Gegard Mousasi (left; file photo) and Hiroyuki Takaya defend on July 16. | Photo: Taro Irei/Sherdog.com
Dream champions Gegard Mousasi and Hiroyuki Takaya will put their respective titles on the line for the first time as part of Dream 17, set to take place July 16 at Ariake Coliseum in Tokyo.
The event, along with a handful of potent matchups for the card, was formally announced during Sunday’s Dream “Fight for Japan” at Saitama Super Arena.
Both titleholders return to Japan looking to rebound from missteps in the cage of Strikeforce. Mousasi, Dream’s former middleweight and current light heavyweight ace, will seek to erase the memory of a foul-marred April 9 draw with Keith Jardine when he risks his belt against 2004 Olympic Games judo silver medalist Hiroshi Izumi. Featherweight champ Takaya, who was upset by unheralded American Robert Peralta on the same April Strikeforce bill, defends against powerful wrestler Kazuyuki Miyata, the winner of six straight.
Also attempting to rebound from a less-than-stellar stateside performance will be perennial Top 10 lightweight Tatsuya Kawajiri. In his April 9 North American debut, the “Crusher” was rudely dispatched by reigning Strikeforce 155-pound king Gilbert Melendez with first-round elbows. Kawajiri will have a chance to restore some luster to his name when he clashes with former Shooto world champion and one-time UFC vet Willamy “Chiquerim” Freire.
Additionally, Dream’s Japan bantamweight grand prix -- the opening two rounds of which went down Sunday -- will see its conclusion at Dream 17 when Deep champ Masakazu Imanari clashes with fellow grappler and fan-favorite Hideo Tokoro. Vying for third place and a slot in Dream’s late-2011 world bantamweight tournament will be the men Imanari and Tokoro topped to reach the finals, Atsushi Yamamoto and Kenji Osawa.