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Sakurai Stuns Aoki, Monson and Shaolin Score Wins at DREAM.8


(Hayato Sakurai vs. Shinya Aoki. Listen for the Japanese version of Frank Trigg calling the action at the 1:20-1:27 mark of the video.)

The opening round of DREAM’s 2009 welterweight grand prix went down today at DREAM.8 in Nagoya, Japan, with Hayato Sakurai and Andre Galvao establishing themselves as early favorites to go all the way. In the evening’s main event, Sakurai was able to defeat Shinya Aoki for the second time in his career, reversing position after a slick takedown from Aoki, then unleashing a brutal series of knees to the head and punches that forced a stop to the action just 27 seconds into the fight. Aoki, who didn’t bother putting on weight for the match, hopefully learned that he’s better off at lightweight.

Elsewhere in the welterweight GP, Andre Galvao looked impressive yet again, taking out UFC/WEC vet John Alessio by armbar at 7:34 of the first round; the powerful jiu-jitsu ace increases his record to 3-0, with all wins by armbar. Jason High was able to bounce back to the W column with a quick choke-out of Yuya Shirai, while Marius Zaromskis edged out Seichi Ikemoto by decision after a 15-minute slugfest.

In the non-tournament bouts, Jeff Monson won for the third time in three weeks (!), using his significant grappling advantage over Sergei Kharitonov to sink in a north-south choke early in the first round. Vitor "Shaolin" Ribeiro was also victorious in his return to competition, controlling Katsuhiko Nagata for most of the first round of their match until a series of knee-strikes from Ribeiro opened up a nasty gash on Nagata’s head; doctors immediately went in to check the wound, and decided to stop the fight. And in a minor upset, Riki Fukuda — a late replacement for Dong Sik Yoon — was able to score a very close decision over Murilo Rua after a 15-minute standup battle.

Full results and more videos after the jump…

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DREAM 8′s Lineup Isn’t Looking Too Awesome

Hayato Sakurai Shinya Aoki MMA Japan DREAM
("I used to be an AFC like Shinya. Now that I’ve learned the Mystery Method, I pull more tail than Hayato.")

DREAM’s 2009 welterweight grand prix kicks off April 5th at DREAM 8, and four of the tournament matchups have just been announced, along with a few features in other weight classes. The event will be headlined by a rematch between Shinya Aoki and Hayato "Mach" Sakurai; Sakurai previously won a decision over Aoki at a Shooto event in August ’05. Check out the current lineup below, and keep in mind that the opening round kicks off ten days from now, and only half the field is assembled. Not that this is the first time that DREAM hasn’t had all their GP participants locked down before the opening round, but this is really pushing it…

Welterweight GP Fights
Shinya Aoki vs. Hayato “Mach” Sakurai
Sergei Kharitonov vs. Jeff Monson (heavyweight)
Ikuhisa "Minowaman" Minowa vs. Katsuyori Shibata (194-pound catchweight)
Andrews Nakahara vs. Shungo Oyama (middleweight)
Murilo "Ninja" Rua vs. Dong Sik Yoon (middleweight)
Hideo Tokoro vs. Daiki "DJ.taiki" Hata (featherweight GP fight)

I don’t see how the winner of Aoki/Sakurai doesn’t just pwn the fuck out of this field, which is easily the weakest of any DREAM GP to date. Shirai and Ikemoto are local jobbers, and UFC/WEC-castoff John Alessio is only slightly better. High just got owned by Jay Hieron at Affliction: Day of Reckoning; too bad the Thoroughbred isn’t available for this tournament. And while Andre Galvao is a stud when it comes to jiu-jitsu, he’s underexperienced in MMA. There’d better be some big names attached to those last four spots, or the tourney could be a gigantic bust.

And the other bouts on the card aren’t much better. The Kharitonov/Monson clash could be entertaining, but of the six men in the other non-GP bouts, only Minowaman and Ninja have winning records. Seriously. DREAM is hoping for a big ratings resurgence when they return to a decent time-slot, but it’ll be hard to get fans interested — especially in the U.S., where once again, HDNet is airing the event days later on tape-delay.

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Aoki, Sakurai Booked for DREAM Welterweight GP

Hayato Sakurai Shinya Aoki Ikuhisa Minowa MMA DREAM
(You call that a fighter’s fist pose, Sakurai? Show me some goddamned intensity! Photo courtesy of DreamOfficial.com via Suki MMA.)

Fighting and Entertainment Group (FEG) — the parent company of Japanese MMA promotion DREAMannounced today that their upcoming welterweight grand prix will feature #9 pound-for-pounder Shinya Aoki, moving back up in weight class from last year’s lightweight GP, in which he was a finalist. Perennial welterweight threat/amateur porn star Hayato "Mach" Sakurai will also participate in the 168-pound tournament (which kicks off April 5th in Nagoya, Japan), and freak show mainstay Ikuhisa Minowa will be on the card in a non-GP match. No other fighters have been named for the grand prix, though the winner of the DEEP 40 bout between Hidetaka Monma and Seichi Ikemoto is expected to join the field.

No word yet if Aoki and Sakurai will have to face each other in the first round of the grand prix, but the two fighters previously met at a Shooto event in August 2005, where the far-more-experienced (at the time) Sakurai defeated Aoki by unanimous decision. Aoki went on to win Shooto’s middleweight (168 pounds) championship the next year — which he still technically holds — before dropping to lightweight in 2007. Both men have won their last two fights, with Sakurai winning a decision against Kuniyoshi Hironaka at DREAM 6 last September and scoring a TKO over Katsuyori Shibata at Dynamite!! 2008 on New Year’s Eve, and Aoki earning quick submission victories over Todd Moore and Eddie Alvarez at the same events.

