Dream 15 is being billed as "Fated Rivals."
The poster, which was tirelessly translated by an a guy called Pete (an Australian living in Japan) features some of the greatest rivalries in Japan's cultural history.
- Goku vs. Vegeta, from Dragonball Z.
- Sakuraba vs. the Gracies
- Musashi vs. Kojiro
- Asashoryu vs. Hakuho, two sumo legends (both of whom are Mongolian, but that's besides the point)
- Asada Mao vs. Kim Yu-na (ice skating - huge in Japan!)
- And even Win vs. Mac
It's a cool poster, one that could potentially usher in the most epic of Dream cards.
Unfortunately, the Fated Rivals theme is being seriously underused at present.
The only rivalry that is being pushed on this card so far is Tatsuya Kawajiri vs. Shinya Aoki, and that is one that has only been brewing in recent seasons.
Curiously, Kazushi Sakuraba vs. Ralek Gracie just happened at Dream 14. That's one of the biggest rivalries that Dream could have drawn on, and it was tacked on to Dream 14 alongside a lot of other exciting but not overly consequential fights.
Yamamoto Kid, too, was recently used in a pointless tune-up fight in Dream 14. Dream's promotional videos have been skirting subtly around a Yamamoto Kid / Hideo Tokoro rivalry for ages now, as wooden spoon / CInderella boy Tokoro took on fighters from Kid's camp and edged ever closer to the priviledged Son of God. Now there is a rivalry! And a missed opportunity.
According to Dan Herbertson at MMA Fighting, Gesias Cavalcante has been matched up with Katsunori Kikuno. This is not a rivalry. A pretty good fight, despite JZ's recent lack of success, but there is no drama behind this bout. Melvin Manhoef has been brought in to knock seven bells of Japanese jelly out of Tatsuya Mizuno, another fight with the potential for some rapid fist on face action and not a lot else.
I can't help but wonder where the Fated Rivals and epic poster idea came from. Perhaps they have something in the works that we can only guess at. It is fairly standard practice for Dream to announce matchups with little or not time to spare before the actual event, but what could they do to really fulfill the potential of the Fated Rivals tag?
Saku vs. the Gracies was probably the grandest rivalry possible, but that has surely been consigned to the history books by now.
Japanese fans could conceivably get excited by some kind of Kiyoshi Tamura / pro-wrestling / soap opera style plotline, but Pride already did that when Tamura fought Nobuhiko Takada (the guy in a loin cloth playing the big drum, for most of you) amid grainy clips of old VHS tapes and lots of manly crying.
In the good old days, Takanori Gomi had a fairly healthy rivalry going with anyone Brazilian, but interest in that has long since faded.
Minowaman has a rivalry with anyone over double his size. Surely Dream can fling him in the ring with some kind of ex-sumo star, or just someone really really fat? How about the final Jacare vs. Mayhem Miller fight? Joachim Hansen has been around the block and fought a number of sequels and rubber matches.
Alistair Overeem, too, has plans to fight in Japan this year, and a rivalry with Badr Hari of K1, or even Fedor, can conveivably be created with some clever editing.
Caol Uno has been released by the UFC and if there's one thing the Japanese love, it's trundling out their aging warhorses to do cartwheels under the hot stadium lights.
There are two really, really big guns that Dream could potentially draw on, but I think these will be saved for New Years, namely yanking Hidehiko Yoshida and / or Genki Sudo out of retirement for "one last fight".
(Not with each other, of course.)
There are loads of options for Dream to explore, and while none of them have the zing of something like Sakuraba vs. the Gracies from a few years back, they have a long way to go before they fulfill the potential of a card called Fated Rivals.