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DREAM 5 review
by Scott Newman (MMA)
Posted on July 28, 2009, 7:02 AM


Osaka, Japan

-Your hosts are Kenny Rice and Bas Rutten. They discuss the semis and the final of the Lightweight GP, with Shinya Aoki, Caol Uno, Eddie Alvarez and Tatsuya Kawajiri being the final four. Rice sends us to a video package that’s supposed to break down the tournament thus far and how the final four got to the semis, but it turns out to be a general DREAM highlight and the first guy they show is Jacare. Huh.

-Ron Kruck interviews Eddie Alvarez about his performance in the tournament so far (read, awesome) and he claims he’s injury free coming into the semis and he doesn’t care who he fights, he’s just happy he’s finally getting a crack at the Japanese fighters.

-Fighter introduction follows with the biggest pop belonging to – who else? – Aoki, although Uno and Akiyama come close.

Daisuke Nakamura vs Andy Ologun

Bit of a weird match to start with, as while Nakamura’s a legit, decent fighter, Ologun is better known as the younger brother of Japanese television personality and sometime fighter Bobby Ologun. This was his second MMA fight, after beating fellow television star Ken Kaneko at Dynamite 2006. I’m sure there is a rhyme and reason for this fight, but I’ll be damned if it’s one I care about. Announcers tell us this fight is only two five-minute rounds, too. No clue why.

We’re underway and they throw out some strikes early before Nakamura drops to the ground after taking a leg kick and rolls for a leglock. He goes for a kneebar but Ologun clubs at the lower back and then escapes to his feet. Flying knee from Ologun almost lands. They exchange a couple more strikes, until Nakamura jumps into guard and locks an armbar up as soon as they hit the mat, and Ologun taps out!

Not much of a fight but that submission was beautiful, almost a flying armbar in fact. Total highlight-reel stuff which is rare for a submission.

Lightweight Grand Prix: Semi-Finals: Shinya Aoki vs Caol Uno

I think we all know the whole Aoki saga regarding this GP now, with his controversial fight against JZ Cavalcante, his subsequent win over JZ by decision and then having to wait out a show due to injury before submitting Nagata with a mounted gogoplata to make it to the semis. To give him credit, the Nagata fight at DREAM 4 had only been like four weeks prior to this, which is a swift turnaround regardless of how easy the fight had been. Uno had choked out Mitsuhiro Ishida in the Quarters and this match would probably decide the most popular entrant into the finals. Bas points out pre-fight that Aoki’s tights are in the colours of PSV Eindhoven. Bit random!

First round begins and both men look tentative to begin, neither wanting to make the first move. Both men throw out a couple of kicks that miss and then finally Aoki jumps into a clinch and looks to take Uno down. Beautiful bodylock takedown from Aoki and he lands directly in mount! Uno gives his back and Aoki tries to float into the armbar, but he can’t lock it up and he winds up on his back with Uno in the guard. Massive “AOKI!” chant from the crowd as he grips onto Uno’s wrists, and then looks for an armbar as Uno tries to pull free. Aoki clings onto his wrist for a moment and then twists into a heel hook attempt, but Uno stands over him and tries to land some punches. Aoki manages to pull him down and then goes for a toehold, but Uno manages to pull out. Aoki keeps trying the heel hook and Uno looks to be in trouble, but he manages to roll with the pressure. Aoki keeps hold of the leg and tries the heel hook again, but Uno scrambles free, only for Aoki to shift position and take his back. Aoki controls him with a body triangle despite being slightly off to the side, and that allows Uno to almost turn into him. Uno ends up twisted to the side almost with Aoki still wrapped around him, but Aoki manages to get the back again and goes for the choke. Uno does a good job of defending the submission and pulls the hands off, and then rolls over into the guard, but INSTANTLY Aoki locks up a triangle choke! Whoa, that was unbelievably quick. It looks locked up and Uno is in deep, deep trouble. Aoki pulls down on the head but somehow Uno hangs in there, this is insane. Uno tries to jump over the top of Aoki and somehow manages to pop his head free! Aoki goes back to full guard and Uno stands up, dropping some punches down onto him, before Aoki lands a couple of upkicks to finish the round. Unbelievable round but it was all Aoki on offense, Uno on defense.

