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DREAM 12 review
by Scott Newman (MMA)
Posted on November 1, 2009, 8:16 AM

DREAM 12: Cage Of The Rising Sun

Osaka, Japan

-Your hosts are Michael Schiavello and Guy Mezger. They discuss that history is being made tonight as FINALLY!~! theyíre getting rid of the ring and DREAM is using a cage for the first time! Awesome. The cage is so much better for MMA than the ring that itís not even funny. They talk about the differences between fighting in a cage and fighting in a ring, pointing out how it affects the takedowns and takedown defense. Theyíve also changed the round system, so itís three five-minute rounds like the Unified Rules of the USA, which is another good move. Hopefully both the cage and the rules will be adopted so weíre closer to a unified rule system throughout the world. The judges are still using the old method of scoring the whole fight as opposed to round-by-round, though. Looks like HDNet screwed up with the timing again too as this discussion goes on FOREVER and the announcers manage to talk about practically every fight on the card.

-Opening ceremony follows and the cage is finally unveiled, and itís basically a Strike Force cage, a white structure with six sides. Only difference seems to be theyíre using the mesh as opposed to a wire or metal cage, which the announcers talk up as being original, but itís actually the same thing as Cage Rage used to use back in 2004-5. Still, far better than a ring!

Tomoya Miashita vs Keisuke Fujiwara

Christ, it feels like Iím suddenly reviewing Shooto or something again as I have never heard of either of these guys before. Quick check of Sherdog tells me that Miashita was 12-5-6 coming into this one and heís a DEEP veteran, while Fujiwara has mainly fought in ZST, had a 7-1-3 record and Iím guessing he didnít invent the armbar that carries his name. Probably. He does come out wearing a Predator mask and strutting his stuff to Kanye West though. Ill. These guys are Featherweights, too, so this ought to be a good one.

First round begins and Miashita quickly hits a double leg to guard. He tries to pass the guard and then goes for a guillotine as Fujiwara pops free, but it doesnít look locked up to me and sure enough a scramble puts Fujiwara on his back in half-guard. Good job from Fujiwara to get back to full guard as Miashita looks to posture up. Upkick lands for Fujiwara, but Miashita passes into north/south and then settles into side mount. The pace here is pretty high. Half-guard for Fujiwara now as Miashita peppers him with some short punches and avoids a reversal attempt. Fujiwara gets back to full guard and goes for a triangle, but Miashita uses it to pass the guard and ends up with a front facelock with Fujiwara in the turtle position. Fujiwara looks to get up, but gets forced into the cage in half-guard and now Fujiwara gets a triangle from his back. Miashita easily pops free though and heís on top in full guard. Scramble puts Fujiwara in the turtle position again but Miashita rains down some knees to the head, brutal stuff. I wish theyíd legalise those in the US. He looks to take the back, but Fujiwara rolls to his back and lands a pair of upkicks. Miashita gets on top again though and takes side mount. Fujiwara spins from his back and lands another upkick, but Miashita drops a hammer fist and takes top position again, looking to prep a guillotine by dropping some more knees to the head. Final seconds and Miashita tries to take the back, but ends up spinning round with an over/under and landing some knees while looking for a DíArce. Excellent opening round.

Round Two and Fujiwara looks to strike, but Miashita gets him down with a single leg and keeps him down off a scramble. Fujiwara gets to full guard and looks to tie him up, then rolls for an oma plata, and it looks like heís got it, but Miashita rolls free. Fujiwara manages to stand, but heís against the fence and Miashita quickly brings him back down to half-guard. He looks to pass to side mount and manages it, landing some hammer fists for good measure. Miashita turns to north/south and then rains some punches down as Fujiwara spins to guard, but Miashita gets back on top and mounts. He gives that up though and goes back to side mount, but Fujiwara does a good job of avoiding any damage and turning into guard. Fujiwara tries to kick him away, but Miashita passes into side mount again and lands some elbows to the body. Fujiwara starts to land some knees to the head from the bottom, channelling Frank Shamrock I guess, but Miashitaís looking to set up some sort of choke. Fujiwara manages to roll, but ends up in turtle position and Miashita drops some solid knees to the dome again. Fujiwara manages to roll to guard again, but Miashita quickly passes to side mount and lands some more knees as Fujiwara turtles up. Another roll puts Fujiwara back in guard, but he fails to lock up an arm and the round ends there. Well, Miashitaís dominated this one thus far and I canít see him losing if the third goes the same way.

