Joachim Hansen. Photo courtesy of DREAM.
Joachim Hansen was the surprise winner of DREAM’s inaugural lightweight grand prix this morning, avenging a past loss to Shinya Aoki by knocking out the skilled grappler in the tournament finals despite starting the night as a reserve.
In a dramatic turn of events, Hansen was pushed into the lightweight title main event after Eddie Alvarez was unable to compete due to injury. During the first few minutes of his battle against Aoki, it looked as if Hansen was about to fall victim to another submission loss once again, just as he did against Aoki at PRIDE Shockwave 2006 a few years back.
However the tide turned once Hansen landed a strong left hand while falling back to Aoki’s guard. The punch hurt Aoki, allowing Hansen to bomb away with unanswered right hands until Aoki stopped responding and referee Yuji Shimada was forced to stop the bout. An elated Hansen jumped into the arms of his corner. After composing himself, Hansen was quick to push for a rematch of his war against Alvarez earlier this year as his first official title defense.
“This still has to sink in a little,” Hansen said after the fight. “I am the sort of person who takes one thing at a time, so I concentrated on Kultar Gill (whom Hansen defeated via TKO earlier in the night) and felt a little strange going into the final match, so I took my time and looked for the right chance to strike. I had a great night, thanks to my team and everybody who helped me, and next time I hope to defend my title against Eddie Alvarez.”
Aoki reached the championship round after dispatching of feisty veteran Caol Uno earlier on the card in one of two semi-final bouts. Aoki put Uno in danger many times throughout the course of the fight with a variety of submission attempts. However Aoki was unable to finish Uno and settled for a unanimous decision his favor, which should be no surprise since Uno hasn’t been submitted in over eight years.
Ringside doctors deemed Alvarez unable to take on Aoki in the finals after suffering an eye injury during his semi-final bout with standout wrestler Tatsuya Kawajiri in yet another fight-of-the-year candidate. It was a fight in which both Alvarez and Kawajiri were each knocked down multiple times during the course of the bout before Alvarez finally put his opponent away late in the first round.
What seemed like a harmless cut at first quickly became an issue as Alvarez pleaded with officials to let him fight in the finals. His words went on deaf ears however and the extent of his injury was visibly apparent when he came out to announce his withdrawal from the competition, his eye nearly completely swollen shut.
In a match put together at the last minute, fellow kickboxers Mark Hunt and Alistair Overeem duked it out in the night’s only heavyweight bout. Because of the weight difference between the two (Hunt reportedly weighed in at close to 300 lbs), knees on the ground were not permitted. Regardless, knees weren’t needed once the fight hit the ground as Overeem impressed many with his ever-improving grappling skills, quickly submitting Hunt with an armbar just a minute into the fight.
Professional wrestler Katsuyori Shibata surprised many in giving Yoshihiro Akiyama a run for his money on the feet early on in their featured bout, but once things hit the canvas, Akiyama showed that he was the superior fighter, swiftly choking Shibata unconscious with a modified gi choke. Also victorious on the main card was Hideo Tokoro, who picked a unanimous decision win over Takeshi Yamazaki.
Kuniyoshi Hironaka picked up his first victory since being released by the Ultimate Fighting Championship, a TKO win over Motoki Miyazawa after Miyazawa suffered a fight-ending cut over his left eye. Urijah Faber-trained Joe Benavidez was impressive in his DREAM debut, quickly submitting Shooto mainstay Junya “Kodo” Kudo with a first-round guillotine. The night’s first bout saw Daisuke Nakamura submit K-1 kickboxer Andy Ologun.