Final round and Uno looks to strike, but finds himself taken down and put on the bottom pretty quickly after a nice change of levels from Aoki. Uno has a half butterfly guard but Aoki works to pass and takes the back again with a beautiful manoeuvre. Aoki locks up a body triangle again to control Uno and it looks like he’s trying to snake into the full mount, as Uno elbows the side of the body. Uno is still in trouble though as Aoki moves to take back control again, but with a minute left Uno manages to turn into the guard. Aoki still locks him up though, and then uses the rubber guard to control Uno until the finish.

This has to be Aoki’s decision as he literally had all of the offense from start to finish, and sure enough the judges all score it for him, sending him through to the final round. This was a great performance from Aoki as he was like a human snake, wrapping himself all around Uno on the ground and let’s be fair, a lesser fighter than Uno would’ve been subbed pretty quickly. Even a guy as seasoned as Uno was nearly caught a couple of times and how he escaped that triangle choke I don’t know. This was another good reminder of why Aoki is the most feared submission guy in the world at Lightweight at the minute.

Lightweight Grand Prix: Semi-Finals: Eddie Alvarez vs Tatsuya Kawajiri

On paper this was the likely Fight of the Night, as Alvarez had put on a fantastic fight against Joachim Hansen in the Quarters, while Kawajiri is dynamite provided he’s put against the right opponent. Admittedly, his last two fights hadn’t been that great at all though, as he’d used his wrestling to primarily control Kultar Gill and Luiz Buscape to decisions. I didn’t think he’d be able to do that with the powerful, explosive Alvarez though, and so I was anticipating a war full of stand-up exchanges and scrambles.

Round One begins and Kawajiri lands with a couple of kicks as Alvarez looks to counter. Takedown attempt from Alvarez but Kawajiri stuffs it and grabs a front facelock, landing a knee. They come up into the clinch and exchange some knees before the ref calls the break. Good right hand lands for Kawajiri. They trade some strikes and Eddie drops for a single leg, but Kawajiri stuffs it and they break off. Series of good low kicks land for Alvarez as both men press the action. Suddenly they trade with WILD PUNCHES and Kawajiri goes down! He pops right back up though and looks to take Alvarez down, but Eddie blocks it and looks to take top position. They come up in the clinch and exchange from close range, and then break off. Low kick from Alvarez, answered by Kawajiri with one of his own. One-two lands for Kawajiri. Alvarez closes the distance into the clinch and the action slows for a second before the ref calls time to check a cut under the right eye of Alvarez. Doctors allow him to go on and they trade off, and this time Kawajiri DECKS HIM WITH A RIGHT! Alvarez is in trouble as Kawajiri pounces and looks to finish it, but Alvarez clings on from guard and manages to survive. Big chant for Kawajiri as he passes into side mount and looks for some sort of neck crank variant, but Eddie scrambles back to full guard. Kawajiri works to pass again and then gets to full mount, but Eddie holds on tightly and prevents any ground-and-pound. Nice reversal from Alvarez and they’re back on their feet! And now it’s just a SHOOTOUT as both men swing for the fences, and both men are landing heavy blows! Brief clinch follows as Kawajiri goes to the body with knees, but Alvarez breaks off and just DESTROYS KAWAJIRI WITH A COMBO! The Crusher goes down and Eddie begins to celebrate, but the ref hasn’t stepped in and Alvarez has to pounce and pound away with more punches to stop things! Holy shit.

Absolutely incredible fight. Incredible. Only lasted like, seven minutes, but wow, every second was filled with ridiculous action and some of the punching exchanges were absolutely insane. Both men took their fair share of punishment and the fight could easily have gone either way, but in the end it was Alvarez who landed harder, and the final combination probably would’ve dropped any fighter in the world. I still like Torres-Maeda as FOTY for 2008, but man this comes close to it and probably edges Condit-Miura into third place. Awesome stuff. So it’s Alvarez vs. Aoki in the finals!

Lightweight Grand Prix: Alternate Bout: Joachim Hansen vs Kultar ‘Black Mamba’ Gill

Decent reserve fight actually; albeit surprising that DREAM wouldn’t want a Japanese fighter in there. Hansen had been beaten in the closest fight of the Quarter-Finals by Alvarez, while Gill was eliminated in the Opening Round by Kawajiri.

