DREAM 6 brought us the finals of the middleweight grand prix Tuesday at the Saitama Super Arena with Melvin Manhoef, Gegard Mousasi, Zelg Galesic, Ronaldo Jacare Souza all still vying for the tournament title. However, perhaps an even bigger draw was found in the match between former PRIDE Open Weight Grand Prix Champion Mirko "Cro Cop" Filipovic and Alistair Overeem.
In the end, you've got to hope that the DREAM organization makes it. These grand prix tournaments are awesome.
The night started off with a middleweight tourney reserve match between Andrews Nakahara and Dong Sik Yoon. We're talking about a karate guy with little MMA experience vs. a very tough?repeat, very tough?judo practitioner that's shown his mettle several times to this point.
Early in the fight Nakahara landed a very solid high right kick. He then did a very good job of defending the takedown, eventually ending up on top of his adversary on the ground. Only a few moments in, however, Nakahara stood up out of Yoon's open guard. A couple of kicks to a bicycling Yoon and Yoon was told to get up by the referee.
Both fighters traded low kicks, with Nakahara getting the better of things. Yoon once again looked for the takedown, this time getting it only to almost find himself in an Omo Plata. However, he got out of the move, which was hampered by the fact that Nakahara was under the ropes.
From there, Yoon started looking to improve his position until he gained the full mount. Then he went for an unusual choke that was doomed to fail from the beginning, as it didn't seem to cover all aspects of his opponent's neck. Eventually, Yoon gave up on it and started in with some effective ground and pound. That said, he eventually went for another failed choke that allowed Nakahara to escape the inopportune position and get up.
For the rest of the round, Nakahara picked his opponent apart with very solid low kicks, high kicks, and punches. Further, he sprawled out of a takedown attempt and hit home with several knees to the head on the ground before the first round bell.
So far, Andrews Nakahara is winning.
The second started off as the first ended, with Nakahara landing big shots. In fact, Nakahara connected with one very strong flurry that floored Yoon. From there, a very tough guy was unable to answer his opponent's second flurry of punches that followed him to the canvas before the referee decided to step in.
Andrews Nakahara wins via TKO in round two.
Next up was a match that many believed would produce some fireworks. That's right, we're talking about Gegard Mousasi vs. Melvin Manhoef in the first of the middleweight tourney bouts.
Thinking stoppage here, no? By the way, if you didn't catch Manhoef's entrance than you missed out on some interesting dancing and someone walking him toward the ring by way of a dog collar and leash.
Right off the bat, Mousasi went for a takedown and got it. Though Manhoef got up quickly, his opponent once again put him on his back and moved straight to mount. From there, Manhoef turned things over but ended up in a triangle. Manhoef stood up with his opponent and slammed him.
But Mousasi didn't let the triangle go. Soon after, Manhoef was tapping and that was that. A very quick victory for Mousasi. Further, this should serve as a lesson to all of us out there?including myself?that when you don't have solid submission skills, you're not a good bet in MMA.
Gegard Mousasi wins via first round triangle choke.
Next up was the other quarterfinal match between Ronaldo Jacare Souza and Zelg Galesic in one of those grappler versus striker match ups. Along with this, early on in this one Souza picked his adversary up and deposited him on the ground. After some punching, he took side control and then the mount. Somehow, though, Galesic turned Souza over.
Not good. Immediately, Souza transitioned to an armbar and that was that. Wow, does this guy have some jiu jitsu skills.
Ronaldo Jacare Souza wins via first round armbar. Interestingly, both fighters in the middleweight final should be fresh, as neither had long fights in the opener.
Next up was a fight between Adriano Martins and Keita Nakamura. Nakamura had a tough time during his brief stay in the UFC and was looking to get back on track with this one. Martins was hoping simply to make a name for himself.
Martins connected with some early low kicks and then a very hard overhand left that sent Nakamura to the canvas. But Nakamura recovered quickly, and Martins decided to stay standing. Thus, the referee eventually compelled the Japanese fighter to his feet.
