Despite a great number of interesting fights and a plethora of international draws on display, many MMA fans tuned in to Dream 11 for the rubber match between two of the organization's premier talents.
Joachim "Hellboy" Hansen (19-8-1) returned to action after a 14-month period to defend his Dream lightweight championship against the man he defeated for the crown, Shinya Aoki (22-4-0-1).
The fight went down as most predicted, as Aoki used crafty footwork to get past Hansen's explosive range and gained the clinch. From there, it was only a matter of time before Aoki used his black belt in judo to hip-toss Hansen to the mat.
This is where most blood-lust fans tend to lose interest and shout profanity as if they were fighters that could keep this fight standing.
Anybody who has watched an Aoki fight knows that he is extremely patient, lingering around with petty punches until his opponent gives him an opening he can seize.
The fight seemed to be following the same format until Hansen showed Aoki a helluva fight from his back. "Hellboy" showed great improvement in his ground game as he kept Aoki in the butterfly and half guard for most of the first round.
Aoki continued to tread the up-kick waters as he looked for a better way around Hansen's guard, until the inevitable happened. Hansen landed a vicious up-kick to Aoki's eye followed by another to the temple before the referee jumped in and called time.
It was unclear why the referee called time, as the up-kicks were perfectly legal—until a replay showed Aoki was kicked in the groin before eating those nasty up-kicks. After a few minutes of allowed recovery time, the fight resumed back on the ground.
Although Aoki appeared to have control of Hansen in top position, it was Hansen who was landing considerably more strikes, as well as executing more transition attempts for the rest of the round.
Additionally, Hansen nearly pulled off an arm bar on the world-renowned grappling expert. Meanwhile, Aoki showed everyone why he earned that status, escaping with his heel-kick-to-the-head strategy.
After a slight rest, each fighter came back out for round two.
Hansen stalked forward, waiting to unleash his striking on Aoki, who is absolutely atrocious on his feet. However, Hansen's patience was slightly off as he jumped into an attack, where Aoki snagged the clinch and subsequently tripped him down.
Thus began another stint of Aoki searching for an opening while Hansen peppered the side of Aoki's head. After a few minutes of Aoki floating around in Hansen's butterfly guard, the referee stood each fighter up and unveiled a yellow card for both, deducting a point and 10 percent of their purse.
Action resumed and Aoki snatched the clinch once again, looking for another takedown. This time, Hansen delivered a beautiful knee to Aoki's jaw and buckled him to his knees.
However, Aoki still had a hold of both Hansen's legs and dragged "Hellboy" down again, finding himself in side control near the ropes. After a reset to the center of the ring, Hansen attempted to buck Aoki off.
This was the opening Aoki was waiting for throughout the fight. He quickly slid his leg over and obtained the mount that was followed by him nabbing a top guillotine attempt shortly thereafter.
It appeared for a second that Hansen might have tapped from the choke, but like a true Viking warrior he powered his way out while shoving Aoki away in the process.
The arm was an apple ripe for the picking and Aoki was the hungry traveler wandering by.
Hansen defended the arm bar attempt with just under a minute left, and he even appeared to be unfazed by it as he talked and received instructions from his corner.
Aoki was slowly but surely straightening his body out, and it was clear Hansen had to act fast with under 30 seconds remaining. He twisted his body around and was about to blast Aoki in the dome with a vicious knee. But the opportunistic Aoki used Hansen's momentum to roll him towards their backs, where Aoki secured the arm bar with only four seconds remaining in the fight.
With this victory, Shinya Aoki became the first Japanese fighter to win a belt inside the Dream organization.
His next opponent will most likely be Tatsuya "Crusher" Kawajiri, who ground-and-pounded his way to victory earlier that night against Melchor Manibusan.