We begin and Hansen tries to close the distance right away, but eats some knees from a plum clinch. He manages to get the Black Mamba to the ground though, and after a scramble he firmly takes top position. Gill looks to get back to his feet and manages it, but Hansen has a bodylock. Action slows down and the ref breaks them up, and Gill lands a low kick as both men miss punches. Hansen takes another knee en route to getting the clinch, and this time surprisingly Black Mamba goes for the takedown. He gets Hansen down but right away the Norwegian goes for a kimura, and then he transitions into a straight armbar. Gill holds on, but Hansen goes from a triangle/armbar combo into the straight armbar again and sinks it for the tapout.

Decent little fight for the time it lasted, but once the fight hit the ground it was all Hansen and he wasted no time in putting the Black Mamba away. Hansen’s actually one of the most well-rounded guys in the world I would say; a lot of people make a big deal about his striking, but he’s equally fantastic on the ground, too.

Joseph Benavidez vs Junya Kudo

Originally this would’ve seen Urijah Faber protégé Benavidez face Kid Yamamoto in a sort of pseudo-preclude to the long-talked about Faber-Kid fight, but Kid ended up pulling out with a knee injury and Kudo stepped in to replace him. Like in his WEC fights, Benavidez is using Ted Nugent’s Stranglehold as his entrance theme here, further convincing me that it’s the best walk-out music in MMA right now.

Round One and Benavidez gets the early takedown off a striking exchange. Mini-slam from Benavidez as Kudo ties him up in the guard. Benavidez looks to break free and then stands to kick at the legs, but Kudo does a backward roll to escape and gets caught in a front facelock. Knees to the head from Benavidez but they come back to their feet in the clinch. Break off and Benavidez lands a couple of front kicks. Combo by Kudo, but Benavidez closes the distance and gets a BIG SLAM down to side mount. Kudo tries to lock up a guillotine, but Benavidez breaks free and takes the back with an over/under, and he lands some punches before spinning into a guillotine. Sweep to full mount from Benavidez and he’s got the guillotine locked up, and that’s enough to force the tapout.

Benavidez, as in his WEC appearances, fought just like a miniature Urijah Faber here, and took the Japanese fighter out very quickly. This would be his lone appearance in DREAM and I’m pretty glad for that as now he’s in WEC’s Bantamweight division where I think he could become the top guy to challenge for Miguel Torres’s title in no time.

Kuniyoshi Hironaka vs Motoki Miyazawa

This was Hironaka’s first fight back in Japan after an unsuccessful run in the UFC that saw him beaten by Jon Fitch, Thiago Alves and Jonathan Goulet. To be fair losing to Fitch and Alves isn’t a big deal, pretty much everyone does, but it was disappointing to see him fall to Goulet, especially as hardcore fans had considered him a top-ten level fighter at one stage. His opponent, Miyazawa, had reeled off four successive wins in the Cage Force promotion, but really lacked the experience of Hironaka overall.

First round and it’s a tentative beginning before Hironaka lands a right hand and grabs a clinch. Miyazawa jumps to the koala position (even called so by Bas!) but Hironaka breaks off with a one-two. Miyazawa closes into the clinch again, where he lands some short knees to the legs. Referee breaks them but Miyazawa clinches quickly again, and they move along the ropes before Miyazawa jumps the koala again. This time Hironaka slams him down to guard and immediately he looks to pull his legs up into a high guard. Rubber guard from Miyazawa, but Hironaka manages to posture free to drop some punches from the top. Hironaka backs off and so the ref calls Miyazawa to his feet. Good uppercut coming forward from Miyazawa but then he backs up rather than follow. They continue to exchange some strikes but neither man looks hurt, although it looks like Hironaka’s getting the better of the exchanges. Good left hand opens a cut on the left eye of Miyazawa, and now he’s retreating as Hironaka follows up with more strikes. Pretty dull fight, got to say. Big right hand and a flurry opens up a nasty cut over Miyazawa’s right eye, and as Hironaka tries to capitalize the ref calls time to check it. Doctors take a look and throw the fight out.

Punch that opened the cut was brilliantly accurate but overall that was a pretty boring fight to be honest as Miyazawa mainly backpedalled and it took Hironaka ages to really open up.