Third and final round, and Fujiwara manages to avoid a takedown to begin with. A double leg puts him down though and this is looking more of the same methinks. Fujiwara has full guard, and he goes for a triangle again, but Miashita slips out pretty easily and moves to side mount. Little happens before Miashita spins to a front facelock and lands knees to the head again. He settles back into side mount and lands some hammer fists, as Fujiwara answers with some more Shamrock-style knees to the head. Fujiwara tries an armbar, but Miashita gets free of it and ends up in guard with Fujiwara looking to lock up a triangle. He lands some punches with the triangle partially locked up, and Miashita looks in trouble here. Fujiwara pulls on the head to try to finish it, but it just doesnít look quite deep enough and thereís a big gap in there that seems to be saving Miashita. Finally Miashita manages to escape and gets back to side mount, where he drops some short hammer fists and then knees to the head to end the round.

Well, Fujiwara took the last round I think but Miashita dominated overall so the decision has to be his I think. Very good fight though. Judges all agree and itís Miashitaís fight. Got a little repetitive as the fight went on as Fujiwara just couldnít defend the takedown or get out from under Miashita for an extended period, but for the most part that was a very good opener.

Kuniyoshi Hironaka vs Won Sik Park

Hironaka was one of a handful of fighters on the card to have some experience in the cage already, as heíd fought in both Rumble On The Rock and the UFC before, although his UFC run was hardly successful as he lost three of four fights there. Opponent Park, affectionately known as ĎParkyí, is a DEEP veteran and a tae-kwon-do stylist. Side note, but the choices of entrance music in DREAM are so random itís unbelievable. Park here, for instance, uses Andreas Johnsonís Glorious, which I havenít heard since at least 2001!

Opening round begins and they circle with some largely tentative strikes to begin with. Parky stuffs a takedown and very little has happened thus far outside of a couple of low kicks from Hironaka. Good leg kick lands for Hironaka. Good right hand from Parky as Hironaka closes the distance, but the Korean stuffs the takedown again. Park begins to use his jab now as Hironaka looks to be struggling a little with the Koreanís reach. Beautiful counter right hand lands for Parky as Hironaka comes forward, and the Korean follows with a nice combination. Good knee to the body from the clinch and Park stuffs the takedown again. Park is looking more comfortable now and he continues to work the jab. Good leg kick from Hironaka though and he follows with a straight right. Round ends there.

Odd stuff between rounds as Parkís corner throw the towel in, no idea whatís caused that as I thought he clearly won the round! Announcers speculate that itís probably an eye injury as Park appears to be wincing and blinking pretty heavily. Well, that was odd. Didnít expect that Park would be able to take the fight to Hironaka like that, thatís for sure, and it was very unlucky for him to lose in the fashion that he did.

Yoshiro Maeda vs Chase Beebe

This one couldíve come right off a WEC undercard in 2008 as both men were former staples of the Bantamweight division there. Beebe had been the champion before losing to Miguel Torres, while Torres had defeated Maeda in a FOTYC for his first title defense. Since then both men were unsuccessful in DREAMís Featherweight Grand Prix, but Maeda had picked up a win in DEEP while Beebe had lost a controversial decision to a guy Iíve never heard of called Mike Easton.

We begin and Maeda quickly wades in with strikes, hurting Beebe with a body punch and a high kick. Knees from Maeda but Beebe fires back with one of his own, but heís being eaten up by Maeda standing. Body kick and leg kick lands for Maeda. Maeda even drops his hands to taunt the American. Beebe finally manages to catch a kick and get Maeda down into half-guard, pinning him into the fence, but Maeda posts up the cage to his feet. Nice body kick from Maeda again. Spinning back kick to the gut glances for Beebe. They continue to trade kicks and now Beebe grabs a guillotine and looks to take him down, but botches it and Maeda takes top position in Beebeís guard. Beebe looks to tie him up, but Maeda OPENS UP with the ground-and-pound, landing some good punches before passing to side mount. Beebe looks to escape but Maeda suddenly spins onto his back, right into a rear naked choke for the tapout!

