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DREAM 15: LHW Grand Prix 2010 Opening Round review
by Scott Newman (MMA)
Posted on July 23, 2010, 7:05 AM

DREAM 15: Light-Heavyweight Grand Prix 2010 Opening Round

07/10/10
Saitama, Japan


-Your hosts are Michael Schiavello and Frank Trigg. They discuss the Lightweight Title fight between Aoki and Kawajiri, Schiavello calling it arguably the most anticipated match in recent history in Japan. Yeah, I’d agree with that. Schiavello also calls the card fantastic top-to-bottom, which I’m afraid I wouldn’t agree with. Intro goes on FOREVER as per usual with DREAM. Sadly this show is back in the ring as opposed to the white cage.

-Twenty minutes later we finally get the opening video package and fighter introduction. TWENTY MINUTES people.

Kazuhiro Nakamura vs Karl Amoussou

Announcers are pushing Amoussou as one of the best fighters to come out of Europe and a possible ‘new Wanderlei Silva’, which seems insane considering he’s a guy who recently got KOd by Lucio Linhares and drew with Trevor Prangley, but whatever. No idea on what’s brought Nakamura to DREAM after a run in Sengoku, although I vaguely remember hearing something about the Yoshida Dojo having some issues with Sengoku, which would explain things. Anyway Nakamura is always capable of blanketing a guy like Amoussou so one guess what’s going to happen here. It still cracks me up three years on that Nakamura tested positive for weed of all things. Just doesn’t seem the type.

Amoussou gets right into Nakamura’s face during the staredown, which is I guess where the Wandy comparisons came from. They begin and Amoussou opens with some kicks, landing some nice leg kicks as well as a one-two. Right hand from Nakamura and he follows with a single leg to guard. Amoussou looks to tie him up from the guard, but Nakamura gets through with some short hammer fists to the face. Good sweep attempt from Amoussou almost gets him into full mount, but Nakamura shows a solid base and manages to retain top position. Nakamura postures up and it looks for a second like he’s going for the Walls of Jericho of all things, but then he decides to drop back into the guard. Scramble, and Amoussou gets to his feet and makes some distance. They exchange some punches and Nakamura actually gets the better of it en route to a clinch. Amoussou forces him into the corner of the ring and looks for a takedown, but Nakamura shifts his weight and gets on top as they hit the ground, landing in half-guard. Nakamura grinds away with some punches, but Amoussou hip escapes back to full guard. Good punches from Nakamura as he postures up, and this is looking like your typical Nakamura fight at this stage. Nice shot to the body from Nakamura as he stands above the Frenchman. He tries to pass the guard, but Amoussou manages to block it. More short hammer fists land to the face of Amoussou. Amoussou seemingly has nothing off his back offensively. Referee finally decides to stand them up, and Amoussou receives the yellow card. They restart with about a minute to go and exchange some strikes, with Nakamura landing a couple of decent right hands. Amoussou chases forward with a high knee, but Nakamura clinches and eats a couple more knees to end the round.

Announcers are so horribly on Amoussou’s nuts it’s unbelievable, as they actually wonder who took the first round despite Nakamura being on top working with punches for about 80% of it.

Second round and they exchange some strikes before Nakamura shoots on a single leg. Amoussou grabs the ropes in an attempt to block, but the ref is having none of that and seconds later Nakamura has him on his back again. Weak guillotine attempt is easily avoided before Amoussou tries to scramble to his feet, but Nakamura holds him down. Couple of triangle attempts are avoided and Nakamura continues with the ground-and-pound. Ref stands them up with a minute to go and it’s a yellow card for Nakamura and another for Amoussou. They restart standing, and this time Nakamura lands a left to the body and follows with a shot to the head, then tackles Amoussou to the ground and lands more shots to end the fight.

Pretty comfortable decision for Nakamura methinks, and the judges agree. Dull fight as Amoussou just couldn’t deal with the takedowns or ground control of Nakamura. Your typical Nakamura fight really.

Mitsuhiro Ishida vs DJ Taiki

Well, Taiki normally puts on exciting fights. No chance of that happening here as Ishida has the innate ability to suck the life out of any MMA card with his blanketing style. Normally I’m quite tolerant of guys like that but Ishida has NEVER finished a decent opponent, period. This is his debut at Featherweight though, so maybe he’ll be better there. Ishida’s also dumped his old emo My Chemical Romance entrance....in favour of fucking COLDPLAY. Jesus fucking Christ.

