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September 25, 2010 - Nagoya, Japan - Nihon Gaishi Hall (formerly known as Rainbow Hall) played host to DREAM.16. The event produced some of the most spectacular finishes of the year, some telling performances, 5 hours of excitement and crowned the first DREAM Light Heavyweight Champion. You could ask for little more out of a single-night event.

To open the show, the man with the biggest biceps (not to mention DVD collection) of the card, James Thompson, made his way to the ring looking like he was having a minor epileptic fit. He was here to face the Megaton Champion, Yusuke Kawaguchi. After taking the fight on just 24 hours’ notice, Kawaguchi had nothing to lose loose heading in, and it was his initial rush that had James backing up into the ropes. He had the big Brit in trouble with flurries a number of times until James started to utilize the Thai clinch and his knees. Not long after having one of those knees double the width of his nose, Kawaguchi dropped James with a doubled up right hook to the temple. The big man ate perhaps 15 small punches with making his way to his feet, but he refused to give up and returned to the clinch and knee combination. After having several attempts foiled, Thompson finally managed to take down the DEEP regular, and proceeded to tenderize him for the remainder of the round.
In the second and final round, the lack of training for this fight became apparent as Kawaguchi’s stamina rapidly faded away. Thompson clinched with knees and some dirty boxing for the first 2 minutes, before taking it to the ground and gaining full mount. He then slowly but surely ground away with tired punches, ignoring Kawaguchi’s screams of frustration at his inability to get back to his feet. Thompson kept position until the final bell rang. Somehow the judges’ split decision went Kawaguchi’s way, much to the surprise of most in attendance. Perhaps the judges weren’t happy that Thompson failed to keep his promise to separate Kawaguchi’s head from his body.
Next to the ring were featherweight fighters Mitsuhiro Ishida and Akiyo “Wicky” Nishura. As expected, Ishida wasted absolutely no time before clinching with Wicky and trying to take him down. Wicky’s defense was too good, so Ishida picked him up and carried him to the middle of the ring before dropping down on him. Wicky quickly scrambled to the ropes. After a quick reversal, Wicky began to let loose with his strikes while Ishida buried his chin in Wicky’s abdomen and stuck to him like a dirty band aide looking for the take down. After some minutes of this break was finally called. Wicky was finally back in his stand up world, and moved in with a big hook. Ishida ducked it and tackled him to the ground, before moving to half guard. Reversals, and further reversals followed until the bell rang.
The final round started the same way the first ended. About half way through the round Ishida managed to mount Wicky, but the man with match colored hair and trunks (hot pink) powered out and made his way back to his feet. Of course, with Ishida stuck on him. In the closing seconds Wicky finally introduced his knee to Ishida’s face, and followed it with punches, but Ishida took him back down and the round came to its’ conclusion. The second fight of the night produced its’ second split decision, this time going to Matsuhiro Ishida.

Ex-Olympian Kazuyuki Miyata took to the ring next to face Shooto star Lion Takeshi. Miyata said at this weight, he can defeat absolutely anyone. Lion’s prediction for the fight was that he would be beaten up badly early on as usual, and then come back with a knockout to win. It took 2 minutes before the gangster looking Miyata used his Olympic wrestling to take down Lion, but it was stood up as he couldn’t advance position. Whether he was upset at the stand up, or simply summoned the power of the cornrows I’m not sure, but after the restart he drove a mid kick through Lion’s body before throwing him with one of the most perfectly executed German suplexes I have seen. To follow that, he stood up and hit Lion with another German suplex. They rolled, grappled and Lion worked his way to his feet. As Miyata stood up, Lion moved in to knee him. He landed it solidly too. Unfortunately he collected Miyata’s cup along the way, and Miyata went down for quite some time. It looked for some time like Miyata may not be able to continue. With a wince, he slowly got to his feet, and said he was ready to go. After they restarted he did his best to keep it on the ground, scoring with 2 take downs and keeping it there until the round ended.
The second round opened with Miyata looking comfortable showing off his newfound stand up confidence. He changed back and forth between southpaw and orthodox stances, landing some nice flurries. For his part, Lion’s knees looked sharp, and they found the mark repeatedly. They hit the mat, and Lion got to his feet again. They were mixing things up well when Lion’s knee once again landed low. Luckily for Miyata he already has 3 children. He took a break, then valiantly got back to it once again. They exchanged low kicks and fired off some punches. Intelligently Miyata didn’t used his right hand to punch with very often, as Lion is brilliant at timing rights and landing his own. Instead, Miyata threw his left and again took it down to the ground. Lion got back to his feet and desperately tried to knockout Miyata, but he couldn’t beat the bell. For the first time of the night, the judges were in agreement that Miyata was the winner.
