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DREAM 2 review
by Scott Newman (MMA)
Posted on July 21, 2009, 5:30 AM

DREAM 2

04/29/08
Saitama, Japan


-Your hosts are Kenny Rice and Frank Trigg. They discuss the Aoki-JZ rematch to decide who goes through to the Quarter-Finals of the Lightweight Grand Prix, as well as the opening round of the Middleweight Grand Prix.

-Fighter introduction follows but I just canít get used to it without the old PRIDE theme music.

Lightweight Grand Prix: First Round: JZ Cavalcante vs Shinya Aoki

This was of course a rematch of their first fight at DREAM 1, which ended in a controversial No Contest as Aoki claimed an errant elbow from JZ hit him in the back of the neck and triggered problems with the nerves in his arm. My pick here was JZ after seeing him largely control the three minutes that their first fight lasted for. HDNet are still overdubbing the entrance music, by the way, and it still sucks. I mean, UFC DVDs are as bad in that they kill the crowd pop by putting different music over the top, but at least they use what seem to be genuine songs. This stuff sounds like a generic backing track from a Justin Timberlake CD or something. Awful. Pre-fight the announcers mention the winner gets Katsuhiko Nagata in the Quarter-Finals, which basically means a free pass into the semis as Nagata well, sucks.

First round begins and JZ closes the distance, causing Aoki to jump to guard. JZ refuses to go to the ground and Aoki ends up in the KOALA POSITION for a second before deciding to stand in a regular clinch. Aoki pulls guard again and tries to turn himself to take JZís back, but instead the Brazilian ends up in Aokiís guard. Aoki looks to secure the rubber guard to control JZ, but he breaks free and stands. JZ tries to pass the guard, but Aoki gets a single leg and then drops to his back while holding onto it. Aoki tries to roll into an Achilles lock, but JZ clubs at him with his free leg and then sits up and drops some BOMBS onto the head of the Japanese fighter as he still goes for the ankle lock! Aoki lets it go and they stand, and somehow Aoki doesnít look too badly hurt by the punches. Aoki now looks for a double leg, and then manages to transition to a rear waistlock as JZ defends. He climbs up onto JZís back with one hook in, then gets the second hook and begins to work for the rear naked choke, clinging onto Cavalcanteís back ala Diego Sanchez against John Alessio. He manages to get the arm across, but itís not under the chin, more across the face, and JZ isnít going to tap to that. Aoki lands some punches from behind but they donít seem to have much effect, and JZ remains calm as he defends the choke. To be fair this is a bit of a stalemate, but Aoki is in the dominant position and thus heís winning the fight. JZ ends up going to a seated position with Aoki still clamped tightly on his back, still going for the choke. Aoki finally tries the BJ Penn trick of using his leg to trap the arm, but this enables Cavalcante to turn into him and stand up free of the guard. JZ stands over him and looks to drop some shots, but instead Aoki grabs hold of his arm and lands some upkicks. JZ backs away and remains standing over Aoki, who stays in the butt-scoot position to finish the round. Good round for Aoki after a dodgy start.

Round Two then, and JZ opens with a low kick. Aoki manages to close the distance though, and jumps to guard again. Aoki locks up the rubber guard and clubs away at the head, and then he goes for a reverse armbar, but JZ manages to pull out and stands free of the guard. Ref brings Aoki up to join him and they circle before Aoki leaps up and pulls guard again. Rubber guard for Aoki once again, and he uses it to control the Brazilian, before going for the reverse armbar again. JZ manages to pull free once more, and stands over Aoki, but he canít drop any strikes down and the ref brings Aoki up. This time JZ avoids the guard pull and kicks the legs before standing off. Aoki stays in the butt-scoot position though and kicks at JZís knees, before the Brazilian lands a diving punch into the guard. Aoki ties him up again though and goes for an oma plata and then the reverse armbar, but this time it looks deeper and JZ is in trouble. He canít quite finish it though and JZ defends well, managing to roll his way free. He ends up on top and tries to land with some punches from in the guard, but Aoki locks his guard up to control him and the fight comes to an end.

