TOKYO, March 15 -- Fate has a funny way of playing out sometimes. This was certainly apparent Saturday at the inaugural Dream -- the new co-production between K-1 and former Pride staffers -- after the highly touted main event between jiu-jitsu ace Shinya Aoki (Pictures) and two-time Hero's lightweight grand prix champion Gesias Calvancante (Pictures) ended without a winner.
Misfortune first reared its ugly head last December, when Calvancante injured his knee during training and pulled out of the New Year's Eve main event against Aoki at Yarennoka. Despite the seriousness of the injury, the Brazilian managed to battle back. A mere three months later it was announced that the highly anticipated bout was back on.
The fight had the makings of a classic due to the fact that the two fighters mirror each other in many ways. Both are champions, with Aoki currently holding the Shooto middleweight title and Calvancante holding two Hero's grand prix titles. Both have rocketed up through their respective promotions, and both have gone a very long time without suffering a defeat.
With the merger of K-1 and former Pride employees, the dream matchup had finally become a reality.
During the bout, Aoki ended up on his back after each clash, looking to tie Calvancante up on the ground. The Brazilian, however, didn't follow his opponent down, instead opting to wait till the referee ordered Aoki to stand.
The unfortunate beginning of the end happened just after Aoki had ducked a Calvancante high kick. The Japanese fighter charged in for a takedown at the ropes, but Calvancante sprawled away to the corner.
With Aoki still on his knees looking to complete the takedown, Calvancante fired down elbow strikes. On the instant replay, it was clear to see that the first strike landed legally on the upper part of Aoki's shoulder blade. The second strike is a little more suspect, coming down precariously close to the crevasse between the Shooto champion's neck and shoulder.
"The elbow, it came to my body first, and then to the back of my neck," Aoki said. "And then it seemed like all my power, all my energy just started going down and then it became paralyzed."
At that point, Aoki began to crumple to the mat. Calvancante threw a third final elbow, but its impact was clearly minimized as Aoki's body was already traveling downward.
"I was doing the right thing for me," said JZ. "I'm not foolish. I'm not going there and to do something wrong."
With Aoki lying prone on the mat, the referee paused the fight and sent each athlete to his respective corner. The Japanese fighter's corner was buzzing with activity while doctors and officials assessed the injury and deliberated on whether to call the fight.
"The first one I hit with the elbow," said the Brazilian. "The second one was lighter. Accident. I'm not going to judge, and say that I hit hard or not, or hit the neck or not. He knows about this."
After what seemed like an eternity, Aoki was still in visible pain whenever he moved his right arm, and the decision was made to rule the fight a no-contest at 3:46 of the first round.
"If I could raise my arm, I could have continued the game, and that's what the doctor said," the Japanese lightweight asserted. "But I could not raise my arm. So that's why I could not continue with the fight."
In the ring, Aoki gave an emotional address to the fans, saying that he had been waiting more than a year to get in the ring and fight since the collapse of Pride. He promised to come back and become the best in the world.
Dream top executive Keiichi Sasahara discussed the uncharted waters that the two fighters now find themselves in, saying that he would like to see a rematch, possibly in the next round, but that he'd have to refer to the tournament officials for some kind of decision. He also mentioned the possibility of Calvancante being disqualified, thus pushing Aoki forward in the tournament.
"I want to fight him again," Calvancante said. "I asked for a rematch. I want to continue in the tournament, so I hope they can do it … they can figure out something."