-Intermission must be here as we get a ton of dead time as Bas and Kenny talk about the GP Finals between Alvarez and Aoki.

-Urijah Faber joins the announcers and calls Joseph Benavidez the best 135lbs fighter in the world. Uh, Torres, dude, Torres. They discuss Overeem-Hunt and Aoki-Alvarez, then Urijah talks a little about his upcoming fight with Mike Brown and goes on to say he’d love a fight with Kid Yamamoto in the future.

Hideo Tokoro vs Takeshi Yamazaki

Well, Tokoro had a hugely entertaining fight at DREAM 4 and Yamazaki had a hugely entertaining fight at DREAM 3, so I’m definitely not complaining about seeing them fight one another. Yamazaki once again enters to his odd lounge music.

We get started and they exchange punches from distance before a Tokoro low kick catches Yamazaki in the groin. Ref calls time right away to allow him to recover and sure enough he’s fine to go on. They exchange some more strikes and then Yamazaki gets a takedown to guard. Tokoro rolls from an armbar attempt to a kneebar attempt and then back into the guard where he looks for a sweep, but Yamazaki blocks it and stays on top. Tokoro misses a couple of upkicks and then Yamazaki passes into side mount, but Tokoro traps the left arm between his legs to stop any punches. Tokoro rolls out and ends up in a front facelock as they stand, before they break off. They press the action and then a BIG RIGHT HAND from Tokoro absolutely folds Yamazaki up! Tokoro leaps on him and looks to take his back, before dropping punches down from top position. He risks it to go for a rear naked choke, and Yamazaki pops up to his feet and looks for a single leg. Tokoro looks to hook up a kimura, and then breaks with a heavy right hook and a knee. Yamazaki looks hurt and retreats, and Tokoro follows up with a knee to the body before Yamazaki forces him into the ropes. Referee breaks them up and Tokoro clocks him with a knee that wobbles him again. Another kick lands low though and Yamazaki drops to his knees in pain. Yamazaki gets time to recover and then they restart, exchanging some more strikes and again Tokoro stuns him. Big knees from the clinch land for Tokoro but Yamazaki gets a takedown to guard. Tokoro tries a triangle choke but Yamazaki postures out, and works to pass. Tokoro tries to roll and has his legs caught in the ropes, and then he manages to roll through for a kneebar, but can’t quite finish it off and Yamazaki manages to pull free. Tokoro leaps on his back as Yamazaki tries to get up, but Yamazaki turns into him and ends up on top again. They exchange some hammer fists from Tokoro’s half-guard, before Tokoro spins into a triangle choke attempt. It’s not quite deep enough though and Yamazaki manages to escape pretty easily. Few hammer fists land for Yamazaki to end the round.

Into the 2nd and Tokoro opens with a left hook. Takedown attempt from Yamazaki but Tokoro defends it and looks to hook up a kimura. Referee breaks them up and Tokoro clips him with a high kick and then lands another left hook. They trade strikes and Tokoro firmly gets the better of it, so Yamazaki clinches again. Ref breaks them quickly and Yamazaki swings himself into a takedown, and this time he gets Tokoro to the ground. Tokoro locks up a kimura from the bottom though and looks to turn into it from all fours, but he ends up using it to get to his feet. Ref calls the break again and they exchange some more strikes with Yamazaki narrowly ducking under a knee. He gets a single leg to Tokoro’s guard and looks to pass, but Tokoro manages to scramble to his feet. Yamazaki looks to get him down again, and Tokoro misses a reverse somersault kick (!) and winds up on the ground. He rolls to half-guard and then inexplicably goes right back into the full guard as Tokoro strikes from the bottom. Tokoro gets his legs up to attempt a triangle, but can’t get it properly mainly due to being caught up in the ropes. Tokoro pivots around and goes back to a regular full guard, and the fight ends with Yamazaki in top position.

Tokoro pretty much had all the significant offense, particularly standing up, so I’d wager the fight has to be his. Judges agree and award him the unanimous decision. Nowhere near as good a fight as either man had on the previous shows, but overall this was a perfectly acceptable fight. Post-fight Tokoro throws Bas a t-shirt, and Bas throws it into the crowd. And then Kenny is like, well, that’s why he hasn’t got KO power, he hasn’t got a strong enough arm to throw a t-shirt into the crowd!

