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DREAM 7 review
by Scott Newman (MMA)
Posted on August 10, 2009, 3:06 PM


Saitama, Japan

-Your hosts are Kenny Rice and Bas Rutten. They discuss the upcoming Featherweight tournament to crown the champion in that division, and from what I know the weight limit is 140lbs or around that.

-Opening video package manages to annoy me as the whole thing is just based around Kid Yamamoto (who was given a bye to the quarter-finals) and the possibility of who will face him. Sure he’s good, but to push the tournament as ‘The Krazy Bee and the Bee Hunters’ sort of takes away that it’s to decide who becomes the champion, you know?

-Fighter Introduction is insane on this show with fire effects on the big screens and stuff. Awesome. They also explain that the other first round match (DJ Taiki vs. Hideo Tokoro) will be taking place at DREAM 8 due to an injury to Taiki.

Featherweight Grand Prix: First Round: Bibiano Fernandes vs Takafumi Otsuka

BJJ ace Fernandes had lost two of his first three MMA bouts, but hey, they were against Kid Yamamoto and Urijah Faber and to be fair he hadn’t done badly in those fights at all. Never heard of DEEP veteran Otsuka, although hopefully he’s a better fighter than his namesake, PRIDE ‘legend’ Alexander!

Round One and Bibiano starts with a low kick and stuffs a takedown. Single leg to half-guard from the Brazilian and Otsuka works to tie him up. Reversal attempt from Otsuka but Bibiano’s having none of that and he gets him back in the same position. Otsuka manages to get to a butterfly guard but really there’s very little happening here. Finally the Brazilian lands a couple of punches from the top, but they’re not especially damaging shots. Otsuka does have a bloody nose however. Ref finally brings them back up and Otsuka actually applauds the decision. They restart and exchange some ineffective strikes before Fernandes gets a takedown and lands some decent punches from the top this time. They come back up and Otsuka clinches, but they break quickly and now Otsuka tries to bait Bibiano for some reason. Doesn’t work and they go back to the clinch. Nothing happens and the ref separates them, and Fernandes lands a hard leg kick. More ineffective strikes follow although Bibiano does catch him with a decent right hand. Single leg attempt from Fernandes but Otsuka blocks it into a clinch, and the ref breaks them again. Combo from Otsuka but Bibiano doesn’t look hurt. The Brazilian tries a takedown again but Otsuka stuffs it into another clinch and this time the ref separates them as Bibiano lands a low knee. They restart and Otsuka avoids another single, and that’s the round.

2nd round and they circle and exchange some low kicks to begin. Decent uppercut from Otsuka but Bibiano goes from a single leg to drag him down, and goes right to the back, getting both hooks in. Otsuka stands with Bibiano on his back, and Bibiano decides to stand down allowing Otsuka to spin free. Low kick from Fernandes and he lands another, avoiding a takedown in the process. Otsuka returns the favour and stuffs a single leg, and then the ref calls time to clean up Otsuka’s nose. They restart and Bibiano drops him with a knee from the clinch, landing with some hammer fists, but Otsuka manages to get back to his feet in the clinch, forcing the Brazilian into the corner. Ref separates them and Bibiano uses a bodylock to drag him down, ending up in half-guard. Punches from the top land for Bibiano but Otsuka manages to scramble to his feet. Trip takedown from Fernandes puts him back down and this time he keeps him there to end the fight.

Judges all score it for Fernandes, thank God. Sucky fight overall.

Featherweight Grand Prix: First Round: Joe Warren vs Chase Beebe

World-class Greco Roman wrestler Warren had apparently been a favourite to take the gold medal at the Beijing Olympics, but he ended up being given a two-year suspension in 2007 for marijuana use, and thusly found his way into MMA. This was his MMA debut. Former WEC Bantamweight champion Beebe had suffered two straight losses to Miguel Torres and Will Ribeiro, and was looking to rebuild his career with the switch to Japan.

