Dream

Dream

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At the outset, a match-up with Josh Neer appeared to be an all-risk, no-reward prospect for Bellator lightweight champion Eddie Alvarez. Though the 160-pound catch-weight bout would hold no consequences for Alvarez’s belt, Neer possessed the ability to leave an opponent staring at the lights and the mixed record to turn a victory over him into an expectation instead of an accomplishment.

Alvarez saw it differently. “I don’t think there’s ever a fight that’s an everything-to-lose, nothing-to-gain situation,” the Philadelphian father-of-three said after the fight. “You always gain something from every fight that you fight, no matter who it is. Neer is a worthy opponent. I learned something tonight, you know, and I’m sure he did, too.”

That lesson could be the virtues of tapping out. Last night at Bellator XVII in Boston, Alvarez used slick wrestling, top pressure, and heavy ground-and-pound to control Neer throughout the fight. In the second round, he planted Neer on the mat once again, took his back, and sunk a rear-naked choke. Neer rose to his feet in a futile attempt to shake the hold as Alvarez squeezed. In front of the audience at the Wang Theatre, Neer plummeted to the ground, free of consciousness.

When Bellator announced the signing of former UFC lightweight Roger Huerta to Bellator’s second-season lightweight tournament, a common sentiment was that the tournament was a rubber stamp for Huerta to fight Alvarez. But after dropping a unanimous decision to Pat Curran in the night’s second televised fight, those plans have been delayed. Alvarez, who won his title during Bellator’s first season and had previously competed in the Dream 2008 Lightweight Grand Prix, was unsurprised at the outcome for Huerta.

“To be honest with you, I thought from the beginning that it was going to be unlikely for him to get through the whole tournament as the winner,” Alvarez said. “Not because I don’t think Huerta’s good, but I think it’s very hard—no matter how good you are—to get through an eight-man tournament…Weird things happen in tournaments. Stuff like this happens all the time. It’s not always the best guy that wins. You’ve got to be able to win three in a row.”

The keys to finishing an eight-man tournament successfully, Alvarez continued, are balancing hard training with the reality that you need to stay injury-free to fight several times in a short span. “That and keep the focus on the guy you’ve got ahead of you, not anybody else. Just the one guy in front of you.”

The next guy in front of Alvarez was sitting to his left at the post-fight press conference. The champion will face either Curran or Toby Imada—whom Alvarez submitted in 2009—when the lightweight tournament concludes later this summer. Alvarez said it wasn’t awkward to share the space with his future opponent. “We’re all doing the same thing: We’re fighting for money. I have no animosity toward Josh or Imada or anybody that I fight. It’s something we do to entertain the fans, and we happen to be able to make a living and get paid for it.”

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Lesnar vs. Carwin Official

Puny humans cower in fear – the UFC officially announced Lesnar vs. Carwin for the unified, bonafide, undisputed, unadulterated Heavyweight Championship of the World at UFC 116 on July 3 at the MGM Grand Garden Arena.

Blogosphere Books UFC 118 Before Event Is Announced

The MMA blogosphere has a large chunk of UFC 118 booked before Zuffa’s gotten around to announcing the card. How embarrassing would it be if they just decided to go straight from UFC 117 to UFC 119? At any rate, the card is rumored to be taking place at TD Garden in Bahston, Mass. on Aug. 28. MMAJunkie reports that TUF 9 loser Andre Winner will face Nik Lentz on the undercard, Nate Marquardt will take on Rousimar Palhares, and New Englander Jorge Rivera will square off against Alessio Sakara. @Greg_Soto reported on Twitter that he signed a contract to fight Nick Osipczak at UFC 118, and Fighters Only is reporting that Joe Lauzon will face Terry Etim on the same card. With all of these American vs. Brit fights taking place in Boston, you have to wonder if Dana White is going to show up to TD Garden in a tri-corner hat and packing a muzzle loader.

Other rumored bouts in the works in the works include Dennis Hallman versus Ben Saunders at UFC 117, new WEC signee Renan Barao versus Clint Godfrey at WEC 49, and Mike Massenzio versus new middleweight Briann Stann. Heavy.com reports that Stann vs. Massenzio will take place at UFC on Versus II.

Leave Ricardo Mayorga Alone!


(Props to Pound4Pound.)

According to MMAPayout, Don King issued a cease and desist order to Shine Fights, claiming tortious interference because he claims to have a valid promotional contract with Shine Fights III headliner Ricardo Mayorga. Shine Fights’ Devin Price told Steven Marocco that the fight is happening no matter what. Regardless of how this issue gets resolved we can mark this down as another reason to keep MMA and boxing as far apart as possible. On its worst day MMA can’t carry boxing’s jockstrap when it comes to frivolous claims, suits, and generally shady business practices.

