MMA-Japan.com has reported and all but confirmed that DREAM has ceased operations, saying the promotion is “no longer a going concern.” The canceling of July’s event was ostensibly writing on the wall, as DREAM is no more.
While this is nowhere near as gaping as the hole left by the demise of their predecessor, PRIDE, it is an unfortunate turn of events. DREAM seemed to be a bastion of hope for Japanese MMA after the demise of PRIDE, and with all the controversy surrounding several of their events, this sad ending seemed to be inevitable.
Although a bad situation for its contracted fighters, the ones who actually get paid anyway, many are looking to the future. News of two-division champion Bibiano Fernandes signing to the UFC broke earlier today and Tatusaya Kawajiri has also made a future for himself by signing with One FC. It would seem rival promotions are the only winners in this situation, there are even unconfirmed rumors of a UFC buyout on the horizon.
Despite the shady dealings of FEG, it’s best to look back on the promotion through rose-colored glasses, so we at MMA Frenzy briefly discussed some of our favorite DREAM moments, coming up with 10 we’ve deemed to be the promotion’s most unforgettable:
In Chronological Order:
It was an all-out brawl in the Dream Lightweight Grand Prix Quarterfinal when the future Bellator Champion would step into the cage with “Hellboy”. Both men put on what was nearly unanimously voted a “Fight of The Year” performance throughout 15 minutes of action. In the End, It was Alvarez who had his hand raised and advanced to the semi-finals.
When Mayhem and Jacare met in this classic middleweight tilt, both men showed what they were made of. While Souza’s world-class jiu jitsu proved to be too much for popular Miller, “Mayhem” more that held his own, escaping various submissions and engaging Souza at his own game. While Jacare had his hand raised in victory, the loss did nothing but bolster the American’s reputation as a game fighter.
This fight made the list for one word, something it delivered in spades, “violence”. After Manhoef connected with a stiff head kick to “the Gracie Killer”, the legend flopped to his back as the K-1 veteran continued his attacked. As Sakuraba attempted to regain guard, the Dutchman grabbed his leg and pulled him away from the ropes, much like a lion playing with food. He then continued to beat the Japanese legend senseless with knees and hamer fists until the referee had no choice but to stop the fight.
Eddie Alvarez delivered a “Fight of The Year” contender under the DREAM banner for the second time in 2008 when he met Kawajiri. In yet another brawl, both men left everything in the ring, each hitting the floor on at least one occasion. It was comparable to a live game of Rock ‘Em Sock ‘Em Robots while it lasted. In the final exchange, Alvarez dropped “The Crusher” with a salvo of punches, following him to the mat and unloading to finish the Japanese fighter. Unfortunately, Kawajiri ultimately did enough damage to keep Alvarez out of the lightweight tournament final later in the night due to a cut.
When the finals of the inaugural DREAM Middleweight Grand Prix were upon us, the cream had risen to the top. A bout between two prospects, who would go on to become stars stateside, would determine the Japanese promotion’s first middleweight champion. While it was no secret where either man wanted the fight, it seemed to be Jacare who was getting his way, taking down the Armenian. When the Brazilian lost position, he dove into “The Dreamcatcher’s” guard, only to be met with a vicious mid-air up-kick that would leave the jiu jitsu champion out cold.
A moment which made this list for shear comedic value, how can anyone ever forget Shinya Aoki taking on David Gardner at Dream 7? When Gardner came into bout, he was expected to be easy fodder for the Japanese submission specialist. Well, he proved to be exactly that and more. When you have one of the most feared submission specialists in the sport controlling your back, what would you do? Your answer likely isn’t “wave to the crowd and say hello”, but that’s exactly what the American did. This incident saw his nickname officially changed to “Hello Japan”, words that now live in infamy.
There is but one word to describe this fight, “scrambles”. In a wildly entertaining grappling affair, Hideo Tokoro had entered the DREAM Featherweight Grand Prix quarterfinals as an alternate on a three-fight skid, while Cullum was riding hot on back-to-back wins. Both men traded submission attempts and positional dominance countless times throughout the bout. When the pace began to wear on the American, the Japanese veteran was able to sink a deep rear-naked choke, with no hooks, and force a tap with his powerful squeeze.
After tearing through their respective brackets in competition, “The Whitemare” and “The Kansas City Bandit” met in the finals of the DREAM Welterweight Grand Prix to determine the promotion’s first champion. While both men looked impressive in their runs hitherto, it was the Lithuanian who would build his star that night. With the same snapping head kick that had gotten him to the finals, Zaromskis cracked High, rendering him unconscious, almost sending the American through the ropes.
Shinya Aoki’s title defense over Tatsuya Kawajiri was, at that point, a clash of the two top lightweights in Japan. Both men had loyal legions of fans backing them before the bout, which was expected to be a battle of attrition. Unfortunately for “The Crusher”, Aoki’s submission prowess was too much to overcome as “The Baka Survivor” pulled guard and grabbed hold of his opponent’s leg. Upon sinking in a painful achilles lock, Aoki torqued until Kawajiri screamed in pain and was forced to tap, he had once again breezed through his opposition.
Reading back through this list, one sees that the names of both these men have popped up with some frequency. Does it come of any surprise that when “The Crusher” and “Hellboy” finally met inside the ring, it was an instant classic? A featherweight bout many felt was overlooked in the 2011 “Fight of The Year” running, the two DREAM veterans fought all over the ring. Exciting striking exchanges, big takedowns, and scrambles on the ground made this an extremely memorable bout. In the end, Kawajiri was able to secure an arm triangle, which has become his signature submission, and force the tough Norwegian to tap.