To the judges and I think Aokiís got this one wrapped up. Sure enough the judges score it unanimously for Aoki, sending him into the Quarter-Finals. JZ fought a really flat fight here and just let Aoki control him with his grappling from pretty much the start to the finish. Not that Aoki is a bad fighter or anything, but JZ just didnít look as explosive as he had in previous fights, even their first fight, and you got the feeling this was JZ losing the fight as opposed to Aoki winning if you know what I mean. Still, tremendous victory for Aoki over a guy who at the time was ranked top three in the division by most people. Fight wasnít bad at all, although it wasnít as great as it sounded on paper when they first put it together.

-Ron Kruck runs down the brackets for the Middleweight Grand Prix, with matches as follows: Kin vs. Minowa, Yoon vs. Oyama, Galesic vs. Sultanakhmedov, Jacare vs. Murphy, Funaki vs. Tamura, Mousasi vs. Kang, Sakuraba vs. Nakahara, and Manhoef vs. Gracie, which is scheduled for DREAM 3. As it goes, the Manhoef-Gracie fight fell through and the final fight of the opening round ended up being Mayhem Miller vs. Katsuyori Shibata.

Middleweight Grand Prix: First Round: Taiei Kin vs Minowaman

Never heard of Kin before and a check on his record shows an MMA debut loss to Akiyama and a win over pro-wrestler Tokimitsu Ishizawa. Didnít that guy retire after he fought Ryan Gracie? Sigh. According to the announcers though heís a pro-kickboxer. Minowaman is well, Minowaman so you can probably figure out that this is a silly fight.

First round begins and Minowa dives for a takedown early, but Kin blocks it and fires a high kick that Minowa avoids. Takedown from Minowa but Kin rolls through to his feet. Couple more charging takedowns are avoided as Kin plays matador. Minowa finally manages to tackle him down, but Kin gets guard and ties him up. Literally nothing happens as Minowa attempts to pass the guard but fails miserably. Kin finally gets a reversal and brings the fight back to standing, but Minowa shoots right back in and tackles him to guard again. Kin manages to turn his back and escape to his feet, and from there he lands a couple of nice low kicks. Good right hand lands for Kin too. Minowa comes back with a stiff right and another takedown to guard. His leg is badly marked up from the kicks though. Nothing happens on the ground and the ref stands them up and gives Kin the yellow card. Minowa shoots off the restart but Kin hits a nice sprawl to avoid and then delivers a heavy low kick and a knee to the gut, before getting a clinch. Kin avoids another takedown and lands some more knees, but Minowa gets a takedown to slow him up. Nothing happens on the ground again and Jesus, Minowaís leg now looks like tenderized meat. Round ends in Kinís guard.

Round Two and once again Minowa tries a charging takedown, but Kin sprawls out to avoid. Minowa keeps driving in and manages to get him down in the closed guard again, and itís pure lay-and-pray and the ref brings them back up. Kin comes forward with a knee off the restart, and then lands a body kick. Kin now shoots for the takedown, but Minowa grabs a guillotine to block with. Kin pulls out of that and they exchange some strikes from close range with Kin getting the upper hand. Minowa goes for the takedown, but Kin sprawls out and lands a couple of knees to the dome. Back on their feet now and Kin lands another knee and a left to the gut. Minowa shoots but again Kin sprawls. Kin gets a clinch and lands some knees as Minowa tries to answer back with punches. Kin gets another sprawl to avoid a takedown. They come back up and Kin lands with some more knees, and the fight ends soon after.

Judges give it unanimously to Taiei Kin, but man did that fight stink. Sure, Kin tried and thankfully it earned him the decision, but I hate this version of Minowa. Literally all he did was charge for takedowns, and when he got them it was pure lay-and-pray. Horrible stuff.

