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DREAM 10 review
by Scott Newman (MMA)
Posted on August 28, 2009, 3:21 PM


Saitama, Japan

-Your hosts are Michael Schiavello and Guy Mezger. Schiavello tells us there’s no freaks, no giants, and no disgraced baseball players tonight, just proper fights for hardcore fans. HA. They discuss the fight card and then talk about the problems Mach Sakurai’s had in making weight for the GP, with Mezger blaming the fact that he hasn’t been training with Matt Hume for the issues. Looks like HDNet screwed up their timing again too as it takes FOREVER to get to the opening video package.

-Fighter introduction follows and there’s nothing to note really. I’m just thankful there’s no Minowaman or Shibata or Imanari or someone equally shitty like that on this card.

Welterweight Grand Prix: Alternate Bout: Tarec Saffiedine vs Seichi Ikemoto

Bit odd to see a debutant in the alternate bout, but whatever. I’ve actually never heard of Saffiedine before, but he’s a Belgian guy out of Team Quest with a record here of 6-1. Is it wrong that I hope this guy is awesome because he’s Belgian and thus could be like a real life Jean-Claude Van Damme? Ikemoto meanwhile had been eliminated in the opening round by Marius Zaromskis in that fight with the somersault splash attempt. Got to say as well, HDNet have left the Japanese pre-fight packages in on this show and they are BIZARRE. Well, it is Japan, what do you expect?

Round One begins and Ikemoto misses with his ludicrous jumping double punch. Into the clinch and the Belgian lands a knee or two as they muscle into the ropes. Referee breaks them quickly and Ikemoto looks to strike from the outside, but doesn’t land anything of note. Nice combination from Saffiedine ends with a body kick. Another combo ends with a leg kick, and this guy is mad quick. Ikemoto comes forward into the clinch again, but Saffiedine lands a couple of knees to the thighs. The Belgian looks for the takedown, but Ikemoto’s foot gets caught in the ropes and it prevents him from going down. They remain in the clinch and exchange some hard knees, with Saffiedine landing the better shots. Ref calls the break and they exchange some strikes, with Saffiedine really landing some nice combinations on the Japanese fighter. Ikemoto shoots for a double leg, but Saffiedine stuffs it and they end up clinched along the ropes again. Saffiedine lands some more knees to the thighs, and Ikemoto answers with one of his own before they break. Jumping double punch misses again for Ikemoto. Saffiedine is picking Ikemoto apart with his combinations for the most part here. He slips to his back on a high kick though and Ikemoto drops down into the Belgian’s guard. Couple of good punches from the top land for Ikemoto and then he stands over the guard and drops some more shots down. Saffiedine isn’t doing a great job of tying Ikemoto up really. Ikemoto advances into half-guard and then Saffiedine goes for the electric chair sweep, which Mezger claims doesn’t work in MMA. Tell that to Nate Marquardt, dude. Ikemoto passes to side mount, but Saffiedine uses the momentum to pop back to his feet in the clinch. Saffiedine looks for the takedown now, but Ikemoto stuffs it nicely and the referee separates them. Ikemoto pushes forward but takes a right hand from the Belgian, who then avoids the jumping double punch again. BIG one-two and a flying knee have Ikemoto rocked, and Saffiedine tries to follow up but Ikemoto manages to clinch. Referee breaks them swiftly and Saffiedine rocks him again with a left straight. Another combination lands for the Belgian and Ikemoto looks to be in trouble standing. Round ends with another heavy combination from Saffiedine.

Into the 2nd and we get more stand-up with the Belgian continuing to land combinations on Ikemoto who looks to be really struggling. Beautiful combo from Saffiedine snaps Ikemoto’s head back. Good counter right lands clean too. Ikemoto is coming forward but he can’t find his range seemingly and he keeps walking into counters and combos. Pair of overhand rights have Ikemoto stunned momentarily but he looks okay. Ikemoto shoots low on a double leg, but Saffiedine ends up on top and quickly passes to half-guard. He slides his way into side mount and lands with a knee to the body, and then goes to knee-on-belly position and takes full mount. Ikemoto tries to buck out, but Saffiedine goes for a leglock, only for Ikemoto to reverse to a heel hook attempt of his own. The Belgian slips out but Ikemoto ends up on top, but he can’t do anything with it and the fight comes to an end there.