Yoshihiro Akiyama vs Katsuyori Shibata

This was Akiyama’s comeback fight following his knockout at the hands of Kazuo Misaki on the Yarrenoka! show, although that loss was changed to a No Contest as it was an illegal soccer kick that actually KOd him. And who better to feed to him than Shibata, who had been a great sacrificial victim earlier in the year against Jason Miller? Akiyama is wearing his gi here. Pre-fight package shows a little of the Akiyama-Misaki fight but of course doesn’t show the ending because Misaki is signed with Sengoku. And I changed my mind about the Stranglehold thing. Con Te Partiro is the best entrance theme in MMA. Well, maybe only if you’re Akiyama as like, very few others could get away with it, if anyone. Crowd reaction for this guy is incredible, he seems both equally loved and despised, like a Tito Ortiz reaction in the US.

We’re underway and they press forward and exchange a couple of leg kicks. Good low kick from Shibata spins Akiyama right around. Like a record, baby. Akiyama is doing nothing outside of feinting thus far. Finally he lands a decent low kick. Spinning backfist misses for Shibata. Spinning back kick misses for Akiyama and Shibata catches him with a nice counter right hand. We’re five minutes in and I have no idea what Akiyama is doing here. High kick misses and Shibata grabs him to land a knee, but Akiyama takes him down and lands in side mount. Full mount for Akiyama and from there he locks up a gi choke (the same that Yoshida used to tap Tamura back in PRIDE) and Shibata passes out rather than tapping.

Well, I have no idea why that took Akiyama so long as when it hit the ground he finished Shibata in like 30 seconds, and really there was nothing stopping him taking Shibata down earlier. Odd fight in that aspect, but Akiyama didn’t mess around at all when he got Shibata to the ground. Nice choke for the victory.

-An FEG official enters the ring to announce that Eddie Alvarez has a problem with his eye and won’t be able to fight in the GP Finals, so the alternate Joachim Hansen is stepping in to replace him. Bah. See, this is why I hate these tournaments! Sure enough Eddie’s eye is a MESS and he looks really disappointed about not being able to fight. Alvarez tells the crowd he begged the doctors to let him fight but they wouldn’t, and there’s nobody else he’d rather replace him than Joachim Hansen. He then makes an official challenge to fight the winner of Hansen-Aoki at a later date.

Alistair Overeem vs Mark Hunt

This was Overeem’s second fight in DREAM following a squash over Tae Hyun Lee at the previous show. He’d called out Mirko Cro Cop there, but was matched with kickboxer Mark Hunt, a man who hadn’t seen action for over a year and a half after losing to Fedor Emelianenko at PRIDE’s Shockwave 2006 show on New Year’s Eve that year. Got to admit, Hunt’s looking in atrocious shape even for his standards for this one. Announcers tell us both guys took the fight on relatively short notice though, so perhaps that can be excused. Overeem though is HUGE, getting bigger seemingly with each and every fight.

Round One and they circle round with Hunt throwing some big punches that miss. Overeem goes for a clinch but gets shoved to the ground, and Hunt goes down into the guard and then passes into side mount. Overeem rolls and gets almost a keylock from the bottom, then manoeuvres back into full guard. He switches for an armbar, and they roll through and eventually Alistair locks up an odd-looking keylock/kimura variant from underneath that forces the tap.

Nice submission for Overeem but this has been seen as a bit of a questionable win for him by the many haters he has, as Hunt hadn’t fought in so long and was never a wizard on the ground. On the other hand of course Overeem’s legions of fans say that Hunt had given Fedor a good fight before succumbing to the Russian, and at the time he’d only really lost to Fedor and Barnett and so this was a huge win for him. As always the truth is somewhere in the middle – sure, Hunt was coming off a huge layoff and his ground skills are lacking, but the submission itself was awesome and regardless of the layoff this was still a strong win, albeit not one that would put Alistair in the top five or anything.

-Eddie Alvarez joins the announcers and talks about the frustration he’s having not being able to fight, but he understands the decision and the only thing he can learn from it is to have better head movement to not get hit. Comes off as a really cool guy actually.

