‘Kid’ Returns, Hata Out at Dream 9

By Jordan Breen Apr 10, 2009
Dream parent company Fighting and Entertainment Group has announced the quarter-final pairings for its featherweight grand prix. Unfortunately for Daiki Hata, he will not be a part of it.

The four 139-pound tournament pairings for Dream 9 -- which takes place May 26 at the Yokohama Arena in Yokohama, Japan -- will see Japanese superstar Norifumi "Kid" Yamamoto return to action for the first time since New Year’s Eve 2007, as he will take on former Greco-Roman wrestling world champion Joe Warren. Meanwhile, Deep champion and leglock specialist Masakazu Imanari will meet Brazilian jiu-jitsu world champion Bibiano Fernandes. World Extreme Cagefighting veterans Yoshiro Maeda and Hiroyuki Takaya will square off, and slick submission stylist Abel Cullum will collide with tournament replacement Hideo Tokoro.

Tokoro (21-16-1) was defeated by the aforementioned Hata (11-5-3) on April 5; it was his third loss in a row. However, in victory, “DJ.taiki” reinjured the right orbital bone he had damaged during his Feb. 10 grand prix qualifier against Shoji Maruyama, and the fracture will keep him from advancing in the tournament.

Hampered by injury and tabloid allegations of marijuana use -- a serious criminal offense in Japan -- the popular Yamamoto (17-1, 1 NC) has not fought since his Dec. 31, 2007 victory against Rani Yahya, having pulled out a scheduled bout with undefeated bantamweight prospect Joseph Benavidez last July. Ironically, his opponent, Warren (1-0), was ousted from Beijing Olympic consideration after being hit with a two-year suspension from the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency for a second positive marijuana test in January 2008. Warren made a successful mixed martial arts debut in March, as he stopped former WEC titleholder Chase Beebe via doctor stoppage after the first round.

Imanari (16-6-1) -- Deep’s former 143-pound champion and current 137-pound king -- grappled his way to a split decision verdict over Atsushi Yamamoto in the tournament’s opening round, while Fernandes (4-2) brawled to an entertaining points win over scrappy Takafumi Otsuka in order to advance.

Maeda (24-6-2), who challenged pound-for-pound stalwart and bantamweight king Miguel Torres for his WEC crown last June, took a contentious lackluster decision over Micah Miller in March, while Takaya (10-6-1) dropped novice judoka Jong Won Kim in the second round of their tournament bout.

While Tokoro dropped his third in a row to “DJ.taiki,” Cullum (14-2) impressed in a thrilling unanimous decision victory over free-swinging “Wicky Akiyo” Akiyo Nishiura in the opening round.
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