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DREAM 8 review
by Scott Newman (MMA)
Posted on August 23, 2009, 3:07 PM


Nagoya, Japan

-Your hosts are Kenny Rice and Bas Rutten. They run down the line-up for the show, with the opening round of the Welterweight Grand Prix (just eight fighters rather than sixteen this time) and the final match of the Featherweight GP opening round in Tokoro vs. Taiki.

-We get right into the Fighter Introduction this time, much quicker than usual and better timing by HDNet.

Katsuyori Shibata vs Minowaman

Urgh. No idea why this one was happening and I REALLY donít want to see it if Iím honest. Sigh. As far as a pick youíve got to go with Minowaman for showing some skill in his career I guess.

Actually you know what? Fuck these guys. I canít even be bothered to review this fight. Nobody cares about either man anyway and they both suck. Shibata wins by decision. Next!

Andrews Nakahara vs Shungo Oyama

Nakahara actually looked pretty good last time I saw him against Yoon Dong Sik, so I guess DREAM wanted to give the Brazilian karateka another shot. His opponent? Perennial jobber Oyama; evidently DREAM wanted to give Nakahara not only another shot, but another win.

First round begins and Nakahara opens up with a couple of nice low kicks. Heís really landing nicely with the low kicks here. Body kick lands for the karateka. Oyama clinches and rolls for a kneebar but completely screws it up and Nakahara gets outta dodge. They get back to their feet and Nakahara lands another kick. Oyama tries to roll for the kneebar again but like before itís an awful, awful attempt and Nakahara cracks him with a right hand and finishes him off on the ground.

Total squash on the part of Nakahara but thereís nothing wrong with that as with his lack of experience he needs to fight low-level guys rather than the elite fighters at this stage. I fully expect DREAM to throw him to the wolves next time out however, but who knows, heís shown a lot of talent thus far and he might surprise me.

Vitor ĎShaoliní Ribeiro vs Katsuhiko Nagata

This was Shaolinís return to action following a layoff of well over a year after eye surgery following his defeat at the hands of JZ Cavalcante. At least he was greeted with an easy opponent in the form of wrestler Nagata, who had never really shown anything outside of his solid wrestling base. Smart money here was on Shaolin via submission.

We begin and Nagata comes out aggressively, throwing some low kicks. Shaolin pops him with a left jab and then shoots and pulls guard when Nagata blocks. It looks like heís working for a sweep from a butterfly guard, but Nagataís base is decent and he manages to retain top position, in half-guard in fact. Ribeiro gets a wonderful sweep from there though, and puts Nagata on his back in half-guard. He passes with ease into side mount and it looks like heís moving Nagata towards the corner of the ring for some reason. Full mount attempt from Shaolin, but itís an odd mount as heís almost seated on Nagataís knees rather than his hips. Nagata manages to get back to a butterfly guard, but Ribeiro easily slips out into side mount again. Couple of punches land for Shaolin and you can hear Nagata panting for breath now. Full mount from Shaolin. Nagata holds on for dear life, and then manages to scramble to half-guard for a moment before Ribeiro hops back into side mount again. Full mount once more and then he moves from knee on belly to side mount again, then back to full mount. This is basically a BJJ clinic from Shaolin in terms of positions, but heís not landing any strikes or attempting submissions yet. Couple of knees to the head land for Vitor with about two minutes to go, his best strikes of the match. Referee surprisingly stands them up, but then it becomes clear than itís due to a massive gash on the head of Nagata opened up by the knees. Doctors take one look and throw the fight out there.

Not the most entertaining performance from Shaolin but a win is a win and you canít say he didnít tool Nagata. Perhaps he was a little rusty after the long layoff and thatís why he played a more conservative game, but man was his grappling stellar even if he didnít do much damage until the very end of the fight.

Riki Fukuda vs Murilo Ninja

Originally this was supposed to be Ninja, in his DREAM debut, taking on Yoon Dong Sik, but Yoon injured himself and so Fukuda stepped in on like a dayís notice. He couldnít make the Middleweight limit on short notice though so the fight ended up being at a catchweight of 89kg.

