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DREAM 14: White Cage Returns review
by Scott Newman (MMA)
Posted on June 26, 2010, 12:47 AM

DREAM 14: White Cage Returns

Saitama, Japan

-Your hosts are Michael Schiavello and Frank Trigg! It’s wrong that I have somehow become a fan of Trigg’s commentary, but I can’t help it. They spend ages running down the card, too – evidently HDNet didn’t quite get the timing right here or the show got slightly delayed in Japan or something. Who knows.

-This is another DREAM show using the WHITE CAGE!~! and five-minute rounds as opposed to the usual DREAM stuff. Love it, love it, love it.

-Opening video package begins with some highlights of Gilbert Melendez’s one-sided win over Shinya Aoki (Nashvill, Tennessee, apparently) complete with Aoki in tears. Word. Odd voice over starts yelling RAISE YOUR FLAG and I guess the point of the package is that they’ve brought in the white cage again so everyone gets used to it so they can fight in Strike Force, or something like that. Who can tell with this stuff? I do love the randomness of Japanese video packages though.

Ikuhisa Minowa vs Imani Lee

Oh, for fuck’s sake. Lee is a former pro-wrestler and he’s well over 300lbs. Lone notable fight? A 2006 loss to Ricco Rodriguez. His one win is by a knee injury, for fuck’s sake. I just hope this is better than Minowaman’s last horrible fight against Jimmy Ambriz.

Video package pre-fight shows Minowaman bouncing off a fence in a random street, I guess to get used to the cage? Weird because the White Cage uses the netting stuff instead of the metal anyway. Schiavello tells us Lee apparently just got cut from a WWE developmental contract. Under the name PRETTY BOY NELSON ROY. Who the fuck thinks up their names these days, seriously? Lee reminds me of a giant Terry Martin.

Fight gets underway and they circle before Minowaman avoids some clubbing punches. Takedown attempt from Minowaman and he’s successful, landing in half-guard. Schiavello is firing off more clichés on commentary than anyone I’ve ever heard. He is hilarious though to be fair unlike Mauro Renallo. Minowaman works the body with some weak shots as an English-speaker yells BORING! For those wondering it wasn’t me, I’ve never been to Japan. Lee scrambles but Minowaman stays on him and then looks for a kimura on the far arm, but gives it up because Lee’s arm is too big, I guess. He manages to slip to mount though where he lands some punches, and as Lee gives his back Minowaman slaps on a crude choke for the tapout.

Well, it was quick at least. Thank God. Minowaman is now inexplicably on a five-fight winning streak. Sure, the only one of those opponents that didn’t suck was Sokoudjou, but hey.

Kenji Osawa vs Yoshiro Maeda

Just to show how far Japanese MMA has fallen in a way, where the Japanese promotions probably would’ve had the top 145lbs and 135lbs fighters in the world five or six years ago, today they get these two, who washed out of the WEC with various losses. Not that they’re shitty fighters though to be fair, they’re pretty exciting to watch. Osawa’s wolf-cut puts Miguel Torres’s to shame, too.

First round begins and they circle with some feeler strikes, neither man really getting an advantage early. Kick from Maeda lands low and the ref calls time. Osawa looks alright and they restart, and Maeda just about misses an uppercut. Head kick from Osawa is blocked. They tie up for a second and then quickly break off. Low kick from Osawa, countered by a combo from Maeda. Neither man really asserting their authority thus far. Good right hand from Osawa. Maeda closes distance and they trade some shots before Maeda looks for a takedown, but Osawa works to defend it. Nice trip takedown from Osawa and he lands in mount for a split-second, but Maeda reverses up and gets a takedown of his own. He lands a knee as Osawa reverses to his feet, then drops for another takedown. Osawa defends, but Maeda manages to throw him down at the bell. Razor-close round.

2nd round and Osawa lands a good right hand to the body and follows with one to the face. Maeda answers with a jumping knee and then gets a takedown, but Osawa reverses and gets on top in a butterfly guard. Maeda manages to work back to his feet, but eats a flurry from Osawa before he looks for the takedown again. They drop to their knees for a moment in an odd scene, before getting back to their feet in the clinch. Maeda works really hard for a takedown, but he still can’t get Osawa down and the action slows down with very few strikes being thrown. Finally Maeda gets him down and tries to throw knees, but they don’t land and Osawa posts up the cage to his feet. Ref breaks them with thirty seconds to go but neither man lands anything of note before the round ends.

