DREAM 7 wasn’t exactly the epitome of an entertaining Japanese card that would attract casual fans, but it did produce some interesting matchups in the Featherweight Grand Prix. The ratings, according to Japan-MMA.com, were a miserable. 2.4% with Aoki vs. Gardner pushing a 4%, which is apparently not good at all. Lacking some star power in “Kid’ Yamamoto probably hurt the television ratings, so I expect some better rating in the next FW GP round.
Overall, DREAM 7 did produce some interesting style matchups that were fairly even and pretty tough to pick. Most casual fans love a one-sided crushing, but these even matchups were exactly what I liked about the matchmaking at this event. It probably wasn’t the best thing in order to produce ratings though. Let’s take a look at what happened at DREAM 7.
Masakazu Imanari def. Atsushi Yamamoto, Split Decision: This was a tough matchup for both fighters. Atsushi isn’t exactly the easiest guy to submit, and he’s trained by fellow Featherweight “Kid” Yamamoto. Imanari doesn’t have the powerful standup to press Yamamoto, but his grappling is superior to the point where it becomes a huge danger for Yamamoto to get into Imanari’s guard. There in lies the chess match.
Imanari controlled much of the matchup as he was able to get Yamamoto in his guard and go on the offensive with submission attempts. Atsushi was able to avoid those attempts, but it didn’t give him much room to push any offense of his own. His shortness in height and reach didn’t allow him to stay out of guard and punish Imanari much like Mishima has done in the past, and this fight went as expected. Imanari edged out Atsushi in the end, although I felt like it should have been unanimous.
Hiroyuki Takaya def. Jong Won Kim via TKO (strikes): A lot of fans were looking forward to seeing if Jong Won Kim could make the transition to MMA from his judo roots, and for the most part, he was doing a great job against Takaya. But with a man like Takaya, the knockout punch is always looming in the shadows.
Kim was able to control Takaya for the most part, but as the second round began and the fighters were seperated from the usual hugging on the ropes, Takaya landed a solid right that dropped Kim. This was the exact complication with picking Kim, especially in his first MMA bout.
Kim has some potential, but without a developed striking game, he isn’t going to get far in the Featherweight division that is stacked with some very well-rounded fighters. Dong Sik Yoon has some work to do with Kim, but he could become very dangerous if he develops a base standup game with some transitioning submissions on the floor. Not all hope is lost for Kim with this loss.
Yoshiro Maeda def. Micah Miller, unanimous decision: Maeda was simply the more punishing fighter here. Miller didn’t use his reach very effectively in this fight, and it was much more of a problem with Miller not throwing punches with his reach. Maeda brought a more aggressive standup game.
When the action hit the floor, Miller did manage to have a good rubber guard to stop Maeda from posturing up, but Maeda was still able to move up and land some solid shots. Overall, a decent win for Maeda considering he was at a huge reach disadvantage in this bout.
Abel Cullum def. Akiyo Nishiura, unanimous decision: Cullum was more aggressive, landed much cleaner shots, and was working over Akiyo for much of the matchup. It looked to be much closer than originally thought when the decision came down, but I believe the judges got this one right.
Akiyo wasn’t able to effectively use his elusiveness to avoid shots, and the fact that Akiyo generally leaves his hands down was one of the deciding factors. Cullum was quick enough to capitalize on that weakness, and he landed some solid blows in the standup game because of it. Akiyo needs to learn the basics.
Joe Warren def. Chase Beebe via TKO (cut): Joe Warren was impressive. His solid wrestling base was soul crushing to Beebe’s effectiveness in working whatever gameplan he has brought to this fight. It was evident that Warren had actually been able to transition his outstanding wrestling to the MMA game along with taking some decent shots from Beebe.
Warren wasn’t entirely one-dimensional either. He landed a flush knee late in the round that opened a massive cut on Beebe’s head. It resulted in having the fight stopped, although a lot of fans believed Beebe simply quit on the stool. A huge upset win for Joe Warren.
Bibiano Fernandes def. Takafumi Otsuka, unanimous decision: Bibiano worked some technical boxing in this fight that punished Takafumi from the beginning of this bout, but he was also very able on the floor and caused Takafumi to be on the defense for the most part on the ground. Overall, Bibiano was much better in making Takafumi ineffective for much of this fight. Very solid win by Bibiano, and it goes to show that he is improving his overall MMA skillset.
Tatsuya Kawajiri def. Ross Ebanez via submission (rear naked choke): Kawajiri obviously had better striking, better wrestling, and was just overwhelming in this matchup. That’s his gameplan in every fight, and he didn’t try to brawl with Ebanez too much in this one. He was much more inclined to work the gameplan that put the moniker “The Crusher” with his name.
Kawajiri was able to work his way to Ebanez’s back fairly quickly in this fight, and Ebanez was on the defense for the rest of the matchup once that happened. As in most fights, Ebanez finally succumbed to repeated attempts by Kawajiri to sink the rear naked choke.
It wasn’t a rank changing win by any means, but it keeps Kawajiri active in the division. Ebanez wasn’t a terrible opponent, but he wasn’t as competitive as some fans thought he would be.
Shinya Aoki def. David Gardner via submission (rear naked choke): This was a rather pitiful matchup for David Gardner. Gardner spent nearly the entire fight defending submissions from the back as Aoki was traveling via backpack on Gardner for much of the fight. This was to be expected, but Gardner made the fatal mistake of waving at the crowd in multiple instances as if Aoki wasn’t a problem.
Aoki was a problem. At one moment during the bout, Gardner waves once again, said “Hello Japan”, and was subsequently choked out by Aoki as he raised his chin to yell his famous last words. Horrible decision by Gardner, and this has to be absolutely embarrassing.
Mitsuhiro Ishida def. Daisuke Nakamura, unanimous decision: This was one of the more enjoyable matchups of the evening. It pitted a very tough Mitsuhiro Ishida against a dynamic grappler in Daisuke Nakamura. Nakamura spent a lot of time on his back trying to grab at Ishida, but Ishida proved that he is still one of the toughest guys in the fight game to submit. His quickness, ability to move quickly in and out of danger, and powerful physique all combined to keep him out of harms way and punish Nakamura.
Nakamura has some chances, but Ishida was just too strong, too well-conditioned, and too much. Solid win for Ishida against a rising star in Daisuke Nakamura.
Betting Review: We won huge at this event, and it was very unexpected. A small parlay on Warren, Bibiano, and Imanari with some added single bets on Ishida, Warren, Bibiano, and Imanari paid out big on this card. It makes up quite nicely for my UFC 96 losses.
Overall: C, It wasn’t the most exciting night of fights, and a casual fan would have likely fallen asleep at 3 AM trying to watch some of these bouts. You’ve really got to have an eye for appreciating some of the great ground games that many of these fighters in the GP have at their disposal.
The theatrics weren’t anything to write home about, but the entrances were a nice escape from the typical UFC boxer-like entrances. I say this almost everytime I see a Japanese card though, likely because there are many more UFC events going on than Japanese events.
Overall, decent card, but I was left wanting more. Hopefully DREAM can put on some better shows than this one in the future.