Decision has to go to Saffiedine and sure enough all of the judges score it for the Belgian. He looked really good here, picking apart Ikemoto standing and did some good work on the ground too, and to be honest I think he would’ve made the semi-finals of the GP if he’d have been entered in it. I look forward to seeing this guy fight again.

Welterweight Grand Prix: Semi-Finals: Hayato ‘Mach’ Sakurai vs Marius Zaromskis

Sakurai’s win over Shinya Aoki had been the big upset in the opening round of the GP although to be fair styles make fights and taking that into account, perhaps it wasn’t such a big upset. As is often the case with Mach though he doesn’t look to be in the greatest shape here, although he was the favourite overall to take the GP. Lithuanian striker Zaromskis had eliminated Ikemoto in the opening round in an exciting fight, and he’s dressed as the video game character again for his entrance. He also uses The Final Countdown as his entrance theme and thus I am rooting for him. Massive pop for Sakurai’s entrance, naturally.

We begin and Zaromskis comes out and attempts a flying knee that misses. Right hand from Sakurai clips him. Knee from Sakurai and a combo follows and these guys are going at quite the pace. Body kick from Zaromskis is answered by a body punch from Sakurai, and then Zaromskis counters a leg kick with a right hand. NICE right hand and a stiff straight left wobble Mach but he recovers quickly. Left high kick and flying knee follows and Sakurai is forced into the clinch. They muscle for position and then the ref breaks them, and Sakurai counters a low kick with a good right hand. These guys are trading openly and I would say it’s dangerous for Sakurai as Zaromskis is incredibly explosive. Good counter right from Sakurai though. Takedown from Sakurai and they nearly fall out of the ring. Ref restarts them in the center inside Zaromskis’ half-guard. Great work from Zaromskis to get back to his feet, and Sakurai shoots again but this time Zaromskis stuffs it. Jumping knee and right hand from the Lithuanian. Nice double jab from Zaromskis and Sakurai’s cut on the left eye now. Sakurai lands another right to counter a low kick though, and Zaromskis has to be careful with that. Exchange continues and Mach lands with a nice knee. They’re continuing to trade here and both men are taking their fair share of shots. Referee steps in on a brief lull to clean Sakurai’s cut, and it looks like it’s under the eye. Ah, he actually has two cuts, one under the eye and one over it. Mach is good to go and Sakurai lands with a good left hook in an exchange. Suddenly a BIG LEFT HIGH KICK absolutely FOLDS Sakurai, and Zaromskis follows up for the finish! Man, that ending came literally from NOWHERE.

Tremendously exciting fight with a crazy ending and an upset to boot. Sakurai might’ve been slowed down a little from the weight issues but he still caught Zaromskis with some hard shots here, and the Lithuanian took them LIKE A MAN and was still able to outstrike Mach, killing him dead with that high kick in the end. Zaromskis is an explosive bastard and he’s now in the finals.

Welterweight Grand Prix: Semi-Finals: Jason High vs Andre Galvao

Wrestler High had put in one of the more impressive showings in the opening round, choking out his opponent in about a minute, but I expected him to fall victim to BJJ expert Galvao in this fight, as Galvao had already put away a very accomplished fighter in John Alessio, and looked to have a massive advantage on the ground. In fact Galvao was my pick overall to take the GP. High’s entrance is dope, such a wannabe gangsta with his bandana and flash gold chain.