Third and final round and Maeda wastes no time in closing the distance to look for the takedown. We’re back to square one really but the ref breaks them quickly this time. Good low kick from Osawa but Maeda counters with a left hand. They exchange some strikes before Maeda lands a nice body kick and follows with some knees. Body punch from Maeda and Osawa’s backpedalling now. Nice jab from Osawa but Maeda lands a left hand counter. Takedown from Maeda but Osawa immediately heads for the cage to look to stand. Osawa indeed works to his feet, and Maeda keeps him against the fence until the ref breaks them. Striking exchange again and neither man really gets the advantage. This is a very close fight. Exchange continues until the fight ends. Probably Maeda’s fight but it was close.

We’ve got a split decision – first judge for Maeda, second for Osawa...third for Kenji Osawa to take the win. Well, I did say it was close. Pretty bleh fight overall, it must be said, although it wasn’t offensive or anything.

Takafumi Otsuka vs Kazuyuki Miyata

Miyata might be the most shredded fighter in the world, seriously. This dude does not have one ounce of bodyfat on him. Not that it tends to help him, although to be fair he did pick up a decent win over DJ Taiki last time out. Otsuka is a better fighter than his namesake Alexander, although I don’t know all that much more about him. He does sport a Manhoef-style gladiator skirt thing in the ring though which is always dope.

Round One begins and they circle and exchange a couple of low kicks. Into a brief clinch, but Otsuka shrugs him off. Nothing happening so far but Schiavello calls Miyata the “Ravishing Rick Rude of DREAM” which is tremendous. Into a clinch again and they muscle for position before Otsuka lands a good knee to the body. Otsuka shrugs him off again before Miyata tries a flying knee that doesn’t really land cleanly. Body kick from Miyata into a clinch but they break quickly. Good body kick from Otsuka. He looks for a takedown but Miyata stuffs it into a clinch. Good takedown from Miyata but Otsuka quickly pops up. Miyata works for a single leg but the ref calls a break when nothing happens. Nice left hand counter from Otsuka. Otsuka pushes forward into a clinch and delivers a knee to the body, but Miyata breaks and then cracks him with a big lunging knee! Otsuka takes it and gets him down, but Miyata quickly reverses back to his feet. Seconds remaining in the round now and Otsuka finishes the round with a body kick and a left hand. Close round.

2nd round and Otsuka pushes forward, as they exchange some nothing strikes really. Otsuka avoids a takedown and they continue to throw out some punches without landing anything meaningful really. They clinch up and Otsuka forces him into the cage, but Miyata muscles off and they jockey for position before Otsuka breaks with a knee. Good leg kick from Otsuka. They trade some more strikes and Miyata really tries for the takedown, but Otsuka shows some slick defense and manages to land an uppercut en route to stuffing it. Otsuka is outstriking Miyata comfortably at the minute. Another takedown is stuffed into the clinch and Otsuka breaks off. Front kick followed by a jab from Otsuka. Both men throw high kicks that are blocked. Otsuka pushes forward and looks for a takedown, but Miyata blocks and counters by looking to set up a kimura. Otsuka muscles free and they wind up back on the feet, and Otsuka takes a high kick before throwing one of his own. Into a scramble but both men end up standing again. They exchange some jabs and Otsuka ends the round with a front kick to the body. I’ve got Otsuka ahead by a hair at this point.

Round Three and they trade leg kicks before Otsuka opens up with a strong combo and a jumping knee. Miyata tries to return the favour but doesn’t really land, but then he manages to back Otsuka up and avoid a takedown. A scramble sees both men on their feet and the pace has really risen now. Good knee to the body from Otsuka and Miyata looks a bit gassed to me. Into the clinch and Otsuka lands with two more knees before Miyata lands one to break. They trade punches and both men land, and with three minutes to go this is anyone’s fight. Good leg kick from Miyata. Beautiful right hook lands for Otsuka. Exchange continues into the clinch. Otsuka forces him into the cage and they muscle for position before Miyata drops and gets a takedown, getting the back when Otsuka stands. He looks for a German suplex but Otsuka blocks and ends up on his back in half-guard, disappointing Schiavello on commentary greatly. Crowd are going wild at this point. Miyata works to pass the guard and eventually gets to full mount, but Otsuka gets a knee in to block it. Miyata continues to attempt to mount, and the fight ends there. I think Miyata probably stole it with that final push at the end of the round.

