Shinya Aoki (-245, BetCRIS) vs Vitor Ribeiro (+200, Bodog)
This is more of a grappling match set to MMA rules. Both of these lightweight fighters are BJJ badasses and will most likely take the fight to the ground. Shinya Aoki is the current WAMMA lightweight champion with a record of 20-4. Twelve of those victories have come via submission and he is skilled at both the top and bottom BJJ game. He is also known for his exciting flying submission attacks in competition (a la Dave Camarillo). He is 5’11” with a very lean and lanky body that allows him to maximize the leverage on his submissions. That added to his explosiveness makes his BJJ extremely dangerous. His list of victims include the likes of Caol Uno, Eddie Alvarez, and JZ Calvancante. He most recently lost to Hayato Sakurai, who decided to just knee the hell out of Aoki’s face on the ground. Of his 4 losses, 2 have come via TKO, 1 via unanimous decision, and one via KO. His biggest weakness is probably his standup skills, but that shouldn’t play much of a factor in this fight. Besides, he has been able to use his Judo skills in the past to take the fight to the ground, so it is not a huge weakness.
Vitor “Shaolin” Ribeiro is another great BJJ fighter. He is highly decorated in the BJJ world, even more so than Aoki. He has a 20-2 record and again like Aoki, 12 of those came via submission. The two losses were via TKO. However, he has not had quite the same level of competition as Aoki. His most recent fight was one of his few TKO victories over Katsuhiko Nagata via non-other than knees to the head. He is a little smaller than Aoki at 5’8”, but again has much better grappling credentials. It should also be noted that he trains out of the famed BJJ camp Nova Uniao with such fighters as Thales Leites, Jose Aldo, and Wagnney Fabiano.
Since this fight is going to most likely be a grappling match between two highly skilled BJJ aces whom neither has ever been submitted in fights before, I won’t even bother with the standup game. The largest factors in the fight will be Aoki’s ingenuity and speed, and Shaolin’s grappling pedigree. I’d hate to have to assign an edge, but since Aoki has had higher quality of opponent, I would give it to him. That being said, I wouldn’t count Ribeiro out. He hasn’t had the same coverage as Aoki, but he is still very dangerous and a game opponent in this fight. He could neutralize the ground game of Aoki and pull out a TKO like his last fight. Either that or grind out a decision victory. This fight is definitely very hard to call.
Final Prediction: At the current lines, I would give a slightly better chance to Vitor Ribeiro and would be willing to put a .3 unit bet down at +200 for a .6 unit payout. However, I would wait a little bit and see if the line goes higher. Aoki is very popular and the money may come in his way on higher name recognition.
Hayato Sakurai (-600, BetCRIS) vs Marius Zaromskis (+500, Bodog)
Hayato Sakurai is a legend in MMA. His record is a litany of great fighters with wins over Frank Trigg, Jens Pulver, Dave Menna, Shinya Aoki (twice), and Caol Uno. He has losses to the likes of Anderson Silva, Matt Hughes, Jake Shields, Ryo Chonan, Rodrigo Gracie, and Crosley Gracie. That being said, it is really hard to hold those against him. Sakurai’s current record after competing since 1996 is 35-8-2. He has proven to be a well rounded fighter with an even mix of submission, T(KO), and decision wins; his most recent being a brutal kneeing of the face of Shinya Aoki at Dream.8 (with some punches thrown in for good measure). He is a very dangerous veteran to say the least that has a myriad of ways of winning this fight.
Marius Zaromskis is a somewhat recent export to Dream from Lithuania. He trains out of London Shootfighters with such fighters as Mostapha Al Turk, James Zikic, and James Thompson. So far, he has accrued a 9-2 record with the majority of his wins coming through Cage Rage European fighters. His first fight in Dream was a unanimous decision win over Seichi Ikemoto. They basically kickboxed each other the whole fight with Marius attempting some flashy moves like a jumping spinning back kick and a back flip onto a downed Ikemoto. They were entertaining moves, but less than effective in the fight. If he attempts such flashy techniques on Sakurai, he could be laid out pretty quick. All in all, it was less than an impressive performance, even though he was able to get the decision.