Wow, finish was AWESOME there, pretty much a copy of the Genki Sudo-Leigh Remedios finish from UFC 38 as Beebe literally gave his back for a second and bam, Maeda was on him and spun directly into the choke. Tremendous stuff from Yoshiro Maeda and this was overall a brilliant showing for him to take out a guy as tough as Beebe as quickly as that. Post-fight Maeda cuts a promo from ATOP THE CAGE, challenging Featherweight Champion Bibiano Fernandes. Word! Iíd love to see that match.

Dong Sik Yoon vs Tarec Saffiedine

This one wouldíve originally seen Yoon facing Paulo Filho, but the ever-enigmatic Brazilian pulled out for reasons unknown Ė some were saying Visa problems, others claimed heíd gone AWOL altogether Ė and so the Belgian fighter Saffiedine, fresh off his win over Seichi Ikemoto at DREAM 10, stepped in. This would be Yoonís first fight back following his unfortunate loss to Jesse Taylor due to injury at DREAM 10. Hard one to pick too as Saffiedine had looked good in his DREAM debut while Yoon is far, far better than his shoddy record might suggest.

Opening round begins and Saffiedine opens with a low kick. Another good leg kick lands for Tarec as he stays circling on the outside. Takedown attempt from Yoon, but Saffiedine stuffs it and then trips the Korean to the ground, landing in side mount. Yoon manages to work into half-guard and then gets butterfly hooks back in, as Tarec punches at the body but remains pretty conservative with his attack. Tarec stands and Yoon pops back up, where Saffiedine lands a right hand. Yoon throws a flurry and shoves Saffiedine into the fence, but the Belgian works to block the takedown as Yoon goes for a single leg. Saffiedine continues to defend the takedown and then he hits a reversal off a throw attempt and takes the back standing, but Yoon quickly turns into him. Yoon tries an upper body throw now, but again Saffiedine blocks it. They continue to muscle for position in the clinch as the announcers rip on Paulo Filho for his AWOL stint, and then the ref separates them. They exchange some strikes and neither man really gets the better of it, and the round closes out with them on their feet. Close round as neither man did much damage really, but Iíd lean slightly towards Saffiedine by a hair I think.

2nd round and they circle before Saffiedine uses a right hand to set up a very nice leg kick. Jumping knee from Saffiedine into the clinch, but the ref calls time for a knee to the groin before restarting them. They exchange some more strikes with Saffiedine getting the better of it, before Yoon drops for a single leg and manages to get the Belgian down in guard this time. Tarec looks to lock up a kimura, but Yoon passes into half-guard. Saffiedine tries a scramble but gives his back in the process, and Yoon gets one hook in, but another scramble gets him out for a second. Yoon then takes the back again and looks to work for the choke, but heís only got one hook in and it doesnít look like Tarec is in trouble. Yoon starts to twist on his head though and this looks pretty painful even if the choke isnít under the chin. Saffiedine manages to survive but Yoon keeps going for it and now heís got both hooks in. Good job from Saffiedine of avoiding this, and the round ends with Yoon continually trying the choke. Well, that round was less close and Iíd have Dong ahead on the scorecards now, particularly with DREAMís judging criteria.

Third round now and this could still go either way. Low kick from Tarec as they circle and surprisingly both look a bit tentative. Single leg from Dong but the Belgian slides free. Saffiedine is throwing more combos here but neither man is really making a strong case to win the fight. Ref calls a time out as neither man is engaging enough, and following the restart Saffiedine begins to push the action more, landing more strikes but still not really damaging Dong. Yoon drops to his back but the Belgianís having none of that and he calls Yoon back to his feet. Body shot from Tarec as he continues to push the action, and he lands another nice combo and avoids a low shot. Again Saffiedine goes to the body but Yoon begins to fire back, but his punches look to be lacking any sort of snap now. Good right from Tarec and Yoon drops low for a double leg, but again itís stuffed. Dong clinches and Saffiedine surprisingly pulls guard with seconds remaining, but they come up quickly and the fight ends with Tarec forcing Yoon into the cage.

