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DREAM 4 review
by Scott Newman (MMA)
Posted on July 23, 2009, 3:43 PM



DREAM 4

06/15/08
Yokahama, Japan


-Your hosts are Kenny Rice and Bas Rutten. They run down the card, with Rice calling the events surrounding Aoki (the whole JZ controversy) a “soap opera”. Main part of the card is of course the four Middleweight GP Quarter-Finals.

-Ron Kruck talks with Nate Marquardt of all people to break down the tournament bouts. Bit of a random guy to get for this, Marquardt, but I guess they could’ve done worse. Marquardt basically puts all of the fighters over as being fantastic, but picks the winner of the Jacare-Mayhem fight as his choice for the GP, with Yoon being his dark horse. Nate is looking HUGE here, by the way.

-Fighter intro begins after like an AGE of stalling. Apparently they were running late in Japan.

Lightweight Grand Prix: Quarter-Finals: Shinya Aoki vs Katsuhiko Nagata

The last Quarter-Final of the Lightweight Grand Prix, this fight was moved onto this card when Aoki was unable to compete at DREAM 3 due to injuries suffered in his two fights with JZ Cavalcante. Nagata had beaten Artur Oumakhanov at DREAM 1 to get to this stage, but let’s be fair; this was a gimme for Aoki as Nagata is basically a wrestler with no other skill. Did I ever mention I can’t stand Aoki’s goofy ‘Baka Survivor’ entrance theme?

Round One gets started and Aoki throws out some kicks as Nagata comes forward. Takedown attempt from Nagata but Aoki blocks and puts Nagata on his back in half-guard. Nagata manages to reverse up to his feet in a clinch, but Aoki gets a bodylock takedown into side mount this time. Full mount for Aoki and he’s making this look easy thus far. Nagata holds on tight, total stalling tactic as Aoki looks to set up a submission as opposed to landing punches. This is quite dull actually as Aoki is barely doing a thing from the top and he’s had the mount for like four minutes now. With about five minutes gone though, Aoki locks up Nagata’s left arm with his leg, and forces the leg up and over the neck! It’s a gogoplata from the mount (!) and it’s enough to get Nagata to tap out.

Actual fight was horribly dull, reminded me of Joe Moreira beating the boxer guy in an early UFC, but then Aoki finished with a submission that I’d never seen before, incredibly innovative, which sort of saves the whole thing really. A gogoplata from the top? Who would have ever thought that possible in MMA like five years ago? Hell I hadn’t even seen anyone attempt the gogoplata until Elvis Schembri in 2004 I think it was. Amazing finish for Aoki, got to say.

Alistair Overeem vs Tae Hyun Lee

This was Overeem’s debut in DREAM and his first fight in over six months, his last one being the beating of Paul Buentello in Strike Force. You can tell he’s really acclimatised to Heavyweight by this point as he’s HUGE. Do I even have to tell you anything about his Korean opponent, Lee? It’s pretty clear by anyone’s standards that he’s been brought in to lose. His record stood at a mighty 1-1 and he’s more known for his skill in sumo, so come on.

We begin and Overeem opens with a jab and a couple of leg kicks. One of the leg kicks looks to have hurt Overeem himself though and he backs up, causing Lee to lumber forward and swing into a clinch. Overeem lands with a knee to the gut and breaks, and then a left hook-right hook-left hook combo knocks Lee silly, and Alistair adds a knee for good measure as the Korean crashes down face-first.

Well, if you’re going to put away an overmatched opponent you may as well do it in style, and boy did Overeem do that here. Sickening combination to put Lee away, reminiscent of the old Vovchanchyn KO in PRIDE where he hit the guy on his way to the ground. Replays show how brutal it was. Impressive debut for Overeem in DREAM albeit against very weak opposition.

Post-fight Overeem gets on the mic and tells the crowd he’s come to DREAM to be the champion, and he wants Cro Cop! Word!

Ralek Gracie vs Alavutdin Gadjiev

This was Ralek’s second fight in MMA following a submission win over perennial tomato can Shibata in a 2007 Hero’s show. Ralek is the son of Rorion Gracie, for those wondering. Original plan would’ve seen him face Mirko Cro Cop in a grappling match of all things (?!) but Mirko pulled out and so the unknown Russian Gadjiev stepped in. Gadjiev’s claim to fame? KOing a guy from the BOTTOM POSITION in a full mount. How the hell did he manage that?