Round One and Taiki rushes in with a low kick. Quick takedown from Ishida follows though and he gets right into half-guard. Good pass from Ishida puts him into side mount, and it looks like he’s setting up for an arm triangle choke. Hughes crucifix follows and Ishida lands some decent punches, then sets up for an armbar. It looks locked in, but the DJ does a tremendous job of slipping free and escapes to his feet! Taiki stalks forward with some strikes, but Ishida manages to catch a kick and take him down again, this time into the guard. Ishida lands some shots, but Taiki kicks him away and escapes to his feet. Ishida shoots in right away again, and sure enough he gets the DJ back down into half-guard. Taiki looks to roll, but gives up side mount in the process. I love how this is pretty much a carbon copy of the first fight and yet the announcers are saying Ishida’s dominating this while they called the first fight close due to their nuthuggery of Karl Amoussou. Taiki works half-guard back but it’s only for a moment as Ishida passes back to side mount. Taiki rolls, but Ishida takes the back, no hooks though and Taiki scrambles back to full guard. Taiki kicks him off and escapes to his feet, but within seconds Ishida has him back down in guard. Another scramble allows Ishida to take the back again, this time with one hook. Back to side mount with thirty seconds to go, but the round ends with Taiki getting to his feet in a rear waistlock.

Second round and Taiki backs him up and throws a body kick, but Ishida catches it and gets the takedown to guard. Sigh. They exchange from the guard and Taiki actually opens a cut on Ishida’s ear, but he still can’t shake Ishida off him and the former PRIDE star grabs the legs to flip him over and take the back. One hook from Ishida and this time he manages to get the second one in. Taiki tries to reverse, but Ishida winds up in full mount. Couple of punches from Ishida but mainly this is pure top control. At least he’s passing the guard I guess. Lot of blood coming from Ishida’s ear now. Good escape from Taiki allows him to get to his feet and land an uppercut, but Ishida hits another takedown and lands in the guard. Arm-in guillotine from Taiki, but it looks loose and Ishida pops his head free easily. Strong punches follow. Fight ends in the same position.

Unanimous decision for Ishida. Let’s be honest, Taiki tried, but once you’ve seen one Ishida fight, you’ve seen them all. Great ground control but little else in the toolbox and he’s still as dull as hell at 145lbs, just as he was at 155lbs.

Michihiro Omigawa vs Young Sam Jung

Like stablemate Nakamura, I’m guessing Omigawa’s move to DREAM has to do with Yoshida and that issue. Everyone seems to be high on Omigawa these days but to me he just got a bunch of gift decisions in Sengoku so blah. I was hoping he’d end up getting a rematch with Marlon Sandro just to see Marlon knock his teeth down his throat, but I guess Bibiano Fernandes will have to do that instead. Assuming he randomly develops KO power that is. Why am I not discussing Omigawa’s opponent? Because he’s a random unknown Korean with a record of 0-2. At least his name is hilarious. They should’ve just called him ‘Young Sam’ like a wrestling jobber and been done with it.

First round begins and Omigawa stuffs an early takedown attempt. Young Sam is swinging, but he hasn’t landed yet. Good low kick from Omigawa. Omigawa uses some nice head movement to avoid a combo, then lands a right and follows by decking the Korean. He pounds away, but Young Sam manages to survive. Flurry on the ground from Omigawa has the Korean in trouble, but he manages to survive enough to get half-guard locked up. Omigawa locks up a guillotine and pulls guard, but it doesn’t look locked in correctly and Sam reverses to his feet. Omigawa uses the guillotine to pull him back down, and there’s an anaconda choke wide open here but he doesn’t go for it, instead getting on top in the butterfly guard. Full guard now from Young Sam, bur he eats some punches. Suddenly Sam goes for an armbar, and for a moment it looks locked in, but Omigawa escapes and makes him pay with some more punches back into the guard. More ground-and-pound follows before the ref calls a stand-up. Young Sam is bleeding from the mouth. Omigawa opens up with some combinations on the Korean, who swings back with little skill, before the Sengoku veteran tackles him to the ground in guard. Armbar attempt is avoided and Omigawa looks to pass, landing some shots from above. He moves into full mount, securing a guillotine choke on the way, and that’s enough to make Young Sam tap out.

Not a horrible fight although it was very much a squash, and if I’m honest it’s surprising that it took Omigawa as long as it did to put that guy away. Can we get Omigawa a live opponent next time please?

DREAM Light-Heavyweight Grand Prix: Semi-Finals: Melvin Manhoef vs Tatsuya Mizuno

So initially DREAM planned a full-on LHW Grand Prix with the usual sixteen fighters and what-not, but I guess someone woke up and realized that outside of the UFC, top 205lbers are few and far between, particularly when the majority of the rest fight in Strike Force and wouldn’t enter the tournament either. So, this was the end product – two semi-finals featuring two guys who fought in DREAM’s 185lbs tournament, one tomato can (Mizuno) and one guy stepping in on short notice. Sigh. But hey, at least Melvin was going to get a highlight reel knockout, right?