Marius’s main strength is his kickboxing. He has some hard leg kicks and is very athletic. We have yet to see his ground game, but he didn’t look very comfortable on his back in his fights with Ikemoto and Jedrzej Kubski. That being said, Sakurai should have no problem in the stand up. I would venture to say that he is more than a match for Marius in all aspects of the fight game. Therefore, unless Marius can pull out a lucky punch or submission, this fight belongs to Sakurai in any way he chooses.
Final Prediction: Hayato Sakurai should have no problems in this fight, but with the line being over -400, it is best to stay away from this one.
Andre Galvao (-400, BetCRIS) vs Jason High (+320, BetCRIS)
Andre Galvao is a notable fighter out of Team Noueira. He is a standout BJJ practitioner who won the World Jiu-Jitsu Championship in 2005, 2007, and 2008. He also took 3rd place in the ADCC Submission Wrestling World Championship in 2007. He is relatively new to the fight game with a 3-0 record. However, his most recent win was the submission of John Alessio at Dream.8. In fact, all of his wins have come via armbar.
Jason High has a little more experience than Galvao with a 7-1 record. He is fairly well rounded with 4 submission victories, 2 T(KO)s, and 1 Decision. He has very good hand speed and tends to overwhelm his opponents with flurries. His only loss was to Jay Hieron at Affliction 2. He was doing very well until he got caught by a right hook while standing in the pocket. He currently trains out of BodyShop Fitness.
It is no surprise that Galvao is going to want to take this fight down to the ground. Jason High may have 4 submission victories but he will be greatly outmatched by Galvao in the submissions game. High’s best bet is to try and overwhelm Galvao on the feet and get the KO or TKO stoppage. He should have the edge on the feet, but anyone that trains with Black House will rapidly improve their striking. So, I don’t expect Galvao to be a slouch on the feet. High also has a wrestling background, so he may be able to dictate where this fight occurs and that could be bad news for Galvao.
Final Prediction: With High’s wrestling and standing edge, I think he is a nice underdog bet at the current odds. I would take him to about +300. This is somewhat of a long shot since all Galvao needs to do to win is get it to the ground. However, since we don’t know how good his chin is and High’s flurries can be pretty nasty, a small bet of .3 units on High at +320 to win .96 is worth it.
Melvin Manhoef (+125, BetCRIS) vs Paulo Filho (-135, Bodog)
Paulo Filho had once been hailed as the next best thing in the middleweight division. After he took the WEC championship at WEC 29, he went on to defeat Chael Sonnen in his first title defense. It was a controversial win as Sonnen declared that he did not verbally tap and wanted to continue the fight. They eventually had a rematch last November at WEC 36 that can only be described as surreal. Filho failed to make weight for the championship bout and then proceeded to get manhandled by Sonnen, all the while looking dazed and confused. The MMA community was not happy with the performance and neither was Zuffa. After the fight, the middleweight division was folded into the UFC and Paulo Filho was not invited along. There has been some questions surrounding substance abuse. The rematch with Sonnen was suppose to occur at WEC 34, but Paulo pulled out due to checking himself into rehab. Paulo use to train with Black House and was good friends with Anderson Silva. He now currently with Team Link alongside Gabriel Gonzaga. He is mainly a ground fighter with several BJJ championships and accolades. 7 out of his 16 wins have come via submission, another 7 by decision. In addition to his WEC run, Filho fought in the 2006 Pride Welterweight Grand Prix and defeated Kazuo Misaki. However, he had to pull out of the tournament due to an injured knee. He does have quality wins over Murilo Rua and Ikuhisa Minowa.
Melvin Manhoef on the other hand, is a strong Dutch kickboxer with an impressive record of 23-5-1 in MMA. 22 of those wins are via knockout. To say that he finishes fights is somewhat of an understatement. He most recently put away Mark Hunt in 18 seconds, even though he went up 2 weight classes for the bout. His only real weakness has been his ground game. 3 of his most recent losses have come via submission, the most notable being the triangle choke by Gegard Mousasi at Dream.6.