Round One begins and they circle and throw out some feeler strikes. Fukuda seems to get the better of it and lands with a nice body kick. Ninja gets a bodylock and looks for the takedown, but Fukuda gets out and eats a right hand before Ninja clinches again. He goes for the takedown, but Fukuda reverses and winds up on top, where he lands some hard punches from the top. Rua gets to his feet, and they remain clinched for a moment before breaking off. Exchange follows and Fukuda rocks him badly with a combo, forcing Rua to cling on for survival in the clinch. Fukuda stuffs a takedown and Ninja goes to his back, but the Japanese fighter avoids a triangle attempt and lands a punch over the top into the guard. Heel hook attempt from Ninja but Fukuda pops out and they come back to their feet in the clinch. Ninja is really working hard for the takedown and he manages to get Fukuda down for a moment, but Riki works back to his feet and finds Ninja clamped on him in a rear waistlock. Uppercuts by Ninja but Fukuda turns into him and Ninja drops for the single leg again. Fukuda manages to avoid nicely and now the ref calls time to check a cut over Fukudaís right eye. They restart and Ninja gets a single leg after a brief exchange, standing over Fukudaís guard before passing to half-guard. Side mount now from Rua and then Fukuda gives his back and takes a knee. Ninja canít get hooks in and stays off to the side, but Fukuda reverses him and gets into top position. They come back to their feet and again the ref calls time to clean up Fukudaís eye. They restart and Ninja throws a combo, but heís leaving his chin wildly exposed. Fukuda canít land anything though and they clinch briefly before breaking. Good leg kick from Rua. Fukuda shoots but Ninja sprawls to avoid and they clinch, then break and both men look tired. Good left-right from Ninja. Ninja is swinging pretty wildly now and they clinch where he lands with knees to the body. Round ends with another brief exchange, and not a moment too soon as both look absolutely spent.

Round Two and Ninja begins with some leg kicks. Fukudaís not doing much at all here; maybe he really is just out of gas. Finally he lands with a one-two that backs Rua up a little. Ninja gets to the clinch but he canít get Fukuda off his feet, and they break off. The striking here is looking really sloppy now as neither man is landing anything substantial. With less than a minute remaining though Fukuda starts swinging for the fences, landing shot after shot and Ninja looks out on his feet almost! He manages to grab a clinch to slow Fukuda down, but that mightíve been enough to steal the decision. Fight ends shortly after.

Hard one to score as Ninja probably took the first round, and then Fukuda did nothing in most of the second, but he did come closest to finishing the fight in both rounds really. Judges have it for Riki Fukuda, unanimous decision. Bit of an upset then although Iíve long thought Ninja might be shot as a top-level fighter. Fight was decent in parts, but the second round was mad slow and the majority of it was pretty sloppy, too.

Jeff Monson vs Sergei Kharitonov

Man, remember when Kharitonov was killing everyone back in like 2004-2005 and people thought he was a natural challenger to Fedor? He was at least on a three-fight winning streak coming into this one, but honestly heíd never looked the same since his 2006 loss to Alistair Overeem. Incredibly this was Monsonís third fight in fifteen days (!) as heíd beaten Roy Nelson about two weeks beforehand and won another fight after that too. Pretty crazy stuff. Sergei looks badly out of shape here.

Kharitonov comes out looking to jab, but Monson shoots low on a single leg. Sergei sprawls to defend initially, and Monson ends up almost pulling guard before turning the corner to get the Russian down. Monson passes immediately to side mount and lands some short knees to the head, then he works to lock up his trademark north/south choke. Itís locked in and Kharitonov grits his teeth, tries to punch Monson a bit, and then taps out. Wow.

Didnít expect that to be so quick and easy for Monson but I guess it goes to show how far Kharitonov has fallen. Monson remains where he always is really Ė a top fifteen/twenty HW in the world Ė but Sergei in 2004 wouldíve given him a far better fight if not won. Here though he did absolutely nothing and got tapped very quickly. Sad stuff really but a good win on paper at least for the Snowman.

Featherweight Grand Prix: First Round: Hideo Tokoro vs DJ Taiki

This match had been delayed due to an injury to Taiki I believe, and heís a guy I really donít know all that much about if Iím honest. His real name is Daiki Hata for those who care but heís universally known as DJ Taiki. Usual background, DEEP and Pancrase veteran. Tokoro meanwhile had looked pretty dope in his earlier DREAM fights so hopefully this will be worth a look.

