Aoki, Mach Enter Dream Welterweight Tourney

By Staff Feb 12, 2009
Dream lightweight ace Shinya Aoki has agreed to move back up to welterweight to compete in Dream’s 168-pound tournament, which begins on April 5 at the NGK Insulators Hall in Nagoya, Japan. The announcement was made by promoter Fighting and Entertainment Group on Thursday.

Aoki (19-3), who still holds the Shooto world 168-pound title, had quite a run in the lightweight ranks in 2008 with victories over Gesias “JZ” Cavalcante, Caol Uno, and Eddie Alvarez.

Hayato "Mach" Sakurai (34-8-2) will join Aoki as the second marquee name to enter the tournament. The seasoned veteran last saw action at K-1 Dynamite’s year-end extravaganza, where he dispatched Katsuyori Shibata with strikes at the seven-minute mark.

A source close to the situation has told that FEG is hoping to pit Aoki against fellow star Sakurai in April's quarterfinals. Sakurai and Aoki met in August 2005, where a then-unknown Aoki took Sakurai to a hotly competitive decision.

In addition, it was announced that another welterweight tournament slot will be filled on Feb. 20, when Deep 40 Impact takes place at Korakuen Hall. The bill will feature the first title defense of unlikely welterweight champion Seichi Ikemoto as he risks his belt against Hidetaka Monma.

Ikemoto, 33, has been inactive since his upset of Hidehiko Hasegawa in July to win the title. The 35-year-old Monma last saw action in November, where he took a thrilling victory over Andre Mafetoni, the cousin of standout heavyweight Gabriel "Napao" Gonzaga.

Monma and Ikemoto first met at Deep 13th Impact in January 2004, where Monma took a second-round submission win.

Go-to guy Ikuhisa Minowa (41-29-8) has also been added to the night’s festivities in a non-tournament bout. The eccentric “Minowa Man” submitted Errol Zimmerman with a toehold in 61 seconds at K-1 Dynamite on New Year’s Eve. Minowa’s opponent has not been named.
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