In the not so wee hours of the morning a tape delayed Dream.11 finished. It saw three fight of the year candidates, two title matches and a plethora of mismatches or just outright curiosities all housed in the same building on Tuesday night in the Yokahama Arena.
While many in the MMA community focused on Hansen vs. Aoki III, the featherweights were on display in a final that would have been a disappointment if it had headlined any other way.
Hiroyuki Takaya upset Hideo Tokoro with a stoppage due to strikes. His opponent Bibliano Fernandes made short work of highly regarded prospect Joe Warren, submitting him via armbar early in round one.
With many of the eyeballs off them, they entered in what have been the last fight DREAM ever hold inside the ring. Bibliano Fernandes took control early taking Takaya down in what surely should seal his fate.
However the Japanese surprise package would not be denied as he would continue to stymie the Brazilian working his way back to his feet.
As they stood for much of the remainder of the match "Streetfight Bancho" would prove his name well earned as he would take control of the fight forcing Fernandes to fade at the end of the first round.
When the action recommended Bibliano would change tact landing scything leg kicks and willingly standing. Though he would shoot and get another takedown, but it would be powered through again.
A topsy turvy night would again provide a moment of drama as Fernandes dropped him with an overhand left, forcing his way quickly to Takaya's back. Calmly though Takaya would stand and force a restart, with the Brazilian looking like ornamentation on his back.
A scintillating fight would end with two men slugging all the way to the bell.
While I had Takaya doing enough to win the fight the refs would disagree awarding a controversial split decision, and Dream's Featherweight title. An emotional Takaya had shocked the world, but fell just short.
Takaya was the real winner, from his depressing exit from WEC he's recollected himself and took the former Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu Champion out to deep waters reviving his career, and possibly forcing FEG's hand in making a rematch.
In the co-main event, Aoki would take Hansen down at will. While Hansen was seemingly doing well off his back he made one idiotic mistake handing Aoki a slick armbar on a silver platter ending the highly deflating bout.
Japan would have its first ever DREAM champion. He'll take on Tatsuya Kawajiri, who easily took care of Melchor Manibusan, presumably at Dynamite 2009.
Sakuraba made his return against Rubin Williams...
In spectacle of the night Minowa took on 9'11 eleventy million pound Hong Man Choi. In a depleting fight, Minowa would use his speed to shoot in for laughable takedown attempts.
However multiple times Choi somehow found a way to pull guard, on the final ocassion Minowa would bring possibly the most hilarious bout in MMA history to a close with a kneebar in round two.
Bobb Sapp would collect a paycheck on his ridiculous tour to milk every last penny from whats left of his fame. Predictably being pounded out after a short flurry of energy.
An exciting night of fights ended with a little bit of everything. In many ways DREAM.11 was the end of an era of Japanese MMA. More and more promotions are making the switch to the unified rules, and while it maybe better for the sport and the acclimation period between organizational switches.
It's unfortunate it comes at the expense of the rule set I, and many others have come to love. Some will disagree with this, and they're welcome too. Can rings be a hindrance? Yes. But I'll miss Rampage lifting Sakuraba up, and using the ropes to break an armbar. I'll miss Shogun dropping stomps on Diabate, and Kanehara. As well as Melvin Manhoef dropping knees to the skull of Dae Won Kim.
It maybe nostalgia alone, but damn it, I'll miss it all the same.