Well, Saffiedine took the third round and in a ten-point must system of judging heíd take the fight 29-28, but scoring overall as they do in DREAM, Saffiedine won two rounds weakly without doing much damage while Yoon dominated the second and came close to finishing, so under DREAMís rules Dong has to take this. And itís a split decision for Dong Sik Yoon. Not the best fight of all time although it wasnít horrible or anything, and actually this is a good argument against the DREAM style scoring I think, as normally the argument in favour of it is that it usually goes to the guy who was in control at the end of the fight (thus meaning heíd win in a fight with no rules, so they say) but here, it was Saffiedine who took over late, but he didnít do quite enough to offset the work Yoon did earlier. I donít know, MMA scoring is a very tough thing to do, especially in a really even fight like this.

Katsuyori Shibata vs Tokimitsu Ishizawa

Aw man, do I REALLY have to watch this? Pro-wrestler Shibata has been a jobber staple in DREAM for some time, losing fights to Mayhem Miller and Sakuraba and somehow beating Minowaman, but I havenít seen Ishizawa in the MMA arena since his two fights with Ryan Gracie (RIP) back in PRIDE in like 2001, one of which saw Ryan use his head as a speed bag and one of which saw him pick up a freak win when Ryan dislocated a rib. Why heís back here I do not know, and nor do I care if Iím honest. Pre-fight package outright shows pro-wrestling highlights for Ishizawa. Sigh.

First round and they circle tentatively and throw out some punches. Good combo from Shibata looks to have Ishizawa stunned, but he slips off balance and canít really follow up. They end up clinched against the cage and Shibata works some knees to the midsection. Good body punch buckles Izhizawaís knees, but they break off and Shibata stuffs a single leg. The punches theyíre exchanging here are as sloppy as some of the HW fights on TUF but at least theyíre taking it seriously. Single leg attempt again from Ishizawa but Shibata works to block it. He switches to a double leg but still canít get Shibata down, and now Shibata switches it and forces Ishizawa into the fence. Punches to the body from Shibata and they break once more. Now they just open up and trade wild punches before Shibata grabs a clinch. This isnít a bad fight actually! Uppercuts inside from Ishizawa but he takes a couple of knees before they break off. Ishizawa swings forward and closes the distance, landing a couple of knees from the clinch, but they break swiftly and then Shibata drops him with a stiff left hook and pounds him out on the mat right before the round ends!

Well, credit where credit is due, that wasnít a bad fight at all. Granted it was very sloppy and neither man looked all that skilled, but they took the fight seriously, came out and threw down, and regardless of skill you canít ask for much more than that really.

-Intermission follows as the announcers discuss whatís gone down thus far and whatís coming up. Hideo Tokoro, Tatsuya Kawajiri, and Shinya Aoki then enter the ring to discuss the NYE Dynamite show.

Kazushi Sakuraba vs Zelg Galesic

The Croatian Galesic was supposed to fight Melvin Manhoef here in a battle of strikers, but Melvin pulled out with injury and Sakuraba inexplicably stepped in, just three weeks after competing at DREAM 11. Pretty scary really as the likelihood was that Zelg would kill him dead with brutal strikes. Preferably not literally, but with Sakuraba you never know, it may happen one of these days. Where is Dana White when you need him to retire someone for their own health? Galesic enters to Vanilla Ice. Awesome.

We get underway and both men look tentative to begin. Sakuraba shoots on a single leg and gets the takedown, and then goes for an Achilles lock, but Galesic blocks initially and begins to club at Sakuís head with his free leg. Galesic winds up on top and begins to drop BOMBS, landing shot after shot to Sakurabaís unprotected head, and the ref needs to stop this before Saku gets badly hurt. Somehow though the official lets it go, and despite Sakuraba taking tremendous punishment he keeps going for the leg and then transitions to a kneebar and FORCES THE TAPOUT! Holy crap.

Post-fight Sakurabaís face is a MESS, while poor Galesic looks to have injured his knee in the hold. Man, that was a criminal job of officiating from the referee. I mean, letís be honest now, if that were any other promotion, or hell, any other fighter in DREAM than Sakuraba the referee wouldíve stepped in and called it as Saku just wasnít defending himself. Instead though because DREAM seem to want Sakuraba to die in the ring, he was allowed to take silly amounts of punishment before somehow pulling out the submission. I mean sure, itís a good win for him, but this was difficult to watch, you know?

