Dream.17 Grapple Wars

By Subaru Muroi

If the Brazilians are known for their Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, and Americans their Free-style and Greco-roman wrestling, many North fans would suggest that the grappling style representing Japan is Judo. This is not surprising with fighters such as Yushin Okami and Yoshihiro Akiyama being prominent judo practitioners and main event fighters in the UFC.

But true MMA fans should know that their exists a more prominent style that many famous Japanese fighters are practitioners of. This style not only popularized MMA and style vs style fights in Japan, it was also the style employed by some of the best pro-wrestlers in Japan as well. Originating from the United Kingdom, this style is called Catch-Wrestling.

Though the main attraction of Dream 17 is the World Bantam Weight tournament, the non-tournament fights are garnering attention with names like Shinya Aoki, Tatsuya Kawajiri, and Caol Uno: all former contenders for the UFC or strikeforce belt. 3 Catch Wrestlers are also causing a stir as they are highly entertaining, high profile, fan favorites in their home country. Their names are Kazushi Sakuraba, Ikuhisa Minowa, and Satoru Kitaoka.

Kazushi Sakuraba, a legend of the sport, was known as the Gracie Killer for defeating Royler, Royce, Ryan and Renzo Gracie early in his career by utilizing his pro-wrestling and catch wrestling skills. He also holds wins over notable figters Ken Shamrock, Kevin Randleman, Vitor Belfort and Quinton Jackson. Despite a long and memorable career, at 42 years of age and fighting off of a 3 fight losing streak many consider him to be on his decline. He is set to fight
Yan Cabral 9-0 (all wins by submission) to once again test his catch wrestling against bjj.

Ikuhisa Minowa, known as Minowa-man is a Catch-wrestler famous for taking on fights against opponents much bigger than him. At 5’9 and never weighing over 196 lbs he submitted Bob Sapp (341lbs) and Hong Man Choi (350lbs), then tko’d Rameau Thierry Sokoudjou (204lbs) to become Champion of the Dynamite 2009 Super Hulk Tournament. His upcoming bout against the Mongolian Baru Harn will be his 90th professional fight. Despite Harn having only 2 fights (1-1) he is 266 lbs, has nothing to lose and everything to gain from this fight against the veteran Minowa. His Mongolian wrestling style and weight advantage may match up well, but could just as easily lead to a quick submission below the belt by Minowa-Man.

Satoru Kitaoka, was the Sengoku lightweight tournament champion (2008) and the first Sengoku lightweight champion. With submission wins over Takanori Gomi, Kurt Pelligrino, Carlos Condit, and Paul Daley, the only reason you’ve never heard of him is because he has never won any of his 28 fights by t/ko. Kitaoka exemplifies just how effective catch wrestling can be as a base style. With 0 losses due to submission it will be interesting to see how former UFC fighter Willamy Freire from Brazil will approach this fight.

Dream.17 will air live on HDnet Friday September 23rd.

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