Randleman Out of Gracie Fight?

Sherdog’s Loretta Hunt is reporting that because of “nasty ass people who can’t wash their butts,” Kevin Randleman may be out of his May 15 Strikeforce bout with Roger Gracie. The former UFC Heavyweight Champion and Pride vet told Hunt that he has been ill and fears he may have contracted staph for the second time since 2007. Hopefully it’s not staph but if it is, we hope Randleman gets it cleaned up soon. Good luck and godspeed, Monster.

Saul She Wrote

Bellator’s next event takes place tomorrow night at Boston’s Wang Theatre and a Boston-area fighter just earned himself a spot on the promotion’s roster. According to a press release from the promotion, undefeated Sityodtong fighter Saul Almeida won an open tryout in Boston and will be booked on an event during Bellator’s third season later this year.

MMA Live On Air

Tomorrow night will also see the televised premiere of MMA Live in its new weekly timeslot, 1 a.m. Fridays (or late Thursday night if you prefer) on ESPN2. The MMA Live crew will also bring the MMA Nation special weigh-in and pre-PPV editions before major events.

Dream A Little DREAM

Dream honcho Keiichi Sasahara gave a pretty revealing interview to Daniel Herbertson over at MMAFighting. They talked about “The White Cage” and recent losses suffered in America by top Japanese fighters. According to Sasahara, “Japanese fighters need to train for the cage as it is a completely different experience.” A little wrestling wouldn’t hurt, either.

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Joe Warren is fighting stateside but that doesn’t mean he’s forgotten about the abrupt ending to his breakthrough DREAM Featherweight Grand Prix run.

After besting former WEC Bantamweight Champion Chase Beebe and K-1 2005 Middleweight Grand Prix (155-pounds) Norifumi “Kid” Yamamoto to open the tournament and his MMA career, Warren’s lack of experience caught up to him as submission ace Bibiano Fernandes defeated him with a contested armbar 43 seconds into their semi-final bout.

The 2007 World Cup Greco-Roman wrestling champion hasn’t competed since but his entrance into Bellator’s second featherweight tournament, where he will face veteran Eric Marriott (17-2) in the first round, gives Warren another shot to emerge with a belt and $175,000 in cash.

“I wanted to fight in front of the American public,” said Warren of his decision to sign with Bellator.”Bellator, with open arms, they wanted me there.”

Bellator’s open arms will allow Warren to continue to compete for DREAM, an opportunity which his other suitor, Zuffa, couldn’t offer. He also enjoys an option to pursue the Olympics; Warren missed qualifying for the 2008 games due to a positive test for THC, the active ingredient in marijuana.

The University of Michigan wrestler’s single-mindedness has him weighing fights—including non-tournament bouts—at 135 and 145-pounds in DREAM and Bellator.

“I enjoy the tournament aspect of it, the winning aspect of it, the scheduling, title shot,” said Warren. “That makes it way more comfortable fighting for me if I’m in that kind of atmosphere.”

Warren asserts his Greco-Roman wrestling career took him all across the world in one of the toughest sports in the world, preparing him for situations “a lot tougher than that” tournament in Japan.

“I learned a lot. We did bout a month of training before we got into the fight with Beebe so it was very, very new,” said Warren of his first tournament. “I’ve learned more since the tournament’s been done because I’ve been able to slow it down and work on technique. I just really learned how tough this sport really is.

“I respect MMA a lot more now, just the with all the technique, the variations [from] the different sports. Coming from a sport like Greco-Roman [wrestling] where technique wins, I’ve learned a lot. I learned that I pissed off and I’m going to smash this jiu-jitsu guy Bibiano.”

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At FIGHT! Magazine, we believe there is a need for a completely objective and unbiased ranking system for fighters to replace the myriad of subjective rankings that have become skewed, in many instances, by fighter popularity. In an effort to address this issue FIGHT! Magazine brings you its computerized rankings system which takes into account a fighters strength of opponent, strength of performance, and frequency of activity. Let’s see how things shook out after UFC on Versus 1 and Dream.13.


(Jon Jones is solidly in our Top 10 at 205#.)

Jon Jones was already a top-15 light heavyweight (#15 actually) but crushing Brandon Vera helped him crack the Top 10 at #9. Vera slipped from #20 to #27. In heavyweight action, Junior Dos Santos held on to his #7 ranking with a KO victory over Gabriel Gonzaga who moves down two spots from #23 to #25. Cheick Kongo rebounded from his loss to Frank Mir by finishing Paul Buentello and moved from #25 to #15 in FIGHT!’s Heavyweight Rankings. Buentello dropped from #30 to #37.

