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Shinya Aoki Submits Rich Clementi; Imanari, Tokoro Advance in Dream Bantamweight GP

TOKYO, Japan -- DREAM lightweight champion Shinya Aoki was essentially perfect at DREAM Fight for Japan at Saitama Super Arena on Sunday night, dominating UFC veteran Rich Clementi for twelve minutes before slapping on a face lock from back control for an easy submission victory in DREAM's first event of 2011.

Also on the card for the leading Japanese promoter's return to action, Masakazu Imanari and Hideo Tokoro booked their tickets to the final of the Bantamweight Japan Grand Prix, although Tokoro's route to the final was definitely not without controversy, advancing through to the semifinals by an sickening blow to the groin of Yoshiro Maeda.

Full results below.

Shinya Aoki dominates Rich Clementi

As one would expect, Shinya Aoki wanted late replacement Rich Clementi on the mat in their non-title lightweight affair and without too much resistance, that is exactly what Aoki got. Within seconds of the opening bell, the DREAM lightweight ace closed the distance and secured the clinch leading into a single leg takedown into half guard. Clementi's attempts to escape from the bottom position or mount some offense only gave Aoki the space he needed to advance his position and after a failed kimura attempt from the American, Aoki had Clementi in back control.

With Clementi perhaps over-concerned about the possibility of a rear naked choke, Aoki was free to punch without fear of his opponent escaping and the DREAM ace landed what seemed like at least one hundred unanswered blows over the course of approximately four minutes. Clementi made no attempt to escape or offer more defense than simply shelling up, but was clearly telling referee Yuji Shimada not to stop the bout and advising his corner that Aoki "punches like a girl."

In a highly questionable decision, Shimada stood up the bout and yellow carded Clementi despite Aoki continuing to rain in fists from back control while the American made no attempt at all to escape or even move.

Round two was more of the same for Aoki as he again got the takedown with ease and found himself in back control. This time though, realizing that the referee wasn't going to stop the bout regardless of how many punches he landed, Aoki sought the submission more aggressively and was quickly rewarded with his second consecutive face lock submission victory.

Katsunori Kikuno employs new, although questionable style in victory over Daisuke Nakamura
At Katsunori Kikuno's open training session in the lead up to DREAM Fight for Japan, the karate stylist demonstrated a new style of striking that employed no guard and largely consisted of pressing forward with straight punches from the hip while taking unprotected punches to the face. Many in the press had taken Kikuno's demonstration as a simple nod to his traditional roots, but surprisingly this was the style he used in his decision victory over armbar king Daisuke Nakamura.

Kikuno gave no respect to Nakamura's punching power, freely taking punches to the face in order to throw his own. The change of style was also so radical that we did not see Kikuno's trademark hourglass stance or body kick, a blow that has brought him up the top echelon of the Japanese lightweight rankings in recent years. With Nakamura's chin proving solid and the Kiyoshi Tamura student scoring well on the feet, Kikuno resorted to takedowns and ground and pound for the majority of the latter half of the fight and comfortably earned the decision, despite his confusing tactics.

Caol Uno's experience leads him to victory over "Wicky" Akiyo Nishiura
15-year veteran, Caol Uno was on the verge of retirement before his bout with artist/slugger "Wicky" Akiyo Nishiura, but a masterful game plan convinced the former Shooto champ and two-time UFC title contender that perhaps is not the time to hang up the gloves.

Uno, lacking the strength to out-wrestle his much younger foe, drew Nishiura into scrambles from feigned takedowns and from there, was time and time again able to secure the back and came close to earning the rear naked choke submission victory. Nishiura, who consistently proves incredibly difficult to submit, was never able to land his wild uppercuts and hooks and so Uno easily earned the judges favor.

