Japan’s DREAM promotion returns this Sunday March 8, 2009 at the Saitama Super Arena in Saitama Japan. The card will include the opening round of a featherweight tournament as well as some interesting individual match ups. PRO MMA (promma.info) will be providing live real-time round by round results on this event beginning at 1:00am early Sunday morning. The DREAM tournaments are quite long but we here at PRO MMA are committed to bringing our readers the best content possible. Join us right here early Sunday morning and share your comments and opinions on the event as it is happening. Here are the match-ups for DREAM 7:

DREAM Featherweight Grand Prix:

Atsushi Yamamoto (12-5-1) vs. Masakazu Imanari (15-6-1)
Although the mistake is sometimes made, Atsushi Yamamoto is not actually related to Norifumi “Kid” Yamamoto. However, the two are teammates and they both have a strong wrestling base. Currently, Yamamoto is a top five ranked bantamweight, who opened a lot of eyes with his victory over Hideo Tokoro at the last DREAM show. He also holds a win over future WEC Bantamweight Title challenger Takeya Mizugaki.

Masakazu Imanari is known as the “Ashikan Judan” due his prowess with leg locks. In fact, eight of his fifteen victories have come by way of leg submission, which comes out to a staggering 53%. At the time of Pro Elite‘s close, he was the Cage Rage Featherweight Champion. Until recently he was also Deep’s 145 pound champion, but he lost the title to UFC and Pride veteran Dokonjonosuke Mishima. After the loss, Imanari moved down to 137 lbs and captured the Deep title with a quick heel hook victory over Hiroshi Umemura.

Mishima was able to prove that Imanari can be held down if you are patient enough to impose your will with wrestling and avoid submissions. Yamamoto has the wrestling skill to maintain top position, and should be able to avoid Imanari’s dynamic submission game.

Kim Jong Won (0-0) vs. Hiroyuki Takaya (9-6-1)
After his career in judo ended, Kim Jong Won, did not immediately turn to MMA. He was eventually lured to the sport after watching fellow South Korean Yoon Dong Sik compete in Pride. Kim Jong Won was very successful in judo finishing 3rd in the Asian Games in 1995, 9th in the 1996 Olympics, and 1st in the 1997 Asian Games. Knowing one has to come into MMA prepared, he has been training with Yoon Dong Sik for over a year and a half and has been working on his stand up with K-1 fighter K Max.

Hiroyuki Takaya came into the WEC as a top ten featherweight, but was handed defeats in both of his bouts. In his first fight under the Zuffa banner, he was quickly knocked out by Leonard Garcia, and he then lost a decision to Cub Swanson. Despite the back-to-back losses, Takaya still has an impressive resume. He holds wins over both perennial top featherweights Hatsu Hioki and Antonio Carvalho. Also in his career, he has not been afraid to move up to lightweight with fights against, Genki Sudo, Gesias Cavalcante, and Andre “Dida” Amade.

Experience should play a huge role in this fight. Since he is not acclimated to MMA, Kim Jong Won will have trouble implementing his judo game. This will leave him open on the feet. Takaya will be able to pick his opponent apart with his superior striking.

Yoshiro Maeda (23-6-2) vs. Micah Miller (10-2)
Yoshiro Maeda is easily one of the most recognizable Japanese fighters to North American fans. He made a name for himself with his fight of the year performance against Miguel Torres. Although he lost the fight, he came to fight in a way that would make any promoter or fan want to see more. At times in his career Maeda has appeared to be a dominant fighter, but then there are also few inexplicable losses on his record including Charles Bennett, Joe Pearson, and, in his last fight, Rani Yahya.

Micah Miller is another hot prospect to come out of American Top Team. Miller followed his brother, Cole Miller of TUF fame, to Zuffa. During his time with the WEC, Miller went 2-2. In his last fight with the promotion he was stopped in 50 seconds by Josh Grispi. Miller, and many observers, thought that perhaps the fight had been stopped a tad too early. Since that loss, Miller has come back with a victory over Jason Palacios last December.

Micah Miller’s biggest win has come against Chance Farrar. He is still looking for a career defining win. This could be his chance considering his size advantage and Maeda’s history of surprising defeats. However, Yoshiro Maeda has a big edge in experience and will have a technical advantage where the fight goes. Maeda should be able to pull this one out by decision.

Chase Beebe (12-3) vs. Joe Warren (0-0)
Chase Beebe, the pride of Montini Catholic high school, is a former four time Illinois state wrestling champion. He first made his name on the national MMA scene by winning the WEC title in his first fight for the promotion. After successfully defending his belt against Rani Yahya, Beebe ran into the bantamweight buzz saw that is Miguel Torres. In his next fight he lost a thin decision to Will Ribeiro. He was then scheduled to fight for the UWC Bantamweight Title against Mike Easton, but claimed he was unable to make weight due to a mysterious knee injury.

World class wrestlers certainly have a history in MMA. This weekend yet another will step into the sport. Joe Warren had a chance to be the first American to win back-to-back Greco-Roman wrestling world championships after he won the 2006 championship. He won the 2007 world team trials, but was dropped from the team and suspended for two years for testing positive for marijuana for the second time. The suspension also disqualified Warren from the Beijing Olympics. To prepare for his MMA debut, Warren has been training with wrestler haven Team Quest.

On paper, Joe Warren has the better wrestling pedigree and credentials. However, picking a debuting fighter against a former WEC champion would be ridiculous. Beebe should have an advantage since he has 15 more professional fights than Warren. With that being said this should be an interesting fight, because the last time a Team Quest fighter debuted in Japan some guy named Mohammed Lawal made a definite impression. Look for Warren to give Beebe some trouble early, but former WEC champion will be able take home a decision victory in this fight.