First Round and they circle and zero happens for the first minute and if this were in the US these guys would be getting booed out of the building. They finally exchange a couple of combos with Tokoro landing better, and then itís back to circling. Body kick is blocked by Tokoro. Nice combo from Tokoro to counter a low kick and DJ is knocked off balance for a moment. Takedown from Taiki follows though and Tokoroís on his back in guard. Armbar attempt from Tokoro but Taiki pulls out and stands over him. Ref calls Tokoro back up. Taiki presses forward and stomps his foot randomly but doesnít really cut the ring off and Tokoro is just circling around him. Body kick from Taiki to counter a left hook. They exchange some kicks and then Tokoro clips him with a good counter right hand. They exchange punches and then Tokoro pulls guard and Taiki stands over him again kicking at the legs. Referee restarts them again and Tokoro drops him with a right hand, but Taiki pops right up and returns the favour with a left! Taiki tries to capitalize but Tokoro stays active from his back and prevents any offense, landing a couple of good upkicks in the process. Taiki stands over him again and the ref brings him up, and Tokoro swings wildly into the clinch where Taiki looks for some sort of hip throw. Referee breaks them for inactivity and Taiki presses looking to land punches, but neither guy really lands. Takedown attempt from Tokoro but Taiki does a good job of sprawling to defend, and he drops some knees to the top of the head for good measure. Tokoro goes to his back and tries upkicks, so Taiki stands over him until the ref restarts them. Tokoro comes flying in, but Taiki counters and lands a heavy combo that drops Tokoro, and from there he stuffs another takedown. Round ends with the DJ delivering some knee strikes.

2nd round and Taiki presses forward and lands a left high kick. Spinning backfist misses though and Tokoro tries to clinch, but ends up giving his back standing and Taiki suplexes him down. Tokoro quickly pops back up, but heís still stuck in the rear waistlock and now heís going for the kimura ala Sakuraba. Taiki breaks free with some hard punches into Tokoroís guard, and it looks like Tokoro might be in trouble here as heís covering up. Taiki stands over him like in the first round and the ref brings Tokoro up. Tokoro comes in with a winging combo, but heís eating shots on the counter and he ends up shooting for a takedown. Taiki sprawls to block it and the ref calls time to check a cut near Taikiís right eye. They restart with Tokoro still trying the takedown, but Taiki blocks it and so Tokoro pulls guard instead. He takes some punches from Taiki though and has to turn his back to escape to his feet. Theyíre clinched again now and Tokoro pulls guard again, but heís doing nothing offensive from his back and Taiki continues to land short punches. Bell sounds shortly after.

Iíve got the DJ taking this decision as really Tokoro had little in the way of offense while Taikiís ground-and-pound was solid and he got the better of the standing exchanges too. Judges all agree and Taikiís into the GP Quarter-Finals. Nothing to see here really although the fight wasnít noxious or anything like that. Just your average mid-level MMA bout.

-All eight of the Quarter-Finalists for the Featherweight GP enter the ring to pose with Taiki now. Our line-up is Kid Yamamoto, Bibiano Fernandes, Joe Warren, Abel Cullum, Masakazu Imanari, Yoshiro Maeda, Hiroyuki Takaya, and Taiki.

Welterweight Grand Prix: First Round: Andre Galvao vs John Alessio

Pretty interesting fight for the Welterweight GP, as Alessio is always one of the more solid guys at 170lbs outside of the Zuffa umbrella. Galvao is a BJJ wizard out of the Black House camp with Anderson Silva, etc, and his accomplishments in grappling are pretty insane, but I actually thought Alessio would give him a lot of problems with his takedown defense, particularly as this was only his third MMA bout. And holy shit, Alessio is only 29? Iím sure him and Aaron Riley use dog years or something to get their ages lower because those guys have been around FOREVER and donít seem to age.