Round One begins and Gracie looks a little stiff on his feet, trying the old front kick into the takedown trick that Royce used back in the early UFCs, but Gadjiev avoids it. Overhand right from Ralek and he tries a takedown, but Gadjiev avoids it and ends up taking Gracie down, landing in full mount. He tries to take Ralek’s back, but Gracie scrambles and Gadjiev ends up standing over him. Ref brings Ralek up and this time he closes the distance successfully and gets a takedown to side mount. Full mount by Gracie and he keeps things tight. He looks to be setting up for a textbook armbar, and sure enough Ralek twists into it and straightens the arm out, and after a second of struggling the Russian taps out.

Ralek looked horribly stiff on his feet and the front kick could’ve cost him big against a better striker, as it looked easy to counter, but once he got Gadjiev on the ground the fight was over, as you’d expect with a Gracie Jiu-Jitsu black belt I guess. If Ralek can work on his striking game I could see him becoming a force in the future though, as he’s only 22. It’d certainly be great to see a Gracie become successful in modern-day MMA, that’s for sure.

-Kid Yamamoto comes into the ring to cut a promo, and he’s wearing a HUGE pair of glasses that make him look like a stereotypical nerd. No clue why he’d do that. He’s coming to DREAM though apparently, which is cool.

Hideo Tokoro vs Darren Uyenoyama

Tokoro is a favourite in Japan for reasons I’ve never been able to fathom if I’m honest, although he’s not a boring fighter or anything to be fair. This was his DREAM debut and I believe, the first 145lbs match in DREAM thus far. And Darren Uyenoyama? What kind of name is that? Ha. He’d been fighting in Strike Force prior to this, for those who care.

We’re underway and Darren throws out some kicks to begin as Tokoro looks to counter with the left hand. Big knee from Tokoro drops Darren and the American goes for a takedown, but Tokoro counters and goes for a kimura. He transitions into a triangle choke and then an oma plata, but Uyenoyama manages to avoid and continues to look for the single leg. Armbar attempt from Tokoro now and it looks locked in, but Darren wriggles free and stands over Tokoro who is in the butt scoot position. Into Tokoro’s guard and Darren peppers him with punches, before standing to attempt a pass. Tokoro uses a butterfly guard to block that, and looks like he’s going for a sweep, but Uyenoyama stands up again and he drops a good right hand into the guard. Tokoro elevates him off and so Darren stands over him and kicks the legs, then he drops some punches down and Tokoro looks in trouble. Tokoro manages to pop up and takes some knees to the head on his way up. Combo from Uyenoyama, but Tokoro grabs a standing arm triangle choke and uses it to throw Darren onto his head! Tokoro tries to roll into the kimura again, but he winds up on his back with Uyenoyama on top again. Darren manages to get to half-guard, but Tokoro kicks him away again and so Uyenoyama tries the diving punch and narrowly misses. They come back to standing and now Tokoro rocks him with a right hand and follows with a big combo! Uyenoyama looks in trouble as Tokoro clinches and lands some knees, then opens up with a big combination. Darren manages to clinch, but Tokoro drops and gets a takedown to the guard. Big upkick from Darren clips Tokoro as he tries to drop a diving punch, but he’s okay and settles into the guard. Uyenoyama works a rubber guard for control, but Tokoro breaks off and stands. Darren pops up to join him, but gets CRUMPLED by a huge knee to the body and Tokoro pounces, looking for the finish! Darren turtles up and gets mounted, but somehow he survives and manages to roll to half-guard. Tokoro goes to work with some elbows to the body, but Uyenoyama is hanging in there. They exchange some punches from inside Darren’s guard, and Tokoro passes to half-guard and then into side mount where he drops some vicious knees to the head as the round ends. Well, suddenly I’m understanding the popularity of Tokoro.

Second round and Tokoro misses a heavy left hook, and Uyenoyama counters with a double leg. He looks to pass the guard, but Tokoro goes for a triangle choke. Darren avoids it and postures out, standing over the Japanese fighter again, but this time he takes a vicious upkick. Ref stands Tokoro back up and they exchange into a clinch, where Tokoro lifts him into the air for a slam. The landing looks awkward as Uyenoyama’s leg looked trapped under him, but he’s okay and Tokoro advances into almost a crucifix position with Darren turtled up. Uyenoyama escapes to his feet, and lands a right high kick, but misses with a right hand follow-up and Tokoro comes back with a knee to the body into the clinch. They both muscle for the takedown and Uyenoyama gets him down, but Tokoro immediately rolls for an arm submission. Darren spins out and ends up in top position with Tokoro in a butterly guard, and eventually a full closed guard. Darren peppers him with punches from the top, and then stand over him to deliver a stiff right hand. Tokoro pops back to his feet though and stuns him with a left hook, and Uyeyonama goes for the takedown, but Tokoro rolls for the kimura again. Darren avoids and gets on top in the half-guard, where he delivers some solid ground-and-pound to end the fight. Great fight!

