Fedor Emelianenko vs. Satoshi Ishii
It had been over four years since Fedor Emelianenko had fought in Japan, the country where the legendary Russian built most of his career and mystique.
He returned for the Dream New Year’s Eve show to face Judo specialist Satoshi Ishii, and he finished him in vintage form, knocking his opponent out early in the first round.
Obviously, Ishii didn’t have the experience that Emelianenko had going into the fight, and it showed early and often for however brief the night lasted. Fedor was patient with his attacks, something he seemed to lack in his last few fights while competing under the Strikeforce banner.
Once he had the distance down and knew Ishii wasn’t going to take him down, Emelianenko started to plod forward with a cocked right hand. Fedor finally pulled the trigger and with one punch he shattered Ishii’s nose. A flurry of punches followed as Ishii crumbled to the canvas, and Emelianenko knew it was over and didn’t even try to go to the mat for more strikes.
When it was over, Ishii remained down on the mat for a few minutes until the stream of blood flowing from his nose slowed and he could make it out of the ring.
Emelianenko has now won his last two fights, with his win in Japan being the form that most remember from the former Pride champion. Will Emelianenko ever get back to the top of the heavyweight division? It’s hard to say, but for one night he was once again on top of the world in Japan.
Shinya Aoki vs. Satoru Kitaoka
Former friends became enemies when Shinya Aoki met Satoru Kitaoka in the co-main event of the Dream New Year’s Eve card. What resulted was a lopsided five round decision for the champion Shinya Aoki, who moved to 4-0 in 2011.
Aoki and Kitaoka had been training partners and teammates for more than a decade and actually earned their Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu black belts together under Yuki Nakai.
In this fight however friendship was out the window, and Aoki attacked his ‘friend’ with the same kind of ferocity that he’s gone after any other opponent. Time and time again, Aoki took Kitaoka’s back, and on several occasions slipped his forearm under the chin, but just couldn’t lock on the choke to end the fight.
It should also be noted Aoki showed much improved stand-up in the brief exchanges the fighters had in the fight. The ‘Baka Survivor’ cracked Kitaoka with a good knee from the clinch that may have broken his nose at one point in the fight.
Kitaoka’s defense and toughness should be applauded, but he was just outgunned by a far superior grappler and ground technician. When the 25-minute fight ended, Kitoaka was bloodied and beaten, and Shinya Aoki still had a firm hold on his Dream lightweight title.
Aoki didn’t speak much after the fight, and no words were exchanged with Kitaoka, who just left the ring after his defeat. Now Aoki awaits the next challenge, which will most likely come on the March 31 co-promoted show between Dream and One FC in Singapore.
Hiroyuki Takaya vs. Takeshi Inoue
Hiroyuki Takaya overwhelmed Takeshi Inoue who put on a bizarre performance in his shot at the Dream featherweight title fight.
The champion actually walked into the fight as an underdog, so with something to prove Takaya came out looking to show why he was the one holding the belt going into the night. Takaya stalked forward and put together good combinations, while Inoue sat back and countered with a stiff jab but just a lot of movement and backing away.
As the fight wore on, Takaya started tagging Inoue with a regular rhythm, popping his head backwards with stiff punches. With each round ticking away, Inoue just wasn’t doing anything to show life in his stand-up and was eventually given a yellow card for his lack in willingness to engage in any kind of fight.
All of the judges gave Takaya the nod and he successfully defends his Dream featherweight belt. A deserving contender waiting in the wings could be former lightweight fighter Tatsuya Kawajiri, who won earlier in the night.
Antonio Banuelos vs. Bibiano Fernandes
Bibiano Fernandes was at Dream on New Year’s Eve to make a statement to the bantamweight division, and he certainly did that with a first round beatdown of former WEC and UFC fighter Antonio Banuelos.
A brief exchange between the fighters ended with Banuelos backing up and falling down, tripping over his own feet. No matter how he got to the ground, Fernandes was happy to take advantage.