Judges take FOREVER to decide a winner, lord knows why. They have it a split decision, first judge for Miyata, second for Otsuka, and third for Miyata to pick up the win. Judges got it right in my opinion as Miyata just worked harder in the pivotal third round. First two rounds of this weren’t up to much but the third was a lot of fun indeed and redeemed the fight totally.

Wicky Akiyo vs Hideo Tokoro

Both of these guys are normally exciting so on paper this was a really good fight even if it wasn’t about to affect the rankings or anything. Let it be known that I do love Tokoro as he’s one of those guys that win or lose, brings it each and every time.

First round starts and Wicky opens with a kick to the body that backs Tokoro up. Couple of jabs from Tokoro and Wicky has his hands horribly low. Wicky pushes forward and almost walks into a right high kick. Suddenly Wicky rushes in with a big right uppercut that knocks Tokoro off balance, and he follows with some hard hammer fists on the ground! Tokoro goes to full guard and looks to recover, but Wicky decides to stand. Tokoro misses with a lunging right hand and looks to work the jab, but he walks into a BIG RIGHT HOOK from Wicky that folds him up, and Wicky pounces with Tokoro in the turtle position to put him away with some additional punches.

Replay shows the punch was the Serra-GSP special, right behind the ear to the back of the neck almost. Well, that was a pretty sick finish.

Kid Yamamoto vs Kiko Lopez

This was originally set for Strike Force’s Heavy Artillery show – on the prelims of all places – but for whatever reason it ended up here. Where they fished Lopez out from I don’t know though as I’ve never heard of the guy. You’d have thought they’d at least get a semi-name to fight Kid. Pre-fight video package has me in STITCHES. Why? Because it’s set to fucking, YOU SPIN ME RIGHT ROUND BABY RIGHT ROUND LIKE A RECORD BABY RIGHT ROUND ROUND ROUND. I guess because the theme is whether Kid is ‘dead or alive’ and that was the name of Pete Burns’ band, but COME ON. Package ends with a graphic saying GOD’S SON IN THE WHITE CAGE. Well, that’s taking things a bit too far don’t you think? Kid hasn’t even bothered to grow his hair out or grow a beard!

Fight begins and Lopez misses a high kick and slips to the ground for a second. Low kick from Lopez. Kid looks very calm here. Hard leg kick from Kid. High kick misses from Lopez again. Kick from Yamamoto lands low and the ref calls time to let Lopez recover. They restart and Lopez lands a nice front kick to the chest. Lopez lands with a right hand and looks to follow up...but he walks straight into a big right hand counter from Kid that drops him hard, and Yamamoto quickly finishes things on the ground.

Post-fight the announcers are yelling that Kid is back, but let’s see him against a live opponent before we proclaim that, yeah? To take nothing away from him though that was a BRUTAL knockout. Absolutely brutal. And hey, I’d still pay ridiculous money to see this guy against Miguel Torres or, at 145lbs, Jose Aldo or Urijah Faber.

-Intermission follows and takes forever, as usual, giving Schiavello and Trigg the chance to show highlights from the whole card thus far. Finally we get a bit of an important moment as they bring out Tatsuya Kawajiri and Shinya Aoki – who looks camp as Christmas in a fucking bowler hat and glasses – to announce a title fight between them at DREAM 15. My pick is Kawajiri, in case you were wondering. Guy is awesome even if his competition recently hasn’t been that great (outside of a rusty JZ, that is...).

Hiroyuki Takaya vs Joachim Hansen

Hansen had made his Featherweight debut at DREAM 13 in an unsuccessful title challenge against Bibiano Fernandes, while Takaya had lost to Fernandes in the inaugural title bout in a fight that really could’ve gone either way. Announcers are pushing that the winner will get a crack at Bibi, but honestly I wouldn’t want to put together Fernandes-Hansen II right away regardless as the first fight wasn’t close and wasn’t that exciting either. But that might just be me. I couldn’t see how Takaya would beat Hansen to be honest so I expected a blowout for Hellboy. Video package sees Hansen dressed as a MONK of all things, while Takaya randomly rides a scooter. I mean, what the hell?

