by Ricardo Mendoza – MMAWeekly.com
JOACHIM HANSEN VS. GESIAS “JZ” CALVANCANTE
Dream lightweight champion Joachim Hansen faces off with American Top Team lightweight Gesias “JZ” Calvancante.
This will be the second time that these two meet as Hansen won their first match by decision in Shooto about four years ago. A lot has changed since then with Calvancante becoming one of the better lightweights in the world and Hansen having mixed results.
Hansen will need to keep the fight on the feet or, in the very least, while on the ground stay on top and threaten with strikes or submission attempts. On the other hand, Calvancante will look to muscle Hansen in the clinch and take him down, where he’ll try to ground and pound him, much like Alvarez did earlier this year.
Hansen had one of the better endings at Dream 5, becoming the champion and exacting revenge on Aoki, but his year won’t end on a positive note. Look for Calvancante to use the same game plan that Eddie Alvarez used against Hansen, muscling him on the feet and doing his damage on the ground with strikes to win a decision.
EDDIE ALVAREZ VS. SHINYA AOKI
American lightweight sensation Eddie Alvarez faces off with Japanese grappling wizard Shinya Aoki, in what was originally set to be the final of the Dream Lightweight Grand Prix. The winner of this bout will be awarded the WAMMA lightweight title.
We were set to see this fight at Dream 5, but an eye injury from his previous fight with Tatsuya Kawajiri prevented Alvarez from facing Aoki. Aoki would go on to lose the final to Hansen, but has since come back with a quick submission victory over Todd Moore at Dream 6.
Alvarez is the best kind of fighter to give Aoki fits on the ground, as long as he sticks to a solid gameplan and doesn’t let Aoki tie him up. He needs to create space on the ground and start to drop bombs, which would be the downfall of Aoki.
The key to victory for Aoki will be to follow the same game plan that he used against Gesias “JZ” Calvancante, tying him up on the ground and letting Alvarez get any space. If he is able to control Alvarez on the ground, then he’ll pull out the decision. Look for Alvarez to punish Aoki on the feet then take the fight to the ground, where he’ll end the fight with brutal shots.
KAZUSHI SAKURABA VS. KIYOSHI TAMURA
In a long anticipated grudge match, Pride legend Kazushi Sakuraba faces off with Rings standout Kiyoshi Tamura.
This rivalry has been long documented, neither man likes the other much since Sakuraba was a young pro wrestler and Tamura was the surly veteran pro wrestler. They have been rumored to be fighting each other for several years, but now it will become a reality.
Sakuraba will always be a legend in the sport, but he has not looked good at all in the last couple of years. This could very well be his swan song. He’ll need to take the fight to the ground and work from the top with strikes and submission attempts, as Tamura has shown that he isn’t very effective from his back.
Tamura will look to keep the fight on the feet and utilize his lethal low kicks to chop down Sakuraba’s damaged knees, which will help him set up a takedown to work from the top with submission attempts. Both fighters will let loose their aggressions in this fight, but it would have been much more attractive three or four years ago.
This is a dream match for the Japanese fans and it’s been a longtime in the making. As stated earlier, if the fight were three or four years ago, Sakuraba would have had a better chance to win, but at this point in his career, he doesn’t have much left. Look for Tamura to use his patented low kicks to effect and control the fight on the ground from the top en route to a decision victory.
MARK HUNT VS. JEROME LE BANNER
In a battle of longtime K-1 rivals, Pride veteran Mark Hunt faces off with French kickboxing legend Jerome Le Banner. These two have met several times over the years in K-1 and their battles are legendary, but now they met in a new forum.
Hunt will obviously have the edge in the fight because he has more experience in mixed martial arts and is more than likely the better ground fighter of the two. Le Banner also comes into the fight off an injury in his last K-1 bout, which will only be three weeks removed when they meet in the ring. Look for them to trade bombs at the opening, but Hunt will take the fight down and work the injured arm of Le Banner with a submission for a victory.
