Shinya Aoki walked away from Dream 11 on Tuesday in Yokohama, Japan, with the Dream lightweight championship strapped around his waist after submitting the returning Joachim Hansen. But what's a Shinya Aoki fight without at least a little bit of controversy?
Aoki was able to secure takedown after takedown on Hansen, but it was the Norwegian, from his back, that was outworking the Japanese grappling master, staying busy by punching and searching for submissions. Midway into the opening round, Hansen rocked Aoki with two upkicks to the head, but the referee stepped in, calling a timeout. Prior to the two to the head, Hansen had inadvertently landed an upkick to Aoki's groin, so he was given time to recuperate. Upon restart, the round continued to play out with Aoki scoring takedowns and Hansen staying busy with strikes and a strong armbar attempt.
Round two continued much the same until Aoki was able to transition to full mount. He attempted a guillotine choke from the top position and when Hansen moved to escape, he locked on an armbar that eventually finished the fight, making Aoki the new Dream lightweight champion.
The bout was Hansen's second straight fight with Aoki, the last being more than a year ago when he won at Dream 5 to capture the lightweight title. The two have met three times now with Aoki holding the edge, winning two of the three.
The Dream Featherweight Grand Prix final, however, couldn't have been any closer. Both fighting for the second time on the night, Bibiano Fernandes and Hiroyuki Takaya left nothing outside the ring.
Takaya came out looking to strike, while Fernandes immediately went in search of the takedown. Most of the opening round played out with Takaya landing the better strikes, rocking Fernandes on occasion and cutting the brow of his right eye just before the end of the round. At the same time, Fernandes scored several takedowns during the bout and took Takaya's back nearly every time he did so. As the fight wore on, Fernandes opened up his striking game, and while Takaya seemed to land the heavier blows more frequently, they went toe-to-toe in the closing minutes.
In the end, Fernandes walked away with the featherweight title via a split decision victory, two judges scoring it in his favor to one judge voting for Takaya.
Earlier in the evening, in the semifinal round, Fernandes quickly ousted JoeWarren, the favorite to win the Grand Prix. Warren went to his strength right out of the gate, shooting on Fernandes and slamming him to the mat. But he made the critical mistake of extending his arm, leaving it exposed, and Fernandes took full advantage, locking on an armbar. Warren didn't appear to have tapped, but when Fernandes turned the arm over in position to apply his full body weight on the hold, the referee stopped the bout just 43 seconds into the fight. The referee later said that he saw Warren tap.
In his semifinal bout against Hideo Tokoro, Takaya sat back patiently picking his punches through the first round, looking to out-strike Tokoro. He landed some sparse punches, but ended up eating a flying knee late in the round that was followed by a left hook. Several right hands had Takaya hurt, but Tokoro inexplicably pulled guard. Takaya was able to stand up in guard and drop a hard right hand followed by several punches that would have put Tokoro out if not for the saving bell. Almost as quickly as round two opened, a right hand sent Tokoro curling to the mat where Takaya finished the fight with strikes.
Dream 11 was also host to the Super Hulk Tournament semi-final round. In a seeming mismatch, five-foot-nine-inch Ikuhisa Minowa shot in for the takedown over and over in his fight with 7-foot-2-inch Hong Man Choi, but was shunned at nearly every attempt through round one. Again he shot in as round two opened. And again Choi sprawled and delivered some hard punches, but this time Minowa was able to spin around to the back and get the takedown, putting him in position to secure a fight-ending heel hook.
In his last two fights, Minowa has now defeated two of the biggest men in mixed martial arts history: Choi and Bob Sapp.
Minowa won't have to face Sapp again though, as Rameau Thierry Sokoudjou dispatched the 6-foot-5-inch, 340-pound "Beast" from the tournament. Sapp came out swinging for the fences, but Sokoudjou immediately clinched, took the big man down, and ground and pounded him from side control until the referee stopped the bout.
Minowa and Sokoudjou will now meet in the Super Hulk final, which is expected to take place at Dynamite!! 2009 on New Year's Eve.
Forty-year-old Kazushi Sakuraba's win over professional boxer Rubin Williams, who made his MMA debut in the bout, was all but an afterthought. Sakuraba chose to soften Williams up with a few kicks to start off the fight, then took him down about a minute-and-a-half in, dropped a few punches on his head, and locked on a fight ending Kimura.
In another mismatch, Tatsuya Kawajiri wasted little time with the grossly inexperienced Melchor Manibusan. From the bell, Manibusan stormed Kawajiri with strikes, but the veteran Japanese fighter clinched, took Manibusan down, and ground and pounded his way to an early TKO stoppage.
In the featherweight Grand Prix reserve match, Kazuyuki Miyata, despite having to fend off a late guillotine choke attempt, took Daiki "DJ.taiki" Hata down nearly at will throughout there bout to score a unanimous decision victory.