Hideo Tokoro will return to action on Dec. 31. | Photo: Taro Irei
Hideo Tokoro and Yusup Saadulaev were eliminated from Dream’s 2011 world bantamweight grand prix in September, but they aren’t out of the tournament picture just yet.
Officials from the Japanese promotion Tuesday announced that fan-favorite Tokoro and once-beaten Saadulaev will meet on Dec. 31 in a bantamweight grand prix reserve match. In the event that the winner of one of the evening’s two semifinals -- Antonio Banuelos versus Masakazu Imanari and Bibiano Fernandes versus Rodolfo Marques Diniz -- is unable to continue, the winner of Tokoro-Saadulaev could be slotted into the tourney final.
In addition to the bantamweight bouts, the 2011 iteration of Dream’s annual New Year’s Eve extravaganza at Saitama Super Arena will feature a featherweight title fight between champion Hiroyuki Takaya and former Shooto ace “Lion” Takeshi Inoue.
Tokoro, 34, earned his way into the Dream world grand prix by conquering the company’s Japan bantamweight bracket earlier in the year. After reeling off wins over Yoshiro Maeda and Atsushi Yamamoto in May, “Little Volk” took the Japan tournament crown with a unanimous decision victory over ex-Deep champ Masakazu Imanari. Tokoro would be bounced from the world grand prix quarterfinals by Antonio Banuelos via narrow split decision at Dream 17.
A pupil of Brazilian jiu-jitsu ace Christian Uflacker, 26-year-old Saadulaev hails from the Republic of Dagestan in Russia and now resides in Chicago. The wrestling and BJJ stylist went unbeaten through the first nine bouts of his pro MMA career before running into Nova Uniao prospect Diniz at Dream 17.