April 5, 2009 Nagoya, Japan

Vitor returned with a dominating performance that put most of the fans to sleep at DREAM 8.

Vitor Belfort? No. After an almost 2 year absence, Vitor “Shaolin” Ribeiro ended his opponent’s night with several vicious bloody knee strikes to the head.

The fight was stopped when Japanese Olympic Wrestling Medalist Katsuhiko Nagata suffered an explosive knee strike from side control that caused a veritable fountain of blood to pour forth from his apparently shattered skull.

Sound exciting to you? Well unfortunately, if you are not a hardcore BJJ fan, you would have probably missed the intense conclusion to this match due to the seemingly endless seven plus minutes of the first round.

While I enjoy a good grappling match, I needed to drink two Red Bulls just to stay awake long enough to see the annihilation of Katsuhiko at the end. Both men are expert BJJ practitioners, and it certainly showed. And showed. And showed some more.

Don’t get me wrong; it was a great fight and I am a big supporter of the 10-minute first round format. Its just that once the fight hit the ground (about 30 seconds into the match), not only did it never get off again; it hardly moved at all. The ref would not have stood them up to save their lives. Oh wait, that’s not entirely true.

Displaying the obvious need for DREAM to adopt a cage type ring the ref was forced to move them several times. This included standing them up for a 20 second breather while the fight was centered.

At least, if there was a cage, Katsuhiko might have been able to stand up again. Or the end could have come quicker if he had been pushed up against a cage as is common for ground and pound in the UFC.

No such thing here, in fact the whole match was so tame that the shock value of the bloody end was amplified, and certainly surprising to say the least.

Seven and a half minutes into round one and DREAM showed another aspect that separates it from the UFC. A violent one.

An aspect that allowed Vitor to slam multiple knees into the head of his grounded and immobilized opponent.

Of course while this might be an illegal action in the UFC, the excitement it generated may have made up for the insanely dull grappling exhibition that preceded it.

Doctors were forced to stop the fight when a frightening series of knee strikes on the part of Vitor, caused a massive cut on the head of Katsuhiko.

Vitor was declared the victor via TKO at 7:58 of the first round. It was a tremendous ending. Fabulous, exciting, and amazing in fact.

Its just a shame that most of the audience missed it because they had been put into a veritable coma by the dullness of the first 7:50 of the fight. I don’t think that’s what the producers intended when they called it DREAM.

Bottom line is that while the fight had an exciting ending, a very competitive BJJ and general grappling display, and ended only after an intense struggle, it is not a fight I would want to watch ten more times. In fact I don’t think I will ever watch that particular fight again.

DREAM seems to have a very good thing going. Its rules allow for a lot more action than the UFC, and the fights can be much more unpredictable. That’s a good thing.

If the same type of strikes were allowed in the UFC many fights would have ended differently. The entire history of UFC fighting would likely be dramatically different.

The bad thing is that while I respect grappling and ground struggles, this one was just a bit much. It is a MMA event not a BJJ event so I think they should have stood them up instead of letting them lay on the mat for seven minutes.

In any event Vitor Ribiero, at 20-2 has returned with a vengeance after his long layoff. He is arguably one of the top five lightweight fighters in the world and proved it with this victory.

No follow-up contest has been announced yet, but there is a strong possibility that he will eventually find himself in a title match with the human terror that is Joachim “Hellboy” Hansen. Something tells me that the fans will stay awake for that one.

-Marco Yanitelli “The Italian Scallion”