With both WEC 40 and Dream 8 slated to take place this Sunday, there are a few highly intriguing match ups that beg to be thoroughly examined beforehand.
Dream 8 will feature the opening round of the promotion’s inaugural welterweight grand prix. Some of the fighters taking part in the tournament will be Shinya Aoki, Hayato “Mach” Sakurai, and John Alessio. The card will also see the return to action of Sergei Kharitonov and Murilo “Ninja” Rua in separate bouts.
WEC bantamweight champion, Miguel Torres, will face off with Takeya Mizugaki for the 135 pound strap in the main event of WEC 40. Other interesting bouts on the card include top ranked featherweight, Jeff Curran, making his bantamweight debut against the explosive Joseph Benavidez, and highly regarded prospects Benson Henderson and Shane Roller will butt heads in a lightweight showdown.
Without further ado, let’s dive into what should be a beatdown filled day of rest.
Shinya Aoki vs. Hayato “Mach” Sakurai
It seems odd to me that these two would be matched up in the opening round of the tournament. Basically, the final of the grand prix will be taking place in the first round, as I fully expect for the winner of this bout to go on to win the whole thing.
These two are no strangers as the pair had previously met up back in August of 2005 at a Shooto event. Sakurai was awarded the unanimous decision in a bout where he avoided all of Aoki’s submission attempts on the ground while utilizing effective ground and pound. Sakurai also showed a decisive advantage on the feet in the previous bout between the two, but that was something that came as no surprise then, and it should come as no surprise now.
Although Aoki hasn’t shown any overly significant improvements in his stand up in the last three and a half years since the two squared off in Shooto, the progression of the Tobikan Judan’s ground game has been substantial. It seems as if the Japanese submission specialist has been bitten by a radioactive spider that specializes in jiu-jitsu, judging on his most recent performances in the ring. While that may be a gigantic exaggeration, I feel most would agree that Aoki’s ground game is on an entirely different level than it was in the pair’s previous match up.
Sakurai is a veteran of the game and always poses a significant threat standing, but judging on his most recent, uninspiring performances, it’s going to be really hard to rationalize picking Sakurai to repeat what he was able to accomplish back in 2005 this Sunday. Sakurai’s last outing in MMA saw him TKO Katsuyori Shibata, who was sporting a record of 2-5-1 heading into that bout. Previously to that performance the veteran of over forty bouts managed a decision win over Kuniyoshi Hironaka, who has gone 1-3 in his last four bouts, and Sakurai also recently came up on the short end of a guillotine choke at the hands of David Baron in May of 2008.
Likely Outcome: Aoki’s improved submission game and positive momentum will be enough to gain the victory in this bout. If David Baron was recently able to submit Sakurai, I see no reason that Aoki shouldn’t be able to find a way to do the same. However, it wouldn’t surprise me if this bout went the distance. Either way, Aoki wins.
John Alessio vs. Andre Galvao
This is an extremely compelling match up between a fast rising prospect with a world of potential and an experienced dangerous veteran looking to rebound from a disappointing loss. Much will be learned about both men when the bell sounds the end of this bout.
Galvao is a highly decorated grappler with a world of potential. Currently training out of Brasa Jiu-Jitsu, which is also home to UFC middleweight Demian Maia, Galvao has compiled a record of 2-0 since making the jump into the sport in August of 2008. The bout with Alessio will be a huge step up in competition for him at this early point in his career.
Alessio will hold a decided advantage if he can manage to keep the fight standing, but on the flip side of that coin it would appear that Galvao would be able to control the fight if it was to go to the canvas.
Likely Outcome: I don’t know if there really is a “likely outcome” in this fight, however, I do feel that Alessio should have the know how in the ring to keep the fight standing long enough to capitalize on it. It’s far too early in Galvao’s career for me to assume that he will be able to handle a fighter the caliber of Alessio. Alessio wins this fight by knockout.
Sergei Kharitonov vs. Jeff Monson
There’s something about the heavyweights that just make it a little easier to get excited for. This bout will be no exception as it will most feature two of the division’s most dangerous big men, both with a wealth of talent and experience.
Kharitonov was once viewed among the top of the heavyweight class during his days with PrideFC when he notched impressive wins over the likes of Semmy Schilt, Pedro Rizzo, and Fabricio Werdum. Consecutive defeats at the hands of Alistair Overeem and Aleksander Emelianenko surrounded by a series of injuries caused the twenty nine year old Russian to lose most of the momentum he had accumulated during Pride FC days. Although spaced out by large chunks of time, Kharitonov has put together three straight wins in his last three bouts against Michael Russow, Alistair Overeem and Jimmy Ambriz respectively.
