Tuesday at 3 a.m. ET is the finale of the DREAM middleweight Grand Prix. If you haven’t been keeping up with the DREAM tournament, this is meant to be a simple user guide to the tournament finals. DREAM has been supplying us with possibly some of the most stacked MMA cards of the year, and DREAM 6 is no different. Below are quick bios on the four participants of the finals and then break downs with predictions of their matchups.
Ronaldo “Jacare” Souza (9-1 MMA) – Jacare is a relative newcomer to mixed martial arts, but not to the world of combat sports. He is considered pound for pound one of the best submission grapplers on the planet, as his multiple Brazilian jiu-jitsu world championships will corroborate. The world class BJJ black belt has a list of victims that is a who’s who of today’s top fighters. He is currently training at Randy Couture’s gym, Xtreme Couture, to bring his striking skills up near the same stratosphere as his ground game. While he has shown tremendous strides in his standup, he still rightly plays to his strengths and uses his striking to set up takedowns and overwhelm his opponents on the ground. While there are many world champion grapplers in MMA, he shows a degree of aggressiveness and surgical precision that sets him above the rest.
Jacare fought and defeated wrestler Ian Murphy in the opening round of the tournament with a rather swift rear-naked choke. He then faced the very experienced and always tough Jason “Mayhem” Miller in the quarterfinals of the tournament and posted a hard-earned unanimous decision. In the semi-finals, he’ll face Zelg Galesic.
Zelg Galesic (9-3 MMA) - Galesic is a Croatian fighter known for his stand-up so much so that he has been given the nickname “Little Mirko” in certain circles. While known for his striking, Galesic’s grappling is ever-improving as he has shown most recently in his second round match in the DREAM tournament. He is crisp striker who is very aggressive and tries to push the pace but is prone to sloppiness which result in mistakes that will cost him matches. His experience at the highest level of MMA is limited, as his lack of top flight competition will illustrate. The other three competitors in the tournament present the best competition that the young creation has faced to date.
Galesic fought Magomed Sultanakhmedov in the first round of the tournament and submitted him via armbar in under two minutes. He then was pitted against Taiei Kin in a rematch in the quarterfinals and won via a doctor stoppage due to a dislocated elbow suffered by Kin. He will face Jacare Souza in the semifinals of the tournament.
Melvin Manhoef (22-4-1 MMA) - Manhoef is a kickboxer from Holland with devastating knockout power in both hands and feet. He is not only cartoonish-ly strong in both appearance and substance, but is as ruthless as they come in this sport. He is explosive and freakishly fast, but his conditioning is somewhat suspect as he has a tendency to gas himself out trying to end the fight early. As with most Dutch fighters, his bane is his ground game. He is somewhat rudimentary on the ground and is very susceptible to submission attempts. Manhoef’s takedown defense is average at best, but it is his pure athleticism that can both awe you and catch you off-guard.
Manhoef fought a reserve match for the tournament and beat Dae Won Kim via TKO due to punches at DREAM 3. Once Kiyoshi Tamura was injured in his opening round win, Manhoef got the call and proceed to old-fashioned mud-stomp Kazushi Sakuraba in the quarterfinals. He will face Gegard Mousasi in the semifinals.
Gegard Mousasi (22-2-1 MMA) - Mousasi is a Dutch-Armenian fighter that is the perfect example of the term well-rounded in MMA. He is a very crisp striker with excellent Muay Thai who possesses knockout power. Mousasi is an excellent grappler with seven submission wins to his credit. He has been on the scene for a while now from a very young age and has improved at a dramatic rate. A striking coach for Fedor Emelianenko in the past, Mousasi was one of the most sought-after young free agents in the sport before he signed a deal with DREAM, as his upside is tremendous. The only question marks in his game are his overall wrestling skills and his chin.
Mousasi opened the tournament with his highest profile win of his career in a first round submission win over Denis Kang via triangle choke. He faced South Korea’s Dong Sik Yoon in the quarterfinals and prevailed with a dominant unanimous decision. He will face Melvin Manhoef in the semi finals of the middleweight tournament.
Jacare Souza vs. Zelg Galesic -
I am a firm believer that these matchups were made in favor Jacare. DREAM seems to be very high on him and wants to cultivate his star status in Japan. Jacare should take this fight as Galesic is not equipped to overwhelm Jacare in any area. Galesic is an excellent kickboxer but his knockout power is somewhat in question and Jacare has shown an excellent chin to date. Jacare’s takedowns have improved dramatically since training at Xtreme Couture and if he can weather the initial storm with Galesic, he should be able to take him down and submit him with relative ease. I like Jacare via first round submission.
Melvin Manhoef vs. Gegard Mousasi -
This fight is going to be an entertaining affair. On paper this is Mousasi’s fight to lose. He has the larger skill set and has shown excellent durability to this point. But Manhoef has other-worldly power in his punches and kicks, and can swarm and throw punches in bunches if he senses you are hurt. Mousasi is a cool customer and should be smart enough to let Manhoef punch himself out and then go for the takedown and take this fight to Manhoef’s weakest area. Manhoef’s overaggressive style has armbar written all over it. I am taking Gegard Mousasi via armbar late in round one.
Obviously this is MMA and anything can happen, but if my prognostication is correct with Jacare and Mousasi in the final, I see Mousasi winning a very tough and hard fought decision victory. Mousasi just has more tools in the tool belt at this point of Jacare’s career. Another year or two and Jacare may be one of the most dominate fighters in the middleweight division, but this seems to be Mousasi’s tournament to win or lose.