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DREAM 11 review
by Scott Newman (MMA)
Posted on October 28, 2009, 4:27 PM

DREAM 11: Featherweight Grand Prix 2009 Finals

10/06/09
Yokohama, Japan


-Your hosts are Michael Schiavello (who is really growing on me, actually) and Guy Mezger. They run down the card and then we get an opening video package set to a Michael Jackson track (History). No idea why!

-Opening ceremony follows and naturally the production levels are ridiculous.

Featherweight Grand Prix: Alternate Bout: Kazuyuki Miyata vs DJ Taiki

I guess Miyata cut weight to make the Featherweight limit as Iíve never seen him fight at that weight before if I recall correctly and man, heís probably the most cut up fighter I have EVER seen, no joke, like the body fat percentage of a pro bodybuilder at show time or something. Whole pre-fight video package is centered around his muscles in fact, like a bodybuilding promo. Taiki actually didnít lose in the tournament, but pulled out with injury after the opening round and got replaced with the guy he beat, Hideo Tokoro. Miyata enters to Bon Jovi meaning Iím rooting for him.

We begin and both men look tentative, pressing the action without really throwing any major strikes. They clinch up and Miyata takes him down and then gets his back in a nice move. Heís got one hook in and he controls Taiki nicely, putting a half body triangle on around one leg, if that makes sense. Miyata sort of slips out and it looks like heís going for Eddie Bravoís vaunted twister hold, but Miyata turns into him and weíre basically at a stalemate here, very odd position. Referee ends up breaking them and restarting them on the feet, but they look tentative standing again before Miyata clinches and looks for the takedown again. Uppercut from Taiki breaks off and they exchange some punches from distance, with Miyata landing a nice right hand. Double leg from Miyata puts Taiki down in half-guard. Few punches land for Miyata from the top and itís looking like this round is clearly his. Couple of knees to the body land for good measure too. Miyata passes to side mount and then takes the back with an over/under, but Taiki manages to roll and ends up under side mount again. Knees to the head and elbows to the body from Miyata, but Taiki doesnít look badly hurt or anything. Mount from Miyata now and it looks like heís setting up for an arm triangle, before deciding to just rain down punches. Taiki finally looks in trouble and he gives his back again, but takes some hammer fists to the head until the round comes to an end.

Second round and Taiki comes out more aggressively with low kicks, but takes a knee early on. Takedown from Miyata follows into Taikiís guard and he stacks up to drop some punches. Taiki manages to escape to his feet, and looks to throw strikes, but itís only momentary as Miyata quickly slams him back to the ground in guard. Taiki rolls through and gets to his feet again, but Miyata quickly grabs him and double legs him back down. Itís looking like Miyataís wrestling is just too much for the DJ. Again Taiki manages to kick him away and escape to his feet, where he lands a pair of low kicks, but Miyata drops for the takedown again and gets him back down. Miyata is looking tired now though and Taikiís got a guillotine! Crowd are going pretty crazy as Miyata looks in trouble, but he manages to pull his head free. Taiki looks to escape again and then goes for a kimura, but he gives his back as they stand and Miyata gives him a weak suplex to bring him back to the ground. Seconds remaining now and Miyata keeps top position to finish the fight.

Decision has to go to Miyata I think and sure enough itís a unanimous decision for the ripped one. Taiki tried his best, but he just couldnít cope with the wrestling of Miyata even when Miyata got tired near the end, and that proved to be the difference. Pretty dull-ish fight for the most part though.

Featherweight Grand Prix: Semi Finals: Hideo Tokoro vs Hiroyuki Takaya

The two remaining Japanese fighters in the tournament were of course matched with one another in the semis to guarantee a native guy in the finals, despite (in my opinion anyway) both fighters in the other semi being stronger. Although I prefer to watch Tokoro as heís far more exciting, Takayaís a bit bigger and hits harder and so I expected him to take this one.