We get underway and Hansen pushes forward with a leg kick. Right hand from Takaya into a clinch and they exchange before breaking off. Overhand right misses for Takaya. Big low kick from Hansen. Takaya comes back with one of his own. Hansen begins to stalk forward throwing some punches but hasn’t landed flush yet. Leg kick into a right hand lands for Takaya. High kick narrowly misses for the Japanese fighter. Hansen looks for a plum clinch but can’t grab it and he blocks a one-two from Takaya. Takedown attempt from Takaya but Hansen shows a good sprawl to avoid and winds up pushed into the cage. Hansen switches position and looks for a takedown of his own now, but this time Takaya blocks and takes a couple of knees to the gut for his efforts. Takaya continues to defend the takedown, and then the ref calls the separation. They circle with some more strikes and suddenly Hansen gets wobbled with a right hand! A second one drops him HARD and Takaya pounces and KNOCKS HIM SILLY!

Holy shit, what a victory for Takaya. Never ever seen Hansen put down like that, and when you consider he’s fought the likes of Gomi, Edwards, Alvarez and Kawajiri that’s pretty impressive. Unbelievable stuff. Biggest win of Takaya’s career by far. Looks like Hansen’s move to Featherweight isn’t paying off at all as he’s now 0-2 there and you have to wonder if he’s on the downslide of his career, but still, great win for Takaya and hopefully his rematch with Bibiano will be as good as their first one.

Ralek Gracie vs Kazushi Sakuraba

Alright, I freely admit it, as a Gracie mark I was salivating over this as not only did it seem like the perfect opportunity for the family to avenge all their losses to Sakuraba now he’s washed up (I don’t count Royce’s “win” over Saku because of the steroid issue...), but after Rolles and Renzo had failed to impress in the UFC, Ralek, along with Roger, seems like a possible candidate to carry the family name forward into the next decade of MMA. I was hoping beyond hope to see Ralek submit Sakuraba, but to be honest I expected the fight to likely go the distance.

Odd entrance for Sakuraba; he comes out and using some graphics on the big screen, mimes cutting up the fence before a graphic saying WE LOVE RINGS appears. Well, dude, I’m sure you do love the ring but the cage is still better. Ralek busts out the old-school Gracie Train. Word! Sakuraba is also moving down the ramp like Hulk Hogan or something. His knees are blatantly shot.

Opening round begins and Sakuraba creeps forward, but a right hand from Ralek knocks him off balance to the ground and Ralek pounces and tries to take the back. Sakuraba instantly goes for the kimura as he used against Renzo, then works to roll into it, transitioning into an armbar, but Gracie stays calm and defends well. Gracie continues to defend the armbar in one of the longest struggles over a submission I can remember, and finally he pops his arm free and winds up on top in half-guard. Beautiful pass into side mount form Ralek and he lands a sharp knee to the side of the head. Ralek tries to go for a knee-on-belly position, but ends up back in the half-guard before passing again. It looks like Ralek’s looking to set up for an arm triangle, but perhaps only to set up the mount as Sakuraba uses a hip escape to get to half-guard. Ralek passes for a third time and it looks like he’s setting up an armbar, but the bell sounds there. Well, that was about a million times better than I was expecting!

2nd round and Saku opens with a leg kick. Ralek looks for the classic Gracie front-kick-into-takedown, but he eats a punch to the body instead. Nice right roundhouse kick from Ralek but he walks into a right hand and Sakuraba quickly exits the clinch. Ralek is cut over his left eye but he closes the distance and gets a takedown, taking Sakuraba’s back in the process. He lifts him for a suplex but Sakuraba blocks it and goes back to work on the arm. Ralek lands a knee to the thigh and then delivers the suplex, but Sakuraba’s got the kimura again. Ralek works free and gets full mount for a second to deliver a left, but Sakuraba bucks and gets to half-guard. Couple of punches from Ralek land before he passes into side mount. Some good knees to the head and punches land for Gracie before Sakuraba tries a reversal, looking for a single leg. Ralek blocks and looks to take the back before getting on top again in a half-butterfly guard. Side mount for Ralek again before Saku escapes to half-guard. Some more peppering shots land for Gracie before he passes to full mount for a second, only for Saku to escape back to half-guard. Ralek ends the round with a couple of punches, then passes the guard and almost sets an armbar up on the bell. I have Ralek way ahead on the scorecards here.

