DREAM’s 2009 welterweight grand prix kicks off April 5th at DREAM 8, and four of the tournament matchups have just been announced, along with a few features in other weight classes. The event will be headlined by a rematch between Shinya Aoki and Hayato "Mach" Sakurai; Sakurai previously won a decision over Aoki at a Shooto event in August ’05. Check out the current lineup below, and keep in mind that the opening round kicks off ten days from now, and only half the field is assembled. Not that this is the first time that DREAM hasn’t had all their GP participants locked down before the opening round, but this is really pushing it…
Ikuhisa "Minowaman" Minowa vs. Katsuyori Shibata (194-pound catchweight)
Murilo "Ninja" Rua vs. Dong Sik Yoon (middleweight)
I don’t see how the winner of Aoki/Sakurai doesn’t just pwn the fuck out of this field, which is easily the weakest of any DREAM GP to date. Shirai and Ikemoto are local jobbers, and UFC/WEC-castoff John Alessio is only slightly better. High just got owned by Jay Hieron at Affliction: Day of Reckoning; too bad the Thoroughbred isn’t available for this tournament. And while Andre Galvao is a stud when it comes to jiu-jitsu, he’s underexperienced in MMA. There’d better be some big names attached to those last four spots, or the tourney could be a gigantic bust.
And the other bouts on the card aren’t much better. The Kharitonov/Monson clash could be entertaining, but of the six men in the other non-GP bouts, only Minowaman and Ninja have winning records. Seriously. DREAM is hoping for a big ratings resurgence when they return to a decent time-slot, but it’ll be hard to get fans interested — especially in the U.S., where once again, HDNet is airing the event days later on tape-delay.