Dream Pulled from Primetime TV
In a less-than-dreamy scenario, Fight Entertainment Group's Dream
MMA brand has been ousted from primetime television on the Tokyo
The change comes after the debut edition of Dream garnered
lackluster ratings in a make-or-break scenario for FEG and TBS.
The event grabbed only an 8.9 percent rating average on TBS in
primetime, according to Japan's Video Research Ltd. The telecast's
peak was a 12.7 for the Mirko "Cro Cop" Filipovic bout against
(Pictures), which was edited into the
main event slot due to the no-contest debacle in the Shinya Aoki (Pictures)-Gesias Calvancante
(Pictures) fight -- the show's true
main event. TBS was fifth out of the six major Japanese networks
during the time slot, besting only the perennial sixth-place
finisher, TV Tokyo.
The ratings were crucial for the primetime continuation of FEG's
MMA product. Rumors within the Japanese MMA community surfaced late
last year suggesting that TBS could take FEG's Hero's promotion out
of primetime due to sagging, lackluster ratings.
Although FEG's restructuring of its MMA program and the invention
of Dream were celebrated by hardcore MMA fans, the move was not an
altruistic one. Rather, it was an attempt to revitalize FEG's MMA
product and ignite interest on television.
TBS is now scheduled to air the forthcoming April 29 Dream card on
a week's tape delay in heavily edited one-hour installments. The
broadcasts will air both in afternoon and after-midnight timeslots.
However, future Dream events will air live on SkyPerfecTV
The announcement is in no way a death knell for the revamped
promotion. Pay-per-view is not a lucrative medium in Japan, though,
as it is in North America. Being forced out of primetime does
heavily slash advertising revenues for FEG, which will limit the
ability for the promotion's growth in the foreseeable future.
For the time being, FEG continues to have television success with
its central kickboxing brands, K-1 and K-1 Max. The April 9 K-1 Max
telecast on TBS garnered a 12.4 percent rating average in primetime
on TBS, and the April 13 K-1 telecast in primetime on Fuji
Television scored a 12.8 percent. The only sports programming to
score higher thus far in April was the April 5 Nippon Professional
Baseball game between the Yomiuri Giants and Hanshin Tigers, which
notched a 13.8 rating on NHK.
Despite the disappointing news, there is some measure of a silver
lining for hardcore fans. With the shift to pay-per-view, Dream's
future events will air unedited, in their entirety. This will
resolve the usual griping regarding the heavily edited product
created to air in a two-hour primetime television slot, which often
leaves many fights unaired or shown only in highlight form. The
April 29 Dream pay-per-view telecast is scheduled for roughly six
hours of pay-per-view time, broadcasting live from 4:00 p.m. to
9:55 p.m. Tokyo time.
Also, with the shift out of primetime on TBS, the Dream
pay-per-view telecast will feature the return of Daisuke Sato, the
influential video director who was responsible for the
much-celebrated pre-fight promo packages for Pride.
Leading Shooto promoter Sustain has announced a pay-per-view of its
own, revealing that the May 3 Shooto Tradition: Road to 20th
Anniversary card at JCB Hall in Tokyo will be available live on
SkyPerfecTV in Japan.
Although not new to the medium, pay-per-view events are a rarity
for pro Shooto. In the past, a few of Sustain's larger Shooto
cards, including some of its year-end events, aired on
pay-per-view. However, there has not been a live Shooto
pay-per-view telecast since May 2006, when Sustain and Japanese
fashion label Devilock teamed up for the Shooto The Devilock event
in support of Devilock's 10th anniversary.
The live pay-per-view telecast will air from 5:00 p.m. to 9:25 p.m.
Tokyo time on Perfect Choice on SkyPerfecTV. The telecast will air
a main card projected to offer seven fights, which currently
features "Lion Takeshi" Takeshi Inoue (Pictures) against Trenell "Savant" Young,
(Pictures) facing Ryuichi Miki (Pictures), Rumina Sato (Pictures) squaring off with Akitoshi Tamura (Pictures), Hayato Sakurai (Pictures) tangling with David Baron (Pictures), and the main event rematch
Nakakura (Pictures) and Ganjo Tentsuku (Pictures) for the vacant Shooto 154-pound
world title. The two Class B preliminary bouts between Sakae Kasuya (Pictures) and Hayate Usui (Pictures), and Noboru Tahara (Pictures) and Katsuya Murofushi
(Pictures) may be slotted into the
live telecast as time permits.