Third and final round! Sakuraba pushes forward to open, but eats a big right high kick from Ralek. A second one is blocked by Sakuraba’s arms, and the veteran answers with a flurry of punches. Gracie looks like he might be slowing down slightly. Sakuraba working the body now and it looks to be doing some damage. Gracie tries a takedown but Sakuraba avoids it and then blocks the head kick again. Wild uppercut from Sakuraba misses. Front kick from Gracie but Saku counters with the body punch again. Sakuraba is really pushing the action with the strikes now but he probably needs to finish Gracie to win. Takedown from Ralek and he lands in Sakuraba’s guard. Sakuraba looks for the kimura again as Ralek works the body with a couple of punches. Somehow Sakuraba sweeps into top position with the kimura on....but the referee inexplicably steps in....to PULL RALEK’S SHORTS UP. Jesus Christ. That basically ruins the position for Sakuraba as he has to move slightly in order for the ref to get in, and this allows Ralek to reverse out and set up an armbar! Seconds remaining and now Sakuraba looks in trouble, as Ralek lands some knees to the head and then sits back for the armbar! It looks like the arm’s straightened out, but Sakuraba manages to survive until the bell. What a fight.

Judges have it a unanimous decision for Ralek Gracie, gaining a small measure of revenge over Sakuraba, sort of. Well, I wasn’t expecting much from this one going in, but it delivered in spades, one of the most entertaining fights I’ve seen recently even if it wasn’t a FOTYC or anything like that. Not sure what the referee was playing at stepping in when he did to adjust Ralek’s shorts, as it pretty much robbed Sakuraba of any hope of victory, but I guess shit happens. Massive win for Ralek purely for the historical reasons, and I hope he actually continues fighting in DREAM now as he looked much improved from his previous outing and could carry the Gracie name onwards.

Hayato Sakurai vs Nick Diaz

Top fights at 170lbs are few and far between outside of the UFC these days, so it was no surprise that after knocking off DREAM’s top guy in Marius Zaromskis that Diaz would make the excursion to Japan to fight their next top guy in Mach while Strike Force looked for a future title challenger for him. Only problem being of course that Mach at this point defines “washed-up” and so this seemed on paper like a relatively easy outing for Nick, who has developed into one of the most dangerous guys in the world at Welterweight now.

First round begins and Diaz stalks him, but eats a low kick and a quick flurry of punches from Mach beginning with a left hook. Diaz catches a body kick and gets a quick takedown to butterfly guard, landing some punches before standing over him. Sakurai tries to throw up some upkicks before Diaz drops back into the guard. Into half-guard for Diaz now but he doesn’t do that much and Sakurai works back to butterfly guard. Few solid punches land for Diaz but Sakurai escapes to his feet and cracks him with an overhand right! Diaz quickly grabs a clinch and forces him into the cage, landing some tight knees and shoulder strikes. Diaz breaks off with some strikes and then Sakurai shoots and gets a big double leg into Nick’s guard, but just moments after they go down Diaz rolls for an armbar. It looks deep and Sakurai makes the mistake of trying to hop over the top, but goes for the wrong side and actually puts himself in the submission and taps out.

Sakurai actually fought pretty well until he made the mistake of taking Diaz down, and then the major blunder of stepping the wrong way to try to escape the armbar. Post-fight Schiavello makes an interesting mention of Diaz possibly going back to the UFC soon and talks about a possible GSP-Diaz fight. I think GSP would win as Diaz’s wrestling still seems to be his weak point, but there aren’t many more interesting fights out there for St-Pierre right now than Diaz, that’s for sure. Solid main event. On a side note though, this DREAM/Strike Force co-promotion is doing no good at all for DREAM’s credibility as they’re now 0-6 in the series with three of their champions (if you count Mousasi) going down to Strike Force’s guys who aren’t really considered the very best in the world either. Couple that with some of the lighter guys coming out of bad WEC runs and doing well in DREAM and it doesn’t look that great.

-Announcers run down the results, and then the victorious fighters enter the cage to cut some promos as I marvel over how much Ralek Gracie looks like a cross between Rickson and Mike Swick.

Final Thoughts....

Alright, so there wasn’t much substance to this show, but hey, we only got one crap fight, and outside of that there were three really sick knockouts, a really enjoyable fight between Sakuraba and Gracie and another impressive win from Nick Diaz, so it’s a comfortable thumbs up from me. Enough said really.

Best Fight: Sakuraba-Gracie
Worst Fight: Maeda-Osawa

Overall Rating: ***1/4

Coming Soon....

UFC: 111-115, Fight Night 21
WEC: 49
King of the Cage: Various shows

Until next time,

Scott Newman:

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