Fedor Emelianenko earned another New Year's Eve win, dominating
Satoshi Ishii. | Photo: Taro Irei
SAITAMA, Japan -- After earning a gold medal in judo at the 2008
Beijing Games, Satoshi
boldly claimed that he would like to face
then-heavyweight MMA ruler Fedor
before he had even left the press scrum. Just over
three years later, he got his wish. Unfortunately for Ishii, it
lasted just 2:34.
Despite having spent his training camp at Reign MMA in the United
States, the 25-year-old judoka was like a deer in headlights
against the former Pride Fighting Championships heavyweight
champion in the main event of Dream’s “Genki Desu Ka! New Year!
2011” at the Saitama Super Arena on Saturday. As Ishii's corner
pleaded with him to put his jab out and circle to the right,
Emelianenko put vicious combinations on the neophyte Japanese mixed
Ishii fell to Fedor.
A stiff left hand and an incomplete takedown attempt off of a
caught kick were all Ishii had before eating a crushing right
straight and hook that sent him straight backward like a freshly
chopped tree. With Ishii crumpled against the ropes, referee Yuji
Shimada stepped in for the stoppage as the stoic heavyweight great
loomed above, showing no inclination to even follow up.
The stoppage could not have come at a more perfect time, as "The
Last Emperor" knocked out Ishii just one minute shy of the stroke
of midnight, punctuating an otherwise rough 2011 and saving event
frontman Antonio Inoki's New Year's Eve countdown to close out the
“I felt that my striking has improved, and that, as a fighter, I
have evolved. I owe my improvement to Alexander Michkov and my
Dutch coaches,” Emelianenko said of his dominant striking
“I feel that Ishii is one of the best fighters in Japan. If Ishii
continues to train the way he does and continues on in MMA, I
believe strongly that he will become a very good fighter,” he
Dream lightweight champion Shinya Aoki
protected his crown from longtime training partner and friend
Kitaoka, earning a unanimous decision with a yet another
impressive display of dominant grappling.
True to form, Kitaoka's energy dwindled after the first round,
though this was of course also due to fending off the champion's
aggressive grappling offense. Both fighters traded submission
attempts early as Kitaoka went for guillotines and Aoki latched on
a close triangle-into-armbar combo. However, the champ pulled far
ahead with repeated takedowns into half guard and back mount, where
he smashed the challenger with short punches.
Aoki dominated Kitaoka.
In addition to his usual ground savvy, Aoki was also able to show
off some of the striking skills he recently acquired at Singapore's
Evolve MMA. The "Tobikan Judan" made excellent use of the Thai plum
and knees, bashing and bloodying Kitaoka's nose in the fourth
stanza. This surprisingly devastating offense from the champion
allowed him to capture Kitaoka's back to threaten with repeated
rear-naked choke attempts. The challenger persevered, however,
seemingly refusing to tap out to Aoki’s choke attempts, no matter
how deep they were.
Though controlled and beaten from pillar to post for all of the
fight, the stubborn Kitaoka put in the last word on the bout after
stuffing an Aoki takedown to land knees to the top of the
champion's head for the final 10 seconds. It was, however, no match
for Aoki's overall dominance, as judges Gen Isono,
Hikaru Adachi, and Matt Hume all
had the fight for Aoki.
"I wasn't really able to finish Kitaoka, but I felt that I improved
my striking under Namsaknoi [Yudthagarngamtorn] to become a more
well-rounded mixed martial artist,” Aoki said after the bout.
“Honestly, I think that a fight with Kitaoka is a great one, one
that could only be done in Dream. But I also feel kind of sad,
Aoki, 28, is now 30-5 in his campaign and has won seven straight
MMA contests since falling to Gilbert
Melendez in his bid for the Strikeforce title in April 2010.
The victory moved Aoki to 4-0 in 2011.
Ten pounds lighter, the “Lion Takeshi”
Inoue that had a standout 2010 with three big knockout
victories did not show up for the title fight against incumbent
Takaya, so much so that the normally reticent Japanese crowd
booed Inoue toward the end of the championship rounds en route to
losing a unanimous verdict.
Takaya kept his Dream featherweight belt.
The WEC and Strikeforce veteran pursued Inoue from the opening
bell, walking him down and popping him in the face with pumping
jabs and winging right hands. In addition to non-stop backpedaling
and offering little counter-offense outside of single punches and
low kicks, Lion conceded takedowns to the champion in most rounds
just before the buzzer.
