“Each of the Five Points is a finger,” said Bill “The Butcher” Cutting in the film Gangs of New York. “When I close my hand it becomes a fist. And, if I wish, I can turn it against you.”
An expected twenty-four of Dream’s mixed martial artists will enter the Osaka Castle Hall in Osaka Japan on Oct. 25 for DREAM.12, make fists, and turn them against each other. Here are five points to watch for come fight night.
The White Cage
For the first time in Japanese mixed martial arts history, a major organization will fence its fighting arena like that one promotion based in Las Vegas. The cage results from Dream’s relationship with California promotion Strikeforce, which employs a six-sided cage that DREAM will adopt.
The move can certainly change tides in the Land of Rising Sun, if it has any impact at all. Fight promotions in Japan have always showcased talent in a traditional ring, usually right down to the white mat, representing a neutral competition space for all martial arts. How the white cage is received by the viewing public—the old adage about there being no such thing as bad publicity—may drum up much needed interest in MMA from the Japanese audience.
The ways grappling-savvy fans perceive the cage’s ability to take away hips from a fighter and amplification of ground and pound is worth considering. Many fighters on the card such as Eddie Alvarez, Paulo Filho and Marius Zaromskis have all competed in the cage before, but it’s the success of Japanese and how showmanship translates that is important. Exciting fights are necessary of course; however, the lack of Jose Canseco and other ratings ploys from DREAM are absent. That means the white cage is the main gimmick attraction. The Octagon started as a gimmick, so if the white cage is a success, it may be more than a once-a-year show like Dream initially announced.
Champions In Limbo
Three champions (including two from different organizations) will compete in non-title bouts. A particularly morbid reminder of how non-title fights for divisional kings can go awry and damage a title holder’s reputation is Marcus Aurelio choking Takanori Gomi unconscious at the height of “The Fireball Kid”’s reign in Pride.
First, Bellator lightweight champion Eddie Alvarez takes on Katsunori Kikuno. The Deep standout is fresh off his Dream debut, a stellar victory over Andre Amado. Alvarez started his star-making run by defeating Amado the same way. Kikuno’s wide-open stance and one-shot style doesn’t fit well against Alvarez’s war-tested firebombing striking coupled with strong defensive wrestling.
Strikeforce heavyweight champion Alistair Overeem returns to the cage for the first time since winning his belt when he battles James Thompson. Despite being incredibly game, the Brit’s gong and dash style of fighting and glaring defensive weakness standing and on the mat is for “The Demolition Man” to chew on.
Dream’s only champion on the card, welterweight Marius Zaromskis, plans to keep his stock skyrocketing by besting Korean Myeon Ho Bae. Given his breakout performances against tougher opponents Hayato Sakurai and Jason High, he should handle the game Korean in a spotlight bout.
Bantamweight Bounce Back
Former WEC bantamweight champion Chase Beebe’s losing skid has been a rough one. However, a recent controversial loss to Mike Easton over 25-minutes suggests Beebe may be finding his groove again. He has a chance to prove it against fellow WEC veteran Yoshiro Maeda. Beebe has the advantage of the cage, but Maeda has sharpened his game since his WEC stint. His striking and leg lock game should be enough to best Beebe.
Filho’s Mind State
After a valiant comeback from the brink of Melvin Manhoef’s life sapping strikes to secure an armbar, Paulo Filho, once considered the second best middleweight in the world, under performed again in puzzling fashion in his home of Brazil in Bitetti Combat 4 in September versus Alex Schoenauer. He faces a stern grappling test in Yoon Dong-Sik, but should have a decisive advantage en route to victory. Mind over matter, though. Filho needs to correct his preparation before the sport turns against him.
Sakuraba’s Final Countdown
Kazushi Sakuraba compete at Dream.11 on three days notice and submitted professional boxer Rubin Williams easily. This time he fights someone with takedown defense in dangerous Croatian striker Zelg Galesic. Sakuraba’s showmanship has taken him along way, but his gift-wrapped knees and lethargic style isn’t a safe proposition against a young fighter like Galesic, who has some semblance of takedown defense and, more importantly, strong finishing ability. Sakuraba’s time has been winding down for years (see his bout with Melvin Manhoef), so its only a matter of time before someone like Galesic steps in and signs his walking papers.