From there came a nice exchange that Martins clearly got the better of before Nakamura achieved a body lock and took his opponent to the canvas. Despite the fact that he continually hit home with mild to moderate ground and pound on his opponent for several minutes, a cut formed under Nakamura's left eye because of an elbow from his back by Martins. Due to a lack of extreme action, the referee then stood the two fighters up after the doctor looked at the cut.
After the break, Nakamura was the one that connected with the better shots on the feet, especially jabs. And that's how the first stanza ended. This one is close thus far, but Nakamura appears to be taking over.
The story on the second round was an easy one to tell. Nakamura continually pelted his opponent with jabs for the entire stanza. With that, Martins' dream of a victory in this one fell by the wayside.
Keita Nakamura wins by way of majority decision. Somehow, Martins earned one judge's favor. Strange.
Next up was a match between nearly 300 pound Jimmy Ambriz and Sergei Kharitonov. Would the approximately 70 pound difference between these two competitors make up for Kharitonov's clear skills advantage?
In a word?no.
A nice left dropped Ambriz early on but he recovered quickly and might've brought Kharitonov to the canvas had his adversary not grabbed the top rope. From there, though, Kharitonov picked his opponent apart with hard punches to the face and body that eventually left Ambriz on the canvas with the referee waving things off.
Sergei Kharitonov wins via early first round TKO.
Next up was a fight between Atsushi Yamamoto and Hideo Tokoro. Tokoro's fights are always fun to watch, and there was no reason to think different coming into this bout. Speaking of this bout. . .
Tokoro started this fight off with nice jabs and straight rights from a distance. But then in a sudden burst, Yamamoto dropped him with a terrific left- right combination. Still, Tokoro recovered quickly on the ground and then began looking for submissions. Eventually, Yamamoto got up and Tokoro followed.
While on their feet, Yamamoto looked great, continually hitting home with kicks and punches to various parts of Tokoro's body. Just past the four minute mark, Tokoro pulled guard on his adversary. Soon after, Yamamoto stood up out of trouble.
For the rest of the round, the story was the same. Yamamoto literally pounded away at a bleeding Tokoro (from his nose) and nearly dropped him with a left. Just after the left, Tokoro managed to pull guard again to no avail. Then the bell.
So far Yamamoto is winning this one in a big way.
Tokoro started out the second aggressively, connecting with some nice punches. Then he executed a spinning wheel kick of sorts and managed to bring his opponent to the canvas with him. From the bottom he began looking for all varieties of submissions. But nothing happened and the referee stood the two up so the doctor could check Tokoro out.
When the fight resumed?by the way, the two fighters got way too long of a rest?it did so on the ground, but Yamamoto soon came to his feet. Then, surprisingly, Yamamoto took Tokoro down. From there, he almost achieved side control. But when the attempt fell by the wayside, he stood up.
The two ended up on the ground again with Yamamoto on top. This time, however, Tokoro turned his opponent over. Then came a strong armbar attempt by Tokoro. Still, Yamamoto was holding on with everything he had. And that's how the fight ended, with Yamamoto holding his arm from being straightened.
Got to give it to Yamamoto. The judges agreed.
Atsushi Yamamoto wins via unanimous decision.
Next up was a fight between Japanese favorites Masakatsu Funaki and Ikuhiso "The Punk" Minowa. Minowa is always fun and Funaki is a Japanese legend, so this one was sure to entertain the home crowd for as long as it went on.
Early on, Minowa grabbed a kick by Funaki and took the older man down. From there, Funaki immediately began looking for an ankle lock. Moments later, the heel hook was his!
A huge victory for Masakatsu Funaki. Didn't think he'd do it, but am glad for him that he did.
Masakatsu Funaki wins via heel hook early in the first stanza.
