Satoshi Ishii (left) and Fedor Emelianenko are cleared for battle. | Photo: Taro Irei
TOKYO -- All 18 participants in the MMA portion of Saturday’s Dream “Genki Desu Ka! New Year! 2011” made weight on Friday, though not without some extra effort from a few.
Bantamweight tournament semifinalist Rodolfo Marques Diniz and tourney reserve fighter Yusup Saadulaev initially came in over the 134.5-pound limit for their New Year’s Eve appointments, set to take place at Saitama Super Arena. Nova Uniao product Diniz first weighed in at 137.1 pounds, while Saadulaev clocked in at 135.8 pounds. Dream officials allowed both fighters extra time to shed their excess weight; Saadulaev only needed an additional two hours to weigh in at the regulation limit at 3:00 p.m. local time, while Diniz was able to hit 134.5 on his third attempt at 5:30 p.m.
By defeating Saadulaev at September’s Dream 17, Diniz advanced to the semifinals of the company’s bantamweight grand prix, where on Saturday he will face former Dream featherweight champion Bibiano Fernandes. Despite the early tournament setback for Saadulaev, the standout Dagestani wrestler was assigned a tournament reserve bout against Dream 2011 Japan bantamweight grand prix winner Hideo Tokoro, who was eliminated in September by UFC and WEC veteran Antonio Banuelos at Dream 17.
Aside from the pair of heavy bantamweights, the remainder of the New Year’s Eve roster came in on their marks without incident. Headlined by former Pride heavyweight champion Fedor Emelianenko and 2008 Beijing Games judo gold medalist Satoshi Ishii, “The Last Emperor” returns to Japanese MMA four years to the date of his last appearance. Emelianenko (233.7) carries a nearly 20-pound weight advantage over Ishii, who registered at 214.7 pounds.
“I’m very happy to be fighting back in Japan for the first time in four years. I’m very happy to be fighting against Ishii,” said Fedor on Friday to a crowd of vocally appreciative fans at a public press conference in Shinjuku Station Square. “I met Ishii several years ago, when we talked over tea. I think I have a good relationship with him and am glad to be fighting a great opponent like him. I hope to put on a great fight for the fans tomorrow.”
Also making their official marks were all four of Saturday’s championship bout participants. Dream lightweight champion Shinya Aoki -- fresh from his training camp at Singapore’s Evolve MMA -- and challenger Satoru Kitaoka clocked in at 154.3 pounds, while Dream featherweight champion Hiroyuki Takaya weighed in at 143.3 pounds. Takaya’s challenger, former Shooto 143-pound world champion “Lion” Takeshi Inoue came in slightly lighter at 142.9 pounds.
Long-time training partners no more, Aoki and Kitaoka had few words for each other, with Aoki claiming, “I’ll get the submission and be taking home as many win bonuses as I can, so that I can put smiles on the face of my family tomorrow night.”
The featherweight title fighters were similarly sparse but no less confident. Inoue boldly claimed, “Tomorrow, I’ll win this fight by knockout, so keep an eye out for it. I’ll be taking that belt for sure.”
Dream ‘Fight for Japan: Genki Desu Ka! New Year! 2011’ weigh-in results:
Fedor Emelianenko (233.7 pounds/106 kilograms) vs. Satoshi Ishii (214.7/97.4)
Dream Lightweight Championship Bout
Shinya Aoki (154.3/70) vs. Satoru Kitaoka (154.3/70)
Dream Featherweight Championship Bout
Hiroyuki Takaya (143.3/65) vs. Takeshi Inoue (142.9/64.8)
Megumi Fujii (114.6/52) vs. Karla Benitez (114.6/52)
Tatsuya Kawajiri (143.3/65) vs. Kazuyuki Miyata (142.6/64.7)
Hayato Sakurai (167.1/75.8) vs. Ryo Chonan (166.4/75.5)
Bibiano Fernandes (134.5/61) vs. Rodolfo Marques Diniz (134.5/61)
Masakazu Imanari (134/60.8) vs. Antonio Banuelos (134.5/61)
Hideo Tokoro (134.5/61) vs. Yusup Saadulaev (134.5/61)