MIRKO “CRO COP” FILIPOVIC VS. HONG MAN CHOI
Beloved Pride and UFC veteran Mirko “Cro Cop” Filipovic faces off with Korean giant Hong Man Choi. Cro Cop hasn’t looked very good at all lately and this is a fight he needs in order to restore his own confidence, which looks to be at an all time low after not performing well against Alistair Overeem.
Choi is going to have a huge size advantage, but unlike other fighters of his size, he actually has some serious fighting skills and is a legit kickboxer. Cro Cop will need to stay on the outside and pick Choi apart with kicks and jabs, while Choi needs to get on the inside and use his powerful knees to hurt Cro Cop. Choi’s size will be too much for Cro Cop, as he’ll pressure him from the inside and stop him with those huge knees.
HAYATO “MACH” SAKURAI VS. KATSUYORI SHIBATA
Japanese fighting legend Hayato “Mach” Sakurai faces off with former pro wrestler turned mixed martial arts fighter Katsuyori Shibata. It seems that FEG had a hard time finding an opponent for Sakurai and were forced to set him up with Shibata to sell tickets.
Shibata is nowhere as talented as Sakurai, even though he does try his hardest to be the best that he can be, which he deserves credit for. Sakurai has both the edge on the feet and on the ground, while Shibata’s only advantage will be his size. Look for Sakurai to use his lethal low kicks to set up a combination that will turn off Shibata’s lights and end his night.
SEMMY SCHILT VS. “MIGHTY” MO SILIGA
Three-time K-1 World Grand Prix champion Semmy Schilt faces off with K-1 slugger Mighty Mo. Schilt was stopped from making it four championships in a row in K-1, but now returns to mixed martial arts after a two year layoff, while Mo will look to find more success in mixed martial arts then he did in K-1.
Schilt has an edge in experience and on the ground against Mo, whose biggest strength in the fight will be his one-punch power. Schilt should be able to keep Mo at a distance on the feet and take him to the ground, where he’ll lock on a submission on the inexperienced Mo.
HIDEO TOKORO VS. DAISUKE NAKAMURA
Japanese fan favorite Hideo Tokoro faces off with much improved U-File Camp lightweight Daisuke Nakamura. This could be the sleeper fight of the night as both fighters always put on an exciting show for the fans when they step in the ring.
Nakamura has quietly become one of the most improved fighters in mixed martial arts recently, as he has put together an impressive streak of seven straight victories over the past two years. Tokoro is one of the more exciting fighters in mixed martial arts, but has been plagued with inconsistency. They are evenly matched on the ground and feet. The deciding factor the fight will be Nakamura’s size advantage, which will help him win a decision over the much smaller Tokoro.
BOB SAPP VS. AKIHITO TANAKA
Former Japanese fan favorite Bob Sapp faces off with the debuting Akihito Tanaka. Sapp was one of the biggest stars in Japan several years ago, but several losses and a contract dispute with FEG has all but changed that.
Tanaka will be making his debut as a gimmick character from a Japanese comic book, but he has some serious wrestling credentials being a seven-time All Japan wrestling champion as a heavyweight. Word is that Sapp isn’t in very good shape for this fight and he doesn’t have a very good chin at all, as witnessed in his most recent fights. Look for Sapp to blow his load in the beginning trying to finish Tanaka, but Tanaka will survive, take Sapp down, and finish off the tired behemoth with strikes.
ANDY OLOGUN VS. YUKIO SAKAGUCHI
K-1 Max veteran Andy Ologun faces off with Pancrase veteran Yukio Sakaguchi. This fight is being billed as a famous brothers match-up, as both fighters are brothers of famous TV personalities on Japanese television.
Ologun has hung with some of the best in K-1 Max, but hasn’t found much success in mixed martial arts with a questionable ground game. Sakaguchi is one of those either kill or be killed fighters, which explains his five hundred record. Look for Sakaguchi to come out guns blazing, but Ologun will stay patient and catch Sakaguchi with a shot to knock him out.