Picks and Predictions for Dream 11: The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly, and The Embarrassing, and Bob Sapp

By Nicholas Bailey (nbailey@mmaratings.net)

This is a card that lives up to all the negative stereotypes of Japanese MMA promotions: freakshow matches, wildly mismatched fights, and abuse of popular Japanese fighters. Fortunately, it also has some of the greatest fighters in the world in well-matched fights, providing some consolation for the pain MMA purists feel at seeing Bob Sapp and Hong Man Choi in the ring. With the conclusion of what’s been a very eventful featherweight grand prix and the guaranteed fireworks of a Hansen/Aoki rubber match, this is a card that’s definitely worth staying up for.

Joachim Hansen (+175) vs. Shinya Aoki (-190) (for DREAM lightweight title)

This is certainly a rubber match that needed making. Each man holds a win over the other, both conclusive and quite sudden. Aoki is fragile, but can submit anyone. Hansen is devastating with any strike, very durable, and is an excellent grappler himself, although his relentless aggression leaves him open to takedowns and submissions. On the feet, it’s a wild mismatch, and Hansen has an iron jaw and Aoki, while he showed some striking acumen against Shaolin, has not shown any kind of power since dropping an opponent with a hook kick in an amateur bout. However, Hansen’s big KO power comes from throwing gigantic Mortal Kombat -style strikes which leave him off balance and very upright, ripe for a takedown. Hansen is the kind of fighter that doesn’t care about giving up position, being aggressive from anywhere a fight can put him (he has some of the nastiest upkicks in MMA, especially to the groin) so he has never bothered to avoid letting his opponent land takedowns, which could prove disastrous against a whiz kid like Aoki.

Hansen doesn’t get much credit for it, but he’s an excellent grappler himself, so it won’t be a cakewalk for Aoki the way many of his fights haven been once he gets to the ground. If Aoki ends up underneath Hansen, I think Shinya will be much less aggressive than he traditionally is, as he’s a cerebral fighter who gameplans carefully, and he knows he has to be wary of Hansen’s power.

Because of this, I think Aoki will be much more focused on the takedown and top position, rather than his more typical approach of taking the fight to the ground by any means necessary, even if it means giving up position temporarily. For Aoki to win, he will need to reliably get top control on Hansen and be aggressive from there, most likely playing more conservatively and picking up the decision after keeping Hansen on the defensive for most of the fight.

I don’t think Hansen will change his strategy much at all, because it’s simply in his blood, and he will try to crush Aoki’s head like a melon from any position, so it wouldn’t be shocking to see him posture up and flail down right into a submission again. However, if Hansen can really get to work on Aoki, chances are very good he will simply roll him up into the fetal position again. It only takes Hansen a moment, so I think he must be favored here, since his submission defense is better than Aoki’s chin or ability to avoid punishment.

I don’t think ring rust will be much of a factor for Hansen in this fight, despite his long layoff. Typically the problem with a fighter coming off a long layoff is that they aren’t comfortable in the ring and must re-acclimate to fighting. Hansen came out of the womb itching to stomp people, so I don’t think there will be any hesitation on his part. Hansen by TKO round 1.

This is a mis-set line, so Hansen is an excellent play for a unit. There is high variance since Aoki has a very clear path to victory, so don’t go overboard.

Tatsuya Kawajiri (-1800) vs. Melchor Manibusan (+900)


Who is Melchor Manibusan? Well, he’s the top 155lb fighter out of Guam, and founder of the Spike22 fitness center. He’s primarily a grappler, and he’s utterly unprepared for the hammerjob Kawajiri is going to do on his face. When Kawajiri fights someone he utterly outmatches, it’s usually very ugly; takedown, punishment, dominant position, more punishment, for five or six minutes until the guy is completely battered and the ref stops it. If Kawajiri wants to work that game, he should be much larger than Melchor and have no problem doing it. If Kawajiri wants to test out his much-improved standup, Melchor is a reasonably safe opponent for that, although he is tough and brawls wildly. Either way this is just to keep Kawajiri busy and let him do some mic work to set up a bout against the winner of Hansen/Aoki. Kawajiri by TKO round 1.

At -1800 there’s no meaningful return from betting on Kawajiri, and Melchor is too hopeless to be enticing even at +900. Steer clear here.

Kazushi Sakuraba vs. Rubin Williams

This fight is so much of a joke that nobody will even put odds out on it, which is amusing when a gong show like Hong Man Choi vs. Minowa has several shops hanging lines. Rubin Williams is a former(?) professional boxer who appeared on “The Contender,” boxing’s answer to The Ultimate Fighter. He was eliminated in the first episode of his season and has lost six straight fights since then. So he’s intended to be a complete jobber then.

Unless Williams has a backstage deal with FEG, he’s got a bit of life in this fight. He’ll most likely get taken down and summarily handled, as all boxers with no cross-training do, but Sakuraba’s knees are completely shot, as his his chin. It wasn’t that long ago that another complete jobber, 0-2 “Playboy” Yurij Kiseliov, nearly killed Sakuraba, and he was a complete joke. Williams may be mediocre for a pro boxer and very past it, but his hands are still legit for MMA, making this a chance for Sakuraba to be completely embarrassed and humiliated if he takes a shot or two and goes toppling over, so keep your eyes open for a car crash. Sakuraba by submission.