Next up was a fight between Kuniyoshi Hironaka and Hayato Sakurai. The bottom line?Hironaka is far less experienced in MMA than Sakurai. But as we all know, experience isn't always the be- all end- all.
Early on, Sakurai connected with some nice low kicks but Hironaka shot in for the takedown and eventually tripped him to the ground. Still, Sakurai got up and cumulatively began to pile up those powerful low kicks of his, hitting home with nice punches along the way as well. Eventually, he slipped to the canvas after a kick attempt and Hironaka followed him down. As things unfolded, Hironaka stood up and kicked his opponent in the face, a no- no in DREAM. So there was a brief delay before action resumed again after a warning.
Sakurai took him apart in surgeon- like fashion (thanks, Kenny Rice) for the rest of the stanza.
So far, it's Sakurai's fight.
Hironaka started off the second round with a nice takedown and strong ground and pound. Eventually, however, Sakurai got up with those powerful legs of his. That's when Mach once again connected with a terrific low kick and some nice punches. He even tripped Hironaka to the canvas momentarily.
Still, Hironaka was game, connecting with several punches along the way. That said, when Sakurai hit there was simply more power behind the strike.
Around the one minute mark, Sakurai hit home with a terrific left hand and followed that with some strong blows to the face and knees in the clinch. Hironaka is one tough guy.
Still, everyone hits the canvas when they get hit just right. And that's exactly what Sakurai did with a left. From there, he followed his adversary to the ground where he continued on with the assault.
But then came the bell; there simply wasn't enough time for Sakurai to finish a very tough guy like Hironaka.
Hayato Sakurai wins via unanimous decision.
Masonori Tonooka took on Yoshihiro Akiyama in the next bout. In sum, Akiyama eventually clinched with Tonooka and took him down after some messing around on his feet. From there, he gained side control, executed some ground and pound, and then moved to the crucifix position. The battering only increased there before Akiyama eventually took the mount. Soon after, however, Tonooka got to his feet after giving up his back. But then he was tripped hard to the ground again. Then came the crucifix position again. Then came the mount.
And finally the armbar.
Yoshihiro Akiyama wins via first round armbar.
After some mild striking from a distance by both combatants, Aoki took his adversary's back while standing and then sunk in a fast rear naked choke in the corner. This guy is unbelievable on the ground.
Shinya Aoki wins via first round rear naked choke.
Finally came the fight many were waiting for?Mirko Cro Cop Filipovic vs. Alistair Overeem. Before this fight these two engaged in some serious trash talk, something rather unusual for Cro Cop. Still, in the end?as is the case with all fights?it would be settled in the ring.
Or would it?
After a feeling out process, Overeem landed a nice left. Then from the clinch the taller fighter literally threw Cro Cop to the ground. Hard punches to the face and especially the body followed until the referee decided to stand the two up rather inexplicably. Still, Cro Cop was once again put down to the ground and pounded on.
Eventually, Cro Cop got back to his feet later and was kneed to the groin in the clinch. After some time the fight resumed, but this happened once again.
And that ended the fight, leaving a bout that Overeem was clearly winning a no contest.
Finally, came the Middleweight Grand Prix Final between Gegard Mousasi and Ronaldo Jacare Souza. This was a wow ending, folks.
Basically, Souza took his Armenian adversary down hard early on. Then he stood up over him looking to ground and pound. Unfortunately for him, Mousasi met his efforts with an up kick that coupled with another couple of strikes forced the referee's hand at 2:15 of the stanza.
Gegard Mousasi wins via first round knockout.
In the end, DREAM 6 was a fun night of fights save one. Unfortunately, that one, between Mirko "Cro Cop" Filipovic and Alistair Overeem, was a big one. Fights ending controversially just leave a bad taste, you know. Though Filipovic was certainly losing, the fact is we don't how it really would've ended because it didn't end.
Still, a great effort by Gegard Mousasi. He's truly a fighter to watch.