James Irvin actually entered the Light Heavyweight Rankings at #31. If he fights again at 185 pounds we will re-assign him as a middleweight. Alessio Sakara moves from #27 to #14 with his win over Irvin. John Howard’s knockout of unranked Daniel Roberts was impressive to the eye but not our Rankings Supercomputer – Howard holds fast at #15 in our Welterweight Rankings.

Clay Guida made a move back towards contention, rising from #37 to #28 in our Lightweight Rankings with his submission victory over Shannon Gugerty, who dropped from #58 to #71. Welterweight Mike Pierce jumped seven spots, from #38 to #31, with his win over unranked Julio Paulino. Jason Brilz slid into the top 25 at light heavyweight – #28 to #23 – with his win over Eric Schafer, who also moved five spots, from #32 to #37.

TUF prospect Eliot Marshall drops from #22 to #25 at 205 pounds while wily veteran Vladimir Matyushenko moves from #24 to #20. At the bottom of the card, Chase Gormley, Brendan Schaub, and Darren Elkins remain unranked because they have yet to accumulate three eligible fights, and veteran Duane Ludwig enters the lightweight poll at #107.


(Bibiano Fernandes has the #1 spot in a stranglehold.)

Over Tokyo way, Bibiano Fernandes held onto his Dream Featherweight Champion belt and his #1 ranking with a split decision win over Joachim Hansen, who slipped from #11 to #14 at lightweight. If he continues to fight at 139 pounds we’ll reassign him to our Featherweight Rankings. Josh Barnett held on to his #4 ranking in our rankings and “Mighty Mo” actually moved up a spot with the loss, from #33 to #32. KJ Noons moves into our lightweight rankings at #26 with his win over Andre Amade, who sits tight at #88.

Welterweight/middleweight journeyman Ryo Chonan moves from #60 to #32 with his win over Andrews Nakahara, who drops from #24 to #47 in our Middleweight Rankings.
Kuniyoshi Hironaka drops from #29 at welterweight with his loss to unranked Kikuno Katsunori and inexplicably, Ikuhisa Minowama and Jimmy Ambriz’s rankings were unaffected by Minowaman’s victory – they remain #9 at middleweight and #59 at heavyweight, respectively.

FIGHT! Fans: What do you think of the rankings?

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(Dos Santos gave Gonzaga a preview of the fight at weigh-ins. Photo by Dave Mandel, props to Sherdog.)

It was a busy night as the UFC ran a Sunday night show on Versus for the first time and Dream returned to Tokyo with its first show of 2010. Below you’ll find the essential FIGHT! Facts and figures as well as a recap of how we fared with our FIGHT! Picks.

UFC on Versus FIGHT! Results

Jon Jones def. Brandon Vera by TKO (strikes) at 3:19 of Round 1.
Junior Dos Santos def. Gabriel Gonzaga by KO (punches) at 3:53 of Round 1.
Cheick Kongo def. Paul Buentello by submission (strikes) at 1:16 of Round 3.
Alessio Sakara def. James Irvin by TKO (punch) at 3:01 of Round 1.
Clay Guida def. Shannon Gugerty by submission (arm-triangle choke) – Round 2, 3:40.
Vladimir Matyushenko def. Eliot Marshall by split decision.
Darren Elkins def. Duane Ludwig by TKO (ankle injury) at 0:44 at Round 1.
John Howard def. Daniel Roberts by KO (punch) at 2:01 of Round 1.
Brendan Schaub def. Chase Gormley by TKO (punches) at 0:47 of Round 1.
Mike Pierce def. Julio Paulino by unanimous decision.
Jason Brilz def. Eric Schafer by unanimous decision.

UFC on Versus FIGHT! Bonuses

Sunday night was big for the cards heavy hitters as the UFC handed out three “Knockout of the Night” awards for the first time ever. Jon Jones, Junior Dos Santos and John Howard pocketed the dough. Clay Guida won “Submission of the Night” and there was no “Fight of the Night” bonus awarded.

UFC on Versus Attendance & Gate

According to UFC President Dana White, UFC on Versus 1 drew a sell-out crowd of 6,443 for a live gate of $568,125.