Marius Zaromskis vs Myeon Ho Bae

Aw man, this is the best opponent they could find for Zaromskis coming off his Grand Prix win at DREAM 10? Iíve never heard of Bae but with a record of 8-4 itís obvious heís not likely to be a world-beater. Although to be fair to DREAM about 90% of the worldís top talent at 170lbs is locked down by the UFC and so finding someone was always going to be hard. This is of course a non-title fight. What, itís Japan, did you expect any different?

Weíre underway and Zaromskis comes FLYING OUT WITH A LEAPING KNEE! Bae manages to avoid though and lands a right hand, stunning the Lithuanian! Zaromskis backs up and Bae throws a high kick, but Zaromskis answers with one of his own and KILLS BAE DEAD!~! Jesus tapdancing Christ.

Whole fight lasted nineteen seconds. Insane stuff and Zaromskis might be the most explosive striker at 170lbs in the world right now. I mean regardless of opposition how can you argue with THREE high kick knockouts in three fights? Iím quickly becoming a big fan of this guy and with DREAM and Strike Force supposedly sharing fighters now, I canít be the only one thinking about Zaromskis vs. Jake Shields or Nick Diaz, can I?

Eddie Alvarez vs Katsunori Kikuno

Now normally Iíd be lamenting a guy going back to fight in Japan after a run in the US, but Eddie Alvarez is the lone exception as DREAM can provide him with far, far better opponents than the ones heíd been eating up in Bellator. I mean sure, nobodyís going to put Kikuno in a top ten any time soon (despite his impressive win over Andre Dida), but heís better than the list of unknowns Eddie was smacking around before this. See, thereís a reason Iíd like everyone in the UFC and it has to do with top talent actually fighting top talent. I mean if DREAMís fighter-sharing agreement with Strike Force is legit that might help, but whether Eddieís even allowed to fight in Strike Force due to the shitty Bellator contract I donít know.

Looks like theyíre pushing Kikuno with a karate master gimmick like Lyoto Machida or something. He also enters to Michael Jacksonís We Are The World for reasons best known to him I guess. And Alvarez comes out with his Bellator title belt, which is sort of cool.

First round begins and they circle before Alvarez shoots in for a takedown. Kikuno blocks and looks like heís secured some sort of standing neck crank, almost like a reverse full nelson if that makes sense, Iíve never seen it before but it looks nasty for Eddie. Alvarez is looking in genuine trouble here as Kikuno tries to trip him down, and really itís a matter of whether Kikuno can keep his hands together. He canít and Eddie manages to pop out, but he looks very tired as Kikuno closes in and now they trade some punches! Front kick and low kick from Kikuno but Alvarez forces him into the cage in a clinch. They break off and Eddieís swinging wildly here. Takedown attempt is stuffed by Kikuno. Couple of hooks miss for Alvarez and another takedown is stuffed. They trade some WILD SHOTS and now Eddie forces him into the fence again. Kikuno muscles off and then breaks, and they trade right hands back into the clinch. Alvarezís striking is looking too telegraphed here for me. Break and then they trade into another clinch, but the ref breaks them for inactivity. Seconds to go in the round and Kikuno lands a low kick, but misses a wheel kick and ends the round with a beautiful body kick. Very good round for Katsunori Kikuno.

Round Two and Alvarez looks a little fresher and circles around as Kikuno lands a couple of front kicks to the legs. Good right hand lands for Alvarez though and it drops Kikuno, but he pops right back up into a clinch. They break off and Kikuno misses some wild Van Damme style kicks before Alvarez catches a low kick and trips him down. Into side mount for Alvarez and he secures a guillotine as Kikuno tries to reverse, jumping to guard, but it doesnít look tight to me and Kikuno has an arm in too. Eddie switches and gets a no-arm choke now, but Kikuno pops out. They come back to their feet and Alvarez lands with a left hook, then follows with a pretty wild combo. Combination to the body from Alvarez and he tries to trip Kikuno down, but the Japanese fighter blocks it. Both men look tired now. They trade some more sloppy hooks before Eddie double legs him down, and easily works free of a guillotine. It looks like Alvarez is setting up an arm triangle choke here, and sure enough he goes for it, locking it up and passing out to the side for the tapout.