Middleweight Grand Prix: First Round: Yoon Dong Sik vs Shungo Oyama

Yoon had actually reeled off three wins on the bounce over dangerous strikers in Melvin Manhoef, Zelg Galesic and Fabio Silva coming into this, showing he wasnít the tomato can that people originally figured he would be after he lost to Sakuraba in seconds. Speaking of tomato cans, I guess Oyama ďearnedĒ his shot in this tournament by beating Carlos Newton via TKO at a Heroís show, though how he did that I donít know, as when Iíve seen him heís been largely useless.

We begin and Yoon lands a couple of low kicks as they throw out some ineffective jabs. Single leg from Yoon and he gets Oyama down in a closed guard. Some decent punches land for Yoon from the top and then he easily shrugs off a triangle attempt. Yoon looks to pass, but gets caught in an armlock variation momentarily before he pulls free. Yoon ends up in the guard again but heís not really landing anything effective. He does pass into side mount, however. Couple of punches land for Yoon but Oyama pivots back into half-guard. Yoon works to pass again and manages to take full mount, where he lands some punches to the head. Itís a very tight mount though and he doesnít really posture up to do a ton of damage. Oyama finally tries to roll out and almost gives his arm, but he avoids the submission and ends up in top position in Yoonís guard. Oyama ends up standing over him to land some kicks, and then the ref stands Yoon up. They exchange some strikes and itís pretty even, before Yoon takes him down with a single leg. Oyama turns for a kimura, but Yoon defends and finishes with some punches in the guard.

Into the 2nd and they exchange punches, with Yoon dropping Oyama with a right! Oyama rolls through to his feet, and seems to have recovered, as he comes forward again. Couple of leg kicks from Yoon and he gets a single leg, but Oyama tries to lock up a triangle and then attempts a reversal. Yoon pops back up and looks for a double leg, getting him down into the guard again. Yoon stands over him and tries to pass, managing to take the back with an over/under. He looks to get the hooks in, but ends up off to the side with just one hook in instead. Oyama turns and winds up underneath a full mount, where Yoon keeps it tight again and lands some short punches to the head. One minute to go and Yoon continues to punch away from the mount, posturing up to do some real damage now. Oyama seemingly has no answer to this, and the round finishes off there.

Got to be a unanimous decision for Yoon I think and sure enough the judges agree. Wasnít the best fight as Oyama basically did nothing offensively, but not quite as bad as the previous fight. Yoon showed better stand-up than Iíd seen from him before in the time they were trading, but then he wasnít against a killer striker this time so itís to be expected.

Middleweight Grand Prix: First Round: Zelg Galesic vs Magomed Sultanakhmedov

Galesic had garnered the reputation of quite a dangerous guy over in Cage Rage, knocking out pretty much everyone he was put up against, but heíd struggled in Japan, losing two fights via submission to the inexperienced judokas in Dong and Takimoto. Sultanakhmedov is a Russian guy Iíve never heard of, nothing special on his record, so I have no clue why DREAM fished him out for this tourney. Maybe because he has an almost unpronounceable name? Iím thinking Galesic ends this early.

First round and Galesic fires off a swift combo into the clinch. Takedown from Sultanakhmedov into the guard, but Zelg gets a quick reversal into top position. The Russian looks to lock up a guillotine, but Galesic easily pulls his head free. Guard pass from Zelg into side mount and then full mount, but Sultanakhmedov quickly rolls him over to take top position. As soon as heís done it though, Galesic locks up an armbar from underneath, and despite Sultanakhmedov lifting him right up into the air, itís locked in tight and the Russian taps out.

Quick and easy win for Galesic, who isnít normally known for his ground game. That probably tells you more about Sultanakhmedov than anything else, but ah well. At least it was better than the last two fights! Beautiful armbar, too.

Middleweight Grand Prix: First Round: Ronaldo ĎJacareí Souza vs Ian Murphy

After some wild rumours that heíd be on the eighth season of TUF, Brazilian grappling legend Jacare emerged in DREAM instead, instantly garnering popularity due to his odd entrance which involves a weird dance where he sort of snaps his arms together like an alligatorís jaws (ĎJacareí in Portuguese means Ďalligatorí). He was unbeaten in five years coming into this tournament, with all of his seven wins coming unsurprisingly by submission. Well, the guy IS one of the best grapplers on the planet, what do you expect? Opponent Murphy is apparently an amateur wrestling champion making his MMA debut, winning the NCAA title in 2007. Normally those guys have a ton of potential, but this dude is jumping way into the deep end for his first fight. One guess how this is going down. Can you say, Jacare by submission?

