Dream appears ready to kick off its first Welterweight Grand Prix in a big way, pitting No. 1 ranked lightweight Shinya Aoki – who has several past welterweight bouts to his credit – against former Top 10 ranked Hayato “Mach” Sakurai. MMAWeekly.com sources confirmed the planned bout on Friday.
The bout is the first known match-up of the opening round of the tournament and should be a popular choice for the fans in Japan. Both fighters are popular, successful fighters with strong followings in their home country.
Aoki enters the April 5 bout less than a month removed from his most recent victory. He submitted American David Gardner in the first round of their March 8 bout at Dream 7, which also served as the launching pad for the opening round of the promotion’s Featherweight Grand Prix.
Having bounced back and forth between lightweight and welterweight in recent years, Sakurai most recently saw action on New Year’s Eve. He TKO’d Katsuyori Shibata in the first round of their K-1 Dynamite!! bout at the Saitama Super Arena in Saitama, Japan.
The April 5 bout, at Dream 8, will take place at Nippon Gaishi Hall in Nagoya, Japan.