As if to further sour himself to the judges and the fans, Inoue
only committed to engaging with Takaya when goaded by referee Yuji
Shimada to be more active. The first warning saw Lion surge and
drop Takaya to a knee with three successive right hands in the
second period, while the next major warning earned him a yellow
card in the fourth frame.
Meanwhile, Takaya changed his game little, snapping the
challenger's head back with a steady stream of combination punches
until just before the bell, when Inoue once again awoke to drop
Takaya to a knee with a salvo of punches. It was far too little,
too late as Hikaru Adachi, Matt Hume and
Isono naturally had the fight for Takaya, who defended his
title successfully for the second time, having bested Kazuyuki
Miyata by split decision in July.
"I couldn't get the knockout again today, so I apologize," said a
curt Takaya, now 17-9-1 in his nine-year pro career. "I promise to
get the KO next year, so please come out and see it."
One of Takaya’s training partners, perennial lightweight standout
Kawajiri, made his presence felt in his second featherweight
contest, controlling 2000 Sydney Games freestyle wrestling Olympian
Miyata before impressively tapping him out in the second
The 33-year-old “Crusher" took a dominant first frame after putting
Miyata on his back with the double-leg, whereupon he methodically
crept his way to mount to drop short punches and attempt
arm-triangle chokes as Miyata clasped his hands to hold on and
close the distance from bottom.
Not to be outdone, however, Miyata came out strong in the second,
connecting with a knee-wobbling left hand followed by momentarily
taking Kawajiri's back. The T-Blood gym boss soon extricated
himself, however, and, after an uppercut into a takedown, quickly
latched on the arm-triangle choke for the tap at 4:54.
Fujii notched her 19th submission win.
As expected, Bellator 115-pound women's tournament finalist and
perennial women's MMA pound-for-pound standout Megumi
dispatched Venezuelan Spanish MMA product Karla
in extremely quick fashion in the evening's sole
women's MMA bout.
After missing her first takedown, Fujii dove to capture a leg and
reverse her way into Benitez's guard. In short order, the Japanese
submission dynamo transitioned to side control, where she slapped
on the armbar to elicit the tap in just 75 seconds. Fujii’s real
performance, though, came afterward.
A long-time crusader for women's MMA in her native Japan, a
breathless Fujii took to the mic, telling the Saitama crowd, "Good
evening, I'm Megumi Fujii, and I am 37 years old," to much
disbelief and applause from the audience. "I've been doing judo
since I was 3, and, finally, I'm able to fight at this stage thanks
to all those who've supported women's MMA. Please, continue to
support women's MMA."
Popular Japanese fixture Hayato
Sakurai broke a four-fight losing streak by taking a handy
decision over fellow UFC veteran Ryo Chonan,
also avenging a 2003 cut stoppage loss to "The Piranha" in
The former Shooto 168-pound champion locked up the first two
periods with relative ease, clipping Chonan first with a swiping
left hand and using takedowns to secure top position in half-guard
and side control, from which he dropped short punches and knees to
the body. Sakurai slowed somewhat in the third, however, giving
Chonan the opportunity at long last to unleash with big punches.
However, it was not enough to convince judges Hikaru Adachi,
Isono, and Akira Shoji to
change their minds, as all had it for "Mach."
Mach topped old friend Chonan.
"I finally won," said a relieved and smiling
36-year-old Sakurai. "I hadn't realize how much happy a win makes
me until getting this one. Chonan is like a brother to me, but as a
professional fighter, I'll fight anyone put in front of me, even if
it's a family member or anything like that."
While cosplaying kickboxer Yuichiro
Nagashima notched an impressive knockout victory over Dream
lightweight champion Aoki in the MMA round of their special mixed
rules last Dec. 31, "Jienotsu" was not able to make lightning
strike twice, as former Deep lightweight champion Katsunori
Kikuno shellacked him to a second-round stoppage in their mixed
Both men slugged it out toe-to-toe in the opening round under K-1
rules to thrilling effect, dropping each other for the mandatory
eight count with big right hands. While the following MMA round was
not as explosive, it was still punishing as both fighters continued
to land wild punches. The end came for a weary Nagashima when
Kikuno took back mount. With Nagashima flattened out and not even
blocking the punches, referee Yuji Shimada showed mercy by calling
the stop at the 2:34 mark.
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