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DYNAMITE!! 2009 - BreakDown, Betting Odds & Predictions By Mike Hammarsmith

A proud MMA tradition lives on for another year, as WVR and Dream unite under one banner for a New Year's Eve card live from Japan, and this one wont disappoint. Although there doesn't appear to be any belts changing hands, there are several important match-ups on the card, and the somewhat less important Superhulk Tournament Final, which oddly enough, features a Middleweight fighting a Light Heavyweight. In that final, Rameau Sokoudjou will fight Ikuhisa "The Punk" Minowa to take the crown in one of the most ridiculous gimmicks in MMA history, but regardless of what you or I might think of the concept, the fight could actually be worth watching. Also, the highly anticipated debut of Olympic Judo Gold Medalist Satoshi Ishii, who will face off against another Gold Medalist in Hidehiko Yoshida. Judokas have a lousy track-record in their initial MMA careers, but with a match against another Judoka, things could change in Ishii's favor and kickstart a new career. This, plus many cross-promotional bouts await us on this card. So, time to start your year off right with exciting fights and maybe a fat check from your sports book or fantasy site with my odds and picks.

On a side note, most of these fights are contested under WVR's rules, rather than Dreams, which means they're three five minute rounds, rather than a ten minute first round, followed by a five minute second round. There are exceptions to this, which I will mark in the "Fantasy Pick" section.

Also, considering these cards are thrown together at the last minute, with several fights in limbo, I can't cover everything here. If you have a question about any fights added after this is posted, feel free to drop a message on the forum, and I'll do my best to get back to you on it. Now, onto the fights!

Kazuyuki Fujita vs. Alistair Overeem: In a fight that could easily have taken place five years ago, and been much more competitive, two Pride fighters will face off with Kazuyuki Fujita fighting the popular Alistair Overeem in a heavyweight bout. Fujita hasn't added anything to his game in several years, and brings the same doggedly stubborn takedowns and wild, heavy hands he's always had, although with the fighter pushing forty years of age, Fujita is definitely past his prime. Overeem, on the other hand, has improved greatly in the last several years, adding a high-level submission game to his already deadly kickboxing arsenal, as well as forty pounds of muscle, making him a true heavyweight nightmare. Five years ago, this fight would be a clear win for Fujita in my book, but considering Overeem's improved arsenal and Fujita's predictability, I don't see many outs for Fujita to take this fight.

Betting Odds:

Alistair Overeem -185
Kazuyuki Fujita +140

While you're going to run into wider odds than this, Fujita does have high-level wrestling, which is something Overeem has had trouble with in the past. If he can work wide shots and stay in side control, Overeem is going to have a difficult time winning this fight, especially if he gas tank fails him as it has in the past. Fujita also brings in heavy hands to this fight, although with his wide punches, he's going to have a hell of a time landing on Overeem with any regularity. Overeem should have this fight finished in the first round, but money on Fujita at long odds could pay off very well if Overeem can't get to the mat on his terms.

Fantasy Pick: Alistair Overeem via 1st round submission (armlock).

I don't see this fight going very long, as Overeem has all the tools to end it, but the method is more difficult to determine. While a submission from a guillotine or armlock from his back is perfectly reasonable, that would require Fujita to test the ground game, which he might be reluctant to do. Fujita will have to pick his poison here, and may decide that standing and forcing an exchange with the sometimes soft chin of Overeem might be his best bet. This could also backfire for the wrestler though, as Overeem brings plenty of power, paticularly in his knee strikes. While I think an armlock off his back is where this fight is most likely to end, I wouldn't count out a TKO or submission (choke) either.

Satoshi Ishii vs. Hidehiko Yoshida: Two Olympic Gold Medalists will face off here, although the fight that could unfold is anyone's guess. Both men have similar credentials in the world of Judo, but MMA is a different beast all together, and with Ishii making his debut, it's hard to say what to expect. Yoshida has the experience in this field, but he's also giving up twenty pounds and several years to the younger Ishii, which could factor in in a long fight. Judokas also tend to have a tough time adjusting to MMA, as their method of engagement requires them to put their heads into harms way, and nearly ever judoka in Pride, Dream or WVR has been KO'd in their first fight because of this. With that said, Yoshida should have an advantage here in his ability to keep this fight from turning into a Judo battle, and keep it an MMA bout, where he will have the edge in experience, allowing him to take a decision.

Betting Odds:

Hidehiko Yoshida No bet
Satoshi Ishii No bet

If this fight was to take place in the US, I'd give Yoshida an advantage and recommend odds, but unfortunately that's not going to happen. The problem we run into, which will have a tremendous effect on this fight, is the presence or absence of judo gi. In the US, both fighter's would have to wear traditional shorts, but in Japan, you appear to be able to fight in anything from masks, to pants, to boots and shinguards, and even judo gis. If Yoshida fights with the gi, as he sometimes does, he's giving up a huge advantage, and compromising his ability to use his experience in keeping off the mat. Considering this, and that we don't know if he will or not until the fight starts, I don't recommend action on this fight unless you can find some very wide odds to the tune of +200 for either fighter.

