DREAM 18 capped off a very strange year for mixed martial arts in Japan, but in the end the crowd at Saitama Super Arena was treated to some exciting finishes including one of the nastiest knockouts ever by Melvin Manhoef.
The main event for the DREAM 18 MMA portion of the night’s card, which then transitioned to an all kickboxing card featuring the Glory 4 heavyweight tournament, was a featherweight showdown between Tatsuya Kawajiri taking on former UFC fighter Michihiro Omigawa.
Kawajiri was suffocating for all 3 rounds taking Omigawa to the mat, and controlling him at every turn. While not the most exiting fight on the card, Kawajiri continued to show his dominance since dropping down to featherweight after spending most of his career at 155lbs.
Georgi Karakhanyan took a split decision over Hiroyuki Takaya, although just about everybody watching and viewing in Japan believed it should have been a unanimous draw for the former Bellator competitor.
Karakhanyan put together slick combinations that kept Takaya off balance for most of the fight, and even when the fight finally hit the ground, he controlled the action there as well. While the decision somehow came back with one judge giving the fight to Takaya, the overwhelming winner was Georgi Karakhanyan.
As shocking as it will sound, Shinya Aoki defeated Antonio McKee by knockout in their fight at DREAM 18.
Aoki and McKee battled for position early on the ground, but once it got back on the feet the DREAM lightweight champion uncorked a big overhand right that cracked the former UFC fighter right in the eye.
McKee dropped through the ropes holding his eye as Aoki swarmed with punches, and got the tap out due to strikes.
Bibiano Fernandes made quick work of former WEC title contender Yoshiro Maeda with a devastating triangle choke that literally put his opponent to sleep as the finish of the fight came in round 1. Fernandes continued to show he is one of the best bantamweights in the world, but his next fight won’t likely land him in the fight against one of the top 135lb fighters.
Fernandes turned down a recent offer from the UFC to sign with ONE FC, and while the Asian promotion is growing in size with each show, they still don’t have the roster to offer the Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu black belt the right kind of competition.
The highlight of the show came in a middleweight bout between human wrecking machine Melvin Manhoef and former UFC fighter Denis Kang.
The two fighters exchanged with heavy shots being thrown early, but it took Manhoef but one knee to bring the entire crowd to their feet.
With Kang pushing forward, Manhoef grabbed him and unloaded a knee to the body that had to feel like a anvil dropping on Kang’s ribs from about 20 stories high. Kang dropped to the mat like a hammer, and Manhoef picks up the extremely impressive knockout victory to finish 2012.
Hayato “Mach” Sakurai outlasted Phil Baroni in a sloppy fight between two aging veterans.
Marloes Coenen made short work of Fiona Muxlow with a quick armbar in the first round. Coenen should be one of the first fighters the UFC goes after as they continue to fill their newly minted women’s bantamweight division.
In the kickoff fight, American Top Team fighter Will Brooks slammed, tossed and then finished Satoru Kitaoka with strikes in the 2nd round of their bout at DREAM 18.