We get underway and they exchange a couple of strikes before High catches a kick and gets a takedown. Galvao sweeps him as soon as they hit the mat, but High manages to reverse that and gets back on top. Galvao’s working for a sweep again right away, from half-guard, but High does a good job to avoid it and manages to land a couple of hammer fists too. High turns his back though, and Galvao comes to his feet in a rear waistlock. Referee breaks them up and now High counters a low kick and drops him with a left! High drops down to do some more damage with a hammer fist, but Galvao looks recovered quickly and he goes for a leglock from the bottom. High looks in trouble as Galvao tries to lock up a kneebar and then a toehold, but High tries to scramble his way out. Galvao turns into a toehold/kneebar combo and High’s leg looks to be under some serious pressure, but he refuses to tap and tries to kick him off with the other leg. Referee’s calling for action, is he on pills? Galvao’s practically got a submission sunk in! High manages to free his leg though, but Galvao tackles him and takes top position, passing into half-guard quickly. Elbows to the body and then Galvao mounts and takes the back with a body triangle. High grabs the hands to block the rear naked choke, as Galvao looks to set it up with some chopping punches. Choke looks sunk in, but High tucks his chin as best he can and manages to survive it. With two minutes to go High turns back to mount, but then gives his back again and once more he’s locked in the body triangle. Galvao is schooling him on the ground here. Schiavello with the line of the night, saying High’s been “mounted more times than Jenna Haze”. HA. Full mount now for Galvao and then he gets the back and flattens him out, but he still can’t close out the choke despite having dominant position for like four or five minutes. I have Galvao WAY ahead going into the 2nd.

Second round and High opens with a nice left knee and a flurry that causes Galvao to drop to his back. High follows him into the guard, then decides better of it and stands back up. Ref calls Galvao up and he lands a right hand and blocks a counter-combo. Galvao is breathing very heavily now though. Good leg kick from High. Left body kick lands for High and he follows with a combo, although Galvao blocks the majority of it. Single leg attempt from Galvao is easily stuffed and High refuses to follow him to the ground. Good right hand from Galvao as High comes forward. Two minutes to go and Galvao slips on a high kick and stays down, but High refuses to go into the guard. We’re back to standing and High lands with another body kick. High has less than a minute to make something happen here I think. He does land a left hand, but he can’t seem to catch Galvao cleanly. Good body kick from High. Another one follows after a blocked combo, but he can’t follow that as the bell sounds.

Decision has to be Galvao’s I think; High did much better in the second round but I think Galvao’s sheer domination in the first round should pull him through. One judge has it for High, one for Galvao, and the third has it for Jason High, giving him a split decision. Huh. Don’t see that at all myself. I mean sure, he ended the fight stronger, but Galvao tooled him in the first round. I’m sure some would say that in a non-sporting fight High wins because he was in control at the end, but in a non-sporting fight then there wouldn’t be a round break and Galvao would’ve eventually choked High unconscious. Fight was good, if not a total barnburner, but that was an awful, awful decision in my opinion. DREAM’s normally not too horrible with the judging as some Japanese promotions are, but this was bullshit. So it’s Zaromskis-High in the final round.

-Hiroyuki Takaya, Hideo Tokoro and Minowaman join us to cut promos about their upcoming fights in their respective Grand Prix’. Naturally I don’t care.

Katsunori Kikuno vs Andre Dida

Never heard of Kikuno before but his record is certainly impressive; 11-1-1 and he’s also the reigning DEEP champion I believe. Dida meanwhile hadn’t fought in DREAM since his loss to Eddie Alvarez at the inaugural show, no idea why that was as the guy is always exciting pretty much. Entrances are fucking tremendous here. Kikuno out to some Japanese power ballad that sounds like it’s right out of 1989, while Dida comes dancing out to Bob Marley. Nobody does entrances quite like DREAM.

First round and Dida comes out SWINGING. Kikuno manages to avoid the early barrage but he gets decked with a right hand counter to a low kick. Good chin though as he pops right up. Kikuno’s stance is very odd though, chin waaay high up with his hands lunging out. Looks like Koji Oishi back at UFC 53 against Nick Diaz actually. They circle with little happening and Kikuno is randomly grinning. Finally Kikuno lands a body kick and clinches, but then breaks off quickly. Referee calls time as they continue to circle aimlessly and he warns them both before restarting. We continue to circle before Kikuno hurts him with a body kick and takes him right down to mount! Dida gives his back and Kikuno just OPENS UP with heavy punches to the head, causing Dida to cover up without defending, and the referee stops it there!