Bibiano Fernandes (+160) vs. Joe Warren (-175)

Joe Warren is the feel-good story of this tournament, having overcome huge odds twice in beating Chase Beebe and Kid Yamamoto, and he’s yet again over his head. Warren is a very natural fighter, using his wrestling and aggression to simply wear on opponents and beat them up. However, it must be remembered that this guy only has TWO professional fights and had literally no striking or submission training only a year ago. He is very wild on his feet, and although he showed an iron jaw and pain tolerance against Kid Yamamoto, he was also hit at will and ineffective with his own strikes from a distance, just as in the Chase Beebe fight. Right now Warren is only effective in two positions: the clinch, where he can dominate with his strength and wrestling, and in the guard, where his base makes him like lead and his aggression lets him punish opponents.

Since he was caught in armbar attempts multiple times against someone with as unheralded a guard game as Kid Yamamoto, he will have a very rough time controlling a grappler like Fernandes. However, takedowns and ground control is Warren’s best path to victory, as Bibiano has a solid, fundamentally sound kickboxing game that will reliably avoid Warren’s flailing haymakers and punish him with counters. Bibiano isn’t a homerun hitter, so he will not be able to seriously hurt Warren, but continuous unanswered blows to the face look great to the judges. Unless Warren can find a way to continually fight in the clinch and make this an ugly fight whre his toughness and aggression are all that matters, Bibiano will control him on the ground (if he fails to submit) and outpoint him on the feet. Warren is a great story, but unless his ground game has advanced in leaps and bounds, this part of his story stops here. Bibiano Fernandes by decision.

This is another line where I don’t understand why it was set this way. Fernandes is a legitimately talented, well-rounded fighter. Warren is a legitimately talented wrestler with almost no fight training. Against someone who doesn’t have glaring weaknesses, he should not be favored.

Hiroyuki Takaya (-245) vs. Hideo Tokoro (+195)

Takya’s “Streetfight Bancho” is one of the hardest nicknames in the sport, and Tokoro’s poor chin certainly doesn’t want to get into a streetfight with him. Tokoro is an aggressive, open-style grappler with crap wrestling and workable standup. Takaya is a brawling type striker with some decent pop in his hands and no glaring weaknesses. He should be able to avoid takedowns and rough Tokoro up, but Tokoro is cutthroat enough with his grappling that he has a decent chance of submitting him. All in all this should be a quality scrap, with Takaya accumulating damage either for a TKO stoppage or lopsided decision. Takaya by decision.

Featherweight Finals:

I’m expecting Takaya vs. Fernandes to be the final, which will be a very tough fight, with the winner of the gut-check coming out on top. Fernandes is more talented and should be favored, but Takaya has the power and heart to take it if Fernandes isn’t in good shape. Warren vs. Fernandes will be very rough on both men, so I wouldn’t be shocked if someone had an injury and couldn’t continue. Whoever wins between Bibiano and Warren will beat the other challengers, but don’t be surprised if Takaya takes on an alternate in the finals, in which case anything can happen.

Kazuyuki Miyata (-120) vs. Daiki “DJ.taiki” Hata (+120)


Miyata is one of those guys that shows that, no matter how great an athlete you are, it doesn’t mean you will excel in MMA. He comes from a wrestling background and is one of the most fantastic physical specimens to ever set foot in the ring, but he simply cannot avoid making mistakes and getting beat up, reversed, or submitted. He simply doesn’t have the disposition or mentality to be a fighter the way a natural like Joachim Hansen or Joe Warren does. When he sees someone’s face, his first instinct is not to bash it with the hardest part of his body, and when he sees an arm, he doesn’t want to wrench it off, and he forgets that his opponents see things that way, and all-too-often lets them have access to his face or arm for those purposes.

Daiki Hata, the fighting cosplayer, is Japanese fightsport’s most successful and legitimately talented novelty act since Genki Sudo and Andy Ologun. He has some real striking skills, and his ground game isn’t bad either. In a style vs. style matchup, the wrestler, Miyata, should be able to take him down and control for a decision, but Miyata is just too much of a flake for me to pick him here. He’ll screw up eventually and get hit and hurt, or submitted, or just let the fight slip away from him. DJ Taiki by decision.

Hong Man Choi (-175) vs. Ikuhisa Minowa (+145)


If this embarrassment is a legitimate fight, Choi should completely maul Minowa in a grotesque fashion. However, it seems like half of Minowa’s fights are worked lately, so I’d put it at 50/50 odds that Choi lays down for an ankle lock as Giant Silva, Bob Sapp, and Butterbean have done before him. Personally, I find the whole thing rather pathetic. Minowa by Yakuza.

Don’t bet on this fight unless you have a full-back tattoo and all your friends do too.

Bob Sapp vs. Rameau Thierry Sokoudjou


Finally Sokoudjou fights an opponent that isn’t more seasoned than he is, and doesn’t have better gas. Sapp will fall over as soon as he gets hit a few times, take his paycheck, and wait by the phone for a chance to do it again. Embarrassing.

My Plays:

2u on Hansen at (+190)to win 3.8u
1u on Fernandes at (+160) to win 1.6u


What Do You Think of This Fight/Event?