We begin and they start at a pretty fast pace with Warren working into a clinch. Beebe lands some uppercuts inside the clinch and then they break off, and Warren lunges in with a right hand and they clinch again. Good knee from Warren separates and then Beebe throws some punches out. Warren tries a takedown but botches it and Beebe takes his back for a second, but then Warren pops up quickly. They exchange some strikes and then Warren shoots, but Beebe blocks and they exchange knees in the clinch. They break and exchange some punches, and Warren catches him with a really nice uppercut. You can tell these guys aren’t natural strikers though. Warren goes for a takedown and Beebe blocks it, and the punching exchange continues. Nice right hand lands for Warren but Beebe takes him down, only momentarily as he pops right back up. Into the clinch and now Warren delivers a beautiful suplex into Beebe’s guard. Beebe manages to kick him away after taking a couple of body shots and they stand, but Warren avoids a couple of punches and gets a double leg to the guard. Armbar attempt from Beebe but Warren easily slips free. He tries it again with the same result, and Warren remains on top. Beebe stays active from his back and manages to sweep to his feet in the clinch, but Warren breaks with a knee and then takes him down again, this time landing in side mount. Beebe’s busted open from somewhere now, looks like a cut on the forehead.

Replays show the knee that broke the clinch opened the cut, and between rounds the doctors can’t stop the bleeding and stop the fight. TKO for Joe Warren. Not the most exciting fight overall, but you can’t take it away from Warren as this was a huge victory over a former world champion in his MMA debut.

Featherweight Grand Prix: First Round: Abel Cullum vs Akiyo Nishiura

KOTC Bantamweight Champion Cullum was bringing in a solid 13-2 record to the tournament and he’s also got a cowboy gimmick like Heath Herring or Donald Cerrone which is always cool. From what I’ve heard about this guy he’s pretty damn exciting. His opponent was Shooto veteran Akiyo, better known as ‘Wicky’, but that’s about all I know of him. He appears to be wearing lipstick here though (!) and his hair is dyed pink. Maybe he just saw Brokeback Mountain and expects the cowboy Cullum to be attracted to him and not hit him quite so hard?

Round One and we’re underway, and Cullum comes out with an overhand right and goes for a takedown. Wicky reverses and finds himself in top position in the guard. Cullum goes for an arm triangle from the bottom, but Akiyo pops his head free. Butterfly guard from Cullum and he looks to reverse, pushing Akiyo off and standing. Abel comes forward but gets tagged by a right hand, but before Nishiura can capitalize Cullum gets a bodylock and looks for the takedown. They muscle for position in the clinch and Cullum really drives in for a double leg, finally getting Akiyo down in half-guard. Full mount from Cullum and Nishiura gives his back, but manages to reverse over into Abel’s guard. More action in this fight so far than the previous two combined. Armbar attempt from Cullum and it’s deep, forcing Nishiura to roll to try to escape. It looks locked in though but somehow Wicky escapes and gets on top again! Cullum is mad active from his back. Akiyo stands and Cullum throws a kick, but slips to his back. Akiyo calls him up though. Takedown attempt from Cullum but Nishiura reverses and gets top position in the guard again. Looks like Cullum is setting up for another armbar, but this time Nishiura stands free and Abel comes back to his feet. Good punching exchange and both men get tagged, ending up with Cullum on top in half-guard. Cullum looks for the full mount and sure enough he gets it, but once again Nishiura reverses instantly into Abel’s guard. Kimura attempt now from Cullum and he tries to use a triangle with his legs ala Vitor Shaolin, but Nishiura manages to slip free and lands a couple of punches. Cullum stays active from the bottom and gets an oma plata, locking it up, but Nishiura steps over to escape and then lands a knee to the head. Cullum drives forward and looks to take him down, and they end up clinched in the corner of the ring. Trip takedown from Cullum but the ropes get in the way and Wicky is seated against them. Cullum lands some punches and then knees to the head, but Nishiura stands and answers with a knee to the midsection. Ref separates them and Cullum gets a takedown off a botched high kick, looking to mount again. This time he gets it without being reversed and lands some punches. Nishiura looks to be in a bit of trouble now but Wicky manages to reverse and get half-guard. More punches from Abel and he passes to side mount again. Round ends with a couple of heavy shots from the cowboy and a wild cartwheel kick attempt. Hell of a first round.