Dream.13 FIGHT! Results

Bibiano Fernandes def. Joachim Hansen by split decision to retain the Dream Featherweight Championship.
Josh Barnett def. Siala Siliga by submission in Round 1.
KJ Noons def. Andre Amade by unanimous decision.
Ryo Chonan def. Andrews Nakahara by unanimous decision.
Cole Escovedo def. Yoshiro Maeda by KO in Round 1.
Katsunori Kikuno def. Kuniyoshi Hironaka by KO in Round 1.
Ikuhisa Minowa def. Jimmy Ambriz by submission in Round 2.

FIGHT! Picks UFC on Versus / Dream.13

We’re currently 28-12 with our picks in 2010.

UFC on Versus

Jon Jones (-250) vs Brandon Vera (+190)
FIGHT! Pick: Jones Resulting Outcome:  CORRECT

Gabriel Gonzaga (+200) vs Junior dos Santos (-260)
FIGHT! Pick: Dos Santos Resulting Outcome:  CORRECT

Paul Buentello (+285) vs Cheick Kongo (-365)
FIGHT! Pick: Kongo Resulting Outcome:  CORRECT

James Irvin (-130) vs Alessio Sakara (+100)
FIGHT! Pick: Irvin Resulting Outcome:  INCORRECT

Clay Guida (-500) vs Shannon Gugerty (+325)
FIGHT! Pick: Guida Resulting Outcome:  CORRECT

Dream.13

Bibiano Fernandes (-105) vs. Joachim Hansen (-125)
FIGHT! Pick: None. Discretion is the better part of valor. Resulting Outcome:  CORRECT, haha.

Josh Barnett (-1400) vs. Siala Siliga (+700)
FIGHT! Pick: Barnett Resulting Outcome:  CORRECT

KJ Noons (-250) vs. Andre Amade (+190)
FIGHT! Pick: Noons Resulting Outcome:  CORRECT

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The UFC is in high definition at high altitude for its first Versus network broadcast—and yes, its available on Direct TV. Compelling match-ups with contender implications occupy the night’s top slots and big punchers round out the main card action Sunday from the 1st Bank Center in Broomfield, Colo. Here are FIGHT!’s Picks for this weekend’s bouts with odds courtesy of bodog – we’re currently 22-11 with our picks in 2010.

Jon Jones (-250) vs. Brandon Vera (+190)

Brandon Vera’s muay Thai, Greco-Roman wrestler pedigree and Lloyd Irvin ground game all favor “The Truth” over Jon “Bones” Jones. However, Jones, a fighter who entered the UFC in similar meteoric fashion as Vera did in 2005, offers enough aggression to disarm the San Diegan’s finesse game. The New Yorker’s freakish 84.5” reach will threaten Vera’s leg kick approach with counters.

For Vera, engaging in an inside fight to stifle Jones and potentially force him to work off his back is the surest way to victory. Unfortunately, striking first and fast isn’t his strong point.

FIGHT! Pick: Jones

Gabriel Gonzaga (+200) vs. Junior dos Santos (-260)

A battle of Brazilian heavyweights, Gonzaga vs. Dos Santos is a fight similar to Vera-Jones with Gonzaga as the former young gun and Dos Santos the new kid proving quick on the draw.

A world jiu-jitsu champion, Gonzaga’s key to victory is taking top position over the Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira purple belt. “Napao” understands kicks are necessary to solve Dos Santos’ problematic punch first-punch often style and has a decided grappling edge but dos Santos is too strong, athletic, and aggressive.

FIGHT! Pick: dos Santos

Paul Buentello (+285) vs. Cheick Kongo (-365)


(Al-Turk chases Kongo.)

Paul “The Headhunter” Buentello has his chance to live up to his nickname against Frenchmen Cheick Kongo. While the two heavyweights are on the opposite end of the abs spectrum, they also posses varied striking styles. Buentello is a heavy puncher as his nickname suggests, while Kongo enjoys eight-point striking and occasional takedowns resulting in ugly elbows.

Buentello is a solid underdog considering that the likely outcome for the loser is lights out; however, he’s the more limited fighter.

FIGHT! Pick: Kongo

James Irvin (-130) vs. Alessio Sakara (+100)

James Irvin hasn’t been inside the Octagon since July 2008. Alessio Sakara has quietly improved at American Top Team, but the Italian folds under explosive strikes like Irvin’s. Displaying an increasingly well-rounded game against Irvin is a must for Sakara but his willingness to engage likely gets him in trouble before that can happen.

FIGHT! Pick: Irvin

Clay Guida (-500) vs. Shannon Gugerty (+325)

Clay Guida looks to rebound from back-to-back defeats to Diego Sanchez and Kenny Florian against City Boxing protégé Shannon Gugerty. An aggressive grappler, Gurgerty is capable of keeping up with the speedy Guida in key scrambles. The Chicagoan is simply more seasoned and violent, losing only to the sport’s best in recent bouts, so count on “The Carpenter” to avoid submissions long enough to do damage with ground and pound.

