The sportís most anticipated rubber match, the semi-finals and final of a stacked featherweight tournament and the inclusion of Hong Man Choi and Bob Sapp highlight Dream 11 this Tuesday at the Yokohama Arena in Yokohama, Japan.
One can always expect the unusual avalanche of sideshow matchmaking from a Dream event, but the lightweight title bout between reigning champion Joachim Hansen and submission virtuoso Shinya Aoki should be enough to cleanse the palate of any fight snob. Backing up the all-star showdown are the final two rounds of the Dream featherweight grand prix, which features the ongoing Cinderella run of Joe Warren, Hiroyuki Takayaís attempt to erase the bitter memory of his disappointing World Extreme Cagefighting stint and a pair of submission specialists in Bibiano Fernandes and Hideo Tokoro.
If the promise of such violent goodness does not reel you in, Ikuhisa Minowa will take on Choi in a match that defies any preconceived notions you may have of logic. Get in line for another round of fight analysis.
Dream Lightweight Championship
Joachim Hansen vs. Shinya Aoki
The Breakdown: The rubber match is a rarity in mixed martial arts, and perhaps the last place one would expect to find it is in the chaotic matchmaking web Dream has woven together. Nevertheless, a third bout between Aoki and Hansen, which will decide the future of the lightweight title Hansen currently holds, headlines its latest show.
Anyone with a working Internet connection and access to an MMA forum saw the clip of Aokiís brilliant gogoplata on Hansen in their first match. However, Hansen learned his lesson in the rematch and scored an abruptly brutal technical knockout over Aoki after nearly getting ensnared in another gogoplata. Despite scoring that win on the mat, Hansen simply does not reside in the same rainbow-colored universe as Aoki when it comes to grappling and will have to rely heavily on his powerful strikes to make up the difference.
In both fights, Aoki took down Hansen with relative ease, using slick outside leg trips and textbook guard pulls. Hansen often made the mistake of loading up on unsightly lead rights that only made Aokiís takedown attempts much easier to execute. Expecting Hansen to do anything but wing telegraphed power shots seems unrealistic, so Aoki will have the same openings for takedowns he has grown accustomed to seeing. Will Aoki will stay disciplined enough on the mat to keep himself safe from Hansenís death-from-above ground-and-pound?
There are certain grappling techniques that are not supposed to work in MMA, and Aoki has proven that sort of hard-line thinking wrong time and time again by employing everything from the De La Riva open guard to a hyperactive spider guard. While that elite technical prowess can befuddle even the most talented of grapplers, it remains a risky way to make a living; Hansen has already proven he can punch his fists through the holes in Aokiís defense. Aokiís willingness to temper his game against a grappler of Hansenís caliber will be key, as Aokiís game is only effective when he keeps his opponents thinking defense; that allows him the time to work them into an inescapable string of submission attempts.
The X Factor: Watching Aoki work on the mat is akin to watching Deep Blue turn Garry Kasparov into a sputtering pile of brain cells -- truly awe-inspiring and demands your utmost attention. Of course, Deep Blue never had to worry about Kasparov taking a baseball bat to its motherboard. That is the luxury Aoki does not enjoy, as he still reacts to getting hit as if strikes were illegal. The rematch between these two proved Hansen only needs a small opening to probe Aokiís brain with his fists. If Aoki cannot put away Hansen early, he will only give him more time to turn the tables and bash him over the head.
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The Bottom Line: Over the course of two matches, Hansen has managed all of five seconds worth of effective offense against Aoki. Granted, those five seconds sent Aoki to bed with no dinner, but that was more a strategic blunder on Aokiís part than anything else. That same opportunity will not present itself to Hansen again, as he gets caught in a heel hook early in the first round and Aoki ascends to the top of the trans-Pacific heap.