Judges score it a unanimous decision for Hideo Tokoro, but boy, that was an excellent fight and Darren Uyeyonama acquitted himself very well. Some awesome exchanges here both standing and on the mat and let me never question why the Japanese fans are into someone again (well, apart from that tool Naoya Ogawa...), as Tokoro was incredibly exciting from start to finish.

-Ron Kruck is joined by MMA promoter and manager Monte Cox, who explains that he thinks there’s room for more MMA promotions, but only if they’re done smartly, and his new Adrenaline promotion wants to be like “the Strike Force of the Midwest”, a regional promotion with its own stars as opposed to trying to challenge the UFC on PPV and what-not. Smart man.

-The four Semi-Finalists in the Lightweight GP enter the ring to draw the matches for the semis, and we end up with Tatsuya Kawajiri vs. Eddie Alvarez, and Caol Uno vs. Shinya Aoki.

Middleweight Grand Prix: Quarter-Finals: Gegard Mousasi vs Yoon Dong Sik

So I guess they threw together the two kickboxers in Galesic and Kin, the two grapplers in Mayhem and Jacare, and wanted Sakuraba vs. Tamura originally, so these two were the odd ones out and ended up being matched with one another. Despite Yoon’s massive improvement over time I don’t think anyone expected him to be able to overcome Mousasi, who had suddenly become one of the favourites to take the whole tournament after his upset win over Denis Kang.

Opening round begins and Mousasi lands a couple of low kicks before Yoon gets a single leg to guard. He looks to pass and almost gains the mount, but Mousasi wriggles free and takes Yoon’s back with a rear waistlock. Yoon tries to roll for a kimura but Mousasi blocks that and lands a punch as they stand, then knees to the back of the legs. Yoon keeps hold of the arm ala Sakuraba, but he continues to take knees to the legs until the ref calls a clean break. High kick from Mousasi is blocked but he lands with a clipping left hook. Takedown attempt from Yoon but Mousasi gets a nice sprawl and lands a knee as he stands and breaks off. Nice low kick lands for Mousasi. Mousasi continues to chop at him with the leg kicks and one buckles Yoon, so Mousasi slips around and takes the back. He lands some punches and gets mount momentarily before taking the back again. Yoon manages to force him off and they come back to standing, where Mousasi lands with another hard low kick. Mousasi avoids a takedown attempt and hurts him badly with another two leg kicks. Knee to the body and left hook hurts Yoon and he drops for a takedown, but Mousasi stuffs it and takes top position in half-guard. Yoon works to full guard but takes some punches, but the ref restarts them on their feet. They clinch and Mousasi nails him with a knee to the body and the jaw, dropping Yoon, and the Armenian drops to pound away before settling into Yoon’s guard. Yoon tries a reversal but Mousasi uses it to pass into side mount, where he lands punches to the head and knees to the body. Mousasi attempts a kimura, but Yoon slips from under him and manages to take the back with an over/under! Mousasi turtles up and appears to be stalling, but Yoon slips a hook in and looks to set up for an armbar. Suddenly Mousasi looks in DEEP trouble and Yoon almost locks the armbar up! Mousasi desperately clings onto his arm with his free one, trying to block the hold, and Yoon can’t break the grip. This is AWESOME. Crowd are on edge as Mousasi tries to club at Yoon with his knee to avoid the armbar, and as the Korean extends the arm Mousasi rolls over and turns into him to escape! Whoa. Round ends with Mousasi in top position, landing knees to the side of Yoon. Unbelievable round.

Into the 2nd and Mousasi throws some kicks out as Yoon looks to counter. Yoon shoots in, but Mousasi stuffs it and gets on top, taking the back of the Korean judoka. Hammer fists land to the head of Yoon as Mousasi locks in a body triangle for control. Mousasi continues to club at the head of Yoon, seemingly not looking for a submission just yet. One hook slips out, but Yoon seems stuck in the position and Mousasi quickly gets the body triangle wrapped up again. More punches land and while Yoon doesn’t look in danger of being stopped, he doesn’t seem able to find a way out of this at all. The round’s almost up now and Mousasi continues to punch at Yoon from the back mount, finishing the fight in the position.

Well, that fight has to go to Mousasi I would’ve thought, and sure enough the judges agree. Yoon showed heart and came unbelievably close with the armbar attempt in the first round, but Mousasi largely dominated this fight, hurting Yoon badly with leg kicks in the first round, and then the second round was a total shutout as Yoon got stuck in the body triangle and Mousasi basically punched at him for the full five minutes. This was an impressive showing for Mousasi, particularly taking into account the rapid improvement that Yoon had shown in his fights leading to this one. First round was dynamite, second round wasn’t so much, but the fight was solid enough overall.