If James Thompson enters the ring like he is having some sort of fit, the next fighter certainly fights that way. Hideo Tokoro came out with the usual look of confusion on his face to fight with one of the intimidating looking fighters in MMA, Joachim “Hellboy” Hansen. Sadly, just 9 seconds into the fight Hansen threw a low kick and it landed low. Tokoro quite quickly returned to the fight after a short break, and in the ver next exchange he jumped in as Hansen was looking for an inside low kick and again, there was a sickening thud that had every man in the arena cringing in sympathy. This one was hard, and Tokoro hit the canvas hard. Hansen was given a yellow card, and Tokoro a stool to sit on after a quick reach around by the referee to make sure the cup wasn’t broken. After a couple of minutes he signaled he was okay, and they went at it hard. After some exchanges on the feet Tokoro lost balance and Hansen pushed him down and jumped into full mount. He threw some serious leather before Tokoro scrambled out. More exchanges on the feet and Hansen again managed to get Tokoro down and mount him. This time he put him in a triangle and pounded the local fighter. Tokoro managed to somehow get to his feet and throw Hansen off for a second, but as they hit the mat Hansen again locked the triangle in, and this time it was tighter. Tokoro wriggled around trying to escape, but was finally given no option but to tap out. Joachim turned the triangle into a hug then, showing respect to his opponent. He then asked for the microphone and apologized to all in attendance and Tokoro for the low blows, and assured them they were not at all intentional.
The fourth featherweight fight in a row was between Yoshida Dojo fighter, Michihiro Omigawa and Cole Escovedo. Both fighters promised a decisive victory, and each seemed to be supremely confident in delivering. The bout began with Omigawa landed a nice one, two and Cole answering that with a solid knee to the chest. He looked to land another, but Omigawa was having none of it and took it to the mat and got the mount. After landing a few shots he moved to side position looked for a choke. Cole used this to reverse him and try to lay down some of his own damage. Unfazed Omigawa tried for an inverted arm bar on Cole’s left arm. Cole managed to pull his arm out, but left his right arm in a similar position. Omigawa took to it, placed in the lock and started cranking. The arm snapped just as Cole began to tap, and his elbow was already double its’ normal size by the time he got to his feet. It took just 2 minutes and 30 seconds for Omigawa to win, and he made sure the crowd knew that as far as he was concerned the featherweight division revolved around the best fighter in it; him.
The new father, Hiroyuki Takaya was next out to face off with Chase Beebe. Takaya started the fight with clear anger in his eyes. He went out firing, but ate a few shots in return. He did manage to foil a takedown attempt or two, and then powered through a massive left hook that dropped Beebe. Chase was still awake though and looking for the clinch, so Takaya jumped into range and powered through 6 solid shots to turn off his lights. As Takaya was celebrating Chase awoke and began to try to pull the referee into guard, showing just how hard Takaya had hit him. Takaya couldn’t resist talking to the crowd himself and taking a verbal swipe at Omigawa. He said, “Someone just said they’re the center of a featherweight division, but it ain’t him. It is me!”
2008 Olympic gold medalist, Satoshi Ishii stepped into the DREAM ring for the first tonight. He did so against the living animation character, the man in the red pants, the man with 48 finishing moves, MINOWAMAN. After some flailing shots by both, Ishii managed to take down MINOWAMAN with a double leg off the ropes. He immediately passed to side position, then to north, south. MINOWAMAN worked his way to his feet, and landed some small uppercuts and knees to Ishii’s stomach as the Olympian clinched with him. Again, it hit the mat and Ishii went looking for a stray arm, however MINOWAMAN managed to defend it easily, and later rolled into a leglock attempt of his own. The round continued with Ishii being too strong with his takedowns, but MINOWAMAN being too experienced on the ground for him to do much with him once he had him on the ground.
