Dream 10 Notebook: Aoki Fights War of Perception

By Tony Loiseleur Jul 21, 2009
TOKYO -- Shortly after he defeated Vitor Ribeiro by unanimous decision at Dream 10 on Monday, Shinya Aoki had not only the crowd to convince but the gathered Japanese media, as well.

Still perturbed by being cast as a one-dimensional grappler who chose an inopportune fight in which to flex his stand-up game, Aoki stressed that his game plan stayed true to the core tenets of mixed martial arts.

“Everyone’s fussing over my win today. Well, that’s fighting, folks,” Aoki said. “People were saying it was boring, but winning is important. This wasn’t a striking match. It was an MMA fight. To the people saying that we eschewed grappling to strike, that’s nonsense. If you see it that way, it saddens me.”

When asked by one of the more astute members of the Japanese press to discuss the finer points of his strategy, Aoki laid out his complex game plan and claimed he stifled Ribeiro’s offense on the ground by capturing the Brazilian’s right arm with the zombie from rubber guard. On the feet, he cited three specific middle kicks that attacked Ribeiro’s arms, body and legs.

“I’m sure his arm hurts. Some people are saying that he was blocking my kicks with his right arm, but that’s wrong. I kicked his arm,” Aoki said. “Those were my tactics, and they worked. I’ve always been a grappler. However, [Yuki] Nakai has always told me to strike, as well, since one day I’d have to face a top grappler. I followed what he said, and that’s why I won today.”

In regards to the challenges issued by Tatsuya Kawajiri and Dream newcomer Katsunori Kikuno, Aoki was open to accepting them but seemed to have his sights set elsewhere in the world.

“Well, it sounds good. So long as it’s an MMA bout, I’m fine with [Kawajiri or Kikuno], or even someone from the UFC,” Aoki said. “It doesn’t have to be a top-level fighter. Even a mid-level fighter would do, like Joe Stevenson. I actually wanted him to lose [against Nate Diaz], so he’d be cut and he could come to Dream and I could fight him. Life doesn’t always work out the way you want, but anyway, there are a lot of fighters I’d like to fight in the US.”

Zaromskis a Humble Champion

On the morning after two stunning knockout victories earned Marius Zaromskis the Dream welterweight grand prix and divisional belts, the newly minted Lithuanian champion remained as soft-spoken and humble as he was in the days leading up to the fight.

“Yesterday was a brilliant show, and all my opponents were very strong,” Zaromskis said. “Before, it was a nightmare, and after, it’s easy. That’s life. I have the belt, and I will fight, again and again, to try and keep [it].”

Zaromskis made multiple allusions to a book or journal he has been regularly updating since 2005.

“Before the fight, I wrote down in my book, ‘That belt will be mine,’ and just kept that inside my heart because I’ve been waiting for that belt my whole life,” he said. “In this moment, I feel the best in my life. After, I wrote down in my book, ‘This day, I will remember forever.’”

According to the champion, the contents of his journal contain secrets to be revealed at a later date. As the first noteworthy Lithuanian to make an impact in MMA since the days of K-1 Hero’s, Zaromskis commented on the importance of the victory for him and his homeland.

“I win this belt, and a lot of Lithuanian fans will be happy, and Japanese fans, and everyone else who supports me,” he said. “It’s very important for my country because it’s a small country.”

Galvao: ‘I Made Several Mistakes’

Former Brazilian jiu-jitsu world champion Andre Galvao views his split decision loss to Jason High in the semi-finals of the Dream welterweight grand prix as a missed opportunity.

“In the first round, I was better than my opponent, but in the second round, I made several mistakes,” Galvao said. “I don’t have much experience with MMA, but I tried to finish my opponent at every opportunity. I think I could have won the decision, but in the end, I don’t think that it was a bad decision. My loss was just by a small margin.”

When asked whether he believed he could have defeated the newly crowned Zaromskis had he reached the final, Galvao replied candidly.

“I still think I could have won the whole tournament -- that’s what I trained for,” he said. “If I had fought against Marius, I could have controlled the fight with my jiu-jitsu. This is just my opinion in looking back, but the reality is different. All I can do now is see what I can learn from this defeat to become a better fighter.”

On the other side of the welterweight bracket, Japanese stalwart Hayato "Mach" Sakurai claimed he faced far more adversity than Galvao in his semi-final match with Zaromskis.

“I thought I could keep the pace of the first half of the round, but I had a cut over my left eye that made me lose my cool,” Sakurai said. “When the doctor checked it, he said ‘I can see bone. You can’t continue,’ but, I told him, ‘I’ll finish him this round. Let me have this round,’ thinking that I’d lay it on the line and go for broke.”

Sakurai reportedly missed weight twice before succeeding on his third weigh-in attempt on Sunday, and the question of whether or not the extended debacle on the scales affected his performance naturally arose.

“Honestly, I think I have more muscle than before,” he said. “That’s what allowed me to kick and punch him hard and put him in danger, so I think it’s outside of me cutting weight. I had to drop weight against my will. Even so, it was my mission. I might have given him more momentum in this fight because of that.”
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