Round One begins and Tokoro looks to stay on the outside to avoid the power punching of Takaya. Left high kick by Tokoro but Takaya shrugs off a clinch attempt. Weíve got little action thus far as Tokoro is staying firmly on his bike. Right hand finally lands for Tokoro but he looks okay. Tokoro slips on a high kick and Takaya channels Brock Lesnar and CHARGES into him like a rugby tackle. Tokoro pops back up and they trade some punches, the pace beginning to pick up now. Couple of kicks land for Tokoro and then he shoots and decides to pull guard. Takayaís having none of that though and he stands and kicks at the legs of Tokoro. Ref brings him back up and the striking exchange continues with Tokoro doing surprisingly well. No sooner have I said that though that Takaya cracks him with a right hand that puts him back on the retreat. Tokoro recovers and the exchange continues, but Takayaís throwing a lot more power into his shots and Tokoro has to be careful here. Big right counter lands again for Takaya. Tokoro shoots in again and pulls guard, but once more Takayaís having none of it and he stands and kicks the legs. Desperate single leg attempt from Tokoro follows, but Takaya does a good job of stuffing the takedown and they clinch against the ropes. Knee from the clinch drops Tokoro back down, but I think he was trying to entice Takaya down there.

Back to the feet and now Tokoro gets staggered by a right hand. Takaya is beginning to take over now. Combo wobbles Tokoro badly and he pulls guard. Takaya decides to stand and kick the legs again, and as before the ref calls Tokoro up. They trade punches again and then Tokoro lands a glancing flying knee. Takaya looks to answer but gets caught with a right hand and heís in trouble! Crowd EXPLODE as Tokoro looks to swarm on him, dropping him with a BIG LEFT, but inexplicably he decides to jump to guard! Man, why would Tokoro do that?! This is just giving Takaya a chance to recover! Massive mistake from Tokoro and sure enough Takaya takes the opportunity to recover and then he postures up and MAKES TOKORO PAY FOR THE MISTAKE as he opens up with some BRUTAL ground-and-pound and it looks like the refís stopped it! Takaya begins to celebrate wildly....but it turns out that the bellís sounded to signal the end of the round and weíre going into the second! Good lord. Tokoro looks pretty out of it between rounds though and thereís no way heís surviving the second.

Second round begins and Tokoro comes out swinging, but he still looks wobbly and gets hurt by a right hand counter early. Tokoro tries for a takedown and then pulls guard, but gets smashed by some punches as soon as he hits the ground and this time itís unsurprisingly over.

Well, that started off slow but once it got going, man what a fight it turned into. Takaya looked to be in firm control as he just had more power in his punches, but then Tokoro somehow caught him and looked like he had him on the verge of finishing before he decided to pull guard. I mean, I really have no idea what possessed him to do that, as it turned out to be his downfall too. Really stupid move for him to make. Great fight, though. Takaya advances to the finals.

Featherweight Grand Prix: Semi Finals: Bibiano Fernandes vs Joe Warren

Warrenís run to the finals was one of the more surprising stories of 2009, as he upset former WEC champion Chase Beebe and then Japanese hero Kid Yamamoto to get there, but stylistically this was the hardest fight for him yet Ė a world-class BJJ guy in Fernandes whoís not bad standing either. For the Greco-Roman wrestler Warren to win he would really have to grind something special out here, despite the bookmakers making him the hot favourite coming in. Personally I expected Bibiano to submit him early on and go on to take the tournament.

Weíre underway and Warren throws a high kick and a left hook into the clinch. Takedown from Warren but Fernandes quickly muscles back to his feet. Right hand breaks for Bibiano and he throws a low kick, but Warren catches it and looks for the takedown again. BIG SLAM from Warren puts Bibiano in guard, but literally seconds after they hit the mat the Brazilian locks up an armbar and rolls into it, and the ref steps in and calls it there!

Post-fight Warren looks furious with the stoppage before Fernandes loses his temper big time, flips Warren off and storms out of the ring and heads backstage. Huh. Donít know if that was to do with Warren claiming he didnít tap or the pre-fight trash talk that saw Warren accuse Bibiano of being scared. Replays show ambiguity on whether Warren tapped or not, but even if he didnít Bibiano wouldíve snapped his arm as the submission was seriously deep, so I donít see how he can complain. His name isnít Chael Sonnen, damnit!