Fight gets started and Jacare tries a flying knee, but Murphy catches him and takes him down. It looks like Jacareís going for a submission, but instead he tries a sweep from his guard, but Murphy does a good job of avoiding it and retains top position. Jacare reverses into a front facelock though, where he drops some heavy knees before Murphy escapes to his feet. Clinch from Jacare and he gets a takedown, going right into an armbar attempt. Murphy tries to turn into it to block, and to be fair he does a tremendous job, but Jacare switches off and takes the back instead. He gets both hooks in, flattening Murphy out, where he lands some punches to the head. Murphy looks absolutely stuck now, flat on his stomach, and Jacare continues to land punches before locking up the rear naked choke for the tapout.

Total squash as Murphy really had no chance Ė a wrestler is always going to be in trouble with a submission guy and Jacare is the very best submission guy in DREAM. Probably the best grappler in the 185lbs division actually, although you could easily make an argument for Demian Maia there too. One-sided fight, but you have to admire a showing of grappling skill like Jacare was able to put on here. Post-fight Jacare does a comedic celebration where he crawls across the ring like an alligator. Really.

Middleweight Grand Prix: First Round: Kiyoshi Tamura vs Masakatsu Funaki

Two pretty big names in Japan, this pair, although I really donít know much about their history. Funaki I know is a true legend from the old days of Pancrase, where he fought and beat (and lost to) the likes of Bas Rutten and the Shamrock brothers. He looks ANCIENT here, just saying. Well, he is about 40. Heíd been retired since a 2000 loss to Rickson Gracie, before his return on NYE 2007 with a loss to Sakuraba. Tamura comes from RINGS and the U-File camp and well, Iím not that knowledgeable on these Japanese fighters to be fair. All I know is that this was an important fight in Japan.

We begin and Tamura opens with a couple of low kicks before Funaki grabs a clinch and then breaks with a front kick. They exchange blows and Funaki lands a couple of good punches, but gets clipped by a right hand and looks stunned. Tamura grabs him by the head and follows up with some more right hands, then he trips Funaki down and lands a series of hammer fists for the stoppage.

Not much of a fight to be honest as Tamura just caught Funaki early and put him away in under a minute. Moral of the story? Not everyone is Randy Couture and can fight into their 40ís, especially these Japanese guys who took beatings earlier in their MMA careers as well as in pro-wrestling.

Middleweight Grand Prix: First Round: Gegard Mousasi vs Denis Kang

This to me was by far the most intriguing fight, as despite a pair of losses to Kazuo Misaki and Yoshihiro Akiyama, Kang was still considered by many (myself included) to be in the top ten in the world at 185lbs. Mousasi meanwhile hadnít lost since being eliminated from the PRIDE Bushido tournament by Akihiro Gono back in 2006, and the word was that he was the dark horse for the tournament. Personally though, I was still picking Kang as Mousasi hadnít really beaten anyone of elite level just yet.

Round One and Kang counters a low kick with a nice left hook. Beautiful takedown form Kang puts Mousasi on his back in the guard, and Kang immediately passes to half-guard. Mousasi stays active from his back and looks to get a butterfly guard back, but Kang remains in control in the half-guard. Kang tries to mount, but his other left gets caught in the half-guard now as Mousasi does a good job defensively. Kang looks to lock up a far-side kimura, and steps into side mount for good measure, but Mousasi lands some knees to the side of the head from his back and manages to free his arm. Kang stands over him and takes a couple of upkicks, then drops down into the guard with a hammer fist...but ends up putting himself directly into a triangle choke and Mousasi locks it up quickly for the tapout.

