Dream A Little DREAM.10: Breaking down the Welterweight Grand Prix and more

Japanese mixed martial arts has been in ten different kinds of trouble since even before PRIDE folded but that hasn’t stopped the Land of the Rising Sun from hosting great fights. And that’s exactly what DREAM.10 promises. The card will crown a welterweight tournament champion and play host to lightweight and middleweight superfights.

Katsunori Kikuno vs. Andre “Dida” Amade

Andre “Dida” Amade now trains with former fellow Chute Boxe standouts Mauricio and Murilo Rua at Universidade de Luta and at Toronto BJJ in Toronto, Canada, but still carries that Curitaba swagger with him. After brutalizing Hiroyuki Takaya and Caol Uno in K-1 Heros’ in 2007, he was the first step on Eddie Alvarez’s meteoric 2008 rise.

In Kikuno, he faces someone who will oblige him in the standing game and carries expectations as he rises from DEEP to the higher levels of Japanese MMA. Expect a race for the finish line to end on Kikuno’s chin as “Dida” rebounds from tournament losses.

Melvin Manhoef vs. Paulo Filho

Paulo Filho, once one of the best middleweights in the world, is plagued by mental problems. They were on display during his second WEC bout with Chael Sonnen, which resulted in a pink slip from Zuffa and a stint in rehab. His takedown-submission style is tailor made for Melvin Manhoef, however, the K-1 kickboxer’s raw speed and power—he was the first to knock out granite-chinned super heavyweight Mark Hunt in MMA—spells troubles for the judo and jiu-jitsu black belt if he’s not fight ready.

If his recovery went well, though, it should be quick math on the mat.

Welterweight Grand Prix semi-final: Hayato “Mach” Sakurai vs. Marius Zaromskis

With one of the best flying knee KO’s in history over Ross Mason at Cage Rage 22 and only two losses, both to promising Brit Che Mills, Zaromskis is a striker to watch. He left the UK scene when Cage Rage folded for a step up in competition, which he’ll get in Hayato “Mach” Sakurai.

Sakurai is a legend in the sport and appears reinvigorated after obliterating Shinya Aoki in the tournament’s opening round in April. His overall game should be enough to take out Zarmskis unless a lethargic Sakurai returns.

Welterweight Grand Prix semi-final: Jason High vs. Andre Galvao

Jason High made a statement by steamrolling Yuya Shirai in the first round of the tournament. He needed it after Jay Hieron knocked him out at Affliction II. High is an athletic, stifling wrestling similar to his trainer IFL standout Antonio McKee, but differs with power in his hands, aggression and submissions.

Against Andre Galvao, he faces a world-class jiu-jitsu artist who already dispatched stellar welterweight UFC veteran John Alessio by armbar in the first round. Galvao’s athleticism should be enough to match High and end up with a submission. High must employ reverse wrestling and hope to overpower Galvao standing to find the best route to victory.

Shinya Aoki vs. Vitor “Shaolin” Ribeiro

Two face-splattering losses at the hands of Joachim Hansen in the past two years over two different DREAM tournaments (lightweight and welterweight) have kept Shinya Aoki from being Japan’s top fighter. Still a dangerous grappler, Aoki has a chance to end his bad luck streak again world-renowned Nova Uniao black belt Vitor Ribeiro.

Ribeiro may still be affected by the major layoff he took after being brutalized by Gesias Calcanvante in 2007. But the former Shooto and Cage Rage lightweight champion is a multiple-time Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu world champion who should have the know-how to deal with Aoki’s unorthodox guard attacks and favors the arm-triangle, a submission “Shaolin” can work from inside Aoki’s tricky guard.

Given Aoki’s non-existent takedowns, Ribeiro’s wrestling serves him well. But hometown decisions mean Riberio must do more than simply nullify Aoki. Looking at Aoki’s track record, all Riberio needs to do is hit him.

The card will be broadcast live on HDNet at midnight, July 19 PST and 3 a.m. ET, July 20. If you don’t have HDNet, follow our friends at MMAJunkie as they liveblog the card. If you want to catch up on match ups and storylines, you can watch official DREAM press conference interviews right here at Fightmagazine.com by clicking on the following fighter’s names:

Shinya Aoki

Hayato “Mach” Sakurai

Paulo Filho

Melvin Manhoef

Jesse Taylor

Dong Sik Yoon

Andre “Dida” Amado

Vitor “Shaolin” Ribeiro

Marius Zaromskis

Andre Galvao

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