Did not expect that result, that’s for sure. Fight sucked for the full four minutes or so right up to the ending, but boy did Kikuno turn it up for that ending. Good lord. Totally destroyed Dida on the ground. The stance he had early would’ve gotten him killed against a lot of fighters but for some reason Dida just didn’t capitalize and in the end it cost him big time.

Paulo Filho vs Melvin Manhoef

Bit of a controversial one here as Filho had washed out of the WEC in late 2008 with problems with substance abuse, and he’d looked in awful shape then, but since signing with the Japanese promotion (which doesn’t test for steroids) he’d suddenly got back into his 2006-ish shape and looked perfectly fine again. How about that. Shitty stuff if I’m honest as it’s my opinion that all promotions should crack down on steroid abuse in MMA. Anyway, with Melvin’s game still being awesome on the feet, awful on the ground, the general consensus here was that if Filho stood with the guy he was dead, but if he could take the Dutchman down then he’d almost be guaranteed a win. Got to mention too, Filho’s new tattoos SUCK. I mean ‘Reward Hunter’? What the hell does that mean?

And we’re underway. Melvin pushes forward and Filho wastes no time in looking for a double leg. Manhoef blocks it and they muscle for position, and then Melvin LANDS with a left hand and GOES CRAZY with a wild flurry that has Filho badly hurt! Filho manages to get back to the clinch but Manhoef breaks with a HUGE ONE-TWO and now he’s just KILLING Paulo with punches along the ropes! MASSIVE LEFT HOOK and then a barrage of shots to the body and head collapse Filho down in the corner, and the Brazilian desperately tries to get half-guard to slow things down. Melvin drops some brutal shots down onto him and then he decides to call things back up to the feet. High kick from Manhoef and Filho still looks wobbly to me. Another brutal combo follows from the Dutchman but this time Filho catches him off balance and GETS THE TAKEDOWN! He’s in half-guard but he instantly steps into full mount, and from there he inches up and GETS THE ARMBAR! MELVIN TAPS!~!

Holy shit. Fight lasted like two and a half minutes but what a two and a half minutes it was! Manhoef landed some BOMBS there that would’ve decked a rhino, and I really have no idea how Filho survived; regardless of his problems you’ve got to give him respect for getting through a barrage like that, but once he’d weathered the storm and managed to get Manhoef down, he still had enough about him to tap the Dutchman out. Honestly that was one of the most exciting fights I’ve ever seen. I’d maybe say it was too short to be a genuine FOTYC but hell, when a fight’s that exciting does it matter that it was short? Jaw-dropping stuff.

-Intermission follows as the announcers discuss the card so far and then Ron Kruck takes a look at the semi-finalists of the Featherweight GP. They actually show the WHOLE Super Hulk Tournament too as the fights were so quick.

-Kazushi Sakuraba comes out to the ring and calls out Yoshihiro Akiyama. Um, does he realize Akiyama’s signed with UFC these days?

Jesse Taylor vs Yoon Dong Sik

This one was thrown together on short notice if I recall correctly, and incredibly it was Taylor’s sixth fight of 2009 and came just nine days after his previous one. To his credit since losing to CB Dollaway in the UFC he was unbeaten in six, although his competition was pretty poor. I’ve never been too impressed with him though and was taking the ever-improving Dong to submit him in the first round.

First round begins and JT Money shoots for a double leg early. Dong pops back to his feet but Taylor gets his back and wrestles him down a couple of times, winding up in side mount. Dong tries to work back into half-guard but Taylor is all over him and he takes the back and goes for a rear naked choke. He’s only got one hook in though and Dong slips to his feet, but as JT takes him down again Dong complains of something and the ref stops the fight. Not sure of what happened there but it looks like an injury of some kind. Replay shows Dong seemed to blow out his ankle on the takedown and they end up taking him out in a wheelchair. Awful luck for Dong but hey, these things happen in MMA I guess. Not much of a fight at all.

