Masakazu Imanari celebrates his semifinal victory. Photo by FEG Inc.
DREAM held its 17th event, titled "Fight for Japan" last night at the Saitama Super Arena. In addition to hosting the opening rounds of a bantamweight grand prix, the event featured a number of notable names in non-tournament action, headlined by Shinya Aoki taking on Rich Clementi. The event was not televised live, but Sherdog's Tony Loiseleur was on hand to provide live play-by-play.
In the 135 lb GP, leglock master, Masakazu Imanari and former janitor, Hideo Tokoro, each dispatched of two opponents to advance to to the tournament finals where they'll face each other later this summer. Imanari saw his unorthodox grappling stifled by Keisuke Fujiwara in the opening round, but still did enough to earn a decision from the judges. In the semi-finals, it appeared that WEC vet, Kenji Osawa would also be able to avoid Imanari's submissions, but it was not to be as Imanari landed one of his signature flying heel hooks for the tap-out in the second round.
Tokoro, meanwhile, had to deal with the unusual antics of Yoshiro Maeda in his opening round bout along with a bizarre finish. Loiseleur describes the action:
Between the exchanges, Maeda found the time to ham it up -- first by marching around the ring stating how much Tokoro's onslaught was hurting him and encouraging his opponent to do more, and secondly by impersonating a veritable who's who of Japanese MMA personalities by their signature techniques.
An unintentional Tokoro headbutt in the first frame followed by an errant body punch to the groin in the second put Maeda in the tough position of fighting through otherwise fight-ending fouls. After several minutes recovering on the canvas, a clearly injured Maeda limped his way back into the fight only to have his corner throw in the towel when Tokoro caused him to cry out in pain following a takedown attempt. Referee Shimada called the bout then at the 43 second mark of round two.
Tokoro then took an unventful split decision over Atsushi Yamamoto in the semifinals to advance to the final round against Imanari.
In the night's featured non-tournament bout, submission wiz, Shinya Aoki dominated wily veteran, Rich Clementi on the mat before finishing him in the second round with his signature rear naked face-crank. As recapped by Loiseleur:
Taking Clementi's back and trapping his left arm in the first, Aoki spent a solid five minutes from mount, dropping salvo after salvo of punches on the American. Clementi shelled up in defense, but could do little else to improve his position or escape. Somewhat inexplicably, referee Yuji Shimada stood Aoki up from this position to issue the UFC veteran a yellow card for inactivity.
The second frame was similarly a wash for Aoki, as the Japanese grappling ace quickly took Clementi's back and dropped more punches from behind. He mercifully put the American away halfway through with a face crank from the rear-naked choke position, eliciting the tap at the 2:32 mark.
(Photo of Aoki submitting Clementi via FEG Inc.)
In other action, Joachim Hansen bested Mitshuiro Ishida via split decision in a bout that saw Ishida rock Hansen badly early on and work from top control for most of the fight, while Hansen was active with submissions and sweeps off his back enough for two of the three judges to give the Norwegian the victory.
-Atsushi Yamamoto def. Yusaku Nakamura via TKO R1 (bantamweight GP quarterfinals)
-Hideo Tokoro def. Yoshiro Maeda via TKO (corner stoppage) R2 (bantamweight GP quarterfinals)
-Masakazu Imanari def. Keisuke Fujiwara via unam. decision (bantamweight GP quarterfinals)
-Keni Osawa def. Takafumi Otsuka via split decision (bantamweight GP quarterfinals)
-Joachim Hansen def. Mitsuhiro Ishida via split decision
-Shinya Aoki def. Rich Clementi via submission (face crank) R2
-Hideo Tokoro def. Atsushi Yamamoto via split decision (bantamweight GP semiinals)
-Masakazu Imanari def. Kenji Osawa via submission (heel hook) R2 (bantamweight GP semifinals)