Shinya Aoki did to Rob McCullough what he’s done to so many fighters before when he submitted to former WEC champion in the first round to wrap up Dream 17 on Saturday in Saitama, Japan.
Shinya Aoki vs. Rob McCullough
It didn’t take long for Aoki to shoot in and put McCullough on his back, where he started to look for some of his signature submissions. To McCullough’s credit when Aoki mounted him and looked for a triangle choke from the top, the former WEC fighter slipped out the back and was able to get to his feet.
It was only a momentary celebration as Aoki took McCullough right back down again and after a scramble, the Japanese grappler took the American’s back and started to work for the finish. Aoki wrapped his arms around McCullough’s head, and twisted like a bottle cap. McCullough didn’t last long before he tapped out to the neck crank, which is Aoki’s second such win in a row by the same move.
Following the fights, Aoki stated he will return at the New Year’s Eve card, and planned on making an Asian the No. 1 fighter in the world again.
Joachim Hansen vs. Tatsuya Kawajiri
It was a successful featherweight debut for former Pride and Strikeforce title contender Tatsuya Kawajiri who finished off Joachim Hansen with an arm-triangle choke in the third round.
It looked like trouble at the onset of the fight when Hansen popped Kawajiri and sent him stumbling backwards. Hansen rushed in and went for a flying knee, but when he missed he fell into Kawajiri’s world on the ground. In the second round it was much of the same with Kawajiri taking the fight to the canvas and working Hansen over from the top.
It was a carbon copy in the final round, but once Kawajiri saw an opening to grab Hansen’s head and arm, he locked on the choke and continued to work until Hansen had no choice but to tap.
Kawajiri is now 1-0 as a featherweight, and looks to make an impact at that weight class the same way he did for so many years at lightweight.
Takeshi Inoue vs. Caol Uno
Takeshi Inoue ended Caol Uno’s night emphatically at Dream 17 with a head kick heard round the world.
A few exchanges on the feet and Inoue tagged Uno with a punch that rattled the long time MMA veteran. Inoue followed up and almost got the finish, but Uno was able to survive and get back to his feet.
That didn’t last long.
While the fighters felt out the distance, Inoue threw a perfectly timed head kick as Uno ducked down, directly in path of destruction. Inoue’s kick blasted Uno right in the face and neck, and the former UFC fighter dropped hard to the mat as the referee rushed in to stop the carnage. Inoue picks up his third win in a row, while Uno drops to 1-5-1 in his last seven fights.
Kazushi Sakuraba vs. Yan Cabral
Known as a legend throughout the sport of MMA, Kazushi Sakuraba’s greatest days are behind him, and it showed once again after losing by arm-triangle choke to Yan Cabral.
Cabral dominated the Japanese icon for the entire fight, taking Sakuraba to the mat at will, and eventually locking on a arm-triangle choke forcing the tap.
The loss is Sakuraba’s fourth in a row, and at 42 years of age, he’s well beyond his years in the ring. For a fighter that should be remembered for his legendary fights against the Gracie family and the early days of Pride, he’s slowly watching his legacy face every time he steps foot in the ring.
Satoru Kitaoka vs. Willamy Freire
Satoru Kitaoka did enough to get a split decision victory over former UFC fighter Willamy Freire in a lightweight fight at Dream 17.
Kitaoka looked for a ground attack early and often to stay away from the varied Muay Thai attack employed by Nova Uniao fighter Willamy Freire. The Brazilian was able to shrug off a few takedowns, but looked timid to engage too much as to avoid giving up an easy double leg from the powerful Kitaoka.
Freire came alive in the final round once he realized he could stop Kitaoka’s takedowns, but it was too little, too late. There was a bizarre yellow card issued to Freire late in the fight for stalling, and it may have influenced judges when they made their final call giving Kitoaka the win.
Kazuhiro Nakamura vs. Gerald Harris
In a battle of two former UFC competitors, Gerald Harris got the best of Kazuhiro Nakamura by split decision.
While definitely not the most exciting fight, Gerald Harris was able to control the action against Nakamura, continuously going for takedown after takedown. Harris wasn’t able to keep Nakamura on his back when he did secure a takedown, but he just pushed forward again and again.
Harris finally lifted Nakamura over his head for one of his patented slams just seconds before the end of the fight, but the thud was somewhat anti-climactic after Nakamura grabbed the ropes a few times to stop the move from happening full force.
Bantamweight Grand Prix: Hideo Tokoro vs. Antonio Banuelos
Former UFC and WEC competitor Antonio Banuelos pulled off a mild upset with a split decision win over Hideo Tokoro to move on in the Dream bantamweight Grand Prix.
It was a back and forth fight throughout with Banuelos being aggressive and landing a few good shots at opportune moments. Tokoro caught Banuelos with a glancing head kick at one point in the fight, but while it wobbled the California based fighter, he couldn’t capitalize to cause much more damage.
Tokoro managed to look for a few submissions, but never came close to putting Banuelos away. A close fight resulted in a close judgment, but Banuelos did enough to get two out of three judges on his side.
Bantamweight Grand Prix: Bibiano Fernandes vs. Takafumi Otsuka
It didn’t take long for former Dream featherweight champion Bibiano Fernandes to put away Takafumi Otsuka, choking him out in only 41 seconds.
After ducking a big punch from Otsuka early, Fernandes dropped down and took his opponent’s back, and immediately slipped his forearm under the chin, looking for the choke. Fernandes locked up the hold, but instead of tapping Otsuka went to sleep.
Now Fernandes moves on in the bantamweight tournament with some great momentum after a quick and decisive victory.
Bantamweight Grand Prix: Masakazu Imanari vs. Abel Cullum
It was one of the most impressive displays of submission attempts in a fight, and after coming so close so many times earlier in the fight, Masakazu Imanari was able to pull off an armbar to finish Abel Cullum.
Imanari spent most of the fight on his back, but his grappling game put Cullum on the defensive from the opening bell. Throwing up omo platas to gogoplatas, Imanari just kept moving and going for submissions before finally snatching an armbar that Cullum just could not escape.
As he twisted the arm in a direction it’s not meant to go, Cullum finally tapped and Imanari moves on in the bantamweight Grand Prix.
Bantamweight Grand Prix: Rodolfo Marques vs. Yusup Saadulaev
Rodolfo Marques became the first fighter into the Dream bantamweight Grand Prix after a hard fought battle with Yusup Saadulaev. The two fighters went back and forth throughout all three rounds with each gaining the upper hand at different points.
Marques and Saadulaev stayed very aggressive throughout the 15-fight, exchanging positions on the ground several times, but when it was over Marques had done enough to get the judges to give him the nod.
Baru Harn vs. Ikuhisa Minowa
It probably lasted longer than most thought it would, but Ikuhisa Minowa put away a very inexperienced Baru Harn with a neck crank towards the end of the first round.
Minowa got the fight to the ground and immediately moved to mount, but wasn’t able to put Harn away from there. It was once he was in side control, Minowa trapped an arm and snatched his neck at the same time, cranking up on the hold and forcing the submission.