This fight is very hard to call just because there is no telling which Paulo Filho is going to show up to fight. If it is the same confused Filho from November, he is going to be in a lot of trouble. Even a fully functional Paulo Filho would have to be very careful with such a hard hitting guy like Melvin Manhoef. If Melvin can keep this fight on the feet, he has a very good chance of putting Filho away. The big question is whether Filho will be able to weather the storm on the feet and get Melvin down to get the submission victory. I have the funny feeling that Filho’s best days are behind him. His last performance was simply hard to watch, and he looked like a man that had been broken by the pressure of being a hugely hyped MMA fighter.
Final Prediction: With so many questions surrounding Paulo Filho’s mental state and Melvin’s awesome standup and finishing potential, there is value on Melvin Manhoef at +125 risking 2 units to win 2.5 units.
Andre Amade (+145, Bodog) vs Katsunori Kikuno (-160, BetCRIS)
This lightweight bout will most likely be a very exciting standup battle. Both of these fighters like to stand and throw leather, so there is a good possibility for a KO in this fight.
Andre Amada is a Brazilian Muay Thai practitioner with good striking. He puts a lot of power into his punches, especially his left hook, which he used to stun Eddie Alvarez in their meeting. My only contention with his standup has been his lack of kicks in his last two losses. However, this is most likely due to his fear of the ground game, since that his major weakness. In his last two bouts, Alvarez and Calvancante were able to dominate Amade once they had him on the ground. Calvancante ended up finishing him with an armbar and Alvarez via referee stoppage due to his GnP.
Katsunori Kikuno is a DEEP staple and is their current lightweight champion. He is currently 11-1 with his lone loss coming from Yukinari Tamura in 2006 via decision. He most recently defeated Koichiro Matsumoto via a wicked knockout. He has a very strange standup style that can only be described as stiff. It is almost has if he has a rod running from the tip of his head to his lower back. He stalks his opponents with little hand movement and short shuffling steps. This is most likely due to his background in Kyokushin Karate. However, it has worked for him thus far. He also likes to pepper his opponent with a left kick from his lead leg. He doesn’t set it up much, but he has shown to have power in his left leg if he has a chance to load it up. He hasn’t been on the ground too frequently, and I don’t think he will try to take this fight there.
Since this is most likely going to be a standup battle, I want to go with the Muay Thai kickboxer. If he doesn’t have to worry about the ground game, where he has shown to be weak, Amada should be able to open up and let the leather fly. If he does so, Kikuno’s stiff standup style could get him in trouble. Muay Thai guys love someone who is willing to walk forward into their attacks, and that is exactly what Kikuno tends to do. He throws straight punches with his head straight up, so he is almost begging to be knocked out by a strong hook over the top. Therefore, I think there is some value in Andre Amada.
Final Prediction: Andre Amada at +145 risking .75 units to win 1.08 units.
Dong Sik Yoon (-205, BetCRIS) vs Jesse Taylor (+190)
Dong Sik Yoon is a decorated judoka from South Korea with a huge wealth of experience in Judo competitions. Since his movement into MMA, he has had less than a stellar run with a current record of 4-6. However, he made his debut against Kazushi Sakuraba, and fought and loss to Quinton Jackson and Murilo Bustamante within in his first 4 fights (The other loss was to fellow judoka Makoto Takimoto). He was really thrown into the deep end in the beginning of his career. Since those initial 4 loses, he put a string of 4 wins together over Melvin Manhoef (17-3-1 at the time), Zelg Galesic (6-2 ATT), Fabio Silva (10-3 ATT), and Shungo Oyama (7-10 ATT). After that run he lost to Gegard Mousasi at Dream.4 and Andrews Nakahara at Dream.6.
