Hiroyuki Takaya (top) made a first successful defense against Kazuyuki Miyata. | Photo: Taro Irei
TOKYO -- Eleven summers after an Olympic medal eluded him in Sydney, Australia, Kazuyuki Miyata came up short again, as the freestyle wrestling Olympian dropped a nip-tuck split decision to Dream featherweight champion Hiroyuki Takaya at Dream's Japan grand prix finale on Saturday in front of an audience of 8,124 at Ariake Coliseum.
The 10-minute first period saw an otherwise very even exchange between both men, as the champion pursued the challenger with punches and low kicks. A backpedaling Miyata returned fire with counter punches and low kicks of his own in between shooting into the clinch. Perhaps against expectation, however, Miyata's gameplan was not to take the "Streetfight Bancho" to the canvas but rather to press him up against the ropes and corners.
"I had to fight for 20 minutes, and Takaya's core muscles and trunk are very powerful. I trained with him once before," Miyata explained after the bout. "So, I didn't want to use up my stamina by just trying to take him down since I was expecting to fight for 20 minutes."
When Miyata did go for takedowns, however, he was typically able to put Takaya on the canvas for brief periods, even capturing the mount to land some quick ground-and-pound in the first frame.
Miyata's tactics appeared to pay off in the second and third frames, as he looked to be the fresher fighter. "Hercules" danced on the outside, playing matador to Takaya's charging bull rush of punches and picking his moments to counter with jabs and right hands. As such, Miyata set the tempo in the bout; the 34-year-old champion, though, still connected with punches but began to do so with less regularity and power than in the opening 10 minutes.
Tired and marked up by counter shots, Takaya surprised in the final moments of the bout, when he reversed a Miyata takedown attempt to take top position, where he rained down punches.
Judge Matt Hume saw the fight in favor of Miyata, as did Sherdog.com. However, Hikaru Adachi and Akira Shoji saw it in favor of Takaya, who took the split decision.
"I was so consumed by the fight, so I don't really know. I don't have much to say about the judges' decision," Miyata revealed. "My corner is always trying to say positive things to me, so I originally thought I'd won, but I wasn't 100 percent sure."
The victorious Takaya was not available for comment, as he had been taken to the hospital to have his right eye examined.
Takaya now stands at 15-9-1 in his career, while the 35-year-old Miyata falls to 11-8, his six-fight winning streak snapped.
Former Strikeforce light heavyweight champion Gegard Mousasi successfully defended his Dream 205-pound crown for the first time, stopping former Olympic judo silver medalist Hiroshi Izumi with punches in the first frame.
Izumi was aggressive early, but the Athens Games judo star simply could not match Mousasi's striking ability. The 25-year-old Mousasi moved easily around the ring, cutting off Izumi, establishing his jab and setting up power punches, patiently waiting for the moment to strike.
That moment came just past the three-minute mark, when "The Dreamcatcher" fired a heavy right cross behind a series of jabs, dropping Izumi to the canvas.
Izumi tried to recover, but the Aomori native was stuck through the ropes, absorbing heavy fire from the Dutch-based Armenian. Referee Kenichi Serizawa called an end to the fight just 3:29 into the first frame.
"I think [in] September or October, they'll give me a fight in the U.S.," Mousasi said after the fight, addressing his Strikeforce contract. "I'm training in the cage, but I feel comfortable in the ring. I want to stay busy both in Japan and America, but the problem is if I go somewhere like the UFC, I'll only be fighting twice a year."
The victory moves Mousasi's MMA mark to 31-3-2, with a brow-raising 28 stoppages. The still-nascent Izumi falls to 4-2 in his career, still less than two years old.
Kawajiri Routs Fickett, Mizuno Gutchecks Prangley
After being demolished in his April Strikeforce title bid against Gilbert Melendez, Japanese lightweight standout Tatsuya Kawajiri got back to basics and took an impressive first-round beatdown over veteran Drew Fickett.
In true Kawajiri fashion, the "Crusher" got back to crushing. It seemed as if Fickett had difficulty with Kawajiri from the get-go, as he limped against the ropes in response to Kawajiri's opening low kicks. After a futile guillotine attempt, Fickett was put on his back, where he was treated to an extensive barrage of punches and hammerfists. Fickett covered up under the fire but did little else to defend or improve his position.
After what seemd to be minutes of unanswered ground-and-pound, referee Yuji Shimada erred on the side of caution and stepped in to call the fight at 4:41. An inert Fickett offered no protest, remaining on his side, his hands still covering his head.
"I lost to Melendez, but I realized eventually that I can't give up. I have a huge dream, one that will even crush Dream itself. I will chase that dream," said an elated Kawajiri after the fight.
Kawajiri, 33, ups his mark to 28-7-2 with the victory, while Fickett, now 41-15, has been stopped in the first round twice in the last five weeks; he was punched out by Brian Cobb at MFC 30 on June 10.
In a mild upset, Dream light heavyweight grand prix finalist Tatsuya Mizuno put Strikeforce and UFC veteran Trevor Prangley away with a crushing knee to the body in the first round.
The South African made it clear early that he wanted to finish the fight as soon as possible, walking down Mizuno while swinging big hooks in his direction and, when close enough, pulling him into the clinch for some dirty boxing. It was thus a surprise when Mizuno caught the oncoming Prangley with a sharp left knee to the liver, sending him down to his side in visible pain, forcing a stoppage at 4:41 of the fight.
With the win, the much-improved 30-year-old Mizuno moves his record to 9-7, with five knockouts and four submission victories.
Despite being a late replacement for an injured Hayato Sakurai, Japanese veteran Eiji Ishikawa survived the best that Marius Zaromskis could throw his way, even taunting the Dream welterweight champion at times for not being able to finish him in their non-title affair. While Zaromskis threw a variety of kill shots, in the form of stiff punches to the head and body, high kicks and flying knees, the gritty Ishikawa braved through. However, after a one-sided beating, judges Kimura, Shoji and Adachi naturally sided with "Whitemare" after the final bell.
In the evening's lightweight opener, Brazilian prospect Bruno Carvalho dropped a unanimous verdict to tough veteran Eiji Mitsuoka. The Japanese fighter put Carvalho on his back, taking him out of his typically brutal muay Thai game. While Carvalho surprised in being the one to go for repeated guillotine attempts whenever fending off the takedown, the attempts were not enough to eclipse Mitsuoka's stifling wrestling, superior positions and his punches from top position.