Shinya Aoki vs Vitor ‘Shaolin’ Ribeiro

This to me was one of the best fights on paper of the whole year. Two of the very greatest grapplers, pound-for-pound, in all of MMA, going at it. On the feet I gave the slight edge to Shaolin, but really neither guy is a striker so it looked to be a grappling battle and a close one at that. As a long time fanboy of Ribeiro though I thought his tighter top game and positional skill could neutralize Aoki’s dangerous guard, meaning Vitor would either take a decision or pound Aoki out late in the fight. Strangely enough Aoki’s got board shorts over his long tights for this fight. So odd.

We begin and Aoki comes out throwing kicks, oddly enough. Good jab from Shaolin lands with about a minute gone. Aoki continues to throw kicks at the body, although a lot of them are being blocked by Shaolin’s forearms. Shaolin’s arms are going red and swollen already actually from the kicks. Shaolin finally closes the distance, but Aoki surprises him with a knee from the plum clinch and they break. Aoki continues to throw the body kicks. Who would have ever expected this from these two? Clinch from Ribeiro but Aoki fends him off and it looks for a second like he’s raking Shaolin’s eyes in fact. Pretty vile tactic if that were the case, announcers don’t pick up on it though. Right hand breaks for Aoki. Aoki goes back to the kicks and Shaolin seems to be struggling to get any punches off, probably having trouble with the length of the Japanese fighter. More kicks from Aoki and to be honest this is becoming frustrating now, particularly as a fan of Shaolin. Couple of jabs land for the Brazilian to little effect and Aoki gets back to kicking, trying to land to the body but most of the time connecting with the forearms. Finally Shaolin goes for a double leg, but Aoki does a good job of stuffing the takedown, breaking off. Probably the first time Aoki’s ever stuffed a takedown in fact! More of the same follows and Shaolin’s forearms are now purple. Single leg attempt from Ribeiro but again Aoki blocks it. Big overhand right from Shaolin narrowly misses. Good leg kick from Aoki. Takedown attempt from Shaolin is easily blocked and Aoki lands with a knee to the face and a body kick. Round ends shortly afterwards. Well, that was certainly different.

Round Two and Shaolin opens with a snapping jab and a right hand. Aoki comes back with the body kick and then lands a jumping knee before transitioning to a rear waistlock. He tries to trip Shaolin down but Ribeiro drops to the ground and then escapes to his feet. Leg kick from Aoki and then Shaolin shoots on a single leg, but as Aoki blocks it he takes an inadvertent headbutt and the ref calls time. Aoki’s fine to continue and restarts with a body kick. Shaolin swings into a clinch but takes a knee and then Aoki breaks off. Finally Shaolin catches a knee strike and gets a takedown to Aoki’s guard! Aoki immediately tries to tie him up as opposed to going for any submissions, and Shaolin goes to some knee strikes to the tailbone and chopping punches to the midsection and head. Aoki goes to the rubber guard but only keeps it for a moment before settling back into a regular closed guard. Shaolin continues to land with punches but really Aoki’s taking very little damage here. Fight ends with Shaolin landing punches to the body and head, but it’s too little, too late I think.

Judges have it as a unanimous decision for Shinya Aoki, unsurprisingly. Well, on one hand, the fight wasn’t *bad* as such, not like Imanari’s fight from the last DREAM show, as Aoki at least did quite a decent amount of damage with his kicks. On the other hand though, man, what a letdown. I mean online fans knock certain UFC lightweights for ignoring their grappling talents and putting on b-level kickboxing fights, but in those terms this fight has to take the cake. Not that you can blame Aoki I guess as he did what he had to do to win, but to see these guys go for fifteen minutes and only do like two minutes of ground work was incredibly disappointing. Why Shaolin didn’t go for more takedowns I don’t know, and to be honest his stand-up has always looked better before than it did here, too. Ring rust perhaps as his only other recent fight was against a total tomato can. To say this didn’t live up to expectations would be a huge understatement.

-Tatsuya Kawajiri enters the ring and talks about his recent K1 Max loss to Masato, apologising for his performance there (though there’s no shame in Kawajiri, a wrestling-based guy, losing to a top-ranked kickboxer in a K1 match) and then he talks about a possible NYE match with Aoki. I’d take Kawajiri there I think, but then I said that JZ, Alvarez and Shaolin would beat Aoki and they all lost so who knows?

