We'll attempt to answer those questions and more as we predict the winners of this year's New Year's Eve event in Japan below.
What: Dream: Fight for Japan New Year 2011
Where: Saitama Super Arena, Saitama, Japan
When: Friday late night, the HDNet broadcast will begin at 1 AM ET, just after the conclusion of UFC 141.
Predictions on all the MMA fights below.
Fedor Emelianenko vs. Satoshi Ishii
Fedor is 5-0 fighting in Japan on New Year's Eve, and it would be an enormous upset if he doesn't improve to 6-0 against Ishii, a former Olympic judo gold medalist who is 4-1-1 in his MMA career. Fedor has obviously declined significantly from the days when he was the top fighter in the sport, but I don't think he's fallen so far that he'll lose to Ishii. This should be a relatively easy win for Fedor.
Shinya Aoki vs. Satoru Kitaoka
Aoki is arguably Japan's best pound-for-pound fighter, but he'll have his hands full with Kitaoka, who's a good grappler and has beaten some very solid opponents, including Carlos Condit, Paul Daley and Takanori Gomi. I see this one going the distance and being closer than most people think, with Aoki eking out a close decision.
Hiroyuki Takaya vs. Takeshi Inoue
Takaya is making his second defense of the Dream featherweight title, which he won by defeating Bibiano Fernandes on New Year's Eve last year. Inoue is coming off a great head kick knockout of Caol Uno, but Takaya's kickboxing is better than Inoue, and I like him to win by decision.
Tatsuya Kawajiri vs. Kazuyuki Miyata
Kawajiri dropped to featherweight and looked great in his recent win over Joachim Hansen. His striking will be too much for Miyata.
Hayato Sakurai vs. Ryo Chonan
Both of these guys are past their primes (Sakurai is 36 and has lost four in a row; Chonan is 35 and has fought low-level competition since losing three of four in the UFC a few years ago), but I think Sakurai has a little more gas left in the tank and will avenge Chonan's 2003 victory.
Megumi Fujii vs. Karla Benitez
Fujii is one of the best pound-for-pound female fighters in the world, and Benitez is simply not at her level. This should be an easy submission victory for Fujii.
Bantamweight Tournament Semifinal: Bibiano Fernandes vs. Rodolfo Marques
Fernandes, the former Dream featherweight title, is more comfortable fighting at bantamweight, and he has to be considered the favorite to win this tournament. I look for him to beat Marques easily.
Bantamweight Tournament Semifinal: Masakazu Imanari vs. Antonio Banuelos
Banuelos was released by the UFC after losing a decision to Miguel Torres early this year, but he's a dangerous opponent for anyone and a much better striker than Imanari. I like Banuelos to win by TKO.
Bantamweight Tournament Reserve Bout: Hideo Tokoro vs. Yusup Saadulaev
Tokoro, who lost a split decision to Banuelos in the tournament quarterfinals, should win the reserve bout against Saadulaev, who lost to Marques.
Bantamweight Tournament Final: Winner of Imanari/Banuelos vs. Winner of Fernandes/Marques
Fernandes has an excellent opportunity to make a statement that he's the best bantamweight outside Zuffa, and I think he'll put on a show by beating Banuelos in the tournament finale.
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