"Lion" Takeshi Inoue TKO's Deep Champion Koichiro Matsumoto

In what was billed as a battle of the regional promotions, former Shooto ace "Lion" Takeshi Inoue blitzed fellow striker and Deep champion Koichiro Matusmoto with a straight right, following it up with hammer fists to get his first DREAM victory and the win for Shooto.

Before the right hand, Matsumoto seemed to be taking the lead, moving much better around the ring from the outside and scoring better with his hands, but one punch from "Lion" was all it took to send his opponent crumbling to the canvas. Matsumoto was vocally protesting the stoppage post-fight, but given that he was curled up in the fetal position and making no attempt to move, the stoppage was good.

Joachim Hansen derails Mitsuhiro Ishida
Former DREAM lightweight champion Joachim Hansen has not been overly impressive at featherweight, seemingly lacking power and often running out of gas early in a bout, but his victory over Mitsuhiro Ishida showed that he still can perform at this weight class, even if it is not ideal for him.

In a roll reversal, Ishida, who had been undefeated as a featherweight going into the bout, was surprisingly the better of the two on the feet, running circles around Hansen and dropping him with a straight left hand. Hansen was good enough to recover though and in another strange roll reversal actually landed a suplex on the wrestler among several takedowns he scored.

Despite his cardio failing him in the late in the bout, an armbar attempt from Hansen proved to be better than Ishida's striking and his own takedowns and the judges rendered a split decision in the Norwegian's favor.

Imanari and Tokoro move to finals of Bantamweight Japan Grand Prix

Hideo Tokoro's path to the bantamweight GP finals was controversial as he essentially won one bout by head butt and groin strike.

The highly entertaining grappler was superb in his defeat of Atsushi Yamamoto as he out-boxed and out grappled the Norifumi "KID" Yamamoto team-mate in their rematch, earning a split decision despite taking significant damage in his quarter-final fight.

In that quarterfinal bout, Yoshiro Maeda and Tokoro put on a wild haymaker fiesta, throwing defense out the window and swinging for fences, prompting Maeda to scream in enjoyment and pain. This incredible display was brought to an end though when Tokoro inadvertently delivered a head butt followed later by a sickening groin punch that badly crippled Maeda. Rather than having the bout declared a no-contest and having the judges decide the victor, Maeda continued fighting despite not being able to stand properly and his corner threw in the towel.

Deep bantamweight champion Masakazu Imanari's path to the GP final was more clear cut but was certainly less exciting.

In his quarterfinal bout, Imanari outpointed reigning ZST champ Keisuke Fujiwara in a frustrating match where Fujiwara was intent on defending but offered very inconsistent offense.

In the semifinal match between Imanari and WEC veteran Kenji Osawa though, the Deep champion showed why he is dubbed the "10th Degree in Footlocks" submitting Osawa with a heel hook in the second round to advance to the tournament finals.

DREAM "Fight for Japan" Results - May 29, 2011 at Saitama Super Arena, Japan
Bantamweight Grand Prix Semifinals:
Masakazu Imanari def. Kenji Osawa by Submission (Heel Hook) - Round 2, 0:58
Hideo Tokoro def. Atsushi Yamamoto by Split Decision

Shinya Aoki def. Rich Clementi by Submission (Face Lock) - Round 2, 2:17
Katsunori Kikuno def. Daisuke Nakamura by Unanimous Decision
Caol Uno def. Akiyo Nishiura by Unanimous Decision
Takeshi Inoue def. Koichiro Matsumoto by TKO (Punches) - Round 1, 6:51
Joachim Hansen def. Mitsuhiro Ishida by Split Decision

Bantamweight Grand Prix Quarterfinals:
Kenji Osawa def. Takafumi Otsuka by Split Decision
Masakazu Imanari def. Keisuke Fujiwara by Unanimous Decision
Hideo Tokoro def. Yoshiro Maeda TKO (Corner Stoppage) - Round 2, 0:43
Atsushi Yamamoto def. Yusaku Nakamura by TKO (Punches) - Round 1 8:43

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