K-1 DREAM.2 MIDDLEWEIGHT GRAND PRIX 2008 1st Round
DREAM Lightweight Grand Prix 1st Round: J.Z. Calvan vs. Shinya Aoki 2R. The rematch of the 3/15/08 DREAM.1 abortion was cool due to being drastically different from anything we’ve seen recently because Aoki fought crab style. It’s been ages since a fighter won a match on a major show by implementing the strategy of dropping to his back or pulling guard to avoid standup at all costs. Aoki wasn’t simply stalling; he was effective from his back, showing some impressive up kicks where he held Calvan’s right arm while peppering him with his right foot. Aoki also had some unique wrinkles to his attack such as a jumping bodyscissor guard pull. J.Z. hurt Aoki with a foot to the face and a series of punches to bust out of Aoki’s kneebar, but Shinya was generally enough of a threat to submit Calvan to keep J.Z. from pulverizing him. Aoki literally had Calvan’s back for half the 10 minute first round, slipping behind him with 6:30 left when his takedown stalled and grinding him to the canvas after three minutes of utilizing a strong body triangle to ride piggyback. Calvan defended submissions well, eventually turning into guard here and slipping a triangle later then rolling out of trouble and coming back with punches when Aoki transitioned into an omoplata, but had little offense. Aoki won a unanimous decision. I wouldn’t want to see 2 fights similar to this per show, but it was an interesting novelty. The fact the underdog favorite son found a way to take down the defending two-time champion added to the drama, and even if it was dull at times, the rest of the DREAM show once again badly underachieving only added to your appreciation of the opener as time went by. Good match.
DREAM Middleweight Grand Prix 1st Round:
Minowaman vs. Taiei Kin 2R. Kin was always one of my favorite K-1 fighters, but he’s an amazing bore in MMA. He used to connect with more spinning backfists on a bad night than most fighters land in their life, but now he’s so afraid of getting taken down he won’t try anything beyond low kicks. What makes him deadly to watch is once he does get taken down, he just ties his opponent up and prays for the standup. Similar to Kin’s snoozer against Kiyoshi Tamura on HERO'S 7/16/07, Minowaman was able to control the fight, but good luck submitting a fighter who completely closes up. Still, Minowaman was disappointing because he didn’t seem to be fighting another fighter. Rather than reacting to anything Kin did, Minowaman just decided what he was going to do and plowed forward for better or worse. Normally you would sometimes wait for a strike to open up the takedown, but when Minowa wanted the takedown he shot until he either got it or ran out of gas, the later of which opened up Kin’s strikes he then had no energy to defend. Kin took Minowa apart with low kicks, quickly reddening his thigh, which took some of the zip out of Ikuhisa’s shots as the fight progressed. Kin fought scared, but he did damage while Minowaman only had fruitless takedowns. Despite his typical unwillingness to fight, Kin won a unanimous decision. Below average match.
Shungo Oyama vs. Dong Sik Yoon 2R. The Japanese care about this battle for superiority between judoka, but were surely disappointed by their fighter, who was totally controlled by the evil Korean. Yoon dominated the dull contest with his takedowns. Nearly able to capitalize on the mount early with an armbar when Oyama tried to push him off, Oyama ultimately got the reversal and shut the door on Yoon’s submission game. Yoon landed a few nice right hook counters to start round 2, knocking Oyama off his feet, but before Dong could attack, Oyama rolled backwards and sprung back to his feet like a gymnast. Yoon finally decided to forgo the idea of getting a submission near the end, going hard with ground and pound from the mount in the final 30 seconds to at worst assure himself the decision. Below average match.
Zelg "Benkei" Galesic vs. Magomed Sultanakhmadov R1 1:40. Magomed is a Volk Han protege who also comes out to Jean-Michel Jarre's spine tingling Second Rendez-vous Part 2 and proceeds to deliver an exciting fight. He got the quick takedown, but Galesic reversed and passed to side mount when Magomed was setting an armbar up. Magomed swept back only to get armbarred. Trying desperately to escape, Magomed stood but was forced to tap before he could counter.
Ian Murphy vs. Ronaldo Jacare R1 3:37. Jacare dominated the entire fight, looking for the choke. Murphy was defending the choke, but Jacare hit him enough times that it opened up.
Kiyoshi Tamura vs. Masakatsu Funaki R1 0:57. Funaki has always been a big favorite of mine, but it’s looking as though he should have stayed retired. At least a washed up Funaki is still entertaining, coming back with right hands after Tamura landed some low kicks. Tamura quickly took over with a series of ½ clinch hooks, throwing a knee and uppercut in for good measure then taking Funaki down hard with Funaki’s head crashing the canvas. Tamura brought some hammerfists that quickly knocked Funaki out, though Tamura had to tell the ref to stop the fight as he was displaying all the awareness of when a fighter is out that we’ve come to expect from Steve Mazzagatti.
Denis Kang vs. Gegard Mousasi R1 3:10. Kang had a hot start, landing a right hook at the bell and scoring the takedown. His attempted standing guard pass was sloppy though, and it cost him the fight. I think Kang just wanted to brush Mousasi’s right leg aside to pass left, but Mousasi trapped his arm inside his legs. Kang was thus forced to try to punch himself free, but once Mousasi scissored Kang’s body the arm Denis had no leverage to even try to counter the triangle that quickly took him out.
Kazushi Sakuraba vs. Andrews Nakahara R1 8:29. Again, whatever K-1 is calling their MMA division this week is much smarter than PRIDE was as (despite the involvement of some PRIDE front office members in DREAM) they continue to extend Sakuraba’s career, and thus cash in at the box office, by giving him opponents his size that he can beat rather than putting him against the greatest 200+ pounders in the world. Nakahara is a Kyokushin Karate star from Brazil making his MMA debut. He appeared to be a tough opponent for Sakuraba early as he landed his low kicks and defended the takedown. It didn’t help that Sakuraba was also slowed when they threw nearly simultaneous kicks, as Sakuraba’s leg being up for his roundhouse he landed to the ribs resulted in Nakahara’s kick catching him in the family jewels. Soon after Sakuraba finally tried to fight again, Nakahara rocked him with a high kick, and things were momentarily looking bad when Sakuraba’s desperation shot failed. A passive and tentative Nakahara apparently lacked the guts to try to capitalize, so he simply allowed Sakuraba to recover. Nakahara was difficult to get and keep down, but once Sakuraba succeeded Andrews lack of ground defense was immediately exposed. Sak was able to manuever into side then rear mound and choke Nakahara out. Above average match.