OSAKA, Japan -- Joachim Hansen (Pictures) brought his fury upon Shinya Aoki (Pictures) in the Dream Lightweight Grand Prix final, as he stopped the submission wizard on strikes at Dream 5 and became the promotion’s first lightweight champion Monday before 11,986 fans at Osaka Castle Hall.
Brought in as an alternate when an injured Eddie Alvarez (Pictures) -- the man who ousted Hansen from the tournament in May -- was unable to continue in the draw, the 29-year-old Norwegian survived a kimura attempt before pounding out his foe. The victory avenged a gogoplata submission loss to Aoki (17-3) back in 2006 and snapped the Japanese standout’s 12-match winning streak.
Hansen (19-7-1) submitted Kultar “Black Mamba” Gill (10-8) with a first-round armbar in a reserve bout to put himself in position as an alternate.
“I heard if I [won] I may be in the final if someone got injured,” Hansen said. “I was ready for a beer, you know, and [to] kick back and relax. The guys in my team told me I was in the final, so I said, ‘I’ll give it a shot, you know, do my best.’”
Hansen came out aggressively in the final, loading up with a big hook that Aoki ducked easily and used to secure a takedown. Landing in Hansen’s half butterfly guard, Aoki stayed close as his opponent worked punches from the bottom. Hansen was warned for nearly every legal strike he threw, as they were apparently too close to the back of the head for referee Yuji Shimada. As Aoki complained, a perplexed Hansen ceased his punches and was then warned for inactivity despite being pinned underneath Aoki in half guard.
Once the fight returned to a standing position, Hansen unleashed another punch that Aoki dodged. When the action hit the mat again, Aoki went straight into rubber guard and attempted a kimura, undoubtedly providing Hansen with unpleasant flashbacks from his previous encounter with flexible Japanese lightweight. This time, however, he was up to the challenge, as he broke free and punished Aoki with some powerful ground-and-pound.
After another warning from the referee, Hansen turned up the heat, stood in Aoki’s guard and landed a crushing left hand to the grappler’s jaw, forcing him to curl into the fetal position. Aoki’s failure to defend himself was not enough to halt the action, and Hansen followed with a barrage of lefts and rights that eventually netted him the Dream Lightweight Grand Prix championship, along with the Dream lightweight title and 10 million yen.
Hansen then offered a rematch to Alvarez, who sat ringside for the final.
“I feel very strange, to be honest,” Hansen said. “I had a dream about me winning the tournament, but I lost to Eddie [at Dream 3], and I was out.”
In the second of two semifinal matches, Alvarez ruined Tatsuya Kawajiri (Pictures)’s long weekend in Osaka, pressuring and battering him over the course of their anticipated bout. The American’s strikes brought an end to the match 7:35 into round one, although he did not escape without sustaining damage of his own.
With Kawajiri wary of his takedowns, Alvarez (15-1) faked a shot and set up a flurry punctuated by a hard knee to the body that crumpled his adversary. Alvarez sensed his opponent was in pain and worked his body with punches. His efforts were curtailed, however, when Shimada noticed Alvarez had sustained a cut close to his eye that had caused significant swelling.
A lengthy doctor’s check gave Kawajiri (22-5-2) ample time to recover and, after the restart, he started to land some shots of his own. A hard left uppercut rocked Alvarez and sent him reeling backward, as Kawajiri followed him into guard and ultimately mounted him. After Alvarez bucked out of Kawajiri’s tight mount, he found his range again and landed a pair of left hands that sent his opponent sprawling towards the mat; Alvarez began a premature celebration.
Shimada urged the American to continue the fight, as Kawajiri flopped onto his back. Alvarez obliged, pounced on his downed foe and landed a string of hammer fists that finally brought about the stoppage.
While it was another excellent performance by the American import, the cut and Alvarez’s partially closed eye resulted in immediate concern, and his cornermen worked swiftly to prepare him for his showdown with Aoki in the final. Despite spending the entire intermission working with doctors, an emotional Alvarez entered the ring later and announced he was unable to continue in the tournament. A replay later revealed the cut resulted from a glancing elbow, which is illegal under Dream rules.
“I begged the doctors to let me fight,” Alvarez said. “I asked them to let me just try for a few minutes, but they said no.”
In the first lightweight grand prix semifinal, Aoki overwhelmed UFC veteran Caol Uno (Pictures).
Aoki’s back control was the story of the fight, as he utilized a modified version of the body triangle that hooked Uno’s legs and prevented his escape.
Uno (25-11-4) fended off the ensuing choke attempts but later found himself on the brink of a tapout when Aoki trapped him in an expertly sprung triangle. Uno -- who upset Mitsuhiro Ishida (Pictures) in May to advance in the grand prix -- avoided multiple submission attempts but failed to mount any offense of his own. All three judges awarded Aoki the victory.
Reporting on two days notice after vacationing in Thailand did not affect Strikeforce heavyweight champion Alistair Overeem (Pictures), as he submitted the iron-headed Mark Hunt (Pictures) early in the first round of their match.
Hunt (5-4) darted in an out with punches but decided to take the fight to the ground and slammed Overeem with a simple push. He showed surprising agility on the mat, as he passed to side control. However, Overeem (28-11) caught him in a keylock from the bottom, forced his heavier opponent into guard and coaxed the submission 1:11 into round one.
Meanwhile, Joseph Benavidez (Pictures) may have been robbed of the biggest fight of his career when Norifumi “Kid” Yamamoto withdrew with a knee injury, but he did not allow it to hamper his performance.
A disciple of World Extreme Cagefighting featherweight champion Urijah Faber (Pictures), Benavidez (8-0) impressed against late replacement Junya Kudo (Pictures) (6-2-2), as he submitted the Shooto veteran with a first-round guillotine choke. Benavidez set up the finish with a suplex and remained undefeated through eight professional bouts.
Elsewhere, Yoshihiro Akiyama (Pictures) put together another impressive outing, though he continued draw boos from Japanese fans, their disdain a byproduct of his 2006 no contest with the beloved Kazushi Sakuraba (Pictures).
Akiyama had an easy time with Katsuyori Shibata (Pictures) (2-5), although it took him a while to get the job done. Booed with every strike, Akiyama eventually secured a takedown with a leg sweep, passed to mount and ended the fight with an Ezekiel choke 6:34 into the first round. Akiyama (11-1) has posted a 10-0 mark (with two no contests) in his past 12 fights.
Hideo Tokoro (Pictures) (22-13-1), Kuniyoshi Hironaka (Pictures) (12-5) and Daisuke Nakamura (Pictures) (15-9) were also victorious at Dream 5. Tokoro show no signs of injury just days after a car crash threatened his participation on the card. He earned a unanimous decision against Takeshi Yamazaki (Pictures) (14-8-2).