Bouts Added to Dream, Sengoku

By Jordan Breen Sep 11, 2008
With less than two weeks to go before the anticipated middleweight grand prix finale, Fighting and Entertainment Group has all but finished the lineup for its Sept. 23 bill at Saitama Super Arena with the announcement of three new bouts.

Joining Dream's lineup in Saitama will be an all-Japanese welterweight affair between Hayato Sakurai and Kuniyoshi Hironaka, returning Pancrase icon Masakatsu Funaki taking on fan favorite Ikuhisa Minowa, and UFC veteran Keita Nakamura returning from a momentary retirement to face Brazilian Adriano Martins.

Despite an impressive smashing of Hidetaka Monma (Pictures) at Dream's debut show in March, the 33-year-old Sakurai is coming off of an upset loss to Frenchman and recent UFC signee David Baron (Pictures) in the Shooto ring this past May. After back-to-back knockout losses to Thiago Alves (Pictures) and Jonathan Goulet (Pictures) in the UFC, Hironaka took a much-needed albeit lackluster win in Dream this past July, earning a cut stoppage over previously undefeated Motoki Miyazawa (Pictures).

The beloved and eccentric Minowa took a surprise submission victory last month over veteran heavyweight Don Frye (Pictures), kneebarring the former UFC tournament champion in the first round. The 39-year-old Funaki, who trained Minowa as a Pancrase pupil over 12 years ago, has found little success since his return to the sport after a seven-and-a-half year hiatus. In his two bouts since his return, Funaki was submitted by Kazushi Sakuraba (Pictures) last New Year's Eve, and knocked out by Kiyoshi Tamura (Pictures) in 57 seconds this past April.

After a split decision defeat to Robert Emerson (Pictures) in the UFC this past February, the 24-year-old Nakamura announced his retirement from MMA. Disappointed by his three UFC defeats, "K-Taro" also suffered from vision issues following the Emerson bout, due his opponent's toe impairing his vision after a high kick attempt.

Despite his claim that he would become a police officer, Nakamura's retirement lasted a mere three months. Martins, a native Brazilian currently training out of Norifumi "Kid" Yamamoto's Krazy Bee gym, had a six-fight winning streak snapped in his last outing, where he was knocked out by hot Brazilian prospect Roni Torres.

Dream producer Keiichi Sasahara also confirmed that Yoshihiro Akiyama (Pictures) will compete on the card, and his opponent will be announced in the coming days. Sasahara elaborated that Akiyama has been offered the choice of three opponents by FEG, but has not yet responded.

In addition, Sengoku parent company World Victory Road has unveiled two more bouts for its Sept. 28 middleweight tournament opener at Yoyogi National Stadium First Gymnasium in Tokyo, including the next step in the career of grappling superstar Roger Gracie (Pictures).

In his third professional MMA bout, the 26-year-old Gracie will meet the well-traveled Travis Wiuff (Pictures) in a heavyweight affair. Also announced for the card, former Pancrase champion Kiuma Kunioku (Pictures) will face South Korea's A Sol Kwon (Pictures) in a lightweight affair.

Gracie made his MMA debut in December 2006, where he quickly submitted hulking heavyweight veteran Ron Waterman (Pictures), but didn't return to action until last May when the Brazilian jiu-jitsu ace took his second victory over an undersized and overmatched Yuki Kondo (Pictures).

Wiuff, 30, has won his last ten bouts, including his Sengoku debut this past June, where he knocked out the iron-headed Kazuyuki Fujita (Pictures) in just 84 seconds.

Kunioku boasts nearly 13 years of pro MMA experience, beginning his career in 1996 in Pancrase's open-weight days. A former King of Pancrase at both middleweight and welterweight, the struggling veteran snapped a dismal 1-6-2 stretch earlier this year, dropping to 155 pounds and netting two victories in Dave Strasser (Pictures)'s Wisconsin-based Freestyle Combat Challenge.

The free-swinging Kwon is a mainstay of South Korea's most prominent promotion, Spirit MC, and has won his last two bouts in the promotion, taking unanimous verdicts over Takaaki Aoki (Pictures) and Do Hyung Kim earlier this year.

World Victory Road public relations director Takahiro Kokuho also announced that in 2009 WVR plans to prominently feature bantamweight and featherweight talent within Sengoku.
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