Super-Hulk Tournament: Semi Finals: Minowaman vs Hong Man Choi

Alright, hands up if you actually wanted to see this fight? Nope, didnít think so. If the Super-Hulk Tournament wasnít ludicrous enough to begin with, well, to see one of these jokers make it to the finals just makes it worse. Do I need to say any more really? Choi obviously outsizes Minowaman ridiculously, but then again heís basically a walking corpse at this point who isnít capable of beating anyone outside of Jose Canseco. Urgh.

Weíre underway and Iím praying this doesnít go long. Minowaman moves around on the outside and tries a rolling somersault takedown/kick thing that fails miserably. Takedown attempt from Minowa finally happens and he pulls guard, but Choiís having none of it and he drags Minowa across the ring. Reversal from Minowaman puts Choi on his back for a second, but he quickly powers out and escapes to his feet. Oh, the DRAMA. Rolling guard pull fails again and now he circles out again as NOTHING HAPPENS. Minowa pulls guard a couple of times but he canít get anything and Choi stands back up again. Big right hand lands for Minowa but Choiís fine. Takedown attempt from Minowaman and he gets him down in side mount, popping the crowd hugely. Knees to the body land for Minowa but surprisingly heís not going for a submission. Minowa peppers him with some strikes but this is dull as hell and a waste of everyoneís time to boot. Referee decides to stand them with a couple of minutes to go. Weak takedown attempt from Minowa and he pulls guard and takes a couple of shots, but Minowa pushes off and stands. This is perhaps the worst fight Iíve ever seen, and Iíve seen some shitty stuff in my time. More of the same follows with Minowa pulling guard and taking some crap punches from the giant until the round mercifully ends. But we have a second coming up! God help me. God help us all in fact, because some Japanese people somehow find this shit entertaining.

Second round begins and itís same shit, different round until Minowaman finally gets the big lug off his feet and applies his trademark Achilles lock for the tapout. Crowd and the announcers treat it like a huge deal and a big upset, but didnít Gracie Jiu-Jitsu teach us back in 1993 that a skilled small man will beat a shitty big man? Sigh. Thatís fifteen minutes of my life Iíll never get back. I wonít call it the worst fight of all time but itís definitely up there, no doubt about it.

Super-Hulk Tournament: Semi-Finals: Rameau Thierry Sokoudjou vs Bob Sapp

So basically the one redeeming point of the Super-Hulk tourney was the possibility of a Sokoudjou-Gegard Mousasi fight, and it did look like weíd get that when they were matched together in the semis. Of course, Mousasi wound up pulling out due to injury and the tournament descended further into the realm of absolute joke as Bob Sapp Ė once dangerous, but now reduced to going foetal before tapping to strikes in like, all of his fights Ė stepped in. Basically as a fan of Sokoís I was just hoping this would be easy target practice for him. Sapp knows how to make an entrance, Iíll give him that, aping Ric Flair. This guy would really be far better off sticking to pro-wrestling where men wouldnít actually have to hit him, you know.

We begin and Sapp bulls out of his corner, taking a leg kick en route to clinching with the African. Sokoudjou lands a left hook and then gets a takedown after ducking a haymaker. Into side mount for Sokoudjou and he gets a knee on the belly and begins to rain down punches, and SHOCK HORROR Sapp goes foetal and the ref has to step in to stop things. And like the Jan Njorte fight Sokoudjou continues to whack him slightly after the stoppage. You know what? I donít like that behaviour from Sokoudjou but if he pulls it on Minowaman on NYE at Dynamite in the finals then I really wonít mind.

Fight went exactly how every man and his dog had expected. Basically a waste of time but hey, a win is a win for the African Assassin.

Tatsuya Kawajiri vs Melchor Barracuda

I mentioned easy target practice in the last write-up and continuing on that theme we have this fight. See, Kawajiri is a talented guy, arguably top ten (although I wouldnít put him there for reasons weíll discuss later) but here he is, faced with Melchor Barracuda whoís a mighty 2-3 and hadnít fought since 2006. Sure, itíd be fair enough to not be able to find Kawajiri a real top-notch opponent but are you honestly telling me this guy is the best FEG could dig out? Absolutely ludicrous. DREAM do sort of redeem themselves by giving us a Kawajiri video package set to Aerosmith, however.

