DREAM 12 Analysis: Popularity on the Rise for Alistair Overeem, Marius Zaromskis

By Daniel Herbertson at Sherdog.com

Yesterday, I focused on the memorable comeback win by Eddie Alvarez over Katsunori Kikuno after surviving a deep standing crucifix at DREAM 12. While the battle between the two lightweight champions was easily one of the better bouts on the card, the event also featured a number of talents in the Japanese mixed martial arts scene that we'll likely be seeing in the North American scene very soon.

In the headlining bout, Alistair "Megareem" Overeem, as I like to name him, easily steamrolled the "Mega Punk" James Thompson as he caught him in a standing guillotine choke, the same choke that he defeated Tony Sylvester with at Ultimate Glory on October 17th. While Overeem's opponent quality is on the low end of the spectrum in his more recent mixed martial arts contests, it's apparent that these bouts are serving as a means to pushing Overeem's image to the Japanese fans as well as giving him easy paychecks for his increased popularity and drawing power.

Many fans continue to complain about Overeem's inability to defend his Strikeforce heavyweight championship stateside, but as Michael David Smith so obviously pointed out -- Overeem's recent forays in the MMA ring are simply tune-up bouts for the K-1 World Grand Prix. Any MMA fan who follows the sport and understands the differences between K-1 and MMA can easily solve the puzzle and come to the same conclusion that MDS talks about in his article, but surprisingly enough... there was enough outcry over the Strikeforce heavyweight belt that the article actually needed to be written.

Overeem is scheduled to battle Ewerton Teixiera in the opening bout at the K-1 World Grand Prix Final on December 5th, and if he manages to make it to the World Grand Prix Final and win -- he'll be one of the most sought after fighters in Japan. Strikeforce may need to head to Japan in order to reap the benefits of Overeem's popularity.

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The other major storyline coming out of DREAM 12 involved the utter destruction of Myeon Ho Bae by what many fans are beginning to call the second coming of Mirko "CroCop" Filipovic in Marius Zaromskis. While Zelg Galesic, who also participated on this card, was given the honor of potentially being the next "CroCop" due to his nationality and kickboxing acumen earlier in his career, his overall skill hasn't ever blossomed like that of Mirko. Zaromskis, however, has vaulted into some top ten rankings due to explosive head kicks that won him both the DREAM Welterweight Grand Prix and his bout on Sunday.

The more interesting news is that the "Whitemare" is now being profiled on the Strikeforce website, and it has given fans an added name to the Strikeforce Welterweight roster to play with in potential match-ups. This could very well be a signing by Strikeforce, or simply a part of the alliance deal in that Strikeforce plans on using Zaromskis in a North American event. In any case, it's a solid acquisition to a future card for the promotion. His style should easily draw in a casual fanbase in North America if he can continue to pull off those highlight reel kicks.

Quick Analysis

  • Croation fighter Zelg Galesic was merely moments away from coming away with a victory over Japanese MMA legend Kazushi Sakuraba at DREAM 12, but Sakuraba's desperation attempt to lock a toe hold caused the referee to think twice before stopping the pounding he was receiving. Sakuraba, in true comeback from the dead fashion, turned Galesic to his backside and locked in a kneebar to win the bout. While Sakuraba has nothing left in the tank for top-flight talent, he still has what it takes to pull off these amazing wins.
  • There was some controvery surrounding the Dong Sik Yoon vs. Tarec Saffiedine bout when it came down to a split decision victory for Yoon, but many fans forget that the judging in Japan is much different. Yoon's near submission in the second round was likely the deciding factor in this bout.
  • Yoshiro Maeda's drubbing of Chase Beebe was impressive, to say the least. He used speedy combinations of kicks, punches, and body blows to completely dismantle Beebe in the stand-up game early, and Beebe had no bearing as to where Maeda's strikes were going to come from at any point in the fight. Truly impressive performance.
  • Won Sik Park's striking gave former UFC fighter Kuniyoshi Hironaka all he could handle at DREAM 12. Crushing knees to the gut and a countering right hand nearly cemented victory for Park in the first round, but Hironaka was able to hold on to the bell. Unfortunately, Park took a punch to the eye that ended the fight due to injury after Park complained that he was unable to see out of it. I look forward to seeing Park against after a solid performance despite the injury.
  • Tomoya Miyashita's gameplan of keeping Keisuke Fujiwara on the floor to avoid striking with him worked out brilliantly as Miyashita cruised to an unanimous decision victory. It was evident that Fujiwara's ground tactics need to improve immensely if he wants to be able to actually use his power in the striking game against such a seasoned grappler like Miyashita.
  • Katsuyori Shibata threw the better strikes and defeated Tokimitsu Ishizawa in a match-up of professional wrestlers gone MMA. Ishizawa never truly had anything to offer in the stand-up game, and Shibata had enough power and technique to land shots. It wasn't impressive by any means, but Shibata's experience in MMA proved to be the deciding factor.

Final Thoughts

DREAM seemed to succeed in bringing the cage to Japan, although the surface was enormous in comparison to some of the cages we're used to seeing. Overeem nearly flying out of the cage at one point might give DREAM something to think about, but it was a success all around.

The coming months will be interesting, especially with the fact that Sasahara has stated that he'd love to put on Fedor vs. Overeem in Japan. Despite the outcry that fans would have in regards to drug testing, it's almost a no-brainer as to why this would work out better for Strikeforce and DREAM. Overeem's popularity is skyrocketing in Japan, and if he manages to win the K-1 World Grand Prix -- he'll be one of the top drawing powers in Japan. Add that to the fact that Fedor is much more of a drawing power in Japan than anywhere else, although not on the level that Norifumi "Kid" Yamamoto or Bob Sapp was in the prime of MMA in Japan, and you have the makings of a major main event draw.

Of course, this would only benefit Strikeforce if they truly ran away with a 50/50 split as part of a co-promotional deal. You'd also have to add in the proposition of M-1 Global taking a piece of the pie as well, so it may not be completely in Strikeforce's best interests. But the prospect of the bout taking place overseas does seem like it would produce a larger revenue stream.

CBS and Showtime have put in a lot of money and effort into securing Fedor. Fedor will fight Alistair Overeem in the U.S. under Strikeforce on a CBS event. Despite having less popularity in the United States right now, they'll hope to change all of that in the next few months. The prospect of DREAM actually gaining this fight and somehow working out a deal to screw HDNet out of their current deal won't happen unless Strikeforce somehow promotes the event solely as Strikeforce in Japan with DREAM as a lender of fighters with some sort of cut under the table.

Of course, this is a long shot possibility and then casual fans would have to deal with a tape delay more than likely. Not exactly a great idea for such a huge event.

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