Fantasy Pick: Hidehiko Yoshida via 2nd round decision. (Dream rules)

Unless he fights foolishly here, as stated above, a gi-less Yoshida should be able to control the striking in this fight and possibly control the action on the mat as well, if Ishii does opt to wear a gi. In that situation, I don't see him subbing Ishii or knocking him out, but I do see him taking a decision win over his fellow judoka.

Hiroshi Izumi vs. Katsuyori Shibata: Yet another world-class Judoka, and another to fall to KO in their debut, Hiroshi Izumi will look to right the ship against professional wrestler Katsuyori Shibata, in the only throwaway match on this card. While Izumi was floored badly against Antz Nansen, Shibata is a less than polished fighter with a limited arsenal, and should play easily into Izumi's judo game. Shibata lacks the standing power to hurt Izumi and lacks the grappling ability to avoid the worst of the mat. Eventually, Izumi should lock up the submission and take his first MMA win.

Betting Odds:

Hiroshi Izumi -185
Katsuyori Shibata +140

Izumi should hold an advantage in this fight, although he showed he wasn't afraid to stand with someone, which could be a mistake here. Shibata doesn't have destructive power, but he does have much more experience than Izumi, and could put a hurting on the judoka early, which could effect the entire fight. Also, issues of conditioning have never been addressed with Izumi, whereas Shibata is a fairly athletic fighter that can push the pace and wear down Izumi if he can't finish early. Long odds on this fight make for a compelling bet for Shibata to weather the storm and score points on the feet.

Fantasy Pick: Hiroshi Izumi via 3rd round submission (armlock) (split scoring) or 1st round submission (armlock) (straight scoring).

While Izumi should have this by submission at some point, Shibata has shown himself willing to completely give up offense to draw a fight out as long as possible. This could give Izumi problems in finishing the bout, even if he's the far superior grappler, and bring this into deep water. While I feel Izumi will be able to lock up a kimura or straight armbar in the first round once this hits the mat, taking a third round submission wouldn't be a bad tactic under split scoring rules, as Shibata could defend all submission attempts late into the fight, and potentially to a decision.

Ikuhisa "The Punk" Minowa vs. Rameau Sokoudjou: Here was have the conclusion of the ill-conceived Superhulk Tournament, where Middleweight Ikuhisa Minowa will take on Light Heavyweight Rameau Sokoudjou for the tournament title. Let me just say that I have little love for Minowa, as I think he's a gimmick fighter and can't seem to win a fight where he can't land a leglock. In fact, he hasn't won a fight in over two years without one. With that being said, he does have a great deal of determination and a decent wrestling game, and is a danger to many fighters. Unfortunately, Sokoudjou isn't one of those fighters. Sokoudjou, enjoying a significant, functional size advantage, hasn't lost a fight in Japan yet, and is unlikely to drop one here. Sokoudjou has the clinch grappling to ensure he doesn't hit the mat easily, and has more than enough firepower to TKO Minowa standing or on the mat. Short of a leglock, Sokoudjou wins this fight and this tournament.

Betting Odds:

Rameau Sokoudjou -250
Ikuhisa Minowa +210

As previously stated, Minowa doesn't have a shot here unless he hits a leglock. Leglocks are a double-edged sword, in that while they are difficult to defend against due to their unorthodox nature, they also require you to give up position and leave you tremendously exposed when transitioning for the leg. Minowa can't miss once he gets the chance, as Sokoudjou will drill his head into the mat in a heartbeat if he doesn't submit to the lock. Smart money says there are too many issues against Minowa here to put a wager on him at worse than +210.

Fantasy Pick: Rameau Sokoudjou via 1st round TKO. (Dream rules)

Whether it be on the feet or on the mat, this fight ends early and violently when Sokoudjou brings his considerable firepower to bear on Minowa. I feel fairly confident in the round, as Sokoudjou is a strong finisher and doesn't tend to take his time in fights.

Akihiro Gono vs. Hayato Sakurai: Two old hands of Japanese MMA will fight for the first time in their careers, which is odd considering they've been active for over a decade in the same organizations.Both Gono and Sakurai are complete fighters and can win anywhere this fight goes, but overall I have to give Sakurai a slight advantage, as he's a bit less shopworn at this point, and packs a little more power in his fists than Gono. Otherwise, these fighters a nearly even everywhere, and I don't see either being able to dominate or finish this fight.

Betting Odds:

Hayato Sakurai -150
Akihiro Gono +120

With Sakurai's power advantage and Gono's apparent lack of confidence in this fight, I think Sakurai can control the bout by keeping Gono on the retreat. Gono certainly has power himself though, and his less orthodox grappling style could cause Sakurai some problems if this were to hit the mat in Gono's favor. It's a close fight, and long odds either way would be worth a wager.

