Hideo Tokoro (right) took Dream's Japan bantamweight grand prix
Saturday. | Photo: Taro Irei
TOKYO -- Former temp worker-turned-kakutogi star Hideo Tokoro
edged former Deep champion Masakazu
Imanari in a close 15-minute contest to take first place in
2011 Japan bantamweight grand prix on Saturday at Ariake
From the outset of the bout, the 33-year-old Gifu native made it
abundantly clear that he wanted little to nothing to do with the
"Ashikan Judan" on the canvas, keeping just enough distance to land
winging counter punches and low kicks and avoid Imanari's various
baseball slides and guard pulls. Imanari had one other trick up his
sleeve to force the ground battle, however, as he would collapse to
his back upon eating Tokoro's counterpunches -- a tactic which
worked on the "Fighting Freeter" on several occasions. Tokoro kept
his time on the floor as brief as possible, however, dropping
single hard punches in an attempt to break free and get back to his
"If I tried to be equal with Imanari [on the ground], I don't think
I'd have been able to win, so I wanted to maintain a comfortable
distance, and, if I felt I could be aggressive, I'd get into
range," Tokoro explained after the bout. "But if it was too risky,
I'd pull back. That was my game plan."
While Imanari forced Tokoro to the mat more often in the second
frame, thus controlling that round and locking on one of his
fearsome leg lock attempts, all three judges -- Matt Hume,
Hikaru Adachi, and Kaoru
Todori -- still favored Tokoro's opening 10 minutes of
counterfighting over Imanari's wily attempts at forcing
"I don't have a belt now, so I don't feel like a champion, but I am
very happy," said the beloved action fighter. "We had some great
fighters in the tournament, and I came out on top. I'm very
"My wife had her 32nd birthday yesterday, and we weren't able to
celebrate. So I did a somewhat personal thing and wished her a
happy birthday [after the fight]," Tokoro added. "Tonight, I think
we'll eat some cake."
"I was defeated. He was very strong. He was totally different [from
when we trained together]," Imanari confessed about the bout. "I
never have game plans; I just have an ad-lib approach to my
The win was the fourth straight for Tokoro, now 30-23-1 in his
up-and-down career, having defeated Yoshiro
Yamamoto and Imanari to win the bracket.
By virtue of reaching the final, both Tokoro and Imanari will take
part in Dream's slated world bantamweight grand prix later this
year; it will determine the promotion's first divisional
Joining them in the bracket will be veteran Kenji Osawa,
who netted third-place honors in the tournament and a berth in the
world grand prix by earning a unanimous verdict over ZST
bantamweight champion Keisuke
Fujiwara, a late replacement for Yamamoto, who was forced out
of the bronze medal fight after his May bout with Tokoro resulted
in a detached retina.
Defying expectations of standing and banging it out with Fujiwara,
Osawa instead pushed for and got takedowns, as he controlled the
bout throughout both rounds. Outside of perfunctory short punches
to the head and body, Osawa also locked up a close arm-triangle
choke attempt in the first frame that had Fujiwara bridging and
scrambling to escape.
Though Fujiwara landed a few hard punches and knees, particularly
late in the second period when he began timing Osawa's takedown
attempts, the WEC veteran's overall control gave him an easy
unanimous nod from judges Adachi, Hume and Akira
A winner of three of his last four, Osawa now sports an 18-10-2
mark, with recent wins over Takafumi
Otsuka and former WEC bantamweight title challenger Maeda.
The future of Dream's slated world grand prix is not defined yet,
but that is not a cause for concern, according to Dream Event
Producer Keiichi Sasahara.
"On the Internet, I've heard people saying that this might be the
last Dream. That's an unforgivable comment because it's not true,"
said a smiling Sasahara. "We'll have another event in September,
though we're still deciding on a specific date. Also, there's the
New Year's show, and we're thinking of maybe having a show between
September and New Year's Eve.
"In September, we're planning to have our first round of the
tournament, with eight fighters. We haven't quite decided yet
whether this show will be over two or three shows, but one of our
plans is to have the finals on New Year's Eve," he finished.