For my B-Day gift, Kim (best fiance ever!) took me to see japanese MMA (mixed martial arts) at its best, Dream. Dream is like the UFC of Japan, but the level of competition is not nearly as intense or skillful as the UFC. Anyone that lives in Japan should catch a Dream fight. It is quite the spectacle. We first walked into the arena while the first fight had already begun and the whole arena was literally silent. Maybe a few shouts here and there, but other than that I thought I heard crickets chirping. I was thinking to myself "wow! this is a totally different fan base than the US, where the crowd is just as entertaining as the fighters in the ring." This seemed like it was going to be a long, quiet night of MMA. The second fight started and the crowd was a little more lively, but nothing to write home to mom about. The third fight was over in a matter of minutes when the Brazilian took out a US guy (Warren) with an arm bar. The ref prematurely stops the bout without Warren even taping. Warren is pissed and is yelling and pushing the ref. The Brazilian quickly leaves the ring. I look at the crowd and they are just frozen. Then, something happened ... across the way a fight erupts in the stands! A group of people are pushing and shoving, dropping bombs until security starts to break it up. Then I see two girls just start throwing each other around, and finally it started feel like an MMA match! From then on the crowd was a little bit more intense and the cheering filled the arena.
The rest of the fights (with the exception of the last one and the first two) were very lame. They have this Superhulk tournament going on right now where they put up this David vs Golaith matchup. The first of these was this giant Hong Man Choi of Korea standing at 7 ft 2 in. vs Minowa from Japan who is probably standing at 5 ft 9 in. It was quite the spectacle, but wasn't exactly the most exciting fight. The giant was just asking for a leg lock and Minowa was happy to oblige him in the second round. I loved Minowa's showmanship. He really looked like he enjoyed himself out there and really got the crowd behind him.
The best part about Dream is their elaborate, often ridiculous, intros. The Japanese guys are serious showmen. They really get the crowd involved and it becomes quite comical. The rest of the fights were Japanese guys against some first time US fighter that was unbelievably pathetic. Overall I wasn't too impressed with the fights, with the exception of Fernandes vs Takaya featherweight fight. Hiroyuki Takaya is a brawler. I was an instance fan when he came out to heavy metal blaring throughout the Yokohama Arena with a no nonsense attitude. This guy was ready brawl the moment he stepped out onto center stage. His takedown defense was solid and knew how to keep the fight standing. He had two matches that night and each match he came in guns blazing. I hope to see him the WEC one day as he definitely was one of the most exciting Japanese fighters I've seen. He ended up losing the decision, but personally I had him winning. Judges do not award enough points to guys who can get back up to their feet after getting taken down. Takaya did this several times against a solid brazilian ju jitsu fighter and not only that he did it without a cage against his back. Very impressive.
As I said before the level of competition is not nearly up to par with the UFC, and I can see why Japan is not letting the UFC open up shop. Here's a little backstory on that. UFC bought Pride, which was the chief MMA event in Japan and the world for many years. Pride had financial difficulties, which opened the doors for UFC to purchase. UFC's intention was to keep Pride alive in Japan. However the yakuza, japanese mafia, thought differently and used its influential power in the government to shut Pride and the UFC out of Japan. The yakuza meanwhile started a new MMA event called DREAM. The UFC is still trying to host an event in Japan, however the yakuza continues to lobby to keep them out. I believe UFC's president Dana White has even received death threats regarding the issue. Overall I had a most excellent time. It was quite possibly the best b-day gift an MMA fan could receive. I wish I had pictures and videos to share, but unfortunately my camera died. I guess you readers will have to go to Japan and experience it for yourselves.