FIGHT! Pick: Guida

Dream.13

We know the Japanese have a different approach to matchmaking but it’s hard to see any rationale behind Minowaman vs. Jimmy Ambriz. There, are, however, a handful of compelling match ups going down tomorrow in Tokyo.

Bibiano Fernandes (-105) vs. Joachim Hansen (-125)

Hansen is favored in this fight but he’s dropping 7 kilos from Dream’s lightweight division to its featherweight division. The 139-pound limit is a serious cut for a guy who has fought as high as 168# and may sap his strength and energy. Hansen is clearly the better striker but Fernandes has the advantage on the ground. My gut says Hansen but my brain says keep your money in your pocket.

FIGHT! Pick: None. Discretion is the better part of valor.

Josh Barnett (-1400) vs. Siala Siliga (+700)

This fight isn’t big money but it’s easy money. Barnett returns to action overseas, effectively dodging his problems with the California State Athletic Commission over his dirty urine test in August 2009. “Mighty Mo” returns to MMA action after nearly a year-and-a-half hiatus. The K-1 vet had only one kickboxing match during that time, so it’s fair to say that both of these guys will have some ring rust. Mo’s striking is dangerous, but Barnett is good enough to get the takedown and submit him without sustaining too much damage. Hopefully this is just a tune-up match for Barnett and he’ll start fighting more relevant heavyweights again this summer.

FIGHT! Pick: Barnett

KJ Noons (-250) vs. Andre Amade (+190)

Pro-Diaz fans like to hate on Noons and his EliteXC/boxing/manager drama, but the “King Karl” is a bad dude with serious boxing-for-MMA skills. “Dida” is a solid opponent but has dropped three fights in a row to top-shelf guys (Calvancante, Alvarez, Kikuno). Unless travel and ring rust get to Noons, he takes this fight by KO or TKO.

FIGHT! Pick: Noons

RECAP
UFC on Versus

Jon Jones (-250) vs Brandon Vera (+190)
FIGHT! Pick: Jones Resulting Outcome:  CORRECT

Gabriel Gonzaga (+200) vs Junior dos Santos (-260)
FIGHT! Pick: Dos Santos Resulting Outcome:  CORRECT

Paul Buentello (+285) vs Cheick Kongo (-365)
FIGHT! Pick: Kongo Resulting Outcome:  CORRECT

James Irvin (-130) vs Alessio Sakara (+100)
FIGHT! Pick: Irvin

Clay Guida (-500) vs Shannon Gugerty (+325)
FIGHT! Pick: Guida Resulting Outcome:  CORRECT

Dream.13

Bibiano Fernandes (-105) vs. Joachim Hansen (-125)
FIGHT! Pick: None. Discretion is the better part of valor. Resulting Outcome:  CORRECT, haha.

Josh Barnett (-1400) vs. Siala Siliga (+700)
FIGHT! Pick: Barnett Resulting Outcome:  CORRECT

KJ Noons (-250) vs. Andre Amade (+190)
FIGHT! Pick: Noons Resulting Outcome:  CORRECT

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(Hansen, training hard for the encounter with Fernandes. Exclusive image © 2010 TNASport & Darren Benson)

“At the weigh-in I was very light, even after breakfast,” Joachim “Hellboy” Hansen admitted as part of his explanation for dropping weight classes. The weigh-in in question was for his Dream featherweight title fight with Shinya Aoki; “Hellboy” being the champion and Aoki being the challenger. He tipped the skills at just 150.3lbs for the contest and, in a world of big weight cutters, that is almost unheard of. Most lightweight fighters will be well into the 170-180lbs region before making the cut, precisely adapting their diet and cutting regime to hit the limit.

Hansen continued,

“I’ve always been somewhere in between the two weight classes. So, when I got home to my native soil after the loss against Aoki, I decided to make the drop. If I do the drop the weight correctly, I see myself being big at featherweight. I believe I’m using the right weight-cutting techniques.”

These techniques have been utilised by many athletes since the implementation of weight classes, especially relevant in combat sports. Hansen looked to a training partner and friend called Jack Hermanson for his expertise to perfect the drop.

“I’m 66kg on an empty belly in morning now,” Hansen revealed. “I’ve changed my diet after learning how the wrestlers do it.

