<h2><span style="font-family: times new roman,times;">Dream 14</span></h2>
The largest MMA promotion outside of the United States, Dream, put together a spectacular show over the weekend...I hope you didn't miss it because all the hype around a mediocre UFC event. Live from the Saitama Super Arena, and broadcast for free in America on Mark Cuban's HDNet, Dream 14 delivered interesting story lines and consistent action.
I have to note that I love the presentation of the free MMA on HDNet, it certainly deserves to be mentioned a second time right off the bat. Major MMA events are shown live, with all the Japanese graphics and buffers, often hilarious even if you don't speak the language. HDNet employs the fantastic Michael 'The Voice' Schiavello to add verbal honey mustard to everything. Michael Schiavello can call a fight as well as anyone in the world, and no one does a better job of keeping you interested in a plodding yawnfest by adding funny quips and telling stories of the past.
<strong>Dream 14</strong> was planned for Korea in late April, but the card ran into trouble as several big names withdrew and the card had to be pushed back. Then it was announced that the first round of a light heavyweight tournament featuring most of the top light heavyweights outside of the UFC would start on the card, I was pumped! But alas, that has also been pushed back.... So what were we left with? A cross-promotional visit from a reigning American champion, a few nostalgia fights for the old heads, a smattering of the worlds top featherweights, and an open weight challenge for the Super Hulk tournament champion in his recognizable red speedo. The organization is also using the white cage for the second time in three events, a real bummer for the old fans who don't see the need for uniformity in MMA.
Shortly after 3am the event gets rolling with a thundering techno song with Icelandic singer Bjork crooning 'raising your flag! declare independence!'. From the opening song you can tell the stylistic presentation differences apparent between the international big boys. In America, douche rock and country seem to be king in the UFC arena...it makes sense as the live demographic at an American MMA show seems to be wasted Chad. In Japan, the crowd is much more...well...sober.
White curtains surround the cage and rise all the way into the rafters. The first promo begins, it is Aoki being beaten by Gilbert Melendez. There are backstage tears and cries for forgiveness....the Japanese promoters are intent on letting us know that Strikeforce has been beating up their stars. They introduce the fighters one by one on the video....each guy in Japan has a personality that the promoters love to play upon, here they are more than one dimension fighters. Tough guy Takaya is riding his motorcycle; Norwegian fighter Hansen is dressed as a samurai wielding a katana. Minowa's sequence shows him doing the only thing he seems capable of doing, ruining the late-life mobility of some defenseless monster.
The white curtains fall in dramatic fashion as jets of fire spew from the cage. I am not talking about the actual fire, which happened to be shooting in 6 foot high columns from boxes placed in the cage, but the verbal fire coming from the spectacular Lenne Hardt, who's combination of high-pitched screeching and long alveolar trills (thanks wiki) are something you will never be able to forget. The fighters march out and around the cage, a great tradition of theatrical showmanship that is missing outside of Japan. One note, the Norwegian samurai Joachim Hansen is wearing jorts...perhaps he is also a Florida Gators fan.
Nearly 40 minutes of pre-show and we arrive at the first contest. An open weight match between <strong>Ikuhisa Minowa</strong>, the 190 pound winner of the Super Hulk tournament who specializing in fighting larger men...vs a much larger man who is not used to fighting in a match that involves grappling. Minowa, who is famous throughout Japan for his courage and gamesmanship, really has a great angle. At the same time, it's kind of cruel to watch him maim the legs of big men who probably already have trouble moving around as it is. And that is clearly what I think will happen in this match, the big guy will beat on Minowaman until he is out of gas, and the battered bully will then leap in for an ankle. Dream executives have openly talked about how much they love their new tradition of Minowaman kicking off the show, it's great for their ratings, so don't expect it to stop anytime soon.
The victim, err opponent, this time is American <strong>Imani Lee,</strong> an imposing kick boxer that looks relatively nimble even though he clocks in over 300. I almost called the guy athletic until he took his shirt off, but he certainly looks like a load. The fight starts off slowly, with Minowa circling out of the big man's range. Lee throws a hard 1-2 and bounces back out, if the fight remained standing it looks like he might be able hurt the smaller man. The big guy never got another good punch off as Minowa got the take down against the cage. Imani held on tight for a few minutes, but when his grip gives out Minowaman gets the mount and throws a few punches. As the inexperienced big man turns away from the blows, he gives up his back and taps to a rear naked choke. Imani never really had a chance, but at least he won't be limping out of the cage. Schiavello calls on Dream to schedule Minowa against tougher opponents, I don't know about that one Mike, I don't need to see the first 14 minutes of the super hulk final ever again.