Middleweight Grand Prix: Quarter-Finals: Zelg Galesic vs Taiei Kin

As I mentioned, this was a match of two kickboxers facing off, although in MMA Galesic was the clear favourite, having a ton more experience and better wins than his Japanese opponent. Still, stranger things had happened before and for Kin to somehow take this one wouldn’t have been a huge stretch.

We begin and Kin charges out into an early clinch. Both men muscle for position and Kin lands some knees to the body. Referee breaks them up and Galesic misses with a combo. They clinch again and this time Zelg muscles him to the ground, but Kin leaves his arm out and lands awkwardly on it, and immediately rolls over in pain. Ref steps in as Galesic recognizes the injury and pulls away, and that’s that.

Replays seem to show Kin posting on the arm as he went down, dislocating the elbow ala Mauricio Rua against Mark Coleman. Sickening injury upon the replay in fact, and the way Galesic quickly stepped off him suggests it probably made a horrible noise or something too. Really unfortunate ending but what can you do? Galesic advances to the semi-finals.

Middleweight Grand Prix: Quarter-Finals: Jason ‘Mayhem’ Miller vs Ronaldo ‘Jacare’ Souza

On paper this was probably the worst draw possible for Mayhem, as Jacare was the one remaining guy who could out-grapple him, and while he’s not the best striker, against the likes of Manhoef and Mousasi he would’ve stood a good chance as he’s so durable. Against submission wizard Jacare though he was clearly the underdog in my eyes, as the likely outcome was Jacare outgrappling him. Oddsmakers surprisingly had Miller the favourite though, I’m thinking based on his experience. Mayhem comes out fully masked, throwing money into the crowd and dancing. How can you not like this guy?

We get started and both men look slightly tentative before Jacare rushes him with punches and gets a clinch. Mayhem tries to use a whizzer to get him down, but Jacare gets an ankle pick and trips Miller up. Miller looks for a fireman’s carry takedown and gets him down, with the Brazilian working a butterfly guard. Instantly Jacare works back to his feet in the clinch. They muscle for position in the clinch, and then Jacare manages to trip Mayhem to his back. Mayhem works a butterfly guard and tries to reverse, then looks for a leglock, but Jacare avoids easily and ends up in top position. Into half-guard from Jacare and he tries to pass into mount, but Mayhem avoids. Jacare works into side mount instead and lands with some short punches, but Mayhem wriggles back to half-guard and then hits a sweep. Jacare immediately rolls for a heel hook and Mayhem looks in trouble, but he gives the thumbs up, rolls with it and pops free, coming back to his feet where he delivers a pair of knees. Good combo from Miller standing and then Jacare clinches, but the ref breaks them when we get a stalemate.

They exchange strikes briefly, and then Jacare shoots and gets Mayhem down. He passes into half-guard and then drops a good right before sliding into side control. Full mount from Jacare, but Miller hits a beautiful reversal and gets on top, avoiding a triangle. Jacare goes for another leglock now and again Mayhem looks in some trouble, but he kicks Jacare in the face with his free leg and slips out. Jacare gets top position though, in the half-guard. Mayhem tries to sweep, but this time Jacare takes Mayhem’s back and locks up a body triangle. It looks for a second like he’s got the choke sunk in, but Mayhem yanks the hands off and manages to turn into full mount. Jacare moves up on the mount and then Miller gives his back again, but this time Jacare loses a hook. It’s only momentary though and he puts it back in and controls Miller again, looking to sink the choke once more. Couple of hammer fists land to the side of Jacare’s face, but Mayhem manages to roll into him, and takes top position, landing a couple of punches in the process. They’re literally trapped between the ropes now and finally the ref moves them back to the center of the ring. Mayhem is in Jacare’s half-guard, and he actually tries to mount and almost pulls it off, but Jacare turns into him and winds up in a front facelock. Knees to the head from Mayhem but he makes the mistake of pulling guard to try a guillotine, and Jacare pops right out and punches his way into Mayhem’s guard. Round ends there.