“I train with a guy called Jack Hermanson who has a strong background in Greco Roman and has a deep understanding of diet and nutrition. He told me his techniques and has been working with me. I usually walked around at 69-70 kg but I always lose 1kg when I go to Japan because of the difference in the food culture. My aim is to be 65.5kg on an empty stomach when in Japan. I’ve been practicing weight cutting a few times now, I can do 2.5-3kg easy and rehydrate back up without any problems and not lose any strength.”

As a highly-successful lightweight, the thought of Hansen at featherweight is sure to whet the appetite of the fans. Whilst giving away size advantages to the likes of Aoki, Calvancanti and Gomi, Hansen still managed to collect the Shooto belt and the Dream lightweight tournament belt. The possibilities for him at featherweight are almost endless, and they begin with a title tilt against Bibiano Fernandes.

A quick reflection on the Hansen vs. Aoki preceded his statements about Fernandes, however.
I had two choices [in the fight against Aoki]. Stay solid and let the time run out, or try to get out and try to land one in his big head. I went for the second choice as I felt I was losing the fight,” Hansen revealed. He tapped to Aoki’s armbar just four seconds from the end of the bout but has no regrets. The record between the pair now stands at 2-1, something “Hellboy” won’t be dwelling on too much on, although there are some grievances.

“Right now I’m focusing on the new weight division I’m gonna fight in,” Joachim said. “But, if I fight Aoki again, I will have a neutral referee. About the groin kick, I felt my heel hitting something hard, and I am sorry for that, but next time, wear a good cup. Saying that, Aoki is not an easy guy to grapple with. But if we – and we shall – meet again, it’s under ancient Brazilian vale tudo rules.”

He is looking towards Fernandes, the featherweight tournament champion, as a tough test on his debut in the new weight class. Fernandes overcame Takafumi Otsuka, Masakazu Imanari, Joe Warren and Hiroyuki Takayi to claim the title and his ability in all ranges was impressive, but particularly his Brazilian Jiu Jitsu.

“Bibiano looks like a good fighter, skilled in BJJ, hard hitter and kicker,” “Hellboy” noted. “Bibiano looked impressive in the Dream GP. I am training hard for this fight so I can and will be at my best.”

Of the future, Hansen doesn’t want to take anything for granted. The title fight with Fernandes is imminent and, should he have the championship gold around his waist again, he’ll likely be in the East for the foreseeable future, defending his belt. With new ties between Strikeforce and Dream opening up the promotions to fighter-swapping though, it could see him head back to America with Joachim stating “it would be nice to fight in the States again.”

For now, he has the unenviable task of facing Bibiano Fernandes and a school to run in his native Norway. Whilst Joachim is an accepted figure worldwide for his mixed martial arts exploits, things aren’t necessarily the same at home and he is aiming to turn that around and churn out some successful fighters from his school and the country in general.

“We are a little behind here in Norway when it comes to the MMA scene,” was the response from Joachim when asked about the local circuit. “K-1 only became legal some weeks ago. The “Church and Culture Department” made it legal, so you see what we are up against. We have to ask those who burned us at the stake in the dark ages.

“But Team Hellboy now has a strong team of fighters coming through,” he continued enthusiastically. “Four of our fighters all won last month, two were knockouts and the other two were by TKO so there are future stars in the camp. We need more fights though, so please contact Jay, my manager, at thenetworkagency@hotmail.co.uk, he has the info you need about my Norwegian MMA fighters.”

With Hansen leading the way and hoping to pick up another prestigious title, hopefully the next generation of Norwegian warriors can follow suit and show that the Scandinavian nations are here and able to make an impact.

Look out for Joachim’s battle against Biabiano Fernandez on the 22nd of March when Dream 13 takes place in Yokahoma, Japan.

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(Teen punchface from the K-1 Koshien tournament at Fields Dynamite!! 2009.)

With DREAM and World Victory Road struggling to draw crowds and hold on to television contracts, it’s clear that the halcyon days of Japanese MMA are over. FIGHT! contributor and Cagepotato.com co-conspirator Ben Fowlkes traveled to the Land of the Rising Sun to take in Fields Dynamite!! 2009, assess the state of Japanese MMA, and buy beer from vending machines. Ton find out what Fowlkes learned, you’ll have to read the Feb. issue of FIGHT! Magazine, on newsstands Jan. 25. FIGHT! contributing photographer Susumu Nagao was on hand to shoot the action – check out his photo gallery here.

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Mixed martial arts fans need to invest in day planners because 2010 will be even busier than 2009, and if UFC 108 was any indicator, you don’t want to miss any of the action. Here are 10 reasons to be excited for 2010.