Well, on the plus side, the fight was exciting from start to finish Ė the best fight of the night thus far in fact Ė and Alvarezís submission game looked a bit tighter than it had before. On the other hand though I wasnít overly impressed with Alvarez considering heís routinely ranked in the upper part of the top ten at 155lbs, as he looked gassed in the second round and his striking looked largely telegraphed and sloppy I thought. Perhaps itís something to do with him facing sub-par opponents for a while in Bellator. I like Alvarez and think heís an exciting guy, but I honestly donít think heíd do well in the UFC against the likes of Tyson Griffin, Gray Maynard, Joe Stevenson, Diego Sanchez, Frank Edgar, et al as they all have a similar game to him but Iíd argue they do it better and tighter. Still, not to knock him (or Kikuno for that matter), this was a pretty good fight.

Alistair Overeem vs James Thompson

Yeah, this is just as funny a main event as it sounds on paper. Incredibly I think Thompson took this fight on less than a weekís notice Ė and it looks like it too as heís not in the best of shape to say the least Ė while Overeem had fought just a week beforehand, albeit against an absolute tomato can who quickly succumbed to Alistairís guillotine choke in Tony Sylvester. Announcers are fully on the Alistair bandwagon here, even calling him ĎUbereemí, and letís be fair, this guy has become a MONSTER. I mean Jesus, when you look more physically intimidating than JAMES THE COLOSSUS THOMPSON you know youíre stacked. Odds were ridiculous for this fight, -1200 for Overeem and +700 for Thompson. Entrances are hilarious here Ė not only do BOTH guys enter to the Black Eyed Peas, but Thompson is caught on camera singing along with Alistairís theme, Tonightís Gonna Be A Good Night.

Bell sounds and itís GONG AND DASH time as Thompson charges out, but he sort-of does it half-heartedly and Alistair easily avoids a haymaker. Couple more haymakers are avoided and then Overeem side-steps a takedown and lands a right hand. He follows that with a FLYING KNEE and nearly jumps OUT OF THE CAGE! Thompson closes the distance and goes for a single leg, but he ducks his head too much and unsurprisingly Overeem locks up his standing guillotine and squeezes it for the tapout. Whole thing went 33 seconds. No surprise there!

Total squash; almost a carbon copy of the fight a week earlier with Sylvester complete with the same finish too. Post-fight Overeem promises to return to DREAM after his excursion to K1. Well, as an Overeem fan Iím not complaining about seeing him win a fight, but two squashes in two weeks is a bit much and I just hope he can return to Strike Force soon or hell, if he can, go to the UFC to face some real competition. Well, unless the DREAM/Strike Force agreement lets them set up a GP with Fedor, Bigfoot, Werdum, Rogers, et al, which would be very cool.

-Winning fighters enter the cage to pose for some photographs as Schiavello and Mezger wrap up the night, and the show ends there.

Final Thoughts....

While the card wasnít quite as strong as your usual DREAM show (largely because many of the fights were thrown together on short notice) I thought DREAM 12 turned into a hugely enjoyable show. Sure, there were no classics here and a lot of the fights were one-sided with a couple of outright squashes, but there were no terrible fights and I thought the use of the cage worked really well as did the switch to the five-minute rounds, and that made for a better show in terms of the presentation. Hopefully it went down well enough in Japan for them to make the switch overall, as itís definitely the way forward for MMA as a sport on the whole, particularly if DREAM is serious about this co-promotion thing with Strike Force. So yeah, thumbs up for DREAM 12 largely on the execution of the show as opposed to great fights.

Best Fight: Alvarez-Kikuno
Worst Fight: Saffiedine-Yoon

Overall Rating: ***1/2

Coming Soon....

UFC: 99-104, Fight Night 19, TUF IX Finale
WEC: 43
Affliction: Banned and Day Of Reckoning
King of the Cage: Various shows

Until next time,

Scott Newman:

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