Trapped in the shadow of tonight's blockbuster UFC 114 main event fight between "Rampage" Jackson and Rashad Evans in Las Vegas, there was another highly anticipated featured bout taking place on the other side of the world on the same date that wasn't getting near the hype it deserved.
After a couple of previously missed opportunities, Strikeforce welterweight champion Nick Diaz and Japanese star Hayato "Mach" Sakurai finally got the chance to test their talents against each other in the headliner of DREAM 14 just hours ago from the Saitama Super Arenam in Saitama, Japan.
Diaz came in with a ton of momentum, having won six straight fights by some form of stoppage, and his hot streak would continue on this night.
Although Diaz has received a lot of fanfare for his unorthodox and innovative striking style, "Mach" is known for his punching power, and Diaz clearly wanted nothing to do with that in this fight. The Cesar Gracie trained Brazilian jiu jitsu black belt wasted no time taking his Japanese counterpart to the ground early and often.
Sakurai battled, though, and fought through the takedowns, managing to get back to his feet a couple of times, even landing a trademark power punch or two in the process. However, Diaz was relentless and refused to allow the feared striker to suck him into his game. After one last takedown from the Stockton, California native, he was able to secure a fight ending armbar, pushing his win streak to seven.
In the co-main event, "The Gracie Hunter" Kazushi Sakuraba faced off against a member of the Gracie family for the sixth time in his career, this time against Ralek, a relatively inexperienced mixed martial artist with only two professional fights to his credit.
The lack of experience didn't prove to be too much of a problem for Ralek, though. The young Gracie black belt instead used his youth as an advantage and tired out the Japanese legend with a healthy jiu jitsu attack.
It was an action packed three round affair with a lot of ground work, which was expected, but Gracie was clearly the fresher and better man by the end of the fight. The final decision wasn't too hard on the judges, as Gracie won unanimously on the cards.
Perhaps Sakuraba's age is finally catching up to him, or perhaps maybe the Gracie's are. The infamous fighting family has now scored two straight over "The Gracie Killer" since dropping four in a row to him in 1999 and 2000.
Also featured on the card, in what promised to be one for the highlight reels, was a lightweight battle between hard hitters Joachim Hansen and Hiroyuki Takaya. And they sure didn't disappoint the Japanese faithful in Saitama.
Coming into this bout, Hansen had never fallen to strikes in a fight, but "The Streetfight Bancho" and his iron fists put an end to that impressive stat tonight. Late in the first round "Hellboy" was dropped by two vicious right hands, and Takaya didn't need any more of a cue than that to jump in and finish off his wounded opponent.
The loss makes three in a row for the Norwegian fighter and 2008 DREAM grand prix winner.
Norifumi "Kid" Yamamoto got back to his winning ways tonight, and showed the DREAM fans why he was once considered one of the best smaller weight fighters in the world.
After winning seventeen of the first nineteen fights of his career, "Kid" surprisingly dropped two in a row last year, which left some fans scratching their heads. The talented mixed martial artist needed to make a statement with this fight and show that he was still the same fighter that that had won all those fights before 2009.
And he did that tonight in a big way.
Yamamoto blasted through Federico Lopez with a devastating striking attack that left "Kiko" out cold less than two minutes into the fight. And while Lopez won't be the biggest name on "Kid's" hit list when his career is all said and done, this was still a huge rebounding win for the thirty three year old.
Check out the complete results from DREAM 14 below:
Nick Diaz defeated Hayato "Mach" Sakurai via submission (armbar) in round one
Ralek Gracie defeated Kazushi Sakuraba via unanimous decision
Hiroyuki Takaya defeated Joachim Hansen via knockout (strikes) in round one
"Kid" Yamamoto defeated "Kiko" Lopez via knockout (strikes) in round one
"Wicky" Akiyo Nishiura defeated Hideo Tokoro via technical knockout (strikes) in round one
Kazuyuki Miyata defeated Takafumi Otsuka via split decision
Kenji Osawa defeated Yoshiro Maeda via split decision
Ikuhisa Minowa defeated Imani Lee via submission (rear naked choke) in round one
That's a wrap from "The Land of the Rising Sun."
Next up for the Japanese promotion is DREAM 15, which will go down at the promotion's familiar stomping grounds, the Saitama Super Arena, in Saitama, Japan, on July 10.
Standout lightweights and heated rivals Shinya Aoki and Tatsuya Kawajiri are expected to headline the event. The first round of the promotion's four man light heavyweight tournament is also scheduled for the card.
Alistair Overeem, Gegard Mousasi and Melvin Manhoef are slated for action, too.
Keep it locked to MMAmania.com for more on that developing fight card and all your DREAM news and notes.