Into the 2nd and they trade some strikes into a clinch early, advantage to neither. Ref breaks them quickly and Jacare tries to roll into a kneebar, but Mayhem once again shows some sick defenses and escapes. Jacare looks for the takedown now, and pretty much tackles Miller right through the ropes, so the ref steps in and restarts them standing. Nice one-two from Miller and he does look a far more natural striker than the Brazilian. Jacare shoots in again and they clinch up, and Jacare looks to take him down again. Miller blocks and the ref separates them, and now Mayhem begins to open up with more combos, looking to stay striking I think. Nice high kick almost lands flush but Jacare narrowly blocks. Jacare takes some more combos, nothing that hurts him bad though, and then he shoots and manages to tackle Mayhem to the ground. He lands in half-guard but Mayhem wriggles, gives his back, but can’t get to his feet and Jacare ends up taking the mount. Miller turns his back, but as Jacare goes for the choke he slips off to the side and it allows Mayhem to finish the fight in top position in guard.

Quite a close fight as Mayhem outstruck Jacare in every exchange and escaped everything the Brazilian tried, but Jacare dominated in terms of takedowns, positioning and had all the submission attempts pretty much. I’d probably go with Jacare I think as his periods of dominance were longer.

Judges all score it for Ronaldo ‘Jacare’ Souza, giving him his biggest scalp to date. I think Mayhem might’ve come in with the wrong gameplan here, as he seemed content to attempt to grapple with Jacare for the first ten minutes and really Jacare is a guy, however good you are on the ground, that you just don’t do that with. Not that Mayhem acquitted himself badly – he showed he’s a serious grappler too as he defended everything Jacare tried – but in the second round he showed himself to be the far superior striker and you have to wonder how the fight would’ve gone had he tried to strike more in the first round. Still, you can’t fault Jacare for the way he took the win, and overall the fight was excellent from start to finish, particularly in the hugely technical grappling exchanges.

Middleweight Grand Prix: Quarter-Finals: Melvin Manhoef vs Kazushi Sakuraba

So I guess the original plan had been the long-awaited Sakuraba-Tamura match, but Tamura ended up backing out of the tournament due to “injury” (or more likely, avoiding the Sakuraba fight) and so the alternate Manhoef was brought in. Why DREAM would put Sakuraba up against the monstrous Melvin I do not know, although I guess they were hoping he’d be able to survive a beating and pull off the hail mary submission as he’d done in the past. For me though, this was just a horribly dangerous fight for the ageing legend.

We’re underway and they circle around very tentatively, neither man seemingly wanting to make the first move – or mistake. Finally Melvin wades in, and a big right high kick and follow-up right hand put Sakuraba down! He tries to sit up to recover, but Manhoef just gets on him and SMASHES HIM with punches. Sakuraba is underneath the ropes now and Melvin grabs his legs and DRAGS HIM BACK for more punishment like an animal dragging a victim into its cave. More punches and hammer fists land and finally the ref shows mercy and calls it.

Total and utter destruction. On paper this was a good win for Manhoef, but if I can be frank for a second – and I mean no disrespect to Melvin in this – but prime Sakuraba from like 2000 probably taps a guy like Melvin with one eye closed. This version of Sakuraba though is so beaten and broken down from the years of abuse that he can’t compete with someone as athletic and explosive as Manhoef, and really putting him in the ring with a guy like Melvin is dangerous and hugely risky. For me, Sakuraba has become the Ric Flair of MMA – years past his prime and becoming more of a self-parody with every horrible beating he takes. I only hope he manages to retire before it’s too late.

-Post-fight Mousasi, Galesic and Jacare join Melvin in the ring to pose for pictures, the final four remaining in the GP. Quite a line-up in the end! And Melvin then gets on the mic and shows some tremendous class in putting over Sakuraba.

-The Final Four in the Lightweight GP then enter the ring to say some words. Aoki looks like such a geek it’s unbelievable too. Show ends there.

Final Thoughts....

It’s not quite as good as DREAM 3 simply because there’s nothing here as good as Alvarez-Hansen, but this was another excellent show overall from the Japanese promotion. Again there’s not a bad fight on this card; the closest things to it would be the freakish elbow break for Kin, and the Aoki-Nagata fight leading to the submission, which really makes up for the dull round – I mean, a mounted gogoplata for God’s sake! Outside of that, Overeem and Manhoef provided us with the sick highlight reel KOs, and then the Tokoro-Uyenoyama and Jacare-Mayhem fights are fantastic, with just a slow second round letting Mousasi-Yoon down slightly. In the end this is worth an easy thumbs up. High recommendation.

Best Fight: Tokoro-Uyenoyama
Worst Fight: Galesic-Kin

Overall Rating: ****

Coming Soon....

UFC: 94-100, Fight Nights 17-18, and TUF VIII Finale.
Pride: 31.
DREAM: 5-10.
King of the Cage: Various shows

Until next time,

Scott Newman:
NewmanMMA@gmail.com




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