(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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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