2nd round and they exchange strikes with Nishiura stunning Cullum with a right. Abel gets to the clinch and drops for a double leg again, getting the Japanese fighter down for a second where he lands a knee to the face. Wicky pops back up and they go down off a whizzer attempt, and this time Cullum looks to take the back. Nishiura switches and Cullum slips off and ends up on his back in guard. Reversal from Cullum and he gets Nishiura down, getting in half-guard. Side mount from Cullum and he lands some knees to the body. Nishiura manages to get guard back for a second, but Cullum again slips to side mount. Full mount from Abel and he lands punches before taking the back of Nishiura. He’s got no hooks though and Wicky turns into him to escape. They come back to their feet in the clinch and the ref separates them. Cullum’s cardio is insane and he comes forward swinging, but gets caught by Nishiura and drops to his back. Triangle attempt into an armbar from Cullum but Wicky slips out and passes to half-guard. Cullum spins back to guard and then stands, and they exchange with Nishiura tagging him with another right. Takedown from Cullum though and he passes to half-guard and then mount, but again Wicky spins and turns into Abel’s guard. Nishiura stands to attempt a knee to the head, but Cullum reverses with a single leg and the fight comes to an end there. Well, that was pretty great.

No idea which way this is going to go as Cullum looked better on the ground and had a lot of submission attempts, but he was tagged standing a few times and also got reversed on numerous occasions. Judges have it as a unanimous decision for Abel Cullum. Both men looked fantastic here though and this was by far the best fight on this show up to this point. Great win for the American up-and-comer.

Mistuhiro Ishida vs Daisuke Nakamura

One of three Lightweight ‘superfights’ on this card, this was Ishida’s return to DREAM following an excursion into Strike Force that saw him win in his US debut. In DREAM though his last appearance had been the upset loss to Caol Uno. Nakamura meanwhile had reeled off two wins on the bounce in the promotion, and was riding an eight-fight winning streak overall. Still, Ishida was a big step up in competition for him. And once again Ishida busts out the emo entrance. CARRY ON, WE’LL CARRY ON!~!

First round begins and they circle with some feeler strikes before Ishida gets the predictable takedown to half-guard. Nakamura goes for a kimura, but Ishida works to block it and he passes to side mount. Knee to the head from Ishida as Nakamura rolls, and Ishida grabs a front facelock to control him. He lands some more knees to the head and then looks to spin to the back, but Nakamura explodes to his feet. Slam from Ishida puts him back down and again Nakamura gives his back, going for the kimura ala Sakuraba. Ishida slams him down, but Nakamura keeps hold of the kimura and continues to try to lock it up. Finally Ishida pulls free and looks to take the back proper this time, delivering a nice suplex before Nakamura rolls to guard. Ishida hops to half-guard and again Nakamura rolls for the kimura, but Ishida is too strong and he ends up in the same position, holding a waistlock with Nakamura trying to lock the kimura in. Ishida gets free and peppers him with some punches before going for the mount, but Nakamura scrambles and ends up in a front facelock. Knees to the head again but Nakamura hits a beautiful reversal and takes the back. He can’t get the hooks in though and ends up going for another kimura, but Ishida again pulls free and gets into the half-guard. Nakamura’s cut over the right eye now, I’m guessing from one of the knees Ishida landed as none of his punches seemed effective. Ref calls time to check the cut over, but they let him continue and we resume in Nakamura’s half-guard. Ishida avoids another kimura and works into north/south, where he drops some knees to the head ala old school Heath Herring. Side mount now but Nakamura slips free and escapes to his feet. Good high kick from Nakamura is deflected. He throws a couple more kicks out and then tries a lunging left hook, but Ishida ducks it and gets another takedown, where he is forced to defend an armbar as the round ends.

Round Two and Nakamura looks to strike before sprawling to avoid a takedown. Ishida catches a kick and Nakamura tries to jump into a flying armbar, but he whiffs on it and ends up in guard. Ishida immediately passes to half-guard and he attempts to work free into a mount, but Nakamura does a good job to avoid and then goes for the kimura again. Ishida avoids it once more but Nakamura gets a nice reversal and takes top position. Ishida goes for a single leg and transitions to the rear waistlock again, before dropping for a double leg to put Nakamura down. Short punches land for Ishida and then he ends up in the guard, but right away he gets to half-guard again. Nakamura tries a reversal but Ishida’s having none of that and he takes the back again. Ishida is just controlling him completely. Nakamura tries to roll for a leglock with seconds remaining, and he tries a toehold, but the time’s run out for him and the fight ends.

