by MMAWeekly.com (Reporting courtesy of Monty DiPietro – FEG)

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– The first DREAM Middleweight Grand Prix begins on Tuesday at the
Saitama Super Arena in Saitama, Japan. Fourteen middleweight fighters will
compete, attempting to advance to a final elimination tournament on June 15,
with hopes to earn a spot in September’s DREAM Middleweight Grand Prix final.


main event features Japanese mixed martial arts legend Kazushi Sakuraba facing
Brazilian Andrews Nakahara, a Kyokushin fighter 14 years his junior, who will
be making his MMA debut.


thought that at (185 pounds), I was too light for K-1," said Nakahara.
"So I started preparing for mixed martial arts with a jiu-jitsu trainer
about six months ago. My teacher Francisco Filho has also been helping me, and
I’m honored and motivated to fight Sakuraba. I believe I’ve prepared very well
and I’m confident I can defeat him, hopefully I’ll KO him with strikes."


believes he’s also ready. "If Nakahara says that he can KO me, let him
try. All I know is that he’s a Karate fighter, it seems his fists are hard as a
rock. I didn’t prepare anything in particular for Karate fighters, but I will
let him control the fight, that’s all. I will just fight my usual fight, find a
way to take him down and so on.”


In his
typical sarcastic tongue, Sakuraba added, “One request for Mr. Nakahara –
if you are going to KO me, don’t do it with a bunch of low kicks – just
hit me hard and make me unconscious instantly!"


Korean-Canadian fighter Denis Kang will take on Dutch fighter Gegard Mousasi in
one of the event’s most anticipated bouts.


In other
action, Japanese fighters Kiyoshi Tamura and Masakatsu Funaki will go at it;
Ronaldo Jacare of Brazil will take on American Ian Murphy; Zelg
"Benkei" Galesic of Croatia will step in against Russian Magomed
Sultanakhmadov; and South Korean judoka Dong Sik Yoon Korea will face Shungo
Oyama of Japan.


evening’s first middleweight matchup will see Seidokaikan fighter Taiei Kin of
Japan take on flashy compatriot Ikuhisa Minowa.


There will
also be a DREAM Lightweight (70kg/154lbs) match on the card, with Hero’s 2007
champion Gesias “J.Z.” Calvancante of Brazil taking on Shinya Aoki of Japan.
This is a rematch of the pair’s March 15 fight, which was declared a "no
contest" after a first-round foul rendered Aoki unable to continue.


Middleweight Grand Prix 1st will be broadcast live in Japan on Pay-Per-View,
and on a delayed basis on the TBS national network in Japan and HDNet in the
United States.


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