DREAM.15 Analysis and Afterthoughts: Shinya Aoki Confirms He's the Number One Lightweight in Japan

Photo by Taro Irei via Sherdog.com

DREAM.15 is in the books and despite not managing to get a fight for Alistair Overeem and barely getting a fight for Gegard Mousasi, FEG managed to put on one of their better cards of the year tonight.

Quick thoughts:

  • Shinya Aoki has confirmed his status as the uncontested #1 lightweight in Japanese MMA by beating Tatsuya Kawajiri. If Aoki can somehow finagle a rematch against Strikeforce champ Gilbert Melendez in Japan in a ring, he might take it. 
  • Aoki is very similar to Shane Carwin. Both are supremely dangerous, if deeply limited fighters, and are threats to beat anyone in their division in the first round. 
  • Kawajiri is now firmly established as the guy who just can't win the big fight. Going back to his 2005 loss to Takanori Gomi, he's come up short every time he's faced elite competition, whether it's Gilbert Melendez, Eddie Alvarez or, now, Aoki.
  • I'm glad Gesias "JZ" Calvalcante picked up a win before heading to Strikeforce. He struggled a bit more on the feet against Katsunori Kikuno than some expected, but thoroughly dominated on the ground. He'll be a worthy addition to Strikeforce's lightweight division.
  • I'm sad Katsunori Kikuno came up short for the second time against top-tier competition. He acquitted himself very well on the feet against JZ, but didn't have the grappling to hang in the end.
  • If Kawajiri's leg isn't seriously injured, I'd be interested in seeing him face off against Kikuno, but won't object if both men get easier competition in their next bout. Either man would be a great addition to Strikeforce's LW class as well.
  • Gegard Mousasi vs Tatsuya Mizuno is an utterly non-compelling finale for the thoroughly botched light heavyweight tournament. There just isn't enough top-tier talent in that division that isn't with the UFC or too busy with Strikeforce to participate.
  • Oh Melvin.
  • What the heck was Jake O'Brien thinking coming in that much over weight? He's already had his run in the UFC so utterly blowing it with DREAM isn't smart thinking.
  • Mitsuhiro Ishida vs Michihiro Omigawa could be a very compelling featherweight scrap, although either man would be a solid challenger for Bibiano Fernandes' title right away.
  • Kazuhiro Nakamura showed that he remains a formidable gatekeeper. His Sengoku run showed he won't be a contender at middleweight, but there's plenty of fight left in the Judoka. I'd love to see him pay a visit to Strikeforce.
  • Karl Amoussou didn't have an answer for a good Judoka. He needs to work on his wrestling, but he remains a middling prospect.

Luke Thomas keeps insisting that the Japanese MMA scene just isn't big enough to support two major promotions. I've been a long-time backer of Sengoku, but it's clear that they have failed in their quest to provide a more sporting alternative to FEG's DREAM. 

UPDATE: And no, Aoki didn't announce a fight with Melendez, that was a mistranslation apparently.

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