Japan's premier MMA organization, DREAM returned to Yokohama Arena for the first event of 2010.
The headliner featured DREAM featherweight (138 pounds) champion, Bibiano Fernandes in his first title defense against the former DREAM lightweight champion and newly minted 138 pounder, Joachim Hansen.
Known primarily as a highly decorated Brazilian Jiu Jitsu practitioner, Fernandes showed tremendous intestinal fortitude in an all-out slugfest against Hiroyuki Takaya in the finale of DREAM featherweight grand prix last year. Against Hansen, he gave us a further look at the new dimension in his game: This time, he fought with improved techniques and uncanny poise.
Fernandes worked kicks to the leg and mid-section and stayed in the pocket to throw counters in striking exchange. He mixed in a few successful takedowns to dictate the fight and keep Hansen's aggression in check. Showing no fear with his offense, the Brazilian unleashed a jumping knee toward the end of the first round and threw several wild haymakers, even though he could not land anything to stun Hansen.
While Hansen seemed comfortable in the new weight class, he remained tentative throughout the fight, unable to pull the trigger with his hell-raising strikes. To his credit, he switched to a higher gear toward the end of the second round, landing a solid, lead uppercut and knees from the clinch. Also, he showed his usual prowess on the ground when he found himself on his back; he stayed busy with upkicks to keep Fernandes at bay and successfully scrambled back to his feet without putting himself in danger. In the end, however, he dropped a close decision, as two of the three judges gave Fernandes a nod.
Hard-hitting lightweights, KJ Noons and Andre "Dida" Amade staged a brisk albeit cautious striking battle.
Returning to MMA from a stint in boxing, former Elite XC champion and recent Strikeforce signee, Noons used his jab to keep Amade at the end of his punches. He emerged as the aggressor midway through the first round, opening up with hooks to the body and the head. "Dida" waited for an opportunity to counterstrike but could not help but backpedal as Noons maintained his forward momentum and landed punches to the ribcage. Though Noons failed to land anything remotely devastating, he cruised to unanimous decision victory to take one home for Strikeforce in a putative "DREAM vs. Strikeforce" battle.
Earlier in the night, Katsunori Kikuno and Cole Escovedo thrilled the fans in Yokohama Arena with quick, devastating finishes.
DEEP lightweight champion, Katsunori Kikuno showcased a flawless offensive execution to dismantle UFC veteran, Kuniyoshi Hironaka. Aggressive from the opening bell, he lunged forward with kicks and following up with a flurry of punches. After action stalled twice early in the opening frame as the two tied each other up in a clinch, Kikuno's crecent kick landed flush on Hironaka's liver. As Hironaka doubled over and struggled to stay upright, Kikuno followed up with a left hook and right cross that finished the Cage Force lightweight champion.
A beautiful demonstration of the destructiveness of the crescent kick: Kikuno claimed before the fight that no opponent can block his crescent kick by fortifying the core, as the kick lands on the pressure point and inexorably sends a shockwave throughout the body. Who wants to argue now?
The former WEC featherweight champion, Cole Escovedo further banished his three year-long bout with crippling staph infection in the past. In his Japanese and DREAM debut, he had a tough going early in the opening frame against the former WEC bantamweight title challenger, Yoshiro Maeda. Maeda displayed his offensive brilliance, backing up Escovedo with speedy combinations. Though Escovedo is renowned for his triangle choke, he put his long leg to a different use this time: He brilliantly set up a left high kick with a right inside leg kick feint to starch Maeda at 2:29 of round 1. With the stunning KO victory, the Tachi Palace Fights bantamweight champion is now on a five-fight winning streak since his return to competition in May 2009.
For the record, Maeda might want to stay away from Yokohama Arena in future. He was submitted in less than a minute by Joe Pearson at "Pride Bushido 13," got starched by Hiroyuki Takaya after dominating the fight at DREAM 9, and now got his skull rocked by Cole Escovedo - all in Yokohama Arena. I am not the type to fall for superstition, but the coincidence is too haunting.
Elsewhere, Pride and UFC veteran, Ryo Chonan grinded out an unanimous decision victory over Brazilian kyokushin karateka, Andrews Nakahara. Nakahara had his moment in the second round, threatening Chonan with a flurry of punches and knees from the clinch; however, the always tough and gutsy Chonan remained relentless with his attack until the final bell.
The controversy-ridden heavyweight, Josh Barnett, returned to the ring for the first time since failing his drug test ahead of his showdown with Fedor Emelianenko last summer. The "Baby-faced assasin" recovered from an early knockdown by Siala "Mighty Mo" Siliga. After landing an inadvertent groin kick that put "Mighty Mo" in agony for more than five minutes, Barnett wasted no time forcing the fight to the ground and locked up a kimura from side control. Upon forcing Mo to tap out, the genteel Barnett offered his opponent a courtesy groin shot to show his apology; "Mighty Mo" graciously accepted but did not match the devastation of the shot he received.
MMA's premier entertainer, Minowaman added Jimmy "The Titan" Ambriz to his collection of slain giants in the opening fight of the night. While he struggled with Ambriz's sheer size and surprising grappling prowess, the puroresu fighter capitalized on an opening early in the second round to lock in and crank on his signature toe hold.
That's all for DREAM 13 and stay tuned for DREAM 14, which will mark the promotion's Korean debut.
Bibiano Fernandes def.. Joachim Hansen via split decision
Josh Barnett def. "Mighty Mo" Siliga via submission (kimura) R1
K.J. Noons def. Andre "Dida" Amado via unanimous decision
Ryo Chonan def. Andrews Nakahara via unanimous decision
Cole Escovedo def. Yoshiro Maeda via KO (head kick) R1
Katsunori Kikuno def. Kuniyoshi Hironaka via KO (punch) R1
Ikuhisa Minowa def. Jimmy Ambriz via submission (toe hold) R2