Finally the Japanese promotions are back in business after a very quiet Jan/Feb. DREAM comes back in a big way next Sunday with most of the first round of their FW Grand Prix. Also on the card is Shinya Aoki's debut at WW as well as top LWs Tatsuya Kawajiri and Mitsuhiro Ishida.
One FW opening round match was moved to DREAM 8 due to injury and Norifumi Yamamoto was given a first round bye also due to injury. Sergei Kharitonov is rumored to be fighting on this card but so far no match has been confirmed. One last note, in DREAM the FW division is fought at 139 lbs not 145, LW is basically a wash at 154 lbs, and WW is 168lbs not 170.
With that out of the way let's dig into the fight predictions:
Masakazu Imanari v. Atsushi Yamamoto: Imanari is 15-6-1, is making his DREAM debut, with 12 wins by stoppage. He is a submission fighter. Yamamoto is 12-5-1, is 1-0 in DREAM, with 3 wins by stoppage. He is a grappler with some striking skills.
Imanari is, in my opinion, "Kid" Yamamoto's biggest threat in this tournament. He'll also have the size advantage in this fight. I'll pick Imanari to win by decision.
Hiroyuki Takaya v. Jong Man Kim: Takaya is 9-6-1, making his DREAM debut, with 6 wins by KO. He is a striker. Kim is 3-5-3, also making his DREAM debut, with two wins by stoppage. He is a grappler with some striking skills.
It's pretty plain to see who should win this fight and I'm not going to buck convention. I'll pick Takaya by KO in the first round.
Yoshiro Maeda v. Micah Miller: Maeda is 23-6-2, making his DREAM debut, with 16 wins by stoppage. He is a striker with some submission skills. Miller is 10-2, also making his DREAM debut, with 9 wins by stoppage. He is a submission fighter with developing striking.
I think Miller is a good fighter with a good team even though he doesn't have the experience of a Maeda. He'll also be larger than Maeda. I'll pick a semi upset and choose Miller to win by submission in the first round.
Chase Beebe v. Joe Warren: Beebe is 11-3, making his DREAM debut, with 9 wins by submission. He is a wrestler with decent ground and pound and some submission skills. Unfortunately I couldn't find any information on Warren.
Warren may have a size advantage since Beebe is coming up from BW. Even though Warren is an unknown quantity I'll still pick the fight and go with Beebe to win by submission in the first round.
Takafumi Otsuka v. Bibiano Fernandes: Otsuka is 8-3-1, making his DREAM debut, with 5 wins by stoppage. He is mostly a striker and wrestler with some submissions. Fernandes is 3-2, also making his DREAM debut, with two wins by submission. He is a submission fighter.
I think Otsuka has better experience, a more well rounded game, and will be huge coming down from LW. I'll pick him to win by TKO in the first round.
Akiyo Nishiura v. Abel Cullum: Akiyo is 9-3-1, making his DREAM debut, with four wins by KO. He is a striker. Cullum is 13-2, also making his DREAM debut, with all 13 wins by stoppage. He is a BJJ fighter with solid striking.
I like Cullum's more balanced attack even though Nishiura will have the size advantage. I'll pick him to win by decision.
Shinya Aoki v. David Gardner: Aoki is 19-3, 4-1 in DREAM, with 12 wins by stoppage. He is a BJJ fighter. Gardner is 16-10, making his DREAM debut, with 9 wins by stoppage. He is a solid striker with some grappling ability.
This is an obvious cupcake for Aoki to test out WW. Gardner also normally fights at LW so both of these guys should weigh about the same come fight night cancelling out the weight advantage normal WWs would possess. Aoki has some of the best functional BJJ in MMA besides Demian Maia and I expect him to win by submission in the first round.
Mitsuhiro Ishida v. Daisuke Nakamura: Ishida is 17-3-1, 1-1 in DREAM, with 5 wins by stoppage. He is a wrestler with ok hands and some submissions. Nakamura is 19-9, 2-0 in DREAM, with 16 wins by stoppage. He is a submission fighter with some striking.
I think Ishida will use his wrestling to control the fight and neutralize Nakamura's submissions. I'll pick Ishida to win by decision.
Tatsuya Kawajiri v. Ross Ebanez: Kawajiri is 22-5-2, 2-1 in DREAM, with 15 wins by stoppage. He is a striker with some submission skills. Ross is 19-6, making his DREAM debut, with 10 wins by stoppage. He is a striker.
Ross will have the size advantage coming down from WW so I don't think Kawajiri will look to grapple. I'll pick Kawajiri to win by TKO in the second round.
Even though I won't get to see these fights I think it's important to keep up to date with the major Japanese promotions. It doesn't appear as though many people on this site are concerned about the Japanese fights. Hopefully if I start covering these events it will open some people's eyes and make them realize there are some great fighters who are not fighting in the US promotions right now.
That's it for now. Enjoy the fights next weekend! Stay tuned for my WEC 39 review and my UFC 96/DREAM 7 reviews next week. Until then,
Soccer kicks and head stomps...