The Brazilian unloaded a flurry of shots on the ground, and Banuelos was soon turtled up, trying to avoid damage. Fernandes wasn’t slowing down, continuing the assault until the referee came in to stop the fight.
Fernandes was the first ever Dream featherweight champion, and he can now add being the first ever Dream bantamweight champion to his list of accolades. It probably won’t be long until the UFC comes calling for Fernandes’ services if he wants to bring his talents to the United States.
Megumi Fujii vs. Karla Benitez
Megumi Fujii make short work of Karla Benitez in the first ever women’s fight in Dream history.
Fujii swooped in early and got the fight to the ground and after a brief scramble, snatched an armbar. As she extended her hips, it was just a matter of time before Benitez tapped or watched her arm get snapped.
She decided to avoid the Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira fate, and tapped giving Fujii the win.
Tatsuya Kawajiri vs. Kazuyuki Miyata
As he breathes new life into his career, former top ranked lightweight turned featherweight Tatsuya Kawajiri dominated and then submitted Kazuyuki Miyata.
It wasn’t long ago that Kawajiri was a top ten lightweight, but now that he’s dropped to 145lbs, he’s been an even bigger force. After disposing of Joachim Hansen in September, he returned for New Year’s Eve and looked just as impressive.
Kawajiri took Miyata down several times in the fight despite his opponent’s Olympic level wrestling pedigree, and with seconds remaining in the first round, he grabbed for an arm triangle choke, but time ran out before he could finish the submission.
Miyata wasn’t so fortunate in the second stanza. Kawajiri grabbed the exact same hold, tightened it up and Miyata had no choice but to tap.
Hayato ‘Mach’ Sakurai vs. Ryo Chonan
It’s been several years since Hayato ‘Mach’ Sakurai was considered one of the top welterweights in the sport, but he’s still capable of a strong performance every now and again. New Year’s Eve 2011 happened to be one of those times and Ryo Chonan was the perfect opponent.
Sakurai essentially took Chonan down at will, and as time wore on, he was able to improve his positions and Chonan just had no answer. In the final round, Sakurai came close to sinking in a rear naked choke, but opted to maintain the top position moving from mount and then getting stuck in Chonan’s half guard.
The fight ended and even though Sakurai’s face had more than a few bumps and bruises, his domination was clear to the judges as well and he got the clean sweep for the unanimous decision.
Bibiano Fernandes vs. Rodolfo Marquez Diniz
Former Dream featherweight champion Bibiano Fernandes has been the prohibited favorite in the bantamweight Grand Prix since day one, and he again showed why with his win over Rodolfo Marquez Diniz.
While it wasn’t as quick as his first round win in the tournament, Fernandes showed improved stand-up and good ground and pound game to control and just outwork Diniz for both rounds.
Fernandes now meets Antonio Banuelos for the Dream bantamweight Grand Prix final.
Antonio Banuelos vs. Masakazu Imanari
It wasn’t all that exciting, but former WEC fighter Antonio Banuelos did his job well enough to earn a split decision win over submission master Masakazu Imanari, and punch his ticket to the Dream bantamweight Grand Prix final.
Banuelos was most effective in avoiding any of Imanari’s attempts to get the fight to the ground, or keep it there. The long time training partner and friend of UFC legend Chuck Liddell, peppered Imanari with kicks and while the fight was close, edged out the Japanese fighter to earn the win.
Yusup Saadulaev vs. Hideo Tokoro
It was a short night’s work for Yusup Saadulaev and a violent ending for Hideo Tokoro to kick off the Dream New Year’s Even show.
An aggressive Tokoro overplayed his hand early and ended up being taken down by Saadulaev, but it got even worse as he worked his way back to his feet. Saadulaev took Tokoro’s back, lifted him off the mat and slammed him face first to the canvas.
A few punches followed, but it was already over as Tokoro was completely out. Unfortunately, he had to be helped off on a stretcher after the devastating knockout courtesy of Saadulaev. It was updated later in the evening that Tokoro suffered no serious injury from the knockout.