Press Release by Monti DiPietro (Photos courtesy of K-1)
TOKYO – The Dream Middleweight Grand Prix 2008 moves into second gear on Sunday when eight quarterfinalists meet at the Yokohama Arena. All fighters have made the 84kg/185lbs weight cut, and on Saturday, at the East 21 Hotel in Tokyo, the hopefuls posed for pictures and answered questions from local and international media.

In the main event, it will be 38-year-old Japanese mixed martial arts legend Kazushi Sakuraba taking on Dutch brawler Melvin Manhoef. The fight has generated a great deal of speculation – Manhoef expected to do well if able to stand and strike, Sakuraba favored if the action goes to the mat.

Ever the showman, Sakuraba took the stage wearing swim trunks and goggles with a black dinner jacket. “It took me a long time to squeeze in these tight trunks,” he said, “but everyone told me they’ll make me faster.”

Manhoef – ironically wearing a sharkskin suit – could only smile. “Sakuraba is a legend for most people here, and he’s also a legend for me. But that doesn’t mean he can’t lose. I will be hard and strong and aggressive because that’s me, I get a contract to (expletive) everyone up and that’s what I’ll do tomorrow.”

The card’s penultimate bout is also attracting plenty of attention. Here, Brazilian jiu-jitsu fighter Ronaldo Jacare will go up against 27-year-old Jason “Mayhem” Miller of the United States. The charismatic Miller