Announcers mention that Mizuno has been training with Matt Hume at AMC Pankration for this fight, which is pretty interesting. Good camp to train with actually.

Fight begins and Mizuno closes the distance and looks for a takedown, but Melvin stuffs it and lands a right hand. Big swings from Manhoef miss, but he continues to stalk forward. Big combo from Melvin and Mizuno shoots again, but Melvin continues to defend it. Big combo stuns Mizuno but he’s still on his feet. Big right hand folds him up, and Melvin follows into the half-guard. Big left hands from the top land for Melvin but Mizuno manages to shift into full guard, where he ties the Dutchman’s arms up. Mizuno almost gets an armbar, but Melvin pulls out and winds up in side mount. Melvin decides to stand back up, forcing Mizuno to join him. Good left hand from Mizuno now and he shoots in, but Melvin grabs the ropes to block the takedown. Trip brings Melvin down into guard. Mizuno actually lands some solid punches from the guard, then passes into half-guard. Nice pass puts Mizuno into full mount for a second, but Melvin hip escapes back to half-guard. This time Mizuno passes to side mount, and he looks for a keylock, but Melvin manages to slip free. Another attempt follows, but it’s nowhere near locked in. Couple of good knees to the head land for the Japanese fighter though. Sloppy armbar attempt follows but Manhoef slips free and stands back up! Melvin comes in swinging, but he gets badly tagged by Mizuno and goes down! Unbelievable! He ends up wedged into the corner of the ring, with Mizuno in full mount raining down punches. This sucks because Mizuno can’t even land cleanly due to the ropes. USE A FUCKING CAGE YOU IDIOTS! Mizuno gives up on the punches and looks for a kimura, and this time he twists it up behind the back nicely, and MELVIN TAPS!

Big win for Mizuno, but Manhoef continues to be one of the most frustrating fighters in the world to watch as he just doesn’t seem to improve on the ground at all. I mean, if you just want to strike, then do kickboxing, don’t even bother with MMA. Still, credit to Mizuno though as he dropped Melvin standing too to lead into the finish here. Pretty major upset.

DREAM Light-Heavyweight Grand Prix: Semi-Finals: Gegard Mousasi vs Jake O’Brien

So as I mentioned earlier, O’Brien was brought in to fight Mousasi on short notice and we got some seriously odd things going on as he didn’t show for the weigh-ins and apparently couldn’t make 205lbs. In a 205lbs tournament. Weirder still, Ricco Rodriguez – who flew into Japan weighing around 230lbs in preparation for a fight with Alistair Overeem that never came off – was pegged as Jake’s possible replacement should he miss weight. So, a guy can’t make 205lbs so his replacement is a guy weighing 230lbs? Riiight. In the end they went with Jake even though he only made 212lbs. Schiavello is outright referring to Jake as the ‘Irish Blanket’, which seems harsh. Sure enough, he looks to be in terrible shape here. Ricco on the other hand is in his corner and looks better than he has done in years. Ref shows O’Brien a yellow card before the match, deducting him 10% of his purse due to missing the weight.

We get underway and O’Brien shoots in right away, but leaves his head wide open and Mousasi quickly locks up a guillotine and leans back into it for the tapout.

Ugh. Absolute waste of a fight. Don’t know whether O’Brien just screwed up, or whether his previous neck problems acted up, or whether he was just looking for a quick payday, but that was a terrible performance that won’t do him any good at all if he ever wants to get back into the UFC. So Mousasi gets to crush Mizuno at DREAM 16. Good for him.

-Intermission time and they show a highlight reel of some of the best DREAM fights as well as a recap of the card thus far. Segment ends with Caol Uno making his entrance and announcing his return to DREAM – at 145lbs! That should be a good move for him. Wonder if Gleison Tibau and his vicious left hand had anything to do with that move?

JZ Cavalcante vs Katsunori Kikuno

I’m a big JZ fan so it was great to see him back here, after over a year’s layoff with injuries following his loss to Kawajiri at DREAM 9. That fight was his only outing since April 2008 too so the risk of ring rust was a serious one here. I wasn’t buying Kikuno as a tip-top guy though just yet despite his strong wins over Andre Dida and Kuniyoshi Hironaka, so I figured JZ would handle him with little problems.