Bell sounds and Alessio takes the center of the ring and fires out a couple of jabs. For a BJJ guy though Galvaoís striking doesnít look horribly stiff, well, heís at least got his hands high and his chin low. Finally he shoots in for a double leg, but Alessio quickly stuffs it and gets the hell out of there. Smart. Pity heís not getting really offensive, though. Another takedown attempt follows and this time Galvao pulls half-guard and really wraps the leg up to keep Alessio down on the ground. Galvaoís working for a sweep now and as they stand he takes Alessioís back with a rear waistlock. Knees to the legs from Galvao as Alessio tries to turn into him to get to a clinch situation. Suplex attempt from Galvao but Alessio grabs the ropes to block, ugh. He finally gets the Canadian down though and then hops onto the back with both hooks and John Alessio is most likely toast. Alessio works to defend the choke as Galvao locks in a body triangle and lands some good punches to the head. Alessio continues to defend the choke, but with about three minutes to go Galvao transitions into an armbar attempt. Alessio attempts to block and manages to land a knee to the head, but this armbar is still deep. He lands a couple more knees and then attempts to roll out, but he ends up rebounding off the ropes and Galvao quickly extends the arm for the tapout.

Well, with a BJJ guy as good as Galvao in a position like back mount itís always just going to be a matter of time before youíre tapping and that was definitely the case here. Alessio started off well but like with the Diego Sanchez fight he never truly opened up offensively for fear of the takedown and it cost him big time in the end.

Welterweight Grand Prix: First Round: Marius Zaromskis vs Seichi Ikemoto

Man, havenít seen Ikemoto fight since the PRIDE Bushido days. He was on a five-fight winning streak since his last loss in Bushido though. Zaromskis meanwhile was perhaps the least well known of all the participants, a Lithuanian striker fighting out of the London Shootfighters gym. Heíd fought mainly in Cage Rage before this, scoring some highlight reel wins there over the likes of Ross Pointon, but he did sport two losses to Che Mills on his record. Zaromskis makes his entrance wearing some kind of odd necklace and what appears to be the wig of a troll (as in those doll things). Apparently though heís dressed as a video game character called Akuma. Video game buffs will probably know who that is, but personally I donít and I donít give a crap frankly. Ikemoto is using some sort of awful R&B track as his theme, like Chris Brown or something equally disgusting. If I wasnít pulling for the guy to lose before, I am now.

Weíre underway and Zaromskis comes right out with a VAN DAMME SPINNING KICK!~! Ikemoto catches the foot though and takes him down off it. Bastard. Wild scramble on the ground brings them back up to their feet in a clinch, and the referee breaks them up. Couple of nice kicks from Ikemoto have Zaromskis backing up, and then he tries a flying double punch that misses. Alright, both of these dudes rule. They trade off with some punches that mostly miss and then Zaromskis lands a flying knee into the clinch. Takedown from Ikemoto into side mount but Marius scrambles to his feet again. They exchange some kicks with Zaromskis landing a couple of hard ones, and two good rights that follow a left high kick have Ikemoto backpedalling. Clinch and trip takedown from the Lithuanian and he lands in side mount, then stands over Ikemoto until the ref brings him up. Flying knee from Ikemoto clips him and then they wildly trade with Zaromskis landing a nice combination. Spinning back elbow and good low kick from Ikemoto. Both guys drop their hands to taunt the other and then Zaromskis hits him with a nasty leg kick. Ikemoto fires back with some kicks of his own and then catches the Lithuanian with a nice right hand in an exchange. This is a close fight actually. Left hand lands flush for Zaromskis and knocks Ikemoto off balance. Striking exchange continues with neither man really gaining the edge, although Zaromskis is swinging some serious power now. Ikemoto looks hurt with less than a minute to go and Zaromskis looks to land some real bombs, but the Japanese fighter is hanging tough. Big knee lands with just seconds on the clock for Zaromskis and the bell sounds there. Entertaining first round.

Round Two and both men again come out throwing kicks. Zaromskis blocks a takedown and so Ikemoto rolls onto his back trying to pull guard, but the Lithuanian stands over him. Unbelievable moment follows as Zaromskis tries a SOMERSAULT SPLASH!~! or something resembling one. Of course it does no damage and Ikemoto comes back up to his feet, but hey, points for style. And now weíre back to the striking exchange before Ikemoto shoots and gets a bodylock, managing to take Zaromskis down this time. Marius works into full guard and largely ties Ikemoto up, although the Japanese fighter manages to land with a few strikes from the top. Zaromskis kicks him away and scrambles to his feet, and from there Ikemoto comes charging forward a couple of times but walks into a counter right hand. Takedown attempt is stuffed by Zaromskis and he drops some knees onto the head of the turtled-up Ikemoto. Back up now and Zaromskis is comfortably outlanding Ikemoto with seconds to go. Right hand and high kick have Ikemoto staggered badly, and the Lithuanian goes to a barrage of knees from the plum clinch and uppercuts, but Ikemoto basically gets saved by the bell. Post-fight Ikemoto outright collapses to the ground.

