(Ricco Rodriguez: From flab to fab.)
Two months after his beatdown of Brett Rogers at Heavy Artillery, Strikeforce heavyweight champion Alistair Overeem will return to competition at DREAM.15 (July 10th, Saitama), where he’ll take on former UFC heavyweight champ Ricco Rodriguez in a non-title bout. While that may sound like Alistair is getting back to his Japanese squash-match roots, keep in mind that Rodriguez is on a seven-fight win streak since last July (six of which came by stoppage), including victories over veterans Travis Fulton and Moise Rimbon. He also looks a lot better physically these days (see above), and competed in the 218-pound division at last year’s ADCCs.
Can Rodriguez use Overeem as a springboard to a career rebirth? No, probably not — but he could impress a lot of people just by giving Overeem a tough fight and not spitting on anybody. In a related story, Ricco is no longer listed for that 7/18 Impact FC fight against Jeff Monson, which is unfortunate because you can bet that Paulo Filho and Ken Shamrock will be dropping out at the last minute…
DREAM.15 will be headlined by the long-awaited meeting between lightweight champion Shinya Aoki and Tatsuya Kawajiri, and will also feature a lightweight scrap between former top 10′er Gesias Cavalcante and Katsunori Kikuno. But wait, there’s more: The card will also feature the opening round of a relatively sad four-man light-heavyweight grand prix. The matchups are:
Gegard Mousasi vs. Jake O’Brien
Melvin Manhoef vs. Tatsuya Mizuno
Okay, Mousasi belongs there, obviously. The inclusion of UFC castoff Jake O’Brien isn’t very encouraging, but maybe his wrestling skills can give the former Strikeforce LHW champ trouble in the same way that King Mo’s did. As for the other side of the bracket, Manhoef is a true middleweight whose chin might be breaking down, and Mizuno is a 7-5 journeyman who’s perhaps best known for getting wrecked by Cro Cop at DREAM’s debut show. Quite a field you’ve got there, DREAM. The winner of that GP will definitely be one of the best light-heavyweights…of the night.