Dream 17 put it down with four exciting World Bantamweight GP matches. Dream newcomers Rodolfo Marques and Yusup Saadulaev spent the greater majority of three rounds on the canvas. It was a spectacular show of jiu jitsu from both fighters, but Marques simply outworked Saadulaev en route to a decision victory.
Abel Cullum made his third appearance on Japanese soil, taking on former Deep Bantamweight titlist Masakazu Imanari in the first round of the Bantamweight GP. Cullum, a former KOTC Flyweight Chapmion, had a difficult time making weight at the last minute. He arrived in Japan late due to typhoon delays. I think it's safe to assume that the late weight cut had an affect on his performance. Nonetheless, Imanari worked some high level jits before finally catching the American in a rolling armbar in the third frame.
Bibiano Fernandes is a man on a mission. His move to Matt Hume' Seattle training facility this summer could be the difference in Fernandes' transition from evolving prospect to elite, world-ranked fighter. Last night the former Dream Featherweight champion made quick work of his opponent Takafumi Otuska. After a brief punching exchange Fernandes ducked a left hook, spun behind, and easily put Otuska to sleep in a rear naked choke.
American import Antonio Banuelos advanced to the semifinal round last night after defeating Dream Japan Bantamweight GP winner Hideo Tokoro. Most of the bout took place in the stand-up. Banuelos showed a slight edge over Tokoro in the striking department to notch a split decision victory. The win was the perfect rebound for Banuelos who fell to former WEC Bantamweight Champ Miguel Torres at UFC 126 back in February.
Gerald Harris and Kazuhiro Nakamura opened the non-tournament portion of the card. It was Harris' Japan debut. Harris outworked his opponent. He kept Nakamura against the cage and added some effective striking. But Harris made too many unsuccessful takedown attempts, which could have put him in danger on the judges' scorecards. However, a big slam at the close of round three probably secured the unanimous decision for Harris.
Satoru Kitaoka vs. Willamy Freire was bound to produce fireworks. The two fighters slugged it out for three rounds, but it was Kitaoka who's hand was raised in the end. The win extends Kitaoka's win streak to four following wins in Pancrase and Deep.
Yan Cabral stayed flawless last night, capturing a big win over MMA legend Kazushi Sakuraba. Eventually, we will see Cabral fight for the Dream Welterweight Title. Yan Cabral vs. Marius Zaromskis spells death match. As for Sakuraba, this is one rare instance in which I agree with Dana White -- Kazushi Sakuraba needs to call it quits!!!
Former Shooto Lightweight Champion Takeshi Inoue is really turning heads in Dream. He is now 2-0 in Dream competition following his Dream 17 win over another MMA legend Caol Uno. Inoue knocked out Uno with a first round punch-kick combo that sent a blurred Uno to the canvas. Didn't Uno see Inoue winding up? I think Caol might want to co-promote a retirement party with Sakuraba.
Joachim Hansen and Tatsuya Kawajiri met in a a highly anticipated rematch. Kawajiri defeated Hansen by way of disqualification due to illegal nut cracking (groin kick). The outcome was the same this time (minus the nut cracking). Kawajiri and Hansen mixed it up for the better of two rounds before clinching a submission in the third. Kawajiri made a beautiful transition from a body lock, taking Hansen to the mat where he secured a tight arm triangle, drawing the tap at the 2:30 mark.
The main event pitted two successful lightweight fighters -- former WEC Lightweight Titleholder Rob McCullough and current Dream Lightweight Champion Shinya Aoki. I was very naive going into this bout. I expected Aoki to try out some of his polished striking against the Muay Thai specialist McCullough. Aoki has been developing his striking at Evolve MMA in Singapore. But, as they say don't bring sand to the beach -- Shinya Aoki had other plans. His jiu jitsu game proved supreme once again, as he submitted McCullough via neck crank at the end of round 1. The outcome of this match-up was very obvious, but it leaves me wondering if it was a primer for more to come from the new Bellator-Dream partnership. Will we see Shinya Aoki-Eddie Alvarex rematch (after he heals up from his "undisclosed injury")? Maybe even a Tatsuya Kawajiri-Kurt Pellegrino pairing, now that the former UFC standout is officially Bellator property? It's hard to say what future fighter exchanges could come out of this cross-promotional relationship, but it definitely makes things interesting.
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FEG and Real Entertainment
September 24, 2011
Saitama Super Arena,
Shinya Aoki def. Rob McCullough via submission (neck crank) - R1, 4:52
Tatsuya Kawajiri def. Joachim Hansen via submission (arm-triangle), R3, 2:30
Takeshi Inoue def. Caol Uno via KO - R1, 4:17
Yan Cabral def. Kazushi Sakuraba via submission (arm-triangle choke) - R1, 2:42
Satoru Kitaoka def. Willamy Freire via split decision
Gerald Harris def. Kazuhiro Nakamura via split decision
Ikuhisa Minowa def. Baru Harn via submission (scarf-hold armbar) - R1, 4:39
Bantamweight World GP Quarterfinals Bouts:
Antonio Banuelos def. Hideo Tokoro via split decision
Bibiano Fernandes def. Takafumi Otuska via submission (rear-naked choke) - R1, 0:41
Masakazu Imanari def. Abel Cullum via submission (armbar) - R3, 0:46
Rodolfo Marques def. Yusup Saadulaev via unanimous decision