Yoon’s deep history in Judo has provided him with very good takedowns. Since his movement into MMA he has progressed very steadily into the submission game. 75% of his victories (3 out of 4) have come via submission, all of them armbars. He showed a very descent ground game in his fight with Mousasi with good transitions and submissions attempts. Mousasi was in danger at one point in a very good armbar that he was somehow able to roll out of. He also got the mount on Andrews Nakahara and was able to smother him for quite a while and do some descent damage. He was later defeated by Andrews via TKO. Yoon’s standup on the other hand, is a little rudimentary. He throws with ill intent, but there is little footwork or head movements. He was completely out struck by Andrews and was less than impressive. The combinations were somewhat limited, so Yoon’s intent in this fight will be to take into the ground and work for his armbar.
Jesse Taylor has a somewhat infamous public image. He was a competitor on the Ultimate Fighter season 7 and made it into the finals. He then proceeded to throw his finals position away through a drunken tirade in Vegas. That position was eventually filled by C.B. Dollaway, who went on to lose to Amir Sadollah. Jesse eventually came back to the UFC to fight Dollaway at Fight Night 14 and loss to a very slick Peruvian necktie. He was then released from the UFC and has since racked up a 6 fight win streak. His most notable win in the run was his victory over Drew Fickett at welterweight.
Jesse has a background in wrestling. In junior college he was a two time All-American state runner-up in 2003 and state champ in 2004. He then wrestled for Cal State Fullerton and came in 3rd in the Pac-10. Once he figured out that there was no money in wrestling after college, he transitioned to MMA and has been working out of Team Quest ever since. He has improved his striking and jujitsu like Yoon has. He isn’t a standup master, but he does do a descent job in the clinch with some dirty boxing. 42% of his victories have come via submission and 33% by TKO. His strategy will be to take the fight to the ground and either grind out a decision or get a GnP stoppage.
The biggest question in this fight is how Yoon’s Judo will match up with Taylor’s wrestling. There is a real possibility that both of their backgrounds will end up neutralizing one another and this turns into a standup fight. I have a hard time assigning an edge in that case. However, if I had to choose, I would say Taylor has the edge in the wrestling and striking department. If Taylor can get Yoon to the ground, in top position, and avoid his armbar, he has a good chance for victory. If Yoon can get Taylor down, I would give him the grappling edge. Since the standup is a tossup or slightly in Jesse’s favor, I think this fight should be closer in the odds department. So there may be some value in Taylor.
Final Prediction: Jesse Taylor at +190 risking .5 units to win .95 units. I would only bet this line down to about +165, after that there is no longer any value.
Seichi Ikemoto (-190, BetCRIS) Tarec Saffiedine (+150, BetCRIS)
Seichi Ikemoto is one of those fighters that has been around the Japanese scene for quite some time (1999 to be exact). He has losses to Yves Edward, Eddie Alvarez, Shinya Aoki, and Shonie Carter (He is 18-15-5 overall). His wins have come over mostly mid-tier guys. Over his whole career he has just never been able to really break out with a big win over a big name or get a descent winning streak going. His most recent loss was to Marius Zaromskis, who he was getting the better of until he started standing there and taking some hard leg kicks. He is a fairly well-rounded fighter with 7 T(KO)s, 4 submissions, and 7 decisions. However, he has also shown a weakness to the ground game and has been submitted 6 times, even by guys with less than stellar records. After fighting for 10 years as a professional he will definitely have the experience advantage in this fight.
Tarec Saffiedine is a very new fighter out of Belgium with a current record of 6-0. He has descent standup, but his bread and butter is the ground game. Five of his wins have been submission victories and that is most likely where he will want to take this fight. This fight in Dream will be a huge step up in competition since all of his past fights have been on fairly small regional promotions.
With so little information on Tarec and the checkered record of Ikemoto, I think the lines are about right for this fight. Ikemoto may have the advantage in experience, but he has been beat plenty of times in the past by very green fighters. That could very well happen again. I’m personally staying away from this fight as it could go either way.
Final Prediction: Too many unknown variables, so no action at this time. If Tarec gets up to over +200, I could see throwing a small bet on him.