Sengoku parent company World Victory Road has announced that
up-and-coming Pancrase product Ryo Kawamura (Pictures) will get another baptism by fire
when he takes on returning veteran Kevin Randleman (Pictures) on the May 18 card at the Ariake
Colosseum in Tokyo.
Kawamura, who was upset by veteran Keiichiro Yamamiya
(Pictures) in December, got back into
the win column on Sengoku's debut offering in March, when he took a
unanimous decision over previously undefeated Brazilian Antonio Braga Neto
The 36-year-old Randleman has fought only once in the last two and
a half years, having been submitted in October 2006 by Mauricio
"Shogun" Rua. In that time span, Randleman's battles have been
largely medical, as the former UFC champion faced both a
life-threatening lung infection and a gruesome staph infection.
For Kawamura, the bout represents another leap up in competition,
which is not necessarily unfamiliar territory. In September 2006,
after being crowned Pancrase's Neo Blood tournament champion,
Kawamura took on Pride veteran Daniel Acacio (Pictures) in a bout many deemed as a
mismatch that would bury the novice Kawamura. After absorbing
punishment through the first round, Kawamura rallied back, punching
Acacio out in the second round for the improbable upset.
One of Japan's longest tenured veterans will continue his comeback
in the heart of America's dairy land.
At 31 years old and with more than 60 bouts behind him, two-time
Pancrase champion Kiuma
Kunioku (Pictures) is looking to get a new lease on
his career at lightweight. Kunioku will next see action May 3, when
he takes on Midwest vet Joel
Blanton (Pictures) in his second bout at 155 pounds.
The fight is set for Dave
Strasser (Pictures)'s Freestyle Combat Challenge card
in Racine, Wisc.
Over a four-year stretch Kunioku won only once, going 1-6-2.
Kunioku, who debuted in the open-weight, palm-strike era of
Pancrase in 1996, has competed as a welterweight for the better
part of the decade. Looking to give his career a shot in the arm,
Kunioku took the unusual route of training at Dave Strasser (Pictures)'s Freestyle Academy in Kenosha,
Wisc. In his 155-pound debut last month, Kunioku stopped David Love in the second round with
With the opening round a refreshingly comedic success, Deep big
boss Shigeru Saeki has announced that the next round of the
promotion's plus-sized Megaton Grand Prix will take place May 24 at
Shinjuku FACE in Tokyo, with a high-quality female fight in tow as
The tournament, comprised of 16 220-plus-pound Japanese
competitors, kicked off last month and fully capitalized on its
comedic novelty. The quarterfinal round will feature Waka Arashi (Pictures), Shunji Kosaka, Ken Orihashi (Pictures), Shunsuke Inoue (Pictures), Yoichi Babaguchi (Pictures), Mamoru Nakamura (Pictures) and prohibitive tournament
Kawaguchi (Pictures). However, no quarterfinal
pairings have been announced.
The card will also feature a 106-pound women's title eliminator
between Naoko Omuro
(Pictures) and Misaki Takimoto (Pictures). The two met previously in GCM's
Cage Force last November, when they fought to a hotly competitive
and spirited draw. The winner of their second go-around will meet
Deep 106-pound queen Miku
Matsumoto (Pictures) for the title in August.
Takimoto, one of female MMA's iron women, has already faced Miku
three times, handing the current champ her first two losses early
in her career. In their third contest last June, Miku dominated
Takimoto, taking a first-round submission via armbar.
In undercard action, Toshiaki Kitada (Pictures) faces Ippo Watanuki (Pictures), Yasushi Kitazaki (Pictures) meets Sotaro Yamada (Pictures), Isamu Sugichi squares off with
Takafumi Otsuka, and
Sen Nakadai (Pictures) takes on Yoshitomo Watanabe
The weekend of MMA in Japan gets started Friday, when Smackgirl
continues its 2008 ReMix tournament series at Korakuen Hall in
In the semifinals of Smackgirl's 115-pound ReMix tournament,
undefeated female superstar Megumi Fujii (Pictures) will take on South Korean muay
Thai champ Seo Hee Ham
(Pictures), and underrated American
Lisa Ward (Pictures) meets Brazilian stalwart Ana Michelle Tavares
The pound-for-pound standout Fujii submitted accomplished grappler
Cindy Hales (Pictures) in February to advance to the
semifinals, and Ham knocked off Saori Ishioka (Pictures).