First round and the Barracuda actually comes out swinging for the fences and backs Kawajiri into the corner, looking for a takedown, but Kawajiri blocks it and trips him down. Into half-guard for the Crusher and he works to pass that as Barracuda tries to land some small punches from his back. Ref calls for action as Kawajiri works with some short ground-and-pound, and finally he passes to full mount and begins to open up with punches, keeping a beautifully tight mount. Barracuda looks to be in trouble and begins to cover up, not really defending himself, and so the referee calls it there.

Total squash, but thankfully Kawajiri didnít play with his food and kept it short and sweet. See, this is why I canít rank Kawajiri in good conscience Ė I like him a lot, and heís a fantastic fighter, but when UFC has guys just as talented like Tyson Griffin, Frank Edgar, Sean Sherk, Gray Maynard, Diego Sanchez, Kenny Florian et al and they actually fight one another as opposed to tomato cans like this, how can Kawajiri warrant a high ranking? Post-fight he challenges the Hansen-Aoki winner for a title match on NYE, which would finally be a good match for him.

-Intermission follows including a promo for DREAM 12, which is labelled ďthe great experimentĒ as itís taking place in a cage! Finally! Hopefully itís an experiment that turns into something regular as the cage is far better for MMA than the ring. And following this, Yoshiro Maeda, Katsunori Kikuno and Kuniyoshi Hironaka enter the ring to talk about their fights coming up at DREAM 12.

Kazushi Sakuraba vs Rubin Williams

Who is Williams, you ask? A pro-boxer, whose most meaningful fight came in a 2005 loss to Jeff Lacy. You tell me why heís here fighting Sakuraba of all people. At least Sakuraba wasnít likely to get hurt here I guess. Sigh.

Weíre underway and Sakuraba circles around the outside and lands a few leg kicks. Williams looks hurt by them right away, and just looks clueless as to how to find his range when Sakurabaís not punching. Hilarious line from Schiavello on commentary as he says that trying to figure out what Sakurabaís going to do next is ďas hard as finding a pubic hair at a Jonas Brothers concertĒ. HA. Easy single leg from Saku down to side mount, and he lands a couple of hammer fists, then decides to slap Williams on the back. Kimura follows and the boxer taps out, with Schiavello yelling YES, YES, YES, YES on commentary like heís having an orgasm. Or trying to mimic Diego Sanchezís mad cool entrance.

Total squash and quite rightfully so with a skilled guy against an MMA novice. Sakuraba still shouldnít be fighting, though.

DREAM Lightweight Title: Joachim Hansen vs Shinya Aoki

This one had been building for some time, after Hansen came into the Lightweight GP Finals as an alternate in 2008 and ended up smashing through Aoki to take the title. Since then Hansen hadnít fought, while Aoki had been on a tear (at Lightweight at least), taking out Eddie Alvarez and Vitor Shaolin en route to another title shot. I freely admit Iím not a fan of Aokiís and so I was pulling for Hansen to get the same result as the last time they fought, although admittedly, I worried for Joachim due to his long layoff.

We get underway and they exchange a couple of tentative feeler strikes before Aoki grabs ahold of him and looks to take him down. Hansen tries to block but Aoki gets double underhooks and trips him down to side mount. Aoki puts himself into half-guard to make a mount attempt, but Hansen keeps it tight and blocks it. Butterfly guard now from Hansen and he looks to kick Aoki off as they spin around for a second before settling back into the half-guard. Aoki stacks up to drop a couple of punches, but Hansen has butterfly guard again and Aoki isnít really doing much from the top to be honest. Hansen gets his legs up and it looks like he might be going for an armbar, but instead he pushes off and looks to explode to his feet. Aoki tries to double-leg him and gets him down again, back into the butterfly guard. Aoki works into half-guard again but Hansen quickly gets the butterfly back, really good work from him. Good upkick from Hansen as Aoki looks to improve position but winds up in the half-guard still. Suddenly a pair of nice upkicks look to have Aoki hurt, but the ref steps in and calls time. Hmm. We need a replay on that as the ref was in the way, and Aoki looks to be complaining about being hit in the back of the head as heís holding it and looks dizzied. Replay appears to show Aoki being kicked in the groin prior to the upkick, but if thatís the case then why are the officials checking his eyes? This is shady as hell in my opinion. Naturally, being Aoki he milks it for all itís worth and this check goes over FOREVER, and naturally being in Japan the officials are quite happy with this. Absolute bullshit in my opinion.