Fantasy Pick: Hayato Sakurai via decision

In a closely contested fight, Sakurai should be able to take a decision with cleaner striking and top control. Although he has the potential to finish, his arsenal is so vast that it would be very difficult to call a type of stoppage, making a decision pick the safest for large points.

Masanori Kanehara vs. Norifumi "Kid" Yamamoto: An unlikely Featherweight champion will take on a Japanese legend in Kid Yamamoto, in what could be the sleeper fight of the night. This wouldn't even be a fight if it wasn't for Yamamoto's tendency to injure himself, and the amount of ring rust he displayed in his last fight, but be that as it may, Kanehara has a real shot here.Yamamoto has an edge in his skills, which are considerable, but Kanehara is a more complete fighter with a dangerous bottom game and a striking style that is difficult to counter due to the angles he throws at. With that said, if Yamamoto comes into this fight in shape, he should be able to control the majority of the bout, and potentially end it fast with his relentless striking, both standing and on the mat.

Betting Odds:

Norifumi Yamamoto -240
Masanori Kanehara +190

Yamamoto should have this, but Kanehara has enough of a well-rounded skillset to keep it interesting everywhere the fight goes. Kanehara could be a live dog in this fight if the odds are heavily against him, as his bottom game is dangerous enough to test Yamamoto's submission defense, and he has the potential to outwork Yamamoto if his gas tank isn't into it.

Fantasy Pick: Norifumi Yamamoto via 3rd round TKO (split scoring) or 1st round TKO (straight scoring)

Yamamoto rarely bothers with the submission when he can just punch someone, and that's likely to be the case here. As for a finishing round, this could be a quick fight, but Kanehara could easily draw this into deep waters. Straight scoring would probably favor a quick fight, but taking a 3rd round finish with split scoring wouldn't be a bad idea at all.

Michihiro Omigawa vs. Hiroyuki Takaya: Never will you see two less likely fighters to succeed, but Michihiro Omigawa, who's never had more wins than loses, and Hiroyuki Takaya, who flunked out of the WEC and has lost every major fight he's ever had, will face off in a battle of ultimate underdogs. This is the hardest fight on the card to call, and both men have had flashes of brilliance in their time in the ring, but also shown gaping holes in their games as well. Omigawa has developed from a glass-jawed, undersized Lightweight judoka into a sort of sprawl and brawler with strong transitional grappling skills, and while the fans seem to think he's lost two of his last three fights, the judges disagree. As for Takaya, he hasn't truly evolved in the sport, and remains a weak-chinned, but devastating striker with a ton of heart. This fight is very difficult to call, but I have to give the edge to Omigawa for his judo skills, that should allow him to get the better of the clinch and grappling exchanges. This, combined with Omigawa's apparent favor with the judges, should allow him to squeak out a very close decision.

Betting Odds:

Michihiro Omigawa -120
Hiroyuki Takaya -120

Realistically, this fight is too close to call. Omigawa can TKO, submit, or win a decision over Takaya, and Takaya can knock Omigawa out cold in one shot at any given moment. Either fighter at +140 or better would be worth a wager.

Fantasy Pick: Michihiro Omigawa via decision.

The outcome for this could go almost any way, but Omigawa isn't the greatest finisher, and Takaya could finish in any round. I feel Omigawa taking a decision is the most likely of all the outcomes.

Marlon Sandro vs. Hideo Tokoro: Marlon Sandro came seemingly out of nowhere and crushed the competition in WVR's Featherweight Grand Prix before being screwed out of a decision, the tournament finals, and his undefeated record, against Michihiro Omigawa. Now he'll take on everyone's favorite grappling dummy in Hideo Tokoro in what should be an entertaining bout. Tokoro is one of the most inconsistent grapplers I've ever seen, holding wins over stellar grapplers like Darren Uyenoyama and Royler Gracie, but dropping fights to weak regional competition, and sporting a 25-21-1 record. While this should be a gimmie fight for Sandro, Tokoro is a very adept catch wrestler, which is a grappling style known to be an absolute nightmare to BJJ practitioners, and his oftentimes ridiculous transitions could give Sandro a hard time on the mat. Smart money says this fight doesn't hit the ground though, as Sandro catches Tokoro on the feet early and puts him to sleep, or failing that, pounds him out on the mat.

Betting Odds:

Marlon Sandro -250
Hideo Tokoro +220

Sandro has this fight won everywhere, although Tokoro's transition skills could be an issue for Sandro, as his cardio has never been proven when on the defensive. Sandro should be a solid parlay bet or conservative bet at these odds, but I wouldn't recommend anything over -300.

Fantasy Pick: Marlon Sandro via 1st round TKO.

This fight has potential to go the distance, but Tokoro's suspect chin and Sandro's fists say this should end within the first round. While Sandro does have submission skills, Tokoro is notoriously difficult to pin down or catch during a scramble, and a TKO is much more likely to occur than any submission Sandro can throw at the wily Japanese grappler.