By Monti DiPietro- press release, video/photos- MMAWeekly
OSAKA – When the DREAM mixed
martial arts fightsport production premiered in March of this year, 14 of the
world’s best MMA fighters went head-to-head in the Lightweight Grand Prix Round
1 Elimination. In May, more than 21,000 fans filled the Saitama Super Arena as
four victorious fighters took another step toward the 70kg/154lbs Championship.
Now it’s boiled down to one night, and the last man standing will wear the
DREAM Lightweight Belt.
Set for the Osaka Jo Hall, tomorrow’s
DREAM.5 Lightweight Grand Prix 2008 Final kicks off with a pair of Round 3
semifinal bouts. The two winners there will clash for the 2008 Championship in
the Main Event. The event also features a trio of Superfights and three other
MMA bouts in a variety of weight classes.
On the eve of the action,
participating fighters met the media at the Osaka Bay Tower Hotel.
The first of the Lightweight GP semis
features a couple of Japanese fighters — MMA veteran Caol Uno and judoka
Aoki, who came to the press
conference shirtless, proclaimed, "I will show my smile in the ring
tomorrow, and when I win I will show tears of joy!"
Characteristically soft-spoken, Uno
pledged, "I will fight my kind of fight and show my spirit, so enjoy
The second GP semifinal bout pits
American Eddie Alvarez against Tatsuya Kawajiri of Japan in a showdown between
a couple of wrestlers.
Said Alvarez, "It’s always great
to fight in front of Japanese fans! I prepared for eight months for this, so
tomorrow you’ll see the most exciting and the best fight of my career!"
Said Kawajiri, "This will be my
30th bout, and I turned 30 this year. The day has come, this is historic for me
and I will make it to the final!"
In the GP reserve fight, Joachim
Hansen of Norway will meet Black Mamba of India.
Hansen: "I expect a hard fight
and will do my best to win and make it exciting."
Mamba: "Hansen is a tough
opponent but I’m ready to go to war!"
For some time now, 2001 K-1 World GP
Champion Mark Hunt of New Zealand has been booked on tomorrow’s card, and today
his "TBA" opponent was finally revealed as Dutch fighter Alistair Overeem.
Walking onto the stage, Hunt affected shock and awe at the sight of big Overeem,
before coolly remarking, "I just want to say thanks to Alistair for taking
the fight, and you’re going to get paid."
Overeem delivered his curt remarks in
Japanese: "Thanks Mark — I’m going to get you!"
In a Middleweight Superfight
(84kg/185lbs), HERO’s 2006 Light Heavyweight Champion Yoshihiro Akiyama of
Japan will step in against compatriot Katsuyori Shibata.
Osaka is Akiyama’s hometown, and the
fighter remarked on the stifling heat that has descended on the city over the
last few days, "It’s hot here in the summer, it reminds me of festival
time. So I will make a festival of my own tomorrow in the ring!"
Shibata said simply, "I’m a
pro-wrestler and I will do what I do."
A Featherweight Superfight
(64kg/141lbs) will see a couple of Japanese fighters — Hideo Tokoro and
Tokoro remarked that he intended to
make it a "speedy fight," while Yamazaki said "Tokoro is great
so it will be exciting, but I am going to win!"
Norifumi "Kid" Yamamoto was
supposed to be on tomorrow’s card, but suffered an injury to his right knee
during training three days ago. In his place, Japanese fighter Kodo will
entertain Joseph Benavidez of the United States in a Featherweight
Said Kodo, "This is like a dream
for me, I want to make it come true."
Benavidez: "It’s unfortunate
that Kid got injured, but I want to thank my opponent for taking the fight on
short notice. I am focused on the fight I have now, and I just want to go in
and get the win."
A couple of Japanese grapplers —
Kuniyoshi Hironaka and Motoki Miyazawa — will face-off in a 76kg/168lbs match.
"It’s my first time in
DREAM," said Hironaka, "and I want to make a good fight."
Replied Miyazawa, "I’m not
talkative, so please just watch me fight tomorrow."
In the evening’s opening fight, it
will be Japanese armbar specialist Daisuke Nakamura vs Andy Ologun of Nigeria,
who has fought but once in MMA.
The DREAM.5 Lightweight Grand Prix
2008 Final kicks off at 3 p.m. on Monday, July 21 at the Osaka Jo Hall. The
event will be broadcast live in Japan on the TBS network and SkyPerfect; and
live in the United States on HDNet Fights.