DREAM Japan Bantamweight Grand Prix Matchups Set For May 29thFirst-round matchups for the upcoming eight-man bantamweight tournament on May 29th in Japan are now set. Previously dubbed the “Japan Cup,” the event has been rebranded the DREAM Japan Grand Prix: “Fight For Japan” and will be held under the DREAM banner at the Saitama Super Arena.

All four of the quarterfinal matches were announced by the promotion today. Among those participating are DREAM veterans Yoshiro Maeda and Hideo Tokoro, who will square off in one first-round bout. Past and present DEEP champions Takafumi Otsuka and Masakazu Imanari will also compete.

The first quarterfinal features American Darren “BC” Uyenoyama (6-3-0) taking on Atsushi Yamamoto (14-6-1). As bouts were chosen by way of a drawing, Uyenoyama relayed his selection on the card via telephone from his home in California. Uyenoyama has not fought since September, when he scored a shocking upset win over Shooto champion Shuichiro Katsumura in a non-title bout. Yamamoto has won three of his last four fights and has competed for nearly every major promotion in Japan, including two past appearances in DREAM against fellow tournament participants.

The second opening-round match pits Yoshiro Maeda (28-9-2) against Hideo Tokoro (27-23-1). Maeda is coming off of two of the biggest wins in his career, defeating former DEEP champ Takafumi Otsuka in October and then stopping ex-Sengoku Featherweight Champion Masanori “Kin-chan” Kanehara in an all-out war at SRC: “Soul of Fight” on December 30th. Tokoro earned a third-round submission victory at K-1 Dynamite!! on New Year’s Eve and is 3-3 in his last six fights. Both competitors have already made multiple appearances for DREAM since the promotion’s inception in 2008.

In the third tournament bout, Masakazu “Ashikan Judan” Imanari (21-8-2) will take on Keisuke Fujiwara (11-2-4). After losing his DEEP Featherweight Championship in March 2008, Imanari won seven of his next eight fights and captured the promotion’s Bantamweight title along the way. The highly unorthodox leglock master is coming off of a non-title loss to Hiroshi “Iron” Nakamura in February, however, and will look to end Fujiwara’s five-fight unbeaten streak. A proven finisher, Fujiwara holds five knockouts and four submissions to his credit. He has never been submitted in 17 career bouts.

Lastly, the opening round will conclude with a battle between WEC veteran Kenji Osawa (16-9-2) and another ex-DEEP Featherweight Champion, Takafumi Otsuka (11-7-1). Osawa posted a 1-2-1 record in World Extreme Cagefighting from 2008 to 2009, but most recently found success back in Japan with a decision victory over Yoshiro Maeda at Dream.14. One year to the day from that fight, he will return to action against Otsuka, who ended a three-fight losing streak with a win in December. Otsuka has only been finished once, in his October 2006 pro debut. Osawa hasn’t been stopped in nearly seven years.

With many of the fighters having already faced other tournament participants, rematches in the second round of the grand prix are a distinct possibility, but could lead to more interesting matchups.

DREAM Japan Grand Prix: “Fight For Japan” takes place on May 29th at the Saitama Super Arena in Saitama, Japan. The event may air on HDNet in North America. Proceeds from the card will go towards disaster relief and reconstruction after the recent earthquake and tsunami in Japan on March 11th.


  1. Go Imanari!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!