by: Cory Brady

The matchups for the Dream Middleweight Grand Prix semifinals on Sept. 23 from the Saitama Super Arena in Saitama, Japan have been released at last. In one half of the semifinals Ronaldo “Jacare” Souza will battle Zelg Galesic while Melvin Manhoef will take on Gegard Mousasi in the second half. The winners of these two elimination bouts will move on to face one another that evening in the cards main event.

Melvin Manhoef is an extremely aggressive and punishing striker that fights out of Amsterdam. He is a K-1 veteran and he boasts a kickboxing record of 34-4 with 25 of those wins coming by knockout. On the MMA side of things Manhoef holds a 22-4 record and has knocked out 21 of the 22 men he has beaten. Melvin is an absolute whirlwind of violence when the bell rings and has the kind of power in his fists that is reminiscent of a young Mike Tyson. Over the last two years Melvin has dropped two fights by armbar but has compiled a five fight knockout streak with his most recent win coming over submission wizard Kazushi Sakuraba and looks to be back on track.

Facing Manhoef in the Dream Middleweight Grand Prix semifinals will be Gerard Mousasi. Mousasi is an Armenian born fighter with a more than impressive Mixed Martial Arts record of 22-2-1. Much like Melvin Manhoef, Mousasi doesn’t let the fight go to the judges very often. Mousasi has finished 20 of the 22 men he has defeated, with 13 of those wins coming by KO and the other 7 by submission. Gerard is riding a nine fight win streak with recent wins over Evangelista “Cyborg” Santos and Dennis Kang. Mousasi’s most recent win was a convincing unanimous decision  over a man that holds a previous submission win over Manhoef in Dong Sik Yoon.

Ronaldo “Jacare” Souza is one of the most highly decorated Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu practitioners that has made the transition to Mixed Martial Arts. After dropping his debut fight with Jorge Patino, Jacare has reeled off nine straight wins, finishing eight of those by submission. Jacare’s toughest test to date was his last bout with Jason “Mayhem” Miller where Jacare showed a well rounded set of skills while edging out an extremely game and tough Mayhem. Many are touting Jacare as being one of the next big things in the MMA world and this tournament will truly allow fans and experts to see where he stands.

Going up against Jacare will be Croatian born Zel Galesic. Galesic is popularly referred to as the “Croatian Wonderkid” or “Little CroCop” and for good reason. Just like the man he is referenced with, Galesic is known for his striking. He has a record of 9-3 with seven of those nine wins ending by knockout. Zelg’s last fight, Taiei Kin, was a disappointment due to Kin breaking his arm in the opening moments of the bout in a freak accident.

Manhoef and Mousasi should be a highly entertaining bout with plenty of fireworks. If Mousasi opts to stand and trade with Manhoef I feel like it will be an early night for Mousasi. I don’t think there are many men alive that can take very many clean shots from Manhoef, and Mousasi will be no exception. Mousasi may try to take the fight to the mat and submit Manhoef, but Manhoef’s takedown defense and wrestling has greatly improved so it won’t be easy. I think pride will force Mousasi into a slugfest with the wrong guy in this bout and will result in a knockout for Manhoef midway throught the first round.

Galesic will be the most threatening striker that Jacare has faced to date. It will be interesting to see how he reacts if Galesic is able to crack him because Galesic has the  killer instinct to pursue his victim when he smells blood. However, I don’t think it will matter in this fight. Two of Zelg Galesic’s three losses have come by submission and I can’t see how he would be able to avoid the fight going to the ground at some point with Jacare. When it goes there, it will stay there. Jacare by first round submission.

Assuming both of my predictions are correct we would have Melvin Manhoef meeting up with Ronaldo “Jacare” Souza in the Dream Middleweight Grand Prix finals. This is 100% your classic grappler vs. striker matchup. If Manhoef can clip Jacare at any point in the fight it could be over. If Jacare is able to avoid Manhoef’s barrage and take him down, it could be over. It’s no fun to not make a prediction so I’m going Melvin Manhoef by highlight reel knockout early in the first.

However it plays out, September 23rd promises to be another great night for Mixed Martial Arts fans all around the world thanks to Dream.

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