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Who put the hallucinogens in the DREAM kool-aid?

The power of nostalgia is an amazing thing. So powerful that it can make an average product appear to be much more than it really is so long that it offers a few elements that take you back to a time of greatness.

In the past 12 hours I’ve received a lot of e-mails, IMs, and phone calls that pretty much go like this: “Did you watch DREAM!? Man, how great was that?”

Great!? Wow, since when did the standard for greatness sink so low?

DREAM.3 wasn’t a bad way to kill nearly five hours on a Sunday afternoon. But aside from a fight of the year candidate between Eddie Alvarez and Joachim Hansen, what was so great about it? DREAM might have similar look to PRIDE; use a lot of its unique elements such as the Grand Prix format; and utilize a lot of the same fighters, but it’s not PRIDE. Not by a longshot.

I realize I am in the minority when I say that I was hardly impressed by DREAM.3, but then again, I stopped drinking the PRIDE kool-aid the day Zuffa bought the company from Dream Stage Entertainment. I think it’s high-time people start judging DREAM on the merits of DREAM and not on the past accomplishments of PRIDE.

And when you look at DREAM as a stand alone product, you begin to see it for what it really is:

a watered down version of PRIDE. DREAM.3 was a perfect example of everything that’s wrong with the promotion. I just have so many issues with the show I just watched that I don’t know where to begin. But let’s start with the production. Sorry folks, the stage setup we saw was not of PRIDE quality. The stage concept for DREAM.3 looked like NASA was doing construction on a satellite. The rampway was especially awkward, as it looked like a detour entrance area for the fighters to walk through because the normal ramp was out of order.

And don’t get me started on matchmaking. Yes, I know PRIDE provided its fair share of mis-matches over the years, but it was done with the intent to build stars. If they put an up and coming guy with someone that couldn’t hang with him, the sacrificial lamb at least a respectable fighter at one point in his career. Instead of giving of a bunch of has-beens, DREAM is feeding us a steady diet of never-will-bes.

I understand they are trying to make Jason “Mayhem” Miller into a big star in Japan, and understandably so. But could the talent differential be narrowed to the equivalent of pro vs. college as opposed to pro vs. high school? Is that too much to ask? And people are surprised that the ratings for the first two DREAM cards were low!? I mean, c’mon, Caol Uno vs. Mitsuhiro Ishida as your main event? I am not even certain if Ishida vs. Uno would have been good enough to headline a Bushido card. Which begs the question, why do so many people mark out to Ishida? When Josh Koscheck first started out everyone killed the guy because he relied too much on his wrestling yet Ishida gets a free pass? I respect Ishida as a fighter. He’s a tremendous wrestler. But he’s a little too one-dimensional right now for my tastes.

Another beef for me was HDNet’s production. Let me preface this by saying Kenny Rice is a good man and an accomplished announcer. I also have enjoyed his work on most of the MMA telecasts I’ve seen on HDNet. But he was not on his game for DREAM.3. I thought he did a much better job for Yarrenoka! when he touched down in Japan only a few hours before the show started. This time around, it was pretty obvious that he and Bas Rutten were in the U.S. doing a voiceover of the feed in a production studio. But what I don’t understand is that Rice was well-rested and ready this time around, yet sounded like he was in major need of a Red Bull.

My biggest issue was the call during the Alvarez vs. Hansen match. To me, that was without question a match of the year candidate. But Rice called it with the same kind of energy you’d expect for an opening match. The first round of the fight was the best round of the whole tournament that I’ve seen thus far but you wouldn’t know that by listening to the telecast. There was almost no storytelling. Alvarez scored two knockdowns in the first round. That’s a huge deficit in the scoring right there. Why didn’t they push Hansen’s need to finish Alvarez in order to have any chance to win that fight? There were just so many dramatic moments in that fight and incredible exchanges on the feet and the ground that were pooh-poohed.

DREAM is looking to build new stars yet there was relatively little buildup of the fighters. I heard very little on the background of the fighters and who they were and what was at stake. Unless I missed it, there was no discussion about how Alvarez was formerly a welterweight who dropped down after suffering the first loss of his pro career to Nick Thompson and about how he’s on the cusp of becoming a top ten lightweight. There was also no discussion about how Hansen was a staple of PRIDE’s Bushido shows and how he’s one of the toughest fighters in all of MMA. Did they even address the Planes, Trains, and Automobiles scenario that Nick Diaz experienced regarding his fight and being on the card?

I realize HDNet just recently got the rights to DREAM, but I still really felt they sounded overly unprepared. The pacing of the show was brutal. HDNet can’t be blamed for that but they can be blamed for a lack of content to compensate during the lulls. The intermission was especially embarrassing. How many times can you show the same tournament brackets? Why not try and sell “Inside MMA” to the viewing audience and go back to the studio for a special edition of the show where they have a moderator with a roundtable format featuring some fighters and or writers giving their thoughts on the matches that took place thus far? Then, they can also offer predictions for the remaining fights along with their breakdown. And can anything be done to cut down on the awkwardness that is experienced every time they had to cut away from FEG’s feed between fights?

The reality is that many of the HDNet telecasts I’ve seen are lacking in content and context.

Unfortunately, when they tried to add both content and context with the Mayhem Miller vignette that aired in the beginning of the show, they swung and missed. The segment jumped all over the place and I swear that the voiceover guy read the last paragraph three times in a row with some slight variations. Speaking of the voiceover guy, was it just me or was his voice a little much given the nature of the piece?

Look, I am grateful and appreciative of all the MMA action that HDNet is bringing to the table and I know they don’t have an unlimited budget, but I would like to see them try to up their game a little bit. That said, HDNet can only be blamed for so much. Much of the problems with DREAM.3 were because of DREAM, whether people want to admit that or not. Unlike some people who mark out to DREAM, I actually used to watch PRIDE. I enjoyed PRIDE. As an MMA fan, I grew up with PRIDE. But DREAM sir, you are no PRIDE.