For the first year or so after it emerged from the ashes of Pride Fighting Championships, Dream seemed simultaneously bright with promise and warm with nostalgia. Perhaps its signature achievement that year was its 2008 Middleweight Grand Prix, the quarterfinals of which took place on June 15, 2008 at Dream 4, in the form of four two-round matches.
The first round, which had taken place at Dream 2 in April, had whittled the original field of 16 down to eight. While most of the eliminations had been expected—the debuting Andrews Nakahara and the sub-.500 Shungo Oyama, for example—a surprising first-round pairing between Gegard Mousasi and Denis Kang had guaranteed that at least one of the top fighters in the bracket would not be advancing, and in the end it was Mousasi who sent Kang, the runner-up in the final Pride 183-pound grand prix, home.
The quarterfinals at Dream 4 provided little or no surprise value, as the favored fighters all advanced to the semifinals, but there was some interest in the details. Melvin Manhoef’s 90-second obliteration of Kazushi Sakuraba was depressingly predictable, but watching the rubbery and endlessly tough Jason Miller survive the grappling onslaught of Ronaldo Souza for 10 minutes made for rousing viewing, as “Mayhem” successfully swept and fearlessly attempted submissions on one of the greatest grapplers of all time. Zelg Galesic advancing when Taiei Kin dislocated his elbow defending a takedown was anticlimactic in a very Mark Coleman-Mauricio Rua way—only harder to watch—but Dong Sik Yoon, one of the most underratedly tough outs in MMA history, gave Mousasi all he could handle for two rounds.
When all was said and done, Souza and Galesic were paired in one semifinal, and Mousasi and Manhoef in the other, to meet at Dream 6 in September, with the semifinals and finals set to take place in one night.