Seemingly always a big win or two away from a major title shot, The Snowman has made this last six months count, racking up five consecutive victories over the likes of Roy Nelson and Ricco Rodriguez. One thing that jumps out about Monson’s recent activity in MMA is the fact that this will be his third fight in less than two weeks. I’ll say that again, this will be Monson’s third fight in less than two weeks. The man is an animal.
Monson is a decorated and highly regarded grappler, and although Kharitonov is far from a slouch on the mat, the ground will be where Monson will want to take this fight. With that said, it’s no mystery that Kharitonov will be best suited to keep the bout standing, whether he will be able to do so remains to be seen.
Likely Outcome: This fight would have been a lot easier to pick if it had gone down three or four years ago. With Kharitonov’s recent inactivity, it makes this bout that much harder to call. I want to say Kharitonov wins this by knockout, but the rational side of me keeps saying that Monson’s momentum will be the difference. Monson should win this fight by decision
Dong Sik Yoon vs. Murilo Rua
After losing his bid at the EliteXC middleweight championship to Robbie Lawler by knockout in September of 2007, Rua put together back to back wins before being knocked out by Benji Radach in a wild back and forth affair in October of 2008. After a long lay off due to his contract being held up by the demise of EliteXC, the always exciting middleweight will look to rebound in his new home with Dream.
After four straight losses to start off his MMA career, Sik Yoon surprised many when he managed to string together four straight wins over respectable opposition before dropping his latest two bouts to Gegard Mousasi and Andrews Nakahara.
Although Sik Yoon is feared for his extensive submission arsenal, Rua is far from a rookie when it comes to jiu-jitsu. His ability to avoid submissions and advantage on the feet should be the major difference in this bout.
Likely Outcome: Rua will have the answer for any problems Sik Yoon may present. Look for Ninja to finish this fight by knockout
Miguel Torres vs. Takeya Mizugaki
Torres is absolutely one of mixed martial arts pound for pound most gifted fighters and this bout with Mizugaki is sure to leave him asking the question,’Where do I go from here?’. A man as talented and competition driven as Torrres is has a need to constantly test himself. Another convincing win over a top ranked fighter such as Mizugaki may leave the WEC bantamweight champion seeking challenges outside of his natural weight class in the near future.
Not taking anything away from well rounded Shooto veteran, I’m just keeping it real, Torres will win this fight handily.
Torres is the better striker and submission artist, Mizugaki is the superior wrestler,The only chance the Japanese fighter has to realistically obtain victory would be to utilize his dominant wrestling to maintain position over Torres on his way to a decision victory. The odds of anyone holding Torres down on the mat while avoiding his jaw dropping submission attempts for five full rounds are slim to none.
Likely Outcome: Forget likely, Torres will strangle Mizugaki in the early to mid-rounds of this one.
Jeff Curran vs. Joseph Benavidez
After a long awaited drop down to bantamweight for Jeff Curran, the dangerous and experienced jiu-jitsu specialist will have no easy task in front of him when he meets up with the explosive pupil to Urijah Faber, Joseph Benavidez.
This bout is sure to a high paced, closely contested affair between one of the WEC’s most experienced veterans and one of it’s brightest rising stars. Benavidez’ decisive edge in the wrestling department should force Curran to do most of his fighting from his back. Luckily for Curran, being on his back is one of his specialties.
Likely Outcome: Benavidez’ superior strength, speed and athleticism will be just enough for him to avoid getting caught in any submission attempts en route to a decision victory.
Shane Roller vs. Benson Henderson
This is a match up between two lightweights that are poised to make some noise in the WEC’s lightweight division for some time to come. The winner of this fight will cement themselves as a legitimate contender to the 155 pound crown at some point down the line.
Roller was a three time All-American out of Oklahoma State’s prestigious wrestling program before hooking up with Team Takedown and making the jump into MMA. Needless to say, his advantage in this fight will definitely be his wrestling. He has gone undefeated in five bouts since dropping his MMA debut in September of 2007. Roller’s two most recent fights with the WEC have both been finished by guillotine choke in the first round.
Henderson is no dummy when it comes to wrestling either, as he was himself a two time All-American out of Dana College. His unorthodox but effective striking will be sure to pose some problems in this bout. He has gone undefeated in his last seven bouts, and seven of his eight victories have been finishes, with six of those coming by submission.
Likely Outcome: I’m going to go out on a limb here and say that Henderson surprises a lot of people by submitting Roller in this bout. While I will freely admit that the likely outcome is a Roller decision victory, my gut tells me something different.
Rafael Assuncao vs. Jameel Massouh
Basically just look out for Assuncao to wreck shop in this one. Not taking anything away from Massouh, he’s an experienced and game competitor, but he was dealt the short end of the stick in his WEC debut against this American Top Team standout. Assuncao is phenomenal on the ground and that should be the deciding factor when this highly touted Brazilian prospect makes his WEC debut a successful one.
Likely Outcome: Assuncao will put on a clinic on the canvas on his way to a first round submission victory