Takafumi Otsuka (8-3-1) vs. Bibiano Fernandez (3-2)
Takafumi Otsuka may be one of the most unheralded prospects in this tournament, but that does not mean he does not have a bright future in the sport. After dropping a razor thin decision to the UFC’s Rafael dos Anjos, he returned to his native country and the Deep promotion to secure two victories. Otsuka is an underrated wrestler who has explosive takedowns from the clinch. Despite 135 lbs probably being his best weight, he has spend most of his career at lightweight. Many fans are excited to see what he can do at his more natural weight.

If Noricum “Kid” Yamamoto does not enter the tournament in the second round then Bibiano Fernandes has to be the tournament favorite. Although he is only 3-2 in MMA he has already shown himself to be extremely talented. In just his second fight, he took on Urijah Faber and to the surprise of many was able to take down the California kid and climb all over his back before being stopped due to a cut. In his second fight he went the distance with the aforementioned Yamamoto. So although he only has five fights, both of his losses are to men who have spent time on many pound-for-pound lists. The two-time Mundials champion earned the nickname “Flash” for his quick submissions.

This seems to be an interesting match making decision. Both of these fighters fall into the “best fighters you’ve never heard of” category. With Otsuka relying on his wrestling look for Fernandes to throw up submission after submission and eventually catch his opponent. A lot of people will be talking about Bibiano Fernandes when this tournament is over and done with.

Akiyo “Wicky” Nishiura (9-3-1) vs. Abel Cullum (13-2)
One of the premiere characters in MMA today, Wicky Akiyo is known for both his quirky personality and his ridiculous power. Despite his featherweight frame he has the power of a much bigger fighter. Often times in fights he will abandon technique and strategy and swing for the fences. Unlike most who try this, for Wicky Akiyo, it seems to work. He is the Cage Force featherweight tournament runner up, and he also holds a win over former Shooto 143 lb champion Hideki Kadowaki. It should be interesting to see him at this weight, since he is a rather large featherweight and sometimes competes at lightweight.

Abel Cullum got his first shot at the big time when he came in as a late replacement against Wilson Reis for Elite XC’s 140 lb title. In a fight that few expected him to win, Cullum showed a quality ground game and pushed the supposedly superior ground fighter to the full five rounds. He is the current King of the Cage 135 lb champion, and retuned from the loss to Reis with a first round submission victory over Brett Roller.

Abel Cullum should have a submission advantage on the ground, but the problem for him is that he will be at a tremendous size disadvantage in this fight. Nishiura will be able to use his size to keep the fight standing, and use his superior striking and power to bring home a victory.

Non-Tournament Bouts

Shinya Aoki (19-3) vs. David Gardner (16-10)
Shinya Aoki is clearly the most dominating grappler currently competing in MMA. He had his 12 fight win streak snapped by Joachim Hansen, but bounced back with quick submission victories over both Todd Moore and top ranked Eddie Alvarez. Aoki surprisingly took this bout on short notice even after he was announced as a participant for DREAM’s upcoming welterweight tournament.

David Gardner bounced back from his PFC title fight loss to Brian Cobb with a win over WEC veteran Kenneth Alexander. Although he has bounced up and down in his career, he does hold wins over Rich Clementi, Ryan Schultz, and Dan Gilbert.

Nothing against David Gardner, but the last time an American was brought in to face Aoki it was a quick night. Considering Aoki’s, and his team’s for that matter, penchant for leg locking foreign fighters look for another leg submission victory.

Ross Ebanez (19-6) vs. Tatsuya Kawajiri (22-5-2)
One of BJ Penn’s protégés, Ross Ebanez has had most of his fights in the Rumble on the Rock promotion. Over the course of his long career he has wins over Shannon Ritch, Josh MacDonald, and Joe Camacho. He has also had a show down with Eddie Alvarez.

Coming off a fight of the year candidate fight with Eddie Alvarez, Tatsuya Kawajiri took a fight with top K-1 fighter Kazo Takeda under K-1 rules. In a traditional cross over match up at the annual Dynamite show, very few people expect Kawajiri to have a chance. In the end he came out big and was able to stop the stand up fighter in his own sport. The perennial top ten lightweight steps back into the ring to start his rise back to the top of the division.

Ross Ebanez is a fine fighter, but he often struggles when he takes a step up on competition. That is exactly what he is doing in this fight. Look for Kawajiri to win the fight, but Ebanez should be able to push him enough to make for an exciting fight.

Mitsuhiro Ishida (17-4-1) vs. Daisuke Nakamura (19-9)
Mitsuhiro Ishida is a good wrestler who works well from the top position. In his last fight he used a fancy armbar to secure a victory over AKA’s Justin Wilcox. Before that fight he had surprisingly lost to veteran Caol Uno. Now, he is looking to climb back up the ladder and bring home more wins over top fighters like Marcus Aurelio and Gilbert Melendez.

Daisuke Nakamura is one of the most exciting fighters in MMA today. He is currently riding an eight fight win streak, which actually includes two flying armbars. His explosive submission game is always a factor as he can go to it at any time. In his last fight he was able to armbar Hideo Tokoro in the first round.

Daisuke Nakamura has the much more explosive and effective submission game. However, Ishida should be well versed enough in the game to avoid any of Nakamura’s submissions. Yoshida should be able to use his wrestling to carry him to a top control decision victory.

By:  Richard Mann

Leave a Reply