If you haven't watched the latest incarnation of the DREAM tournament (DREAM.6) you must find it, and watch it --- currently the DREAM MMA Product is the most entertaining MMA Product on the market. These fights don't rely on artificial hype or name recognition, these fights are well conceived and stylistically matched. You do not need to be a fan of MMA, the prior shows, or of any particular athlete to enjoy these fights. The same thing can not be said for other promotions. The UFC is the next best thing, by far, but even though, these UFC cards often rely heavily on hype, fighter personality, and background story. Often times this results in incredible mis-matches, and frankly, boring fights. A more glaring example would be the last Affliction card, BANNED. This card relied almost entirely on recognition, and fighter popularity -- resulting in some seriously dull bouts.
So what makes DREAM so damn entertaining?
1) The Rules
No Elbows: a fighter cannot just hang out in someone's guard -- throwing elbows, causing only superficial damage and delaying some kind of finishing maneuver. If you like blood and stoppages due to blood, then you probably like elbows. DREAM bouts are less bloody (in my opinion this is neither good nor bad).
Knees to a downed opponent: If your strong suit is on the ground, then you have a great advantage in virtually every conception of MMA (Royce Gracie proved this in the first 4 UFC's). You need no further advantage, but, the no knees rule gives these grapplers yet another advantage. This advantage has become, in my opinion, the signature advantage of all the top wrestler/fighters in the UFC. If you look at the top fighters in each division, the most boring fighters are the wrestling specialists who use the one knee on the ground rule to eek out decisions as they time after time attempt take downs. These fighters often do very little once they have taken a fight to the ground. The striker cannot knee these guys as they shoot in, or after they have successfully stuffed a shot.
2) The Styles: How many guys in the UFC end fights without ever throwing a punch? I've seen plenty of mis-matches end with someone getting knocked out, but have you ever seen one end with a standing gogoplata? Neither have I, but if it were to happen it would be in DREAM. The formula for DREAM fights is straight forward, striker vs. grappler. Given the rules, scoring, and ring -- these match ups almost always make for entertaining fights.
3)The Scoring: Forget the 10 point must system. We know when there is a bad decision -- do we really need to quantify it with a point system? DREAM says no, and as a result, the decisions are less controversial then in pointed bouts.
4) The Ring: No cage. Two reasons I like the ring better: First of all, the ring is smaller. Being smaller it forces action -- it's harder to just run away for the entire fight (which, by the way, is a common strategy in the UFC). Secondly, it removes the importance of a clinch game. I like the clinch game, and when you watch experts at it, it is interesting in itself. But, it tends to slow fights down, and when you only have 15 minutes, I want action (not stalemates).
5) The Rounds: One 10 minute round and one 5 minute round. An opening 10 minute round really lets the fresh fighters implement their game plan. How often do we see someone finally achieve the dominant position and then have to start all over again because the round ends. This is one of the big reasons I like DREAM: DREAM tends to facilitate a positional game. Watching fighters use their skill to improve their position is really what separates MMA from boxing. Some promotions want to make MMA more like boxing, which in my opinion would kill MMA.
The final THINGS that makes DREAM so much fun to watch is the production value and tournament structure. Besides the pyrotechnics, and bizarre japanese intros, the tournament structure really lets you know the fighters. Even if you're watching someone you have never seen before, by the end of the tournament, you KNOW them. This is a tremendous advantage. In the UFC it can take as many as 8 fights and two years to bring a fighter out of obscurity, in DREAM all it takes is one tournament.
I would argue that the DREAM tournaments are the most entertaining cards of 2008. If DREAM fails, as has been rumored on countless occasions, God help us MMA fans!!