The next bout features Dream vet <strong>Yoshiro Maeda</strong> vs Dream newcomer <strong>Kenji Osawa</strong>. Osawa has been fighting in America under the WEC promotion, and is trying to make a name for himself in his home country. Maeda is back in the ring after suffering a highlight reel knockout from the foot of American <strong>Cole Escovedo</strong>. Calling it simply a 'highlight reel knockout' might be an understatement, as it should be a heavy favorite for KO of the year. Just 9 weeks ago we saw blood pour from the side of the mouth into a bucket as his trainer held his jaw in place; I was happy to see clips of Maeda backstage that night walking under his own power and talking to his trainers.
Good first round...back and forth with both guys throwing combinations that started with punches and ended with head kicks. Kenji was a little more effective with his hands, but Maeda finished the round in control and landed a few knees with purpose against the cage. <strong>Second round</strong> starts with a good exchange, including both guys throwing knees that do damage..a scrabble against the cage and Osawa ends up on top in an awkward clinching position for 90 seconds with little action. There is a scrabble and Osawa does some damage with his fists. Interesting clinch fighting against the net...leg hooking etc. Frank Trigg has both rounds to Maeda, I'm not so sure.
Knees to downed opponents...or at least a guy with a third point on the ground, are awesome and should be allowed in American MMA.
<strong>Round 3.</strong> The fighters exchange and clinch, but it is broken up quickly by the ref. Maeda coming forward, lands. Osawa reasserts himself and lands a few strikes. Maeda scores take down but Osawa uses the cage to back up. Ref breaks the clinch with 100 seconds remaining. Even striking for last minute plus. Hard fight to score, I could see a split decision.This would have benefited from more rounds.
<em><strong>Osawa wins split decision.</strong></em> No real complaint from me, it was entertaining and close.
The third fight on the card is between <strong>Takafumi Otsuka</strong> vs <strong>Kazuyuki Miyata</strong>. Otsuka is the featherweight champ for the DEEP organization, a minor league in Japanese MMA. Miyata is known for his chiseled physique as much as his fighting skills, he goes by the nickname 'Little Hercules'. A good back and forth battle, this fight had a lot of action... although there may have been more questionable observations of Miyata's ripped muscles by Schiavello than big haymakers that landed. Miyata had his best moments towards the end of round 3 and secured a split decision from the judges.
Fight number four featured <strong>Hideo 'The Human Octopus' Tokoro</strong>, a grappling submission specialist who has been a regular in Dream, vs <strong>Akiyo 'Wicky' Nishiura</strong>, a relative newcomer who doesn't even have Wikipedia page and looks kind of like a troll doll with pink hair. Tokoro's intro is very puzzling, it involves him in bed waking up from a dream and staring at his alarm clock, all while having a flash back of the promoter? I have a feeling if I spoke Japanese I would be confused as well. Nishiura's intro shows that he is also a very talented painter, his weird hair makes a bit more sense now.
Wicky starts off with a quick flurry that drops Tokoro, he drops some bombs from above while Tokoro scrambles to defend. The Human Octopus manages to get to his feet as Schiavello declares <em><strong>"this fight has more action than a cucumber at a ladies prison"</strong></em>...I scramble for the T.V. remote to confirm what I've just heard....yes, I got served, and I am still in shock about it.
Wicky keeps his hands low during exchanges, but as soon as I am finished typing that he lands a big leaping right hook dropping Hideo to the canvas. We have our first stoppage of the night. The ref wasn't in a hurry to leap in, Tokoro will need an ice bag and some aspirin tonight. It is a very impressive performance by Nishiura over the Dream vet; he lets the crowd know he wants a title shot in near future.
Fight five between <strong>Norifumi 'Kid' Yamamoto</strong> and <strong>Kiko Lopez</strong> begins with a depressing segment devoted to Kid's recent loses. Kid is a Pride legend who has fallen into a slump. He is still a name and MMA fans should hope he recaptures his old form because he was a blast to watch when he did his thing.
Dream 14 includes cooler music than the UFC...they had Justice's big anthem from a few years ago 'Friends' playing during the highlights....very cosmopolitan.
Kiko comes out like a K1 fighter and throws some pretty looking strikes. After a few even exchange Kiko lands a solid punch, as Kid circles away Kiko drops his hands and rushes in for another. Turns out to be a big mistake as he runs directly into a vicious counter than puts him on the canvas. The Kid in desperation of a win leaps on the wounded Lopez and lands several blows to his face as it rests against the canvas. That seems to be two fights in a row where the ref was more concerned with lining up his ear microphone for the vicious KO video to insert in the next promo buffer instead of protecting a fighter. Herb Dean, dean of the herb, would never hesitate.
Second time I watched the end on the DVR I concede that the ref did the best he could...Kid just laid down a lot if pain in few short seconds. Lopez needs a bit of time to wake up.
Intermission time; Check out our second half of the review which included the 3 heavily hyped main events: <a href="http://www.fightlaunch.com/mma-blog/dream-14-result" target="_blank">DREAM 14 Results</a> part 2.