Welterweight Grand Prix: Finals: Marius Zaromskis vs Jason High

Ha, who would’ve called these two in the finals then? I personally figured it was almost guaranteed that we’d see Mach vs. Galvao here. Interesting to see two upsets in the semis although I’d still argue Galvao deserved the decision over High. Advantage on paper had to go to Zaromskis simply because his fight only lasted like three minutes while High’s semi-final went the distance. High comes out this time waving a samurai sword around. And it’s worth mentioning twice, if you don’t love Zaromskis entering to The Final Countdown then you suck. National anthems play pre-fight as it’s a title bout, and sadly we’re deprived of hearing God Save The Queen as Zaromskis is Lithuanian-born despite training out of London Shootfighters. Total tangent too but with the emergence of Zaromskis and John Hathaway this year that gym’s gotten more publicity than it has in years, at least since Lee Murray changed careers from MMA fighter to Criminal Mastermind. Plus if I’m right Alex Reid trains out of there too and he’s never out of the British tabloids these days! It’s actually scary when you think that outside of people who actually watch MMA, the Reidernator is perhaps the most well-known fighter in the country now. Anyway, the final bout!

We’re underway and Zaromskis immediately comes out with a jumping knee! High grabs hold of him and looks for a slam, but Marius blocks it and they go into a clinch. High tries to muscle him down but Zaromskis does a tremendous job of remaining on his feet. High manages to trip him down into guard, and Marius immediately looks to tie him up and stall for the stand-up. High though is an Antonio McKee student so no doubt he’s used to lying in the guard doing very little. High tries to advance position though and this allows Zaromskis to explode up to his feet, but High quickly grabs a guillotine and jumps to guard. Zaromskis pops his head out and puts High on his back in a closed guard, and then stands to avoid an armbar. They circle and High gets tagged by a combo, but manages to block the left high kick. High keeps stepping in and looking for the takedown without changing levels, prompting Mezger to say that he’s going to get caught if he continues to do that. And literally a second later Zaromskis ENDS HIS FUCKING LIFE WITH A SICK RIGHT HIGH KICK!~! WHOO!~!

Replay shows High was unconscious before he even hit the floor, good lord. That was up there with Gonzaga over Cro Cop and Evans over Salmon as far as high kick knockouts go. Off the top of my head that’s the knockout of the year thus far. Well, maybe Henderson-Bisping but it’s very close. Absolutely sickening stuff. And thus Zaromskis, the big underdog coming in, is your NEW DREAM Welterweight champion. Personally though I’m hoping this opens the door to a UFC deal for him once his DREAM contract is up, as can you imagine a match between him and say, Thiago Alves, or Dan Hardy, or Marcus Davis? Fireworks guaranteed. Two awesome performances from the Lithuanian on this night and two sickening knockouts. Gotta love it.

-Post-fight they present Zaromskis with his title belt, as well as presenting Sakurai, Galvao and High awards too. Sakurai’s face looks like hell from his fight with Zaromskis, naturally. No clue how High is even able to stand to collect his second place award, either.

-Announcers wrap up the night’s action and we end things there.

Final Thoughts....

I thought this was a tremendous show and easily one of the best that DREAM has put on thus far. Shaolin-Aoki was a letdown in terms of the style of the fight, but it didn’t outright suck and practically everything else is great, from the absolutely insane Filho-Manhoef clash to Zaromskis cementing himself as a superstar-in-the-making with two sickening knockouts to take the Grand Prix. Sure, nothing was as good as say, Kawajiri-Alvarez, but this time DREAM got rid of the silly matches and rubbish fighters (goodbye Minowaman! Sayonara Shibata!) and it made for a much more streamlined, enjoyable show. Thumbs way up for this one.

Best Fight: Filho-Manhoef
Worst Fight: Aoki-Shaolin

Overall Rating: ****1/4

Coming Soon....

UFC: 95-101, Fight Night 18.
King of the Cage: Various shows

Until next time,

Scott Newman:

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