Change to Cage Dissatisfies Diaz; Sakuraba, Gracie Not Looking to Past

By Tony Loiseleur May 28, 2010
TOKYO -- Despite arriving to the Dream 14 weigh-in several minutes late, owing to a miscommunication, Strikeforce welterweight champion Nick Diaz appeared just in time to clear the 76.6-kilogram (168.9-pound) limit for his main event bout against Hayato “Mach” Sakurai on Saturday at the Saitama Super Arena in Saitama, Japan.

A day earlier, Diaz expressed dissatisfaction with Dream’s decision to switch from the ring to the cage. However, he claimed that fighting in one should pose no problems for him since he has a great deal of experience in them.

“I’m just a little disappointed that it’s going to be in cage and not a ring,” Diaz said. “I enjoy fighting here in Japan under the Dream/Pride rules. I usually fight in the cage anyway, so it’s not really a difference for me.”

Diaz also expressed his opinion on why the ring was more suited to MMA, as he asserted “that Japan should stay with the ring and the rules they go by. I think the rest of the world should adjust to it. I think that it favors the more technical fighter and the more technical aspects of MMA as a sport instead of just the athletic part.”

Dream has claimed the switch to the cage came at the behest of Sakurai, as “Mach” hopes to best the “cagefighting champion” in the cage. Though many see their bout as the latest in the ongoing East versus West, Dream versus Strikeforce narrative, Diaz objected to being cast in the role of a Western MMA and Strikeforce representative.

“Everyone’s making it like that, but I could care less,” he said. “Personally, I’m here to fight for my team and my family. I gotta make money to eat. It’s hard fighting and training paycheck to paycheck, so I have nothing to look forward to unless I dedicate my whole life to this. Mainly, I just come here to represent my family and my team.”

Sakuraba, Gracie Calm Rivalry

Kazushi Sakuraba will return to his long-standing rivalry with MMA’s most prominent family of fighters in an 88-kilogram catchweight bout with Ralek Gracie, but the fan favorite expressed no particular feelings toward the bout or the storyline behind it.

“I don’t really feel anything in particular,” Sakuraba said.

Likewise, Gracie did not seem overly concerned with the history between his family and “The Gracie Hunter.” He was warned about Sakuraba’s kimura, the hold with which he defeated Renzo Gracie and Royler Gracie.

“I feel like I'm going to do this [for] myself and just see how it goes,” Gracie said. “He’s a little bit crazy, I heard, but I think he’s a wonderful fighter. He’s someone who’s going to show me a lot about myself, and I’m really excited.”

Gracie’s size concerns Sakuraba.

“I saw him fighting [Katsuyori] Shibata, and I thought he was pretty big,” Sakuraba said. “Technique-wise [I’m concerned], too, but the physical difference is something that I’m concerned about. I had an interview earlier, and I said that if there’s a three-kilogram difference, that would require a lot of stamina and endurance, so I need to think how I can tackle this and figure out what to do during the fight.”

Takaya Eyes Hansen, Targets Fernandes

Hiroyuki Takaya and Joachim Hansen had nothing but respectful comments for one another. It was Takaya, however, who had the more provocative thoughts.

“If there’s any chance for me to take him down, I’d like to, and I’d like to pound him [out],” he said. “As a result, if I can knock him out, that would be wonderful.”

While Takaya may or may not be looking past Hansen, he certainly has his eyes set on a larger goal beyond “Hellboy.” He has unfinished business with current Dream featherweight champion Bibiano Fernandes, who captured the title in a competitive decision over Takaya in the 2009 Dream featherweight grand prix final.

“I’d like to defeat [Hansen] and then fight for the title,” Takaya said.

Weighty Issues

Unique to this particular Dream event will be the variation in the contracted weights for the five featherweight bouts. Dream’s featherweight division has been set at the in-between weight of 63 kilograms (138.9 pounds) since the 2009 featherweight grand prix, but the promotion’s featherweight roster has consisted of a mix of featherweight and bantamweight talent.

Perhaps foreshadowing a future in which Dream divides its current 63-kilogram class into a featherweight and bantamweight division more suited to the weights of the international standard, bantamweight fighters such as those in the Norifumi “Kid” Yamamoto-Federico Lopez and Kenji Osawa-Yoshiro Maeda matchups will compete at weights closer to 135 pounds. Still, Lopez needed a second attempt to meet his weight requirement.

Similar to the aforementioned pseudo-bantamweight bouts, the Hansen-Takaya fight will be contested at 65 kilograms (143.4 pounds), nearer to the standard 145-pound limit for featherweight.

Dream 14
Saturday, May 29
Saitama Super Arena
Saitama, Japan

Hayato “Mach” Sakurai (76.5 kg / 168.7 lbs) vs. Nick Diaz (76 / 167.6 lbs)
Kazushi Sakuraba (86.5 kg / 191 lbs) vs. Ralek Gracie (87.4 kg / 192.7 lbs)
Hiroyuki Takaya (65 kg / 143.4 lbs) vs. Joachim Hansen (65 kg / 143.3 lbs)
Federico Lopez (60 kg / 132 lbs) vs. Norifumi “Kid” Yamamoto (59.8 kg / 131.8 lbs)
Hideo Tokoro (63 kg / 138.9 lbs) vs. Akiyo Nishiura (63.8 / 140.7 lbs)
Kazuyuki Miyata (64.2 kg / 141.5 lbs) vs. Takafumi Otsuka (64.4 kg / 142 lbs)
Yoshiro Maeda (60.7 kg / 133.8 lbs) vs. Kenji Osawa (61 kg / 134.5 lbs)
Ikuhisa Minowa (88 kg / 194 lbs) vs. Imani Lee (150 kg / 330.7 lbs)
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