K-1 DREAM.5 LIGHTWEIGHT GRAND PRIX 2008 FINAL ROUND
DREAM Lightweight Grand Prix Reserve Match: Daisuke Nakamura vs. Andy Ologun R1 3:41. Andy is the less incompetent of the Ologun brothers, whose claim to fame is entertaining the natives by butchering the Japanese language, but he doesn’t have any game beyond his kickboxing. He quickly swept Nakamura’s leg, but Nakamura grabbed his left leg and heel hooked him only to get spanked on the butt! Ologun landed a few punches, but Nakamura jumped guard into an armbar for the win. At least the finish was cool.
DREAM Lightweight Grand Prix Semifinals:
Shinya Aoki vs. Caol Uno 2R. One of the best technical matches of the year. Aoki is just a wizard on the ground. Uno is one of the best ground fighters in his own right, but Aoki had him playing from behind to the point that punches were his main offense. Even when Uno was theoretically in control, which wasn’t too often, Aoki’s submission offense from his back is so dangerous and diverse that Uno could never settle in. Aoki doesn’t have the roider physique to turn Vince McMahon on, but along with Karo Parisyan he’s got one of the most powerful pound for pound grips in the sport, greatly aided by the fact he can essentially use his legs as arms or arms as legs. The first round was superior with Aoki trying submissions to every part of the body. He mounted early, but Uno took the top when his armbar failed. Aoki targeted the legs since Uno wore shoes, particularly going after the heel hook, but Uno has all the counters. Aoki had his back, but Uno couldn’t quite gain control when he turned into it so he wound up back in the same position. This time when he tried to spin into top control, Aoki made a brilliant flash transition into a triangle. This was an incredibly dramatic submission that Uno was in for a couple minutes. Neither man was giving an inch, Uno turning in just enough to keep the blood flowing and Aoki squeezing for all he was worth. Uno eventually stood up, but never lifted and Aoki once again seemed to be on the brink of victory, but Uno just wasn’t tapping. Aoki finally went after the armbar, but Uno landed a few knees to the body and slipped out. Uno really did a terrible job of falling into a takedown at the start of round 2. It was going to be hard for the first round to top the 2nd - Uno really needed to get his offense going for that to happen - but Aoki was happy to control him. Aoki didn’t stop going for submissions, but since he was clearly ahead Aoki wasn’t going to try anything that gave Uno the opportunity to free himself from his grasp. Aoki won a unanimous decision. Very good match.
Eddie Alvarez vs. Tatsuya Kawajiri. A fairly short but high quality back and forth standup war where both fighters showed a lot of heart, coming back just after you thought they were down. Kawajiri was showing more boxing than we’d seen in his recent decision wins. He cut Alvarez under the right eye early with an elbow on what was actually a missed punch, but Alvarez landed 2 good left hooks three minutes in. I wouldn’t quite call this a knockdown, it was more that Kawajiri was hurt so he dropped to his butt to get out of standup, grabbing Alvarez’s legs hoping for the takedown despite lacking leverage. Kawajiri had a knockdown with a left uppercut after Alvarez backed him with a couple straights. Kawajiri pounced on Alvarez for the kill, but after a few punches it was clear Alvarez had already recovered, so Kawajiri switched to trying to pass guard. When he succeeded, Alvarez rolled him halfway over and stood, immediately firing bombs. Kawajiri landed a big knee, but Alvarez bloodied Kawajiri’s nose with a hook and knocked him down. Thinking the fight was over, Alvarez stopped, but the ref told him to continue so he got on top and finished it off. Very good match.
DREAM Lightweight Grand Prix Reserve Match: Joachim Hansen vs. Black Mamba R1 2:33. The expected walkover for Hansen. I know it wouldn’t normally matter, but if you are going to have a lucky loser match for a potential spot in the finals, you have to act as though it will and have the best losers, preferably 2nd round losers though obviously no one would argue if they gave the spot to J.Z. Calvan. You certainly can’t put a guy who has won one of his last 4 matches and more importantly only beaten one fighter anyone has even heard of (Hideo Tokoro twice). Mamba showed his powerful knees and low kick, but even Hansen, who prefers to stand, knows if you get it to the ground you’ll probably win sooner than later. Hansen just dropped to the mat looking for a Kimura then switched into an armbar for the win.
Joseph Benavidez vs. KODO R1 2:42. KODO, a late replacement for "KID" Yamamoto, was no match for the very promising Urijah Faber student. Benavidez is particularly powerful, slamming KODO right after taking a good right. KODO tried a Kimura, but Benavidez got full mount and guillotined him for the win.