FINALLY they restart in Hansenís guard and Aoki scrambles to pass, but canít get out of the guard and Hansen lands a couple of punches from the bottom. Hansenís actually trying submissions here, surprisingly enough. Aoki postures up and then re-enters the guard, but Hansen actually catches him in an armbar! Crowd go crazy as Aoki clubs him with some heel kicks and then looks to roll for a leglock, getting free of the armbar. Hansen counters by hitting the hamstrings with some heavy elbows, and theyíre tied up like a pretzel here. Hansen now looks like he might be going for a footlock, but they scramble out and Hansen avoids a leglock and takes his back! Theyíre standing now and Hansen lands a right hand to avoid a kimura, turning into him. Aoki drops for a single leg and gets him down to guard. Aoki postures up again and gets to half-guard, but now Hansen looks like heís turning for a kimura and then lands an upkick as Aoki pulls out and stands above him. Aoki drops into the guard again and Hansen turns for an armbar, but he canít get it and Aoki finishes the round taking hammer fists in top position.

Second round and Hansen stalks forward and lands a knee to the body. Clinch from Aoki and he looks for the takedown, dragging Hansen to the ground. Hansen rolls and looks for a leglock from there, but Aokiís too wily and he ends up in Hansenís butterfly guard again. They exchange some hammer fists but little happens and the ref calls for action. Ref stands them up and Hansen lands a good leg kick. Aoki shoots in but takes a big knee, only to get Hansen down anyway. Aoki looks to pass and gets into side mount, then takes full mount and Hansen is in trouble. Aoki keeps things tight but doesnít really go for anything just yet, and then decides to go for a mounted guillotine. Hansen manages to pop his head free though, and then rolls, but Aoki gets an arm and goes for the armbar! Hansen sits up and stays incredibly calm given the situation heís in, but literally with SECONDS on the clock he tries to slide over Aoki to escape and gets caught in the armbar and forced to tap! Damnit.

Post-fight Aoki is presented with the belt and of course he bursts into tears. Fight was decent, not great, as there were long periods of inactivity, and if Iím honest despite picking up a great win here, itís hard to warm to Aoki when he pulls things like the acting nonsense after the upkick. Personally I just want to see someone give him a good beating again.

Featherweight Grand Prix: Finals: Bibiano Fernandes vs Hiroyuki Takaya

And so after a pretty crappy beginning to this tournament (Imanari anyone?) itís all come down to this. Pre-fight the announcers give Fernandes the edge as he had the quicker semi-final bout, and yeah, Iíd agree with that although a guy with Takayaís punching power always has a chance. Quite surprising to see these two make it all the way through given their lower profiles in comparison with some of the other fighters in the tournament, but then to give them their due, they are two of the most skilled in the line-up. Pre-fight we get the national anthems and all that jazz as per usual with the GP finals. Ring announcer is hilarious, so overblown as he reads out Takayaís name.

First round begins and Takaya comes out with a one-two and a knee, but Fernandes takes him down. Takaya pops to his feet and almost gets caught in an armbar before going back into the Brazilianís guard. Leglock attempt from Bibiano but Takaya does a good job of blocking it and he slips free. They come back to standing now and exchange some jabs with Fernandes landing a leg kick too. Nice combo lands for Takaya. Overhand right into a push kick from Bibiano and then he changes levels and hits a nice double leg. Takaya quickly explodes to his feet, but Bibiano hops onto his back with both hooks, taking the dreaded lemur position. Takaya does a good job of holding the wrists to avoid a rear naked choke attempt, and then the ref calls a break. Thatís bullshit as despite there not being much action, Bibiano had a dominant position! Sorry but you canít tell me the ref wouldíve called the break had that been Aoki and Hansen in that position. Anyway, they restart and exchange some leg kicks with Fernandes buckling Takayaís leg with one. Single leg attempt from Bibiano but Takaya stuffs it. Good right from Takaya and Bibiano tries to fire back but misses. Pair of leg kicks from Fernandes. They continue to exchange strikes and Bibianoís doing very well here. Lot of action, too. Takedown attempt from Fernandes is stuffed again. They exchange more strikes with both men landing overhand rights and body kicks. Crowd really start to get into it as Bibiano tries to muscle Takaya off his feet, but the Japanese fighter manages to block and forces the Brazilian into the corner of the ring. They break off and Takaya is really swinging for the fences now. Single leg by Bibiano puts Takaya on the mat again but right away heís looking to escape to his feet. Bibiano tries to sweep him back down but Takaya reverses up and breaks free. Good right hand from Fernandes. Big left hook lands from Takaya and he looks to have Bibiano stunned, but the Brazilian drops for a takedown and forces Takaya to defend. Takaya blocks it though and Bibianoís cut over the right eye now. Schiavello calls it like Drago being cut in Rocky IV. This guy rules. Fuck it, this fight rules! Left high kick almost lands for Takaya but Fernandes answers with an overhand right. Round ends with the striking exchange continuing and this is ANYONEíS TOURNAMENT.