The second round started with a beautiful right punch, tackle, move to side position combination from Ishii. Again, he looked for an arm then took MINOWAMAN’s back, but could do nothing with it. MINOWAMAN managed to get up again, and tried to throw down with the 19kg bigger fighter, but Ishii again clinched and took it to the ground. He kept it there for the remainder of the fight, looking for but not getting close to finding a submission. The judges all gave him the win. Post-fight he said he hopes to have another fight in Japan soon, and would like the fans support in the future.
Lightweight Champion, Shinya Aoki then took on the man that stopped Takanori Gomi’s reign, Marcus Aurelio. Just a day or 2 ago Marcus said Aoki has nothing that could possibly surprise him in the ring. As the bout started both came out with a few strikes. Not surprisingly it quickly hit the mat with Aoki in a low mount with Marcus’ legs trapped in a triangle. From here he pounded away with annoying hammer fists and the occasional powerful punch. Marcus started to bleed from the nose, but still had plenty of fight left in him. Aoki really started to grind away with his shots, and Marcus had no way to do anything as his legs, and hips were trapped. Somehow the Brazilian managed to fight towards guard, but he gets hit with a massive knee to the ribs for his trouble, before Aoki mounts and again ties up his legs and hips. After a few more minutes break is called, and surprisingly Marcus gets a yellow card for inactivity. Aoki shot in as the restart was called and Marcus dodged it and came dangerously close to sinking in a rear naked choke. As Aoki defending that, Marcus went for his arm and they wound up with Aoki in Marcus’ guard.
In the following round it again took just seconds to become a ground fight. Aoki again worked his way on top and sat in half guard punching away. Effortlessly he moved to full mount, and once again, tied up Marcus’ legs. Aoki angrily pounded away and ground his wrists and the ball of his fist across Marcus’ face In the final seconds he sat up in mount and rained down the punches. He seemed to be doing so to look for a submission in the final seconds, but Marcus kept his calm until the end. Rather clearly, Aoki was awarded the unanimous decision.
Next into the ring was perhaps the only MMA fighter in the world as recognizable by 2 digits as he is by his name: 39. Kazushi Sakuraba was the first to do so many things. Not only the obvious like beating not one, but a handful of Gracie’s, he also understood the need for entertainment even in a competitive fight, the importance of the entrance and post-fight microphone performance and how to relate on and everyday level to each and every fan. His opponent is someone that saw that as a teenager, and has embraced the spirit of it in the western MMA world, Bully Beatdown host and HDnet commentator Jason “Mayhem” Miller. The fight started standing, and Sakuraba landed a nice left hook after faiting a low kick. Jason pressured him with some shots and sprawled well when Sakuraba shot in to take him down. From the ground Sakuraba went for one of his near patented leg locks, but Jason used the chance to throw some huge shots. He stunned the legend with the ground and pound, and slipped into a side choke. After several seconds, Sakuraba slowly tapped out for the very first time in his career. Jason burst into tears. Both fighters hugged and Sakuraba sincerely congratulated the young fighter on his victory. After the bout Jasone sputtered out what I suspect is every Japanese phrase he knows, followed by, “This was my dream.” He also apologized to Sakuraba for pounding on him, and Sakuraba laughed it off.
The headline bout of the event was finally about to happen. Either Gegard Mousasi or Tatsuya Mizuno would be crowned the Light Heavyweight Champion of DREAM. Mizuno came into the fight saying though he is a massive underdog; he is looking for that tiny chance in any fight to snatch the victory. And, he went into the fight looking to make that chance happen. From the opening bell he went in aggressively and landed some decent punches. Gegard for the most part looked half asleep until they clinched on the ropes and he took it to the mat, landing in half guard. From here he calmly went to work pounding away, yet found himself twice needing to defend unexpected submission attempts. He took the back of the Japanese hopeful was looking for the neck, but Mizuno managed to defend that, and even get top position for a short time. Gegard regained the dominant position and stepped up the power of his ground and pound. After a particularly hard punch Mizuno paused to block a second one, and Gegard snaked his left arm around the Japanese fighters’ neck instead and sunk in the rear naked choke. It was in, and it was tight. Mizuno could resist only and instant before frantically tapping.
What a night of entertainment! DREAM.16 produced 3 unanimous decisions, 2 split decisions, 4 submissions and a major knockout. A total of 9304 left the area exhausted from screaming so much! If you didn’t get to attend it or watch live, make sure to check your local listings to catch a replay. Also, keep checking back here for comments from most of the winners tomorrow.

27 September 2010

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