the third straight bout, Shinya Aoki neck cranked a foe into
submission. | Photo: Taro Irei
SAITAMA, Japan -- Dream lightweight champion Shinya Aoki
racked up another submission finish in the main event of Dream 17
on Saturday at the Saitama Super Arena, this time over former WEC
lightweight champion “Razor” Rob
Having spent the previous two months training at Singapore's Evolve
MMA, there appeared to be little appreciable difference in the
“Tobikan Judan's” already cutthroat grappling style. Aoki had
McCullough on the canvas shortly after the opening bell, and he
punished the American with punches and open palm strikes to the
face, bruising McCullough's nose an ugly ruby color.
“My nose is OK. I looked in the mirror, and it looks a lot worse
than it feels. From so many kickboxing matches, it bruises easy and
turns colors,” quipped McCullough.
However, a bloody nose was the least of his troubles, as Aoki's
overwhelming top pressure eventually saw him take Razor's back to
threaten with a face crank from behind. As McCullough moved to pry
off the choke, he inadvertently pulled Aoki's arms down onto his
“It was like one of those things where you begin to feel it and
then next thing you know you're waking up. It was instinctual, so
when I went back to my corner [I realized] there was only three
seconds left,” said a resigned McCullough, who tapped at 4:57 of
the first round.
For the 28-year-old Aoki, now 29-5 in his MMA tenure, it was his
sixth straight win since his deflating April 2010 defeat to
Strikeforce champion Gilbert
Melendez. Interestingly, Aoki's last three wins, including
victories over Lyle
Beerbohm and Rich
Clementi, have all come by way of neck crank.
Aoki was outspoken as usual.
“I was able to explode what I'd stored up in me over the last two
months,” said Aoki. “I have nothing to say, however. I think
everything that happened was within the realm of expectation.”
Aoki's usual brusque, curt style of answering questions was on
display with the press, as well, as he admonished the media for not
“understanding” his positional grappling skills and not asking
“appropriate” questions. Not surprisingly, he did not equivocate
about his current MMA goal.
“I want to focus on strengthening Asia because there are a lot of
good Asian fighters out there. Places like Malaysia, Singapore, not
just South Korea, all have great fighters and could one day exceed
Japan,” Aoki explained.
“Right now, the top teams are like [American Kickboxing Academy]
and Greg Jackson's, but I'd like to make the top team in Asia.
That's what I'm aiming at.”
Former Aoki victim Tatsuya
Kawajiri, a perennial standout lightweight, dropped to
featherweight and took a thoroughly impressive third-round
submission win over former Dream lightweight champion Joachim
The bout was a rematch of their initial 2006 Shooto meeting in
which the Norwegian was disqualified in just eight seconds for an
errant kick to Kawajiri's groin.
Though both men hit each other with big punches and kicks to the
body on the feet, Hansen surprised Kawajiri on the canvas,
defending against the kimura with reversals into the rear waist
lock, as he secured back control the close out the round.
Kawajiri's top game was Hansen's
From there, however, Kawajiri's mashing-style of top control took
over. As Hansen later admitted, it was Kawajiri's punishing style
that wore him down and opened him up for the finish, as Kawajiri
locked up an arm-triangle choke in the third frame, tapping out the
tough Norseman at the 2:30 mark.
“In training, I went to [Nippon Top Team] and I sparred with
Imanari, who is similar to Joachim on the ground, so maybe
that's why I was able to win with the arm-triangle,” Kawajiri
revealed after the win.
“I asked Aoki how to finish with one, and they both taught me
The 33-year-old Kawajiri improves to 29-7-2 in his career, now with
a new direction at 145 pounds. Meanwhile, the loss snaps
"Hellboy's" three-fight winning streak.
“I don't think I'm really at my best at featherweight yet, so I
want to keep fighting here to just get used to it," added Kawajiri.
"I think it's going to be really fun if I knock the other
featherweights out one by one, won't it?”
At middleweight, Nova Uniao black belt Yan Cabral
improved his perfect record to 10-0 with his submission win over
faded MMA legend Kazushi
The fan favorite grappler puzzled onlookers with his opening round
tactics, as he indulged his younger opponent on the feet, almost
paying for it after eating a stiff Cabral left hook that had him
Cabral joined the side choke festivities.
The fight would not stay up for long, however, as Cabral took the
fight down in the second period, locking on the arm triangle as
“the IQ Wrestler” tried to pull him back into full guard. Though
Sakuraba tried to pry off his opponent's arms, his hand soon
thudded on the canvas, prompting referee Moritaka Oshiro to dive
for the save, moments before Sakuraba passed out at the 2:42
It was the fourth straight loss for the 42-year-old Sakuraba and
the third stoppage loss in a row in his illustrious career.
Former Shooto world champion “Lion" Takeshi
Inoue put away popular Japanese veteran Caol Uno in the
first round of their featherweight bout -- and with a major
Inoue had Uno in trouble early in the round with three rapid-fire
right hands from the collar tie that sent Uno down, but he could
not finish with following punches. That came a few moments later,
however, as “Lion” feinted and shuffle-stepped his way into hiding
a vicious high kick and a straight right that connected squarely on
Seeing a dazed Uno fall straight backward, his head bouncing on the
canvas, Inoue restrained himself from following up with academic
punches, as referee Yuji Shimada dove for the save at the 4:18
The win was the third straight stoppage for Inoue, while Uno is
1-5-1 in his last seven bouts.
'Lion's' roar was in his shin.
UFC veteran Gerald
Harris took a decision win over Kazuhiro
Nakamura in their middleweight contest, using stifling pressure
in the clinch to sway two of the three judges in his favor. The
powerful American was dogged in his takedown attempts, giving
Nakamura no space to breathe or maneuver.
So neutralized was the Yoshida Dojo product that he
uncharacteristically and blatantly grabbed the ropes in the final
moments of the bout to prevent himself from being slammed by
“Hurricane.” Harris nonetheless got the slam, and Nakamura also
earned himself uncharacteristic boos from his hometown crowd
For his dominant control, judges Matt Hume and
Isono naturally saw the bout for Harris, with only judge,
Hikaru Adachi, curiously siding with Nakamura.
Former Sengoku Raiden Championship lightweight titlist Satoru
Kitaoka had a successful Dream debut, taking a split decision
over UFC veteran Willamy
Outside of a round-two guillotine attempt, the former SRC champion
was not able to threaten “Chiquerim” with many submissions.
However, his constant takedown pressure and Freire's third-round
yellow card for passivity swayed judges Akira Shoji and
Isono in his favor. Only judge Matt Hume sided
with the Brazilian.
In the Dream 17 opening bout, Ikuhisa
Minowa slayed yet another giant in Mongolia's Baru Harn,
putting the hefty albeit unskilled heavyweight down on the canvas
to finish him with a scarf hold armlock at 4:29 of the first