I could see an argument for Nakamura here I think as he literally had all the attempts at finishing the fight, but really Ishida’s likely to get the decision for his ground control and the few knees to the head he landed. Sure enough it’s a unanimous decision for Ishida. Wasn’t a bad fight or anything but Ishida hardly set the world alight with his aggression. Will he ever finish a fight in DREAM? Based on this, probably not.

-They roll a tribute video for the legendary Helio Gracie, who passed away shortly before this show. Classy stuff. Sakuraba then says a few words about him before they do a minute’s silence.

Shinya Aoki vs David Gardner

Another gimme for Aoki, as the last time I saw Gardner fight he was being dominated by Boku in Cage Force. He’d won a few fights since then but didn’t seem to match well with Aoki on paper, and this looked to be another set-up for the DREAM favourite.

We’re underway and they circle before Aoki shoots on a single leg and pulls half-guard. Gardner tries to slug away with some punches, but Aoki reverses beautifully and takes full mount. Gardner gives his back and he’s in deep trouble already. He ends up in a kneeling position with Aoki on his back, working for the choke. Body triangle from Aoki but Gardner does a decent job of defending the choke. Aoki lands some punches from behind and then horrifies Bas by elbowing the spine in the same way JZ Calvancante did to him to cause that whole mess in 2008. Gardner continues to defend, and then sits up and waves at the crowd, oddly enough. Aoki continues to attempt the choke, but Gardner still does a good job of defending it. Aoki loses the body triangle and then tries to turn into a straight armbar, then to a triangle choke, but Gardner slips out and stands! Gardner presses forward but Aoki quickly clinches and pulls him to the ground, taking the back again. And from there, Gardner makes one of the most weird decisions in MMA history.

Alright, so you’re David Gardner and you have one of the most dangerous ground specialists in the world clamped to your back, attempting to choke you out. Do you....

A) Grab his glove and attempt to pull his hands away when he goes for the choke.
B) Tuck your chin as tightly into your collarbone as possible
C) Grin, wave, and yell “HELLO JAPAN!”, thus exposing your neck to be choked.

Well, if you picked C) then you are officially David Gardner. You’re also officially DUMB AS HELL. Aoki wins by rear naked choke with one of the funniest finishes I can ever recall in MMA. I mean the fight was a nothing fight, a squash, but that ending alone made it a classic. I mean, why would you do that? Why? Absolutely ludicrous.

Tatsuya Kawajiri vs Ross Ebanez

Like the previous match, on paper this looked to be a gimme for the Japanese favourite, as Hawaii’s Ebanez, despite having fought some tough guys like Eddie Alvarez, Carlos Condit and Mike Pyle, had never beaten a top fighter and certainly didn’t seem like the sort of guy to be able to take out ‘The Crusher’. According to Kenny Rice Kawajiri benches 300lbs, which is pretty insane for a guy who only weighs 155lbs. Kawajiri is like the antithesis of Aoki as everything about the guy just screams ‘badass’.

Pre-fight Ebanez gets a yellow card for not making weight. Huh. Never seen that before. Round One begins and Kawajiri opens with a pair of low kicks. Flying knee attempt from Ebanez but Kawajiri catches it and gets the takedown to guard. Kawajiri postures up but Ebanez escapes to his feet, and they clinch and exchange some knees. Nice slam from Ebanez puts Kawajiri down, but it’s momentary as the Crusher pops right back up into the clinch again. Trip takedown from Kawajiri and he lands in half-guard. Quick pass to full mount follows and I think Ebanez is in trouble. Ebanez ties him up from the bottom and tries to squirm free, but he ends up giving his back and Kawajiri looks for the rear naked choke, getting a body triangle for good measure. Choke is locked in and Ebanez taps out.

Quick and easy win for Kawajiri, no upsets here. Ebanez was painfully overmatched and Kawajiri just wasted no time in putting him away.