This has to go to Zaromskis even if the fight was close for the majority, as the Lithuanian took over brutally at the end and was very close to finishing things. Sure enough the judges give it unanimously to Marius Zaromskis. Really fun fight there with both men busting out some unorthodox stuff between the usual striking exchanges. Especially the somersault thing!

Welterweight Grand Prix: First Round: Jason High vs Yuya Shirai

Wrestler High fights out of Antonio McKeeís Body Shop gym, and Iím not exaggerating when I say every DREAM fan should be thankful that it was High they entered into this tournament rather than McKee as we mightíve all been bored to sleep otherwise. At this stage High was 7-1, with his biggest win being over UFC fighter Kevin Burns and his last fight being a loss at the hands of Jay Hieron. Shirai meanwhile is another DEEP veteran who Iíve never heard of. High enters wearing a bandana covering his face, like Dan Hardy, except heís trying to be more Ďgangstaí than Ďoutlawí.

First round begins and High looks full of energy, bouncing around. Big combo decks Shirai quickly and High pounces and takes his back with both hooks. He goes for the rear naked choke instantly and itís locked in, and in classic Japanese fashion Shirai passes out rather than tap.

Man, High was impressive there. Just tore right through Shirai in a minute, and the funniest part is that the fight was probably more exciting than all of his coachís fights put together! Pity itís not a one-night tournament really as the dude would have a HUGE advantage going into the next round with such a short fight.

Welterweight Grand Prix: First Round: Hayato ĎMachí Sakurai vs Shinya Aoki

Huge fight in Japan for the main event, with DREAM posterboy Aoki stepping back up to Welterweight to attempt to avenge his second loss, which had come at the hands of Sakurai in late 2005. Sakurai then though was looking tremendous, ready to begin an impressive run in PRIDE, and since he had fallen from grace pretty heavily, beating largely smaller fighters and taking a disappointing loss to David Baron in his return to Shooto. While Sakuraiís still dangerous for anyone, I think most people expected Aoki to avenge his loss and move on in the tournament. Some fans even called this a set-up for Aoki, which, while ludicrous, just goes to show how far Sakurai had fallen in their eyes.

Weíre underway and Sakurai charges in, but gets taken down right away into a butterfly guard. Sakurai suddenly rolls him over though and lands a BARRAGE OF KNEES TO THE HEAD! Punches follow and AOKI IS OUT!~! Holy shit!

Damn! Did not expect that in a million years. Fight was literally over in like thirty seconds. Donít know if Aoki was completely overconfident or what, but I didnít expect him to be swept so easily and once Sakurai was on top, he landed a couple of hard shots and it was OVER. Massive victory for Sakurai whose career really needed something like this, while for Aoki that has to be an absolutely crushing defeat. Just crushing. Online people talked about Aoki being exposed as having a weak chin due to this and the Hansen fight, but hey, Iíve seen JZ crack Aoki, he has a chin; he just got caught cold here. Massive upset to end the night.

-Post fight the Final Four of Galvao, Zaromskis, High and Sakurai talk a little in the ring to build the semi-finals of the GP.

-With the main event ending so quickly Kenny tells us theyíre going to take a look back at a couple of past DREAM events, and show us Hansen-Aoki from DREAM 5 and Mousasi-Jacare from DREAM 6. Cool to see those finishes again. Especially Mousasiís upkick. Show ends there.

Final Thoughts....

DREAM 8 is a firmly middling show. No bad fights on the card Ė unless, of course, Minowa-Shibata really sucked Ė but thereís nothing truly outstanding either save for a couple of cool finishes in the form of Monson-Kharitonov, Galvao-Alessio, High-Shirai and Sakurai-Aoki. Elsewhere Zaromskis-Ikemoto was a lot of fun, but nothing else really stands out to be honest. The big upset in the main event alone makes it worth a look I guess. Thumbs in the middle.

Best Fight: Zaromskis-Ikemoto
Worst Fight: Rua-Fukuda

Overall Rating: ***

Coming Soon....

UFC: 95-101, Fight Night 18.
DREAM: 9-10.
WEC: 42
King of the Cage: Various shows

Until next time,

Scott Newman:

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