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‘Shooto Tradition’ Results + Videos

Savant Young Inoue MMA Shooto
(Savant Young and Takeshi Inoue: Guess who won the decision? Photo courtesy of MMAWeekly.)

It looks like we’ll be putting together another update to our Power Rankings pretty soon — #5-ranked welterweight Hayato “Mach” Sakurai and #4-ranked featherweight Takeshi Inoue got punked yesterday at Shooto’s first 20th anniversary series show in Tokyo. Sakurai faced European Shooto vet David Baron in a slugfest that ended suddenly when Baron sunk in a guillotine choke during a takedown attempt by Sakurai. It was Sakurai’s first loss since being knocked out by Takanori Gomi at PRIDE Shockwave on New Year’s Eve 2005. In the night’s other upset, IFL vet Trenell “Savant” Young (who had an 8-7 record going into the fight) outlasted former Shooto featherweight champ “Lion” Takeshi Inoue en route to a unanimous decision victory. Near the end of the second and final round, Young caught Inoue in a guillotine choke and Inoue scrambled through the ropes to escape; Inoue seemed to be momentarily unconscious when the ref broke up the fighters and moved them to the center of the ring.

In other action, Shooto’s welterweight Pac-Rim champion Takashi Nakakura became the league’s World Welterweight champ with his unanimous decision win over Ganjo Tentsuku, and Akitoshi Tamura submitted Rumina Sato near the end of an action packed three-round brawl. Full results are below, and videos are after the jump.

Takashi Nakakura def. Ganjo Tentsuku via decision
David Baron def. Hayato Sakurai via submission (guillotine choke), 4:50 of round 1
Akitoshi Tamura def. Rumina Sato via submission (north-south choke), 2:37 of round 3
Savant Young def. Takeshi Inoue via decision
Ryuich Miki vs. Yasuhiro Urushitani ended in a draw
Yusuke Endo def. Vince Ortiz via submission (rear-naked choke), 3:34 of round 1
Bendy Casimir def. Shinji Sasaki via decision
Shinpei Tahara def. Katsuya Murofushi via TKO (doctor’s stoppage due to cut), 0:46 of round 2
Hayate Usui def. Sakae Kasuya via decision

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UFC 84 Card Finalized; Plus: Shooto and Shaolin

SC
(Shane Carwin: Just one of the new faces looking for a big debut at UFC 84.)

— The UFC has confirmed the lineup for UFC 84: Ill Will (5/24, Las Vegas). Besides Penn/Sherk, Ortiz/Machida, and Silva/Jardine, the televised card will feature a light-heavyweight match between undefeated UFC newcomer Goran Reljic and Wilson Gouveia (who most recently knocked out Jason Lambert at UFC 80), as well as another 205-pound match between Thiago Silva and Octagon newbie Antonio “Samuray” Mendes. Ill Will’s undercard features appearances by Rameau Thierry Sokoudjou, Rob Emerson, Jon Koppenhaver, and new heavyweight acquisition Shane Carwin. Check out the complete card here.

— Shooto has announced their 20th anniversary show on May 3rd, and it’s shaping up to be a killer. Japanese welterweight star Hayato “Mach” Sakurai — whose last three fights resulted in wins against Hidetaka Monma at DREAM.1, Hidehiko Hasegawa at Yarennoka!, and Mac Danzig at PRIDE 33 — will be taking on 13-2 submission specialist David Baron, while “Lion” Takeshi Inoue and Rumina Sato will also compete against opponents to be named later.

— After suffering a nasty eye injury last September during a fight against Gesias Calvancante, Vitor “Shaolin” Ribeiro is back in the gym and planning his next move. That t-shirt he’s wearing should help to explain why we think he’s the fifth greatest lightweight in the world.

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DREAM 1 Fight Videos: The Short Ones

From Saturday…

Mirko Cro Cop steamrolls Tatsuya Mizuno in 56 seconds.

The night’s freak-show feature: “Minowaman” taps out doughy Korean ex-baseball player Lee Kwan via kneebar.

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Cro Cop, Sakurai Get New DREAM Opponents; Gomi/Ludwig to Rematch

SakMac
(Mach Sakurai works over Mac Danzig at PRIDE 33.)

A lot of news coming from Japan in the wake of Sengoku’s first show and the run-up to next week’s DREAM debut…

Nokaut.com reports that Mirko “Cro Cop” Filipovic has finally gotten an opponent for the first DREAM show, with only nine days to spare. As Mirko wrote on his official blog: “A little over an hour ago I was contacted by DREAM officials. They informed me that my opponent on March 15 will be Yoshihiro Nakao from Japan. It was very important for me to fight as soon as possible and I’m happy that DREAM was able to find the opponent for me.” You may remember Nakao as the dude Heath Herring knocked out after a tender expression of affection was misinterpreted as an insult; hopefully Nakao won’t make that mistake again. DREAM1 goes down next Saturday at the Saitama Super Arena in Japan.

— Hayato “Mach” Sakurai has also locked down an opponent for the DREAM show. As SukiMMA translates from his blog: “I fight Hidetaka Monma from Keisyukai. One foreign fighter and one Japanese fighter canceled and finally I got an opponent!” Monma has a 14-7-3 record, with notable wins over…well, basically nobody. The Sakurai/Monma fight doesn’t seem to be a part of the lightweight Grand Prix that’s also going down at DREAM1, but it should be an ugly rout just like the Cro Cop/Nakao feature.

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