Featherweight Grand Prix: First Round: Yoshiro Maeda vs Micah Miller

Two WEC veterans here. Miller, brother of UFC’s Cole, had surprisingly been released after a loss there to Josh Grispi, which is nothing to be ashamed of. I never understood it really as Micah is a really exciting guy to watch. Maeda meanwhile was coming off a loss to Rani Yahya in his final WEC appearance, but he’d also been involved in my 2008 FOTY alongside Miguel Torres. Micah is surprisingly wearing Aoki-style long tights for this one, although they’re plain black and not in the crazy colours of Aoki’s. Miller is ridiculously tall for this weight, towering over Maeda.

First round and Maeda lands some low kicks as both men throw out some feeler punches. Miller clinches and Maeda tackles him right through the ropes in what could’ve been a dangerous moment. Anyone able to say CAGE? They restart standing and Miller looks to grab the plum clinch, but Maeda backs out. High kick lands for Miller and they clinch, where he pulls guard and goes right to the rubber guard. Maeda pulls out of it and gets into half-guard momentarily, but Miller quickly gets full guard back. Maeda works to pass and gets into side mount, but Micah twists himself into half-guard. Short elbows to the body land for Maeda but there’s little going on right now. Miller works back to a full guard and then goes to what Eddie Bravo would call crackhead control. Short slam from Maeda but he can’t free himself. He lands some decent knees to the tailbone, but Miller keeps his legs wrapped around like an American Aoki or something. In fact he’s got a triangle now although Maeda’s arms are both in so it’s not a full choke or anything. Referee finally restarts them standing, giving both men the yellow card for stalling. Takedown from Maeda right away on the restart and they end up back in Miller’s guard. This time he twists for a kimura, but Maeda looks calm and pops free. Miller now looks for a gogoplata, then into an oma plata, but Maeda circles around him to get free and ends up landing a couple of punches from top position. Miller goes for a heel hook now but can’t quite get it, and the round ends with Miller slipping over to take the back.

Into the 2nd and they exchange some strikes, with Miller trying to use his long reach to his advantage. He ends up dropping to his back though and they go into a clinch, with Miller trying a throw but winding up on his back in guard. Rubber guard from Micah again and he looks for the gogoplata, but Maeda avoids it and brings it back to standing. They clinch again though but this time the ref breaks them quickly. Nice right hand lands for Micah and a knee to follow, and they clinch again and exchange some knees inside. Ref breaks them and they exchange punches before Maeda hits a takedown. Miller tries to reverse it but ends up on his back with Maeda in side mount, and the Japanese fighter works to keep him down as Micah moves back to guard. Maeda twists into an odd position where he almost gives his back deliberately, and then he turns into the guard again. Crackhead control again from Micah and then he tries an armbar, but the round ends before he can end it.

Hard one to score there as Maeda had top position for long periods, but did little damage and while Miller did try a couple of submissions he was just mainly controlling him using the rubber guard. I’d go for Miller I think. Judges have it the other way though and it’s a unanimous decision for Maeda. Well, I think they got it wrong but Miller can’t complain of a robbery as he just didn’t do enough. From a technical standpoint this was decent I guess, but in terms of a fight it was largely dull.

Featherweight Grand Prix: First Round: Hiroyuki Takaya vs Jong Won Kim

Takaya had once been ranked as highly as #2 in the 145lbs division, but two crushing losses in the WEC at the hands of Leonard Garcia and Cub Swanson brought his stock down a lot. This was his chance for redemption, as he was faced with a seemingly easy fight in the opening round of this tournament, against a debuting Korean out of Yoon Dong Sik’s team.

First round begins and they exchange some early strikes with Takaya landing with kicks to the body. For a debuting judoka Kim looks pretty decent on his feet surprisingly enough. Good one-two from Kim to return off a low kick. Ref randomly calls time for stalling even though both men were exchanging. Bizarre. They restart and the exchange continues. This is an even fight but I’d give Takaya the slight advantage for the low kicks. Takedown from Kim into Takaya’s guard but the WEC veteran is looking to stand up right away. Kim manages to keep him down, trapping him in the corner of the ring, but he’s doing little with the position. Referee finally breaks them up and they restart standing with Takaya going back to the low kicks. Good left hook from Takaya coming forward. Takaya continues to push the action but the Korean catches a kick and gets a takedown. Takaya works back up to his feet quickly and Kim continues to work for a single leg, but the ref separates them again. Nice one-two from Takaya as he’s looking to pick up the pace. Few more combos land for Takaya as the round closes out.