Lightweight Grand Prix: Finals: Shinya Aoki vs Eddie Alvarez Joachim Hansen

Well, if this had been Alvarez-Aoki I probably would’ve taken Eddie to win, as he seemed on huge roll and had beaten tougher opponents than Aoki, and I figured he would’ve been able to keep the fight standing and take Aoki out on the feet. With Hansen though it was more likely a fight swinging in Aoki’s favour, mainly because of the fact that Aoki had tooled Hansen in PRIDE about eighteen months beforehand and very little seemed to have changed in the time period since. Bas though quite rightly points out that Hansen has nothing to lose here and so that might help him relax and perform better. Aoki surprisingly gets a lesser reaction for the final than he did for his semi earlier.

National anthems play before the fight, as is the custom for title fights in Japan. I’ve probably said it before but I’d love it if the UFC would adopt that tradition as it really adds something to the big title matches. Even if the Norwegian and Japanese anthems suck compared to like, the US or Brazilian ones.

And here we go! Hansen comes in swinging right away, but Aoki ducks under and gets the early takedown. He looks to pass Hansen’s guard as the Norwegian misses an upkick, and then Aoki settles down into the half-butterfly guard. Aoki keeps things tight and doesn’t really land any shots, as Hansen unsuccessfully tries to elevate him off. Hansen kicks him away and lands an upkick, but a second one lands to the groin and the ref calls time. Aoki decides he’s okay to go and they restart standing, and Hansen closes in and misses a haymaker. Aoki clinches and pulls guard, and right away he goes into the rubber guard. Aoki goes for the gogoplata, the move that finished Hansen in their last fight, but this time Joachim seems ready for it and he postures out to avoid it. Couple of upkicks land for Aoki but Hansen drops a big left hand down that lands flush to the face. He looks to follow up, but Aoki clings onto him in the guard. Aoki looks to set up a triangle choke, but Hansen postures out of that and stands, and then drops a diving left hand down that HURTS AOKI BAD! Aoki starts to cover up as Hansen pounds away, and then AOKI TAPS OUT!~!

WOW. Huge, HUGE upset win for Hansen to take the Grand Prix, especially as he came in from the alternate bout and had already lost to Aoki once. Hansen just fought the perfect fight here, as he was able to posture out of the guard and landed cleanly, right on the button, and managed to finish Aoki before he could recover. I don’t think this exposed Aoki as some fans argued, as he took some huge shots from JZ in the second fight and was able to recover, it was more just that Hansen caught him with the right shot at the right time. Tremendous victory for Hansen and who would’ve thought he would take the title as an alternate?

Post-fight Aoki is sobbing, while Hansen challenges Eddie Alvarez to make his first title defense. Again, this showed the problems of the tournament setting, as really Hansen shouldn’t have been in the position to win the title, but DREAM did a better job than PRIDE in clearing up the mess, as rather than matching Alvarez with Hansen, they immediately matched Aoki with Alvarez at the next possible show and to prove my predictions wrong, Aoki tapped him in the first round with a heel hook. Granted, Hansen hasn’t been able to defend against Aoki yet, but that’s more due to the fact that Hansen’s been injured than any fault of DREAM.

-Show ends with a presentation for all four (er, five) of the finalists in the Grand Prix, ending with Hansen receiving the title belt. Really cool ending to the show.

Final Thoughts....

This was a great way for DREAM to end the Lightweight Grand Prix, even if the problems with the tournament format raised their ugly heads again with Hansen winning as an alternate. Kawajiri-Alvarez is a bonafide FOTYC, one of the best fights I’ve seen in a long time, and while a couple of fights (Hironaka-Miyazawa, Akiyama-Shibata) drag, Uno-Aoki is the goodness and the rest of the card is mainly filled with quick, exciting finishes, particularly Overeem-Hunt and Hansen’s two fights. Overall the show is definitely worth a look for the sheer drama of the Grand Prix alone. High recommendation.

Best Fight: Alvarez-Kawajiri
Worst Fight: Hironaka-Miyazawa

Overall Rating: ****1/4

Coming Soon....

UFC: 94-100, Fight Nights 17-18, and TUF VIII Finale.
DREAM: 6-10.
King of the Cage: Various shows

Until next time,

Scott Newman:

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