The Weekly Wrap: April 4 - April 10

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By Jack Encarnacao Apr 11, 2009
The Weekly Wrap walks readers through the last seven days in MMA, recapping and putting into context the week’s top story, important news and notable quotes.

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An eventful week in MMA saw the world’s top bantamweight go 25 minutes for the first time in a bruising battle, while the world’s No. 2 lightweight lasted only 27 seconds in an ill-advised leap to welterweight.

World Extreme Cagefighting bantamweight champion Miguel Torres had to dig deep in defeating Shooto and Cage Force veteran Takeya Mizugaki by decision in the WEC 40 main event on April 5. The card marked the promotion’s debut in Chicago, drawing 5,287 fans.

The fight was a striking clinic, as Torres used clinch strikes and energetic head movement effectively but absorbed heavy combinations and uppercuts from the powerful Mizugaki, who preempted virtually every attempt by Torres to take the fight to the ground. Mizugaki’s showing was so impressive that he was not booed by Torres’ hometown crowd after the final horn sounded. The judges granted Torres the fight by tallies of 49-46 and 48-47, while the WEC rewarded the two fighters with $10,000 “Fight of the Night” bonuses. By week’s end, the bout was being talked about as a “Fight of the Year” candidate.

The WEC immediately began promoting a future clash between Torres and the undefeated Brian Bowles, who bowed out of the April 5 title match with a back injury.

On the other side of the world in Nagoya, Japan, Shinya Aoki moved up to welterweight to challenge Hayato Sakurai, who defeated the lightweight submission wizard via decision in a 2005 Shooto fight. The second encounter did not resemble the first, as Sakurai rushed Aoki onto the mat at the opening bell and powered out of his sticky ground game to land devastating knees until the fight was over. The bout headlined Dream 8 before 9,129 fans.

The win advanced Sakurai in Dream’s inaugural welterweight grand prix tournament, which has its second round scheduled for July 20 in Saitama, Japan. Also advancing in the tournament were Andre Galvao (first-round armbar over John Alessio), Jason High (first-round rear-naked choke over Yuya Shirai) and Marius Zaromskis (decision over Seichi Ikemoto).

The heated Aoki-Sakurai fight helped Dream 8 score a 3.4 percent share rating on Tokyo Broadcasting System, according to Nightmare of Battle. That’s an improvement from the 2.4 share for Dream 7 in March, a number low enough to raise eyebrows. In Japan, the fight between Nagoya-born professional wrestlers Ikuhisa Minowa and Katsuyori Shibata was presented as the main event. Shibata, who had a 2-6 record coming into the fight, avoided Minowa’s crafty submissions and earned the decision nod. The event was broadcast on same-night tape delay in Japan and aired April 10 on HDNet. Ratings for the WEC 40 telecast were not available at week’s end.

Both cards featured several other eventful scraps.

WEC highlights included Urijah Faber protégé Joseph Benavidez breaking into the bantamweight Top 10 with a solid decision victory over the cagy Jeff Curran. Meanwhile, featherweight force Raphael Assuncao took a decision over the unheralded Jameel Massouh, and Ben Henderson knocked out fellow All-American wrestler Shane Roller in the first round. Muay Thai specialist Anthony Njokuani earned a “Knockout of the Night” bonus by taking out the slumping Bart Palaszewski with a straight right in round two, while Rani Yahya notched the “Submission of the Night” bonus for his triangle choke victory over Eddie Wineland. Contenders Wagnney Fabiano, Akitoshi Tamura and Dominick Cruz also picked up wins.

Dream 8 featured a handful of notable outcomes outside of the welterweight tournament. Jeff Monson picked up his third win in three weeks, using a head-and-arm choke to tap out former elite heavyweight Sergei Kharitonov in the first round. Monson was cornered by Roy Nelson, a man he defeated in a razor-close fight on March 21. Murilo Rua faltered against Riki Fukuda, a last-minute replacement for Dong Sik Yoon. Fukuda, who dished out as much punishment as he took in notching the unanimous decision, will lead Team Japan in the next stage of the M-1 Challenge series on April 29 in Tokyo.

It appeared Daiki Hata had landed the final spot in Dream’s featherweight grand prix quarter-finals after he defeated Hideo Tokoro. However, the promotion announced he aggravated an orbital bone injury and cannot advance, so Tokoro will step in to face Abel Cullum at Dream 9 on May 26 in Yokohama, Japan. Other pairings announced for the next round of the 139-pound tournament were Hiroyuki Takaya vs. Yoshiro Maeda, Masakazu Imanari vs. Bibiano Fernandes and Joe Warren vs. Norifumi Yamamoto. That bout will mark the first fight for Yamamoto, one of Japan’s top MMA stars, since 2007 and a subsequent knee injury.
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