Really shocking finish there; not so much that Mousasi won, but in the fact that Kang basically put himself into the submission as opposed to being caught. No idea what he was thinking Ė mustíve just had a mental lapse - and it cost him dearly in a fight that, although it was only three minutes in, he was controlling. Still, you canít take anything away from Mousasi and this was a huge victory for him, probably the biggest one in his career thus far in fact.

Middleweight Grand Prix: First Round: Kazushi Sakuraba vs Andrews Nakahara

To see Sakuraba entered in the tournament didnít surprise me, nor did the decision to put him against debuting karate fighter Nakahara. I mean, normally Iíd frown upon such matchmaking but in this case, well, itís Sakuraba and I just donít want to see the dude get hurt badly. Pre-fight the announcers are saying itíd be fairer for three Nakaharas to fight one Sakuraba. Christ, itís that bad?

First round begins and Sakuraba throws a high kick that misses. They exchange low kicks and then Sakuraba looks for an ankle pick, but Nakahara shows some sick takedown defense, almost doing a vertical split as Sakuraba tries for the single leg. Sakuraba manages to transition to a rear waistlock, but he still canít drag Nakahara down and they end up in a regular clinch. Referee breaks them up after calling for action, and they restart. Body kick from Sakuraba, but a kick from Nakahara catches him low and the ref calls time. Saku recovers and they restart, and Sakuraba whiffs on a takedown attempt. Good high kick from Nakahara looks to have Sakuraba stunned and he misses a wild takedown attempt. Sakuraba recovers though and comes back with a leg kick. Pair of good low kicks land for Nakahara and they clinch up, where Nakahara lands with some knees to the gut. Referee calls the break again and Nakahara lands with the low kick again. Sakuraba slips on a kick attempt of his own, but then manages to take Nakahara down, but right away the karate fighter reverses to his feet. Sakuraba continues to look for the takedown and this time he gets it, putting Nakahara on his back in a butterfly guard. He tries to pass, but Nakahara explodes to his feet. Sakuraba takes him down again right away, to the same butterfly guard position, and this time he passes to side mount as Nakahara screws up on a scramble attempt. Two knees to the head land for Saku and then he clubs at the body and the side of the head, before Andrews rolls and gives his back. Sakuraba looks to sink in a rear naked choke without the hooks in, but then gets an odd submission where heís sort of twisting Nakaharaís head to the side, and the inexperienced fighter taps out there.

Nakahara fought a decent fight from a defensive standpoint, but in the end his inexperience caught up with him and once Sakuraba was able to get a decent position on him on the ground, it was over. Prime Sakuraba probably gets this dude out of there in like two minutes flat, but at this stage Saku is so banged up that anyone is a challenge for him, no matter how poor or inexperienced they are. Wasnít a bad fight though to be fair, didnít drag like a couple of the earlier fights did.

-Post-fight the winners of the Middleweight fights gather in the ring, and your Quarter-Finalists are Taiei Kin, Yoon Dong Sik, Zelg Galesic, Kiyoshi Tamura, Ronaldo Jacare, Gegard Mousasi, Kazushi Sakuraba and the final one to be decided at DREAM 3. All of them talk a little about the tournament, nothing overly interesting though, and then they pose to end the show.

Final Thoughts....

This was another largely flat show from DREAM, as youíve got a couple of dull longer fights around a bunch of what are mostly one-sided squashes. Itís better than the first DREAM show because hey, Iíd rather see squashes with good finishes than a bunch of boring decisions, but did we really need to see Zelg Galesic armbar an unknown Russian? Or Jacare tap out a wrestler making his MMA debut? Mousasi-Kang is a decent fight if a little short, and Aoki-JZ isnít bad at all even if it doesnít quite live up to the expectations surrounding that fight, but overall thereís nothing must-see here. Thumbs leaning down.

Best Fight: Aoki-JZ
Worst Fight: Minowaman-Kin

Overall Rating: **1/4

Coming Soon....

UFC: 94-100, Fight Nights 17-18, and TUF VIII Finale.
Pride: 31.
DREAM: 3-9.
King of the Cage: Various shows.

Until next time,

Scott Newman:
NewmanMMA@gmail.com




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