritty brawler who parlayed his domination in street fighting to MMA career, Takaya looks to record his third consecutive TKO victory against Tokoro and ideally a fourth in the final. Tokoro, an underdog darling of Japanese media, hopes to run with his second shot at the GP title all the way to the finish line.
Takaya joined DREAM after an unsuccessful stint in WEC. He has gotten himself back on the winning column with TKO victories over Korean judo Olympian, Jong Won Kim, and fellow WEC veteran, Yoshiro Maeda thus far in the tournament.
Tokoro lost to Daiki Hata in the opening round, but was reinstated as a replacement for Hata, who could not proceed to quarterfinal due to injury. At DREAM 9, he snapped a three-fight losing streak with a submission win over Abel Cullum. After a round of feverish action characteristic of his fights, Tokoro made a miraculous comeback by stopping Cullum with rear naked choke in the second round.
In the Featherweight GP reserve match, Daiki Hata (11-5-3) and Kazuyuki Miyata (7-7) vie in hope of a possible replacement opportunity in the tournament final.
Hata defeated Hideo Tokoro in the opening round of the tourney but was unable to continue to the quarterfinal due to a nagging eye injury. Among the most crisp strikers in the division, Hata boasts quick hands and powerful counter-punch. Against Tokoro, he controlled the fight with superior technical striking and successful takedowns. Despite facing opponents of various stylistic stripes, he has never been finished in his career. Against a former Olympic freestyle wrestler, Miyata, he must fully activate his takedown defense and scramble.
Kazuyuki Miyata’s lackluster record belies his wrestling credential and tremendous athleticism. A decorated freestyle wrestler with stint in the Olympic game, he was baptized by fire upon his entrance to MMA. After making his debut in Rumble on the Rocks against Royler Gracie, he became a staple in the K-1 Hero’s. He has faced such tough opposition as Genki Sudo, Kid Yamamoto, and Joachim Hansen in Hero’s and DREAM, and recently moved down to the Featherweight division. Since then, he has reeled off two victories and now looks to impose his world class wrestling prowess and raw power against Featherweight opposition.
A product of the mind-boggling matchmaking that has plagued Japanese MMA, Tatsuya Kawajiri vs. Melchor "Barracuda" Manibusan sticks out like a sore thumb, even with the presence of Hong Man Choi and Bob Sapp on the fight card.
Kawajiri (24-5-2) has recently undergone a rapid-fire series of fights against Gesias Cavalcante, at DREAM 9, and then against the Japanese K-1 icon, Masato in a K-1 bout in July. He earned a unanimous decision victory over the highly touted Cavalcante, but found himself outclassed at the hands of Masato, incurring a TKO loss and evening his K-1 record to 1-1.
"Barracuda" Manibusan (2-3), a native of Guam, has had a spotty and erratic MMA career thus far, making his debut in 2001 and then taking a five-year hiatus before competing four times in 2006. His lackluster record belies his grappling credential: A world class amateur wrestler and fourth place-finisher in the 1999 ADCC Submission Wrestling World Championship. His grappling credential has impressed BJ Penn, who has invited him to his camp as a sparring partner on a number of occasions.
The always enigmatic and entertaining Ikuhisa "Minowaman" Minowa (42-30-8) looks to add Hong Man Choi (2-2) to his "giant killer" resume in the semi-final of the Super Hulk Tournament.
Minowa submitted Bob Sapp in the opening round of the tournament with Achilles lock. Choi, on the other hand, stopped the former Major League slugger, juicer, and MMA neophyte, Jose Canseco with highlight reel-worthy TKO (come on, who doesn’t want to see him get his ass kicked by a 7-foot Korean giant?) in the first round.
On the other side of the bracket, Sokoudjou (6-4), the prohibitive favorite of the tournament, squares off with Bob Sapp (10-5-1). Sokoudjou snapped his losing streak with a controversial TKO finish over Jan Nortje in the opening round. Sapp has been reinstated in the tournament after Gegard Mousasi withdrew due to injury.
And finally, Japanese mixed martial arts legend and one of the most revered figures in the sport, Kazushi Sakuraba (24-12-1), surfaced as a late addition yesterday to take on professional boxer Rubin Williams (0-0), who makes his mixed martial arts debut against the "Gracie Killer" after training MMA part-time for almost a year.
"Mr. Hollywood" holds a 29-8-1 boxing record and is perhaps best known for his 2005 IBF Super Middleweight fight against Jeff Lacy. Despite his early success, Williams is winless in his last seven attempts (0-6-1).
How will his pugilistic power hold up against the charismatic warrior and PRIDE FC legend?
Known for his flamboyant ring entrances and unorthodox catch wrestling-derived fighting style, Sakuraba has fought more than his fair share of memorable bouts that have been etched in the annals of MMA history.
Among the names he has faced include Wanderlei Silva, Ken Shamrock, Kevin Randleman, Antonio Rogerio Nogueira, Mirko "Cro Cop" Filipovic, Quinton "Rampage" Jackson and Carlos Newton. Of course, he earned his nickname with victories over members of the legendary family, including Renzo, Royce, Royler and Ryan Gracie.
Despite his legendary status, he is currently on a two-fight slide and has not had a win since April 2008 (Andrews Nakahara).
If Sakuraba can get this to the ground early and often, he should have a distinct advantage over the boxing bully. Conditioning, as always, could be an important factor for both competitors coming in on such short notice.
It has the potential to be a very entertaining fight on a card filled with its share of interesting storylines. And it's free on HDNet -- don't miss it!
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