Kuniyoshi Hironaka vs. Motoki Miyazawa R1 8:57. Miyazawa seemed to strictly be a submission fighter, pulling guard early and trying to utilize a rubber guard. However, after a standup he was content enough to strike. He cut Hironaka’s nose, but it was quickly apparent that Hironaka was the crisper puncher, returning the favor by cutting Miyazawa’s left eye. Hironaka began backing Miyazawa into the ropes, but was still very noncommittal. In the last 2 minutes of round 1, Hironaka finally started pulling the trigger on combinations when he had Miyazawa on the ropes. The tactic quickly overwhelmed Miyazawa, whose face got in the way of a right straight. The jarring blow exploded his eyebrow, causing the doctor to stop the fight as soon as he got a look at it. Below average match.
Hideo Tokoro vs. Takeshi Yamazaki 2R. Tokoro’s fights are generally far more entertaining than this. A matchup of ground fighters should give him the best opportunity to shine, but Yamazaki stalled the bout, showing excellent defense but zero offense. Tokoro’s big problem is he couldn’t get the takedown, so he was forced to try all his submissions from his back. Yamazaki got the takedowns, though half the time Tokoro was content to drop to his butt and immediately attempt a submission, but Yamazaki didn’t try anything beyond passing guard. Tokoro showed flashes of his brilliance on the first takedown, going for an armbar and kneebar within the first few seconds then setting up a triangle, but despite several attempts he never came particularly close to a submission. In standup, Tokoro landed a few good combos and several quality single shots, the best coming in the first when he cracked Yamazaki with a right straight then followed him to the ground for a series of punches that were fast but too light to attain the stoppage. Yamazaki actually seemed as though he knew how to box, but he just wasn’t letting it fly, so it was Tokoro who swelled his left eye with punches. Both got away with some questionable tactics, Tokoro landing two low blows and Yamazaki blocking a Kimura takedown by grabbing the rope in the corner then when the outside ref made him release he simply grabbed the rope on the other side. There were some good moments from Tokoro both in standup and on the ground, and the decision was certainly his because he was aggressive in trying to make and finish the fight. Above average match.
Yoshihiro Akiyama vs. Katsuyori Shibata R1 6:34. Akiyama is the super heel of MMA. I’ve never seen a Japanese fighter get such a negative reaction in his home country, much less his home city! The fans were booing the crap out of him, taunting him and giving him the thumbs down, while Shibata received a thunderous applause simply because he wasn’t Akiyama. Akiyama is so hated due to his PREMIUM 2006 Dynamite!! match against Kazushi Sakuraba where he greased himself up with Vaseline so Sakuraba couldn’t take him down. This was a colossal mismatch, so he wore a judo gi to prove he could win fair and square. Shibata has no ground game, so all Akiyama had to do was close the distance. Once he got a hold of him he could use his judo to take him down, and then it would be a matter of seconds. Akiyama just toyed with Shibata though, standing with him for half the fight. Shibata is a plus striker, so he got some shots in, though only single blows. Finally, Akiyama missed a high kick but grabbed Shibata and leg tripped him. Once on top, he used his gi to win with a sleeve choke, officially a sodeguruma choke.
Alistair Overeem vs. Mark Hunt R1 1:11. Overeem, who beat Tae Hyun Lee last month on DREAM.4, cut his Thailand vacation short to be a late replacement for Jerome Le Banner. He’s fought at light heavyweight in the past, but even coming in at 240 he gave up 50 pounds to Mark Hunt. Hunt tried to bully him, pushing Overeem down and passing into side mount, but Overeem slipped out the other side and armbarred Hunt for the win.
DREAM Lightweight Grand Prix Final: Joachim Hansen vs. Shinya Aoki R1 4:19. Eddie Alvarez’s right eye was cut and swollen shut from Kawajiri’s elbow hitting him when he failed to completely dodge the right hand punch. Alvarez wanted to fight since Aoki wouldn’t hit him anyway, but was content with the selection of a replacement - his new friend Hansen who he arguably had the match of the tournament with at DREAM.3 – and the guarantee the winner would give him the first shot. Aoki had the quick takedown, but when he was looking for the standing guard pass he caught an up crotch kick. Surprisingly taking only seconds of his allotted five minutes, Aoki continued by pulling guard after Hansen missed a power punch. Aoki tried to set up a triangle, but Hansen wisely stood up and dropped a big left that knocked Aoki to his side and largely unconscious. Hansen flurried on the sideways Aoki, who wasn’t able to turn and defend himself, until the ref stopped it. It was a clean win for Hansen, though at least for me the tournament is tainted by the fact it not only wasn’t won by an undefeated fighter. To make things worse, Hansen arguably beat the two worst fighters in the tournament, first round losers Kotetsu Boku and Black Mamba, to get to the final. Certainly Aoki’s path with fights against Calvan at DREAM.1 and DREAM.2, the gimme over Katsuhiko Nagata at DREAM.4, and the decision over Uno was much tougher, but obviously you still have to seal the deal. Though there’s certainly no shame in losing to Hansen, it’s a step back given Aoki beat him handily at PRIDE Otoko Matsuri 2006 and definitely lessens his accomplishment in beating 2006 & 2007 HERO'S Middleweight Champion Calvan.