Fight begins and they trade some punches before Kikuno lands a lunging knee to the body. Good knee from JZ in the clinch and they muscle into the corner of the ring. Referee quickly breaks them up and Kikuno lands with a body kick before JZ lands a knee into the clinch again. Action slows down again and the ref calls another break, and this time JZ shoots on a double leg and gets him down into half-guard. Reversal from Kikuno and he escapes to his feet. Wild swing misses for Kikuno. Good leg kick from JZ. Kikuno answers with a body kick, but JZ leans out of the way of a big right. Good body shot again from Kikuno. Takedown attempt from JZ is stuffed, but a second attempt puts Kikuno on his back in guard. Beautiful pass into half-guard follows and he punches the body before going for mount, but Kikuno manages to scramble and escapes to his feet again. Back into the clinch but the ref breaks them off. Short left hook lands for JZ and knocks Kikuno off balance a little. Clinch from the Brazilian but Kikuno hits a trip takedown to half-guard. JZ gets full guard back, and he looks to use the rubber guard to tie the karate stylist up. Good right hand from Kikuno. Kikuno looks to posture up, but JZ escapes to his feet. Body kick from Kikuno but he slips down for a second. Couple of knees from Kikuno and he stuffs a takedown into the clinch. Kikuno looks for a trip of his own but JZ blocks it, and they exchange into another clinch to end the round. Really close round.

Round Two and JZ opens with a solid counter left hook. Overhand right lands for him too and he catches a body kick and hits a takedown to guard. Nice pass puts him in full mount and he avoids a reversal. Kikuno gives his back and JZ looks like he’s got the rear naked choke sunk, but the karate fighter manages to tuck his chin nicely to defend. Body triangle from JZ now and he continues to work for the choke. Solid punches land for the Brazilian as Kikuno continues to defend, but he can’t shake JZ off his back no matter how hard he tries. More punches from JZ and he continues to work for the submission, and the round comes to an end with JZ almost transitioning to an armbar before Kikuno slips free.

First round was largely even, second was all JZ Cavalcante so the decision has to go his way. Judges have it a split decision somehow, two going for JZ but one obviously drugged up judge going for Kikuno. Ah, Japanese bias. Good fight from a technical standpoint but it wasn’t a barnburner or anything like that. Glad to see JZ pick up a win though and it was clear he was playing it a little safe due to really needing a win, so he did what he had to do in the end. Can’t wait to see him in Strike Force now, hopefully against Josh Thomson or Gilbert Melendez.

DREAM Lightweight Title: Shinya Aoki vs Tatsuya Kawajiri

Well, hindsight is 20/20 and all, but I bet DREAM wish they’d done this one when they had the chance on 12/31/09 before Aoki had been absolutely humiliated at the hands of Gilbert Melendez. Back then the winner could realistically have been considered the #2 LW in the world behind BJ Penn, or even #1 with a different argument, but that Melendez fight really took a lot of the lustre away from Aoki. No matter, I admit I was still looking forward to this one like crazy – namely because I’m a big fan of Kawajiri’s despite questioning his recent opposition, and I figured with his fighting style being similar to Melendez’s, he could pull off a victory in the same fashion and finally rid us of Aoki and his tears and his spandex and everything else he brings.

Entrances are cool here and you couldn’t get two more polar opposites in terms of attitude, as Kawajiri comes off like the baddest guy on the planet while Aoki is like the skinny nerd. Japanese national anthem precedes the match. Kawajiri is absolutely SHREDDED.

And here we go! Fight begins and Aoki shoots on a single leg and scrambles into a footlock attempt! Kawajiri tries to free his leg, but he looks to be in trouble right away as Aoki has an Achilles lock! Kawajiri continues to fight, heel kicking the face with his free leg, but Aoki still has his left foot locked up. He puts some real torque on it, twisting for all he’s worth, and finally KAWAJIRI TAPS! Damnit.

Post-fight Kawajiri’s leg looks to be in a serious mess as Aoki celebrates. Looks like a dislocation or perhaps a broken ankle. Crazy stuff as Kawajiri allowed himself to be dragged into Aoki’s world and paid the price for it. On a bad note for DREAM, how bad do they now look when Aoki’s destroyed everyone they have in the promotion and yet he got clowned by Strike Force’s champion? Post-fight the translator claims Aoki announces he’ll be rematching Melendez in September, but there’s no way that happens I don’t think. Fight ended up being a total anticlimax really as I was expecting a good fight and got a flash submission.

-Announcers wrap things up and that’s all she wrote.

Final Thoughts....

This was another disappointing show from DREAM I thought, as the undercard was full of squashes or dull fights, Mizuno-Manhoef aside as that was quite exciting. From a technical standpoint JZ-Kikuno was the best fight of the night, but it wasn’t really a classic and for all the hype, Aoki-Kawajiri was largely an anticlimax. It’s not one of the worst shows of all time and it’s better than say, DREAM 13, but this is still only worth a thumbs in the middle score.

Best Fight: JZ-Kikuno
Worst Fight: Nakamura-Amoussou

Overall Rating: **1/2

Coming Soon....

UFC: 113-116
King of the Cage: Various shows

Until next time,

Scott Newman:
NewmanMMA@gmail.com



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