DREAM Lightweight (155 pounds/70 kilograms) Champion Shinya Aoki (31-6) will face battle-tested wrestling specialist Antonio McKee (28-4-2) at the DREAM Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) event at Saitama Super Arena on New Year’s Eve.
The matchup was announced today by officials from DREAM and Glory Sports International, which is presenting the year-end show along with the GLORY 4 Tokyo – Heavyweight Grand Slam event.
Also announced was a middleweight (185 pounds/84 kilograms) fight between Melvin Manhoef (26-9-1, 1 NC) and Denis Kang (35-15-2, 2 NC) and a 139-pound catchweight meeting between former DREAM bantamweight (135 pounds/61 kilograms) champion Bibiano Fernandes (12-3) and Yoshiro Maeda (30-11-2) of Japan.
“Shinya Aoki is already a legend in mixed martial arts. His jiu jitsu and judo skills are just incredible and we are delighted to have him on the card for DREAM 18. The Saitama Super Arena is his home and the greatest matches of his career have been fought there. We expect another epic encounter on New Year’s Eve when he faces UFC veteran Antonio McKee,” said GLORY CEO Marcus Luer.
“With Melvin Manhoef and Denis Kang, we have a fight where the fans cannot afford to blink – there is so much power and skill in that fight that it is very, very unlikely to go the distance. And the fight between Bibiano Fernandes and Yoshiro Maeda will be a whirlwind, technical master class. Fernandes is one of the world’s top ten bantamweights while Maeda is as tough as they come. All the DREAM 18 fights are absolutely world class and we are very excited about them.”
Known as Tobikan Judan (‘Master of Flying Attacks’), Aoki is a grappling prodigy. An incredible 20 of his 31 career wins have been by way of submission and his victories include wins over Rich Clementi, Joachim Hansen and Eddie Alvarez. He has a ruthless killer instinct, exemplified by his breaking the arm of Mizuto Hirota at a 2009 New Year’s Eve event in the Saitama Super Arena.
McKee has fought for the UFC, the IFL and top Canadian promotion MFC in a career spanning 12 years. Only four fighters have ever managed to beat him, and three of those – Karo Parisyan, Jacob Volkmann and Chris Brennan – have also competed amongst the upper echelon of fighters in the UFC and PRIDE FC. McKee was set to fight Aoki at DREAM: Fight for Japan last May, but the bout fell through because of visa issues.
The Dutch dynamo Manhoef needs little introduction to fight fans in Japan or anywhere else. A huge fan favorite, Manhoef’s power and highly aggressive style combine to ensure that his fights rarely go the distance. He is one of only two men to ever stop Mark Hunt with strikes and he also has a win over Japanese legend Kazushi Sakuraba.
French-Korean middleweight Kang won a ‘Fight of the Night’ award for his clash with Michael Bisping in the UFC. A second-degree Brazilian Jiu Jitsu black belt, Kang’s honors include being a finalist in the PRIDE FC Welterweight Grand Prix and winning a title in leading Korean promotion Spirit MC. He has wins over Murilo ‘Ninja’ Rua and Akihiro Gono.
Fernandes won the 2009 DREAM Featherweight Grand Prix to become the organization’s first featherweight champion. After losing the belt to Hiroyuki Takaya, he moved down to bantamweight and won the DREAM Bantamweight Grand Prix.
Maeda has competed for many of the best organizations in the world, including PRIDE FC, DREAM, WEC, Pancrase and DEEP. He fought for the WEC bantamweight title against Miguel Torres at WEC 34 and holds wins over Chase Beebe and Brazilian Jiu Jitsu expert Micah Miller among others. He was also a quarter-finalist in the DREAM Featherweight Grand Prix.
‘GSI presents DREAM 18 and GLORY 4 Tokyo – New Year’s Eve Special’ – will commence at 4 p.m. JST with the DREAM 18 card and continue with the GLORY 4 Tokyo – Heavyweight Grand Slam, a one-night, 16-man, single-elimination tournament featuring the world’s top heavyweight stand-up fighters, including Semmy Schilt (39-6, 18 KO’s), Gokhan Saki (77-15, 53 KO’s), Daniel Ghita (44-7, 34 KO’s), Remy Bonjasky (77-14, 40 KO’s), Peter Aerts (104-30-1, 78 KO’s), Errol Zimmerman (76-16-1, 41 KO’s), Anderson ‘Braddock’ Silva (32-8-1, 22 KO’s) and Sergei Kharitonov (22-7, 12 KO’s).
The winner of the heavyweight tournament will take home a Grand Prize of $400,000, and a total of $600,000 in prize money will be awarded to tournament participants.