Ward, arguably the top female in the 105-pound weight range,
submitted Ayumi Saito
(Pictures) with a nasty toehold in her
115-pound quarterfinal in February, and Tavares slickly submitted
strong up-and-comer Kyoko Takabayashi
(Pictures) with a triangle inverted
In the semifinals of the open-weight World ReMix tournament, former
Smackgirl 128-pound champion Hitomi Akano (Pictures) will take on current open-weight
Smackgirl champ Hiroko. Josh
Barnett (Pictures) understudy Ginele Marquez (Pictures) also meets pro-wrestler Atsuko Emoto (Pictures).
Akano lost her Smackgirl title to rival Takayo Hashi (Pictures) last September and was then edged
out in November by Vanessa
Porto (Pictures) by split decision. The AACC
product rebounded in the ReMix tournament's opening round in
February, when she heel hooked female MMA pioneer Megumi Yabushita (Pictures) in the second round. Hiroko, a
dominatrix turned prizefighter, hasn't fought since September, when
she captured the Smackgirl open-weight title against Yoko Takahashi (Pictures).
Marquez authored a breakout performance last July. She put a
lopsided beating on Megumi
Yabushita (Pictures) en route to a commanding decision
win, but she was defeated by highly touted Canadian prospect
(Pictures) last October. Emoto earned
her way into the semifinals in February by taking a decision over
the equally charismatic Keiko
In undercard action, Windy
Tomomi (Pictures) takes on a fellow kickboxing
convert in Azuma, who will be making her MMA debut in a 119-pound
affair. In a battle of undefeated prospects, Kaneko Takeshita takes
on Rin Nakai (Pictures) at 128 pounds.
Pancrase brings a host of champions to Korakuen Hall on Sunday for
the next installment of the 2008 Shining Tour, although the injury
bug has taken a bite out of the card.
With welterweight King of Pancrase Kastuya Inoue dropping to
lightweight, Pancrase had hoped to crown a new champion in a bout
between Bryan Rafiq
(Pictures) and Takuya Wada (Pictures). However, Rafiq suffered a knee
injury in training.
Rafiq's management confirmed to Sherdog.com that the partially torn
ACL will only keep the Roan
Carneiro (Pictures) student out for a month, but he
has been replaced by IFL veteran Jason Palacios (Pictures), who will now meet Wada in a
provisional King of Pancrase title bout.
Palacios, who turned pro less than two years ago, raised his stock
considerably last September when he gave highly touted Pancrasist
(Pictures) major difficulties in a
bout that was expected to be an easy victory for Kitaoka. Palacios
dominated early, battering Kitaoka on the feet before losing an
eventual split decision.
With Pancrase largely adopting the weight classes prescribed by the
unified rules, many of the organization's notable welterweights --
such as Inoue, Satoru
Kitaoka (Pictures) and Koji Oishi (Pictures) -- have opted to continue their
careers at 155 pounds, clearing the way for the veteran Wada in the
division. Wada has won three straight, last taking a commanding
decision over Seiki Ryo
(Pictures) in November.
Two other Pancrase champions will also be on the bill in non-title
action. The recently married Yuki
Kondo (Pictures), Pancrase's longtime light
heavyweight champ who now owns the awkward status of "provisional
middleweight King of Pancrase" after officially dropping to 185
pounds, will take on veteran Keiichiro Yamamiya
(Pictures). Yamamiya is fresh off his
upset of up-and-comer Ryo
Kawamura (Pictures) in December.
Also, heavy-hitting lightweight Pancrase king Shoji Maruyama (Pictures), who crushed Artur Oumakhanov (Pictures) in January to win the title, will
take on the aforementioned Koji
Oishi (Pictures) in a non-title affair. Two-time
Pancrase welterweight champion Katsuya Inoue (Pictures) will make his lightweight debut
on the card, taking on Russian sambist Dzhamal Kurbanov.
Sunday will also see Hidehiko Yoshida (Pictures) pupil Ryuichi Murata (Pictures) head back to South Korea for the
next installment of Spirit MC in Seoul.
The 31-year-old judoka enjoyed his best success to date in '07,
dominating his way through Spirit MC's heavyweight grand prix.
Finishing all three of his tournament foes, including iron-headed
South Korean Jung Gyu
Choi (Pictures), Murata earned the right to
challenge current Spirit MC heavyweight champion Denis Kang (Pictures). That bout has not yet even been
discussed, though, due to Kang's participation in Dream's
forthcoming middleweight tournament. In the meantime, Murata will
take on Seung Bae Whi
Whi, like Murata, is coming off a victory over Jung Gyu Choi (Pictures), taking a majority decision in
January. The victory pushed Whi's record to 4-0 inside the confines
of Spirit MC.
Murata, who is undefeated in his last seven bouts, has faced four
South Koreans in as many outings, finishing all of them by knockout
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