Two new champions emerged in DREAM 11 earlier today at the Yokohama Arena in Kanagawa, Japan.
Shinya Aoki once again lived up to his reputation as the premier submission artist in MMA: This time, he had a nice accolade to accompany his victory. He avenged the prior loss to Hansen in the final of Lightweight GP last year to finally capture the Lightweight belt.
Bibiano Fernandes quietly rose to the top as the dark horse of the tournament and continued the streak of foreign champions in DREAM Grand Prix’s. In a true rags-to-riches story, Fernandes, who was born into poverty in Brazilian Amazon, added the DREAM featherweight belt to his list of accolades as a world class BJJ practitioner.
The night started with former Olympic freestyle wrestler, Kazuyuki Miyata, imposing his wrestling prowess upon Daiki Hata. With his body fat percentage teetering on the brink of zero as a featherweight, Miyata sported hulk-like physique that prompted HDNet Fight announcer, Mike Schiavello to call him "Sexymiyata,"
Miyata used his takedown and top control to muscle his way to unanimous decision victory – a third straight as a featherweight. Hata seemed cautious throughout, never being able to pull the trigger with his strikes.
In the first semi-final match of Featherweight GP, Hiroyuki Takaya and HideoTokoro staged a spirited stand-up battle.
Fleet-footed Tokoro stayed clear of Takaya’s strikes but Takaya took control of the battle after a few minutes, stuffing Tokoro’s takedowns and finding target with his punch combinations. Toward the end of the round, Tokoro briefly turned the tide with flying knee kick, a huge left hook, and another knee, sending Yokohama arena into frenzy.
Despite coming close to finishing Takaya with strikes, Tokoro opted to pull guard and attempt submission; however, this proved to be the beginning of his end. Takaya swarmed with ground-and-pound, leaving Tokoro at the mercy of the bell. Still reeling from the damage, Tokoro continued to the second round, only to be finished via TKO.
In the second Featherweight semifinal, Greco-Roman world champion, Joe Warren came in absolutely amped up after his upset-of-the-year victory over Kid Yamamoto.
Bibiano Fernandes, however, spoiled Warren’s momentum. In one swift maneuver, he snatched Warren’s outstretched arms to lock in an arm bar from the guard. Warren seemed to tap but controversy ensued as to whether he actually did. Fernandes proceeded to rub the victory in Warren’s face by walking up to his corner and flipping the bird -- in response to his provocation at the pre-fight press conference.
Proceeding to the tournament of genetic freaks, Minowaman added the "Techno Goliath" to his "giant killer" resume in a display of fearless warrior spirit.
For much of the fight, Minowaman struggled to take Hong-Man Choi to the ground. He scored a single leg takedown in the first round and managed to secure side control– a feat even Fedor Emelianenko could not accomplish – in the first round.
After a prolonged stalemate, Minowaman staged a dramatic turnaround in the second round, tapping Choi with a knee-bar. An ecstatic Yokohama arena crowd cheered on, as the pro-wrestling icon pumped his fist in the air in his signature victory celebration.
Sokoudjou made a quick work of Bob Sapp with ground-and-pound from after scoring a takedown. Like in his recent fight against Bobby Lashley, Sapp looked plodding and helpless against the smaller and quicker foe.
As expected, DREAM Lightweight title contender, Tatsuya Kawajiri meted out a one-sided beat down on the overmatched foe. Melchor Manibusan, a former ADCC semi-finalist, came out guns blazing with a flurry of wild hooks. Kawajiri scored his signature body lock takedown from the clinch. From there, his one-man show ensued. Working from Manibusan’s half-guard, he eventually passed to mount and continued with relentless ground-and-pound until the referee stepped in to save Manibusan.
With the dominant performance, Kawajiri has positioned himself for a possible title shot on New Year’s Eve – in the post-fight speech, he promised strong performance on NYE and DREAM event producer, Keiichi Sasahara nodded along in approval.
Japanese MMA demigod, Sakuraba schooled MMA neophyte, Rubin "Mr. Hollywood" Williams, in the art of MMA. The 40 year-old icon who claimed to keep fighting "until he becomes eligible for social security," Saku immediately thrashed at the lead leg of boxer-turned-MMA debutant, Williams with kicks. He scored a single-leg takedown and immediately moved to side control. With Williams completely out of his element, Saku patiently worked for an arm lock and tapped him out with kimura.
In the Lightweight title match, Shinya Aoki did not allow Joachim Hansen to work his feared striking game that shattered his title hope last time. Aoki worked tenaciously throughout the fight with takedown from the clinch and subsequent top control.
Aoki remained very patient throughout the fight, almost to fault. Hansen kept busy with punches and heel strikes from the guard. In round 1, a groin strike and upkicks from Hansen forced lengthy time-out for Aoki to recover.
After 14 minute-long near-inertia, Aoki finally got his game on as he threatened Hansen with a choke from mount. He then locked in an arm bar that Hansen worked patiently to escape; however, once Hansen got caught in Aoki’s web of submission, he did not come out with his limb free. Aoki caught Hansen’s arm again for a submission victory via arm bar.
Teary with joy, Aoki apologized to the crowd for his overcautious approach out of desire for the belt. He ended his mic performance with the "UFC isn’t number 1!! DREAM is the number 1!!" proclamation.
The two tournament dark horses capped off the night with a thrilling slugfest in the Featherweight GP final.
Bibiano Fernandes threatened Hiroyuki Takaya with his grappling prowess in a few instances: He almost locked in an arm bar and heel hook at the beginning of round one and took Takaya’s back twice for rear naked choke from the standing position.
The stand-up battle, however, dominated much of the fight. Showing the crowd that he is more than a brawler, Hiroyuki Takaya showed great takedown defense and scramble. He demonstrated clear superiority in the stand-up with crisp punching combinations and stinging leg kicks. Fernandes refused to back down, obliging Takaya in a pugilistic war.
Despite absorbing much punishment and suffering a nasty cut over his right eye, Fernandes managed to floor Takaya with a powerful counter overhand right in the second round. The knockdown may have been the crucial determinant of the outcome of the fight, like in the second Manny Pacquiao – Juan Manuel Marquez fight: After a fifteen-minute fight in which Takaya pressed the action and inflicted more damage, Fernandes ultimately emerged the winner with split decision victory.
Here are the DREAM 11 complete results:
Lightweight title bout:
Shinya Aoki def. Joachim Hansen via submission (armbar) Round 2
Featherweight GP Final:
Bibiano Fernandes def. Hiroyuki Takaya via split decision
Featherweight GP Semifinal bouts:
Bibiano Fernandes def. Joe Warren via submission (armbar) Round 1
Hiroyuki Takaya def. Hideo Tokoro via TKO (punches) Round 2
Featherweight GP Reserve bout:
Kazuyuki Miyata def. Daiki Hata via unanimous decision
Super Hulk Tournament Semifinal:
Rameau Thierry Sokoudjou def. Bob Sapp via TKO (punches) Round 1
Ikuhisa Minowa def. Hong Man Choi via submission (heel hook) Round 2
Kazushi Sakuraba def. Rubin Williams via submission (kimura) Round 1
Tatsuya Kawajiri def. Melchor Manibusan via TKO (strikes) Round 1
To check out video highlights of all the action click here.