2nd round and Takaya opens with a heavy low kick. Kim looks a little tired now but he still tries to fire back. Suddenly a BIG RIGHT HAND drops the Korean hard, and Takaya pounces and lands some punches on the ground to end things.

Beautiful finish from Takaya but that first round was pretty dire. Still, on a show like this I can hardly complain about a highlight reel knockout like that I guess.

Featherweight Grand Prix: First Round: Masakazu Imanari vs Atsushi Yamamoto

Urgh. Let it be known that for all his skill, I hate watching Imanari. Sure, it’s cool when he locks up one of his leglocks, but that’s literally ALL he tries, and it gets horribly tiresome seeing the guy diving for a leg over and over and over. Plus he has a shitty, wispy beard. My favourite Imanari moment? When Joachim Hansen knocked him out cold with a knee in PRIDE. Yamamoto was coming off his win over Hideo Tokoro and I was hoping he’d repeat the feat against Imanari here.

We’re underway and Imanari literally stands as still as a statue as Yamamoto circles around him. Imanari’s stance is so odd, basically turning off to the side. He lands a body kick but Yamamoto counters and DECKS HIM WITH A RIGHT! Word! Quick recovery from Imanari though as he goes for an armbar the moment Yamamoto enters his guard. Yamamoto manages to avoid it and slugs at the body and head as Imanari looks to go for the rubber guard into a triangle. Nothing happens and I’m getting flashbacks of the earlier Maeda-Miller fight now, ugh. Ref finally brings them back to standing and Yamamoto lands with another right that causes Imanari to drop to his back. Yamamoto circles off though and forces him back to his feet. Few good low kicks land for Yamamoto. Imanari pulls guard again and he goes for an armbar, but Yamamoto steps over him to avoid and so he goes for a toehold instead. Nice scramble from Yamamoto to escape, but he winds up on the bottom under side mount. Few knees to the side from Imanari and he looks for an armbar, but Yamamoto manages to defend it well and ends up in the guard of the leglock expert. Rubber guard from Imanari but it’s largely ineffective as Yamamoto lands with some punches to the body. Round ends there. Yawn.

Final round and Yamamoto presses forward and avoids an attempt at pulling guard. Imanari dances around for a second and then pulls guard successfully, but again Yamamoto peppers him with punches from the top. Ref breaks them as the fight gets horribly slow, and good lord is Imanari’s stand-up game atrocious. He’s moving around with these odd stances like he’s Anderson Silva but he’s landing NOTHING and taking kicks from Yamamoto. Bas is just furious with the guy at this point and quite rightfully so. Finally he pulls guard again and he goes to rubber guard with less than a minute remaining. Upkick from Imanari but it allows Yamamoto to stand, and once again Imanari shoots and pulls guard. Seconds to go and Yamamoto remains on top, landing a few punches.

Awful, awful fight for the most part but I’d definitely give it to Yamamoto as Imanari did pretty much squat outside of a couple of submission attempts. Judges somehow score it a split decision for Imanari though, no idea what fight they were watching. Even Bas is like OH NO when they announce the result. So wow, not only do we get a shitty main event, but we get a bogus decision to go with it? Brilliant.

-Show wraps up with the quarter-finalists in the ring; Imanari, Takaya, Maeda, Warren, Cullum, Kid and Fernandes. They’ve also got Tokoro and Taiki in there as the winner will join those seven guys.

Final Thoughts....

Poor show for the most part. Cullum-Nishiura was an excellent fight but it won’t be winning any FOTY awards or anything, and outside of that the next best thing was the goofy finish in the Aoki fight. Ishida-Nakamura wasn’t bad I guess and nor were the first two fights, but maybe that’s because there’s rubbish like Maeda-Miller and Yamamoto-Imanari later on the card. Couple in a bogus decision to see one of my most hated fighters go through into the quarter-finals and this is an easy thumbs down. Worst DREAM show since the second one and in fact it’s probably the worst DREAM show yet.

Best Fight: Cullum-Nishiura
Worst Fight: Imanari-Yamamoto

Overall Rating: **

Coming Soon....

UFC: 94-101, Fight Nights 17-18, and TUF VIII Finale.
DREAM: 8-10.
WEC: 42
King of the Cage: Various shows

Until next time,

Scott Newman:

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