Fighting and Entertainment Group (FEG) announced on Thursday that two of it’s Japanese stars are confirmed to participate in Dream’s upcoming welterweight tournament. While it’s been rumored for weeks, FEG finally made it official that both Shinya Aoki and Hayato “Mach” Sakurai will take part in the Dream 8 Welterweight Grand Prix Opening Round, scheduled for April 5th at Nippon Gaishi Hall in Nagoya, Japan.
Submission specialist, Aoki (19-3) is coming off a stellar year in 2008, which included wins over Gesias “JZ” Cavalcante and Caol Uno. His most recent victory came in the first round of a New Year’s Eve title fight, when he quickly submitted top ranked lightweight, Eddie Alvarez, with a slick heel hook to become WAMMA’s inaugural lightweight champion. Aoki will have to pack on some extra pounds though, as he returns to a heavier weight class for this tournament, in which he’ll compete against the larger fighters at Dream’s 168-pound welterweight limit.
“Mach” Sakurai (34-8-2), on the other hand, should feel right at home, as he’ll be fighting at the weight where he feels most comfortable. The longtime Pride and UFC veteran went undefeated through his first 20 fights spanning almost 5 years (96-01′), during which time he won the Shooto middleweight crown, a title that he surrendered only after coming up against current UFC middleweight champ, Anderson Silva. With career victories over Jens Pulver, Joachim Hansen, Frank Trigg and TUF winner, Mac Danzig, Sakurai is experienced and well rounded enough to pose a threat to anyone he’ll face in this tournament.
FEG made two additional announcements regarding Dream 8 bouts. A third grand prix slot will be filled by the DEEP welterweight champion. With current title holder, Seichi Ikemoto, slated to defend his crown against Hidetaka Monma on Feb. 20th, at Deep 40 Impact, the winner of that match will advance to the Dream WW tournament. Also, in a non-tournament contest, former Pride fighter, Ikuhisa Minowa, will appear with no opponent named as of yet.