Second and final round and Takaya presses the action with a body shot, but Bibiano comes back with a HUGE OVERHAND RIGHT that decks the Japanese fighter! Takaya manages to get back up, but quickly gets taken down and now Fernandes takes the back, gets both hooks and pounds away! Takayaís in trouble but he stands with Bibiano on his back again like in the first round. Ref calls the break AGAIN and now Takaya comes forward and lands a decent combination. Takaya continues to throw shots but Bibianoís throwing right back despite taking the cleaner shots now. Good combos landing from both men now. Fernandes is really going for the wild hooks and Takayaís eye is swelling. Ref calls time to mess with Takayaís glove and then itís on again with Takaya landing an inside leg kick. Nice left hook from Takaya. BEAUTIFUL combo snaps Bibianoís head back but somehow he looks fine, awesome chin from the Brazilian. Thereís less than a minute remaining now and these guys are just swinging at one another now. Both men landing heavy, heavy leather. This is a great fight. Ten seconds remaining and now theyíre TRADING LIKE A ROCKY MOVIE!~! Crowd going apeshit, and finally itís over. Man, what a fight.

I have no idea how Iíd score that, but if you forced me then I think Iíd probably go for Fernandes due to the knockdown in the second and the two back-mounts, as the rest was insanely close and both men landed some BOMBS. First judge has Fernandes. Second has Takaya. And finally the third judge has it for....Fernandes, giving him the split decision! Well, I think they made the right decision but really if Takaya had won it I donít think there wouldíve been any complaints as it was such a great fight. Both men just came to throw down and throw down they did, putting on one of the best fights in DREAM history in my opinion. Just unbelievable action from start to finish. And with the tournament going the way it did, Iíd say thereís money in both a Takaya-Bibiano rematch as well as a rematch between Bibiano and Joe Warren after the bad blood there.

-Post-fight the DREAM officials present awards to Tokoro and Warren, before presenting Takaya with his runners-up trophy and then finally Bibiano gets the title belt. And boy did he earn it.

-Schiavello and Mezger wrap things up, and then the four semi-finalists cut some promos in the ring.

Final Thoughts....

Well, DREAM 11 is a hard show to judge overall as youíve got two really, really great fights in Takaya-Tokoro and Takaya-Fernandes sandwiched between dull fare like Miyata-Taiki, pointless squashes like Barracuda-Kawajiri, Sokoudjou-Sapp and Sakuraba-Williams, and one of the very worst fights in MMA history in Minowaman-Choi. Aoki-Hansen was probably the most highly anticipated fight coming in and yet while it wasnít bad or anything, I donít think it lived up to the promise it had coming in as Aoki largely played a conservative game this time around. Overall, itís hard to say. I think DREAM 11 is worth a mild recommendation on the strength of the two Takaya fights alone (what a night that guy had!) but just make sure you fast-forward through the Minowaman nonsense. Thumbs in the middle, leaning up.

Best Fight: Fernandes-Takaya
Worst Fight: Minowaman-Choi

Overall Rating: ***

Coming Soon....

UFC: 99-104, Fight Night 19, TUF IX Finale.
WEC: 43
DREAM: 12
King of the Cage: Various shows

Until next time,

Scott Newman:
NewmanMMA@gmail.com





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