UFC Fan Expo

Fight fans have another chance to get their swag on in grand fashion when the UFC hosts its second Fan Expo to accompany UFC 114 in Las Vegas come late May. Free stuff and a chance to rub elbows with just about everybody who’s anybody in MMA is reason enough to visit Vegas, but if you need convincing, the FIGHT! Magazine booth is pretty badass.

Healthy and Happy New Year

A rash of injuries plagued the second half of 2008, sidelining champions Anderson Silva, Brock Lesnar, and Georges St-Pierre. Up-and-coming fighters like Dustin Hazelett and Todd Duffee were on the DL, too. Here’s hoping that everyone recovers from illness and surgery to fight again in 2010.

Twitter

twitter

Some of the world’s best fighters are communicating directly with their fans. Dynamic personalities abound on the social networking site Twitter. Frank Trigg, Jason “Mayhem” Miller, and Muhammed “King Mo” Lawal are avid Tweeters. Nate Quarry makes his comments count for laughs and Miguel Torres causes trouble. Fans can get a well-rounded view of a fighter’s personality and have instant access to their idols. Check out the heavy hitters here.

Game Bred

The success of THQ’s UFC Undisputed 2009 brings a sequel in 2010 and a competitor in Electronic Arts’ EA MMA 2010, which will prominently feature fighters from Strikeforce and DREAM. For years, fans had no mixed martial games for their consoles. Come 2010, they’ll be able to choose between two for the first time since 2004. Though if you’re like us, you’ll just buy both.

If You Can Make It In New York…

With the UFC coming to Boston in August and mixed martial arts sanctioning in nearly every state, New York’s holdout is unlikely to last through 2010, especially since former Gov. Pataki and current Gov. Patterson both favor regulation. Add in the UFC’s planned shows in Australia and Abu Dhabi and Dana White’s plan for global domination is in full swing.

Fighters on Film

Like it or not, Quinton “Rampage” Jackson is a lead player in the The A-Team remake. Cung Le will recover from Scott Smith’s weighty punches with choreographed comeback fights and Gina Carano is set as Steven Soderbergh’s next action starlet. Not to mention mixed martial arts legend and UFC Hall of Famer Randy Couture stars opposite Hollywood icon Sylvester Stallone in The Expendables. Improving the crossover appeal of fighters can’t be bad, even if the movies are.

Shogun-Machida II

Twenty-five minutes wasn’t enough to prove who is the best light heavyweight in the UFC, and arguably, the world. Champion Lyoto Machida narrowly retained his belt in a technical, steady contest despite critics and fans awarding Mauricio “Shogun” Rua the decision. The controversy overshadowed what a fantastic contest it actually shaped up to be but the rematch, targeted for UFC 113, will likely be a completely different bout now that they’ve already had five rounds together.

More Fedor

Fedor Emelianenko is the best heavyweight on the planet and we get to watch him on free TV. With the longest winning streak in the history of the sport spanning nine years and 27 victories, the Russian is slated to hit network TV again in April. 2009 was his best year since his PRIDE days as he posterized two consensus top-10 heavyweights in Andrei Arlovski and Brett Rogers.

Strikeforce’s Second Stage

Strikeforce emerged as a major player in 2009 by securing a television deal with CBS/Showtime and signing MMA legends Fedor Emelianenko and Dan Henderson and is bringing solid, nationally televised fight cards to the table nearly every month. This competition gives fighters another stage to shine on and forces promoters to offer the best product possible.

Must-See TV

Whether you’re watching UFC, WEC, Strikeforce, Bellator, Dream or Sengoku in 2010, you can be watching it for free or for the cost of your cable package. All of the organizations have a broadcast, basic cable, or premium cable television presence. Prior to The Ultimate Fighter season on just five years ago, the kind of presence mixed martial arts will have on television in 2010 was unfathomable.

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(Shinya Aoki stops by Strikeforce weigh ins to say hello.)

The Saitama Super Arena in Saitama, Japan hosted many of PRIDE’s greatest events. But ticket sales and excitement for Japanese MMA have dipped in a post-PRIDE world, so rival promotions DREAM and World Victory Road are teaming up out of good will and necessity to deliver a compelling card to continue the Land of the Rising Sun’s rich New Year’s Eve fight tradition. Here are our FIGHT! Picks for the FieLDS Dynamite!! DREAM vs. Sengoku card. Odds courtesy of bodog. This post will be updated when odds are published for Gegard Mousasi vs. Gary Goodridge.


Shinya Aoki (-500) vs. Mizuto Hirota (+300)

DREAM Lightweight Champion Shinya Aoki battles Sengoku Lightweight Champion Mitzuto Hirota for divisional supremacy in Japan. Aoki, FIGHT!’s second-ranked lightweight, needs an aggressive grappling attack against Hirota’s strong base and rugged striking. Two fighters (Joachim Hansen and Hayato Sakurai) have stopped “The Tobikan Judan” in the past two years, but they had enough ground skills to hold Aoki off while implementing their own game plan. Aoki may be made of paper but if he gets the takedown his magic grappling pants will prevail.
FIGHT! Pick: Aoki.

Melvin Manhoef (+160) vs. Kazuo Misaki (-200)


The resilient Japanese veteran has the grappling skills to subdue “Marvelous,” though unlike the last man to submit Manhoef, Paulo Filho, Misaki will likely get dragged into a striking bout. And in a kickboxing match, Manhoef’s high-speed collision style and ability to get off first and hardest favors the Holland native.
FIGHT Pick: Manhoef.

Satoshi Ishii (-280) vs. Hidehiko Yoshida (+220)


Japan likes MMA but it loves Judo, and observers pointed to this match as one of the keys for making this DREAM vs. Sengoku card a reality. Two Japanese treasures, Satoshi Ishii and Hidehiko Yoshida, meet in a superfight battle between Olympic Judo gold medalists. Ishii is the younger, more athletic combatant with world class grappling to match and the benefit of time with Randy Couture, Lyoto Machida and American Top Team. While Yoshida is game and more experienced, Ishii’s talent and recent training partners suggest t that this is a passing of the torch.
FIGHT! Pick: Ishii.

Norifumi “Kid” Yamamoto (-550) vs. Masanori Kanehara (+350)

If Norifumi “Kid” Yamamoto’s opening flurries don’t break his opponents, his dogged persistence will. Masanori Kanehara has the unfortunate task of facing Yamamoto, FIGHT!’s third-ranked featherweight and one of the world’s most talented mixed martial artists, after a disappointing loss to Joe Warren in the DREAM Featherweight Grand Prix. Yamamoto’s athleticism and striking will win the day.
FIGHT! Pick: Yamamoto.

Hayato “Mach” Sakurai (-215) vs. Akihiro Gono (+175)

Both of Japan’s best tenured welterweights hope to move past brutal head kick knockout defeats as Hayato Sakurai challenges Akihiro Gono. The inconsistency and durability of each makes the bout a toss up. But Gono’s motivation—even if it’s just in his showmanship—will likely outshine Sakurai’s lethargic act with busier strikes throughout a long contest.
FIGHT! Pick: Gono.

Alistair Overeem (-1100) vs. Kazuyuki Fujita (+600)

Top-ten heavyweight Alistair Overeem gets another softball mixed martial arts bout amidst a grueling K-1 schedule when Kazuyuki Fujita stands across the ring from “The Demolition Man.” Fujita’s best strength is his wrestling, which amounts to little offense. On the feet, Fujita’s “Iron Head” will likely be the anvil to the Strikeforce Heavyweight Champion’s hammer.
FIGHT! Pick: Overeem.

Rameau Thierry Sokoudjou (-290) vs. Ikuhisa Minowa (+230)

The final of the “Super-Hulk” tournament features Sokoudjou, fresh off of his CBS-televised Strikeforce slip up versus Gegard Mousasi, locking up with the man known to Japanese fans simply as “Minowaman.” Sokoudjou’s judo base and powerful, ever-improving striking will dispose of the brave Minowa before his tendency to fade becomes an issue.
FIGHT! Pick: Sokoudjou.

Recap

Shinya Aoki (-500) vs. Mizuto Hirota (+300)
FIGHT! Pick: Aoki. Resulting Outcome:  CORRECT

Melvin Manhoef (+160) vs. Kazuo Misaki (-200)
FIGHT Pick: Manhoef. Resulting Outcome:  CORRECT

Satoshi Ishii (-280) vs. Hidehiko Yoshida (+220)
FIGHT! Pick: Ishii. Resulting Outcome:  INCORRECT

Norifumi “Kid” Yamamoto (-550) vs. Masanori Kanehara (+350)
FIGHT! Pick: Yamamoto. Resulting Outcome:  INCORRECT

Hayato “Mach” Sakurai (-215) vs. Akihiro Gono (+175)
FIGHT! Pick: Gono. Resulting Outcome:  CORRECT

Alistair Overeem (-1100) vs. Kazuyuki Fujita (+600)
FIGHT! Pick: Overeem. Resulting Outcome:  CORRECT

Rameau Thierry Sokoudjou (-290) vs. Ikuhisa Minowa (+230)
FIGHT! Pick: Sokoudjou. Resulting Outcome:  INCORRECT

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