What would New Year’s Eve be in Japan without an MMA show? Well, despite the ongoing financial woes of parent company K-1, the DREAM organization is planning an event for Tokyo’s Saitama Super Arena. The UFC is running an event in Las Vegas on December 30th, but chose to stay away from the actual 31st date. Dana White basically said Vegas is too crazy on New Year’s Eve. But in Japan they embrace their fights on New Year’s, with the big events in the past getting most of the country to watch the peak matches. Let’s look at this year’s card.
Last year, parent company K-1 ran the New Year’s eve event under the K-1 Dynamite! flag. This is, in fact, the first time the name DREAM, which has been in use since 2008, has been used around the promotion of the Finale show of the year.
K-1 sold the Dynamite! name as they struggled to stay afloat. Promoter Antonio Inoki’s company will co-promote with DREAM to plan a massive event. There is talk of up to two dozen matches being planned. Matches are to be contested under MMA, K-1 and Pro Wrestling rules.
On the MMA side alone, the event has announced several very competitive matches. Let’s stick with those, as the sportsbooks will certainly have lines open on these bouts.
DREAM Featherweight Champion Hiroyuki Takaya defends his title against Takeshi “Lion” Inoue. Both are veterans, with a 16-9-1 record for Takaya and 21-5 for “Lion’. Takaya has been winning over top competition on his latest run, and should prove to be too rugged for Inoue.
Another match that is certain to draw attention is a battle between Tatsuya Kawajiri and Kazuyuki Miyata. Miyata is a little tank, and you should not let his maudlin record of 11-8 fool you. Miyata has been in there with some of the very best since the start of his career. Kawajiri is certainly the favorite, as he has several strong wins this year. Kawajiri bounced back well after his lost to Gilbert Melendez last April. Kawajiri also won his bout on the 2010 New Year’s show, against Josh Thompson and is 3-1 since with wins over Joachim Hansen and Drew Fickett as well. If Kawajiri slips up or makes a mistake, Miyata could just take this bout.
Another intriguing bout features veterans Ryo Chonan and Hayato Sakurai. This bout is a rematch, as both men met in September of 2003 in a show promoted by the DEEP organization. In that bout, Chonan won by a doctor’s stoppage. At this point, this is a toss up, as Chonan has not really risen above a certain level, and Sakurai is coming off four losses in a row as he reaches the end of his career.
The event will also feature the semi-finals and finals of a Bantamweight tournament. The two matches are Rodolfo Marques Diniz vs. Bibiano Fernandes and Antonio Banuelos vs. Masakazu Imanari. The final is favored to be Imanari and Fernandes.
Overall, the MMA side of DREAM’s New Year’s Eve extravaganza has some solid matches that should entertain. With K-1 and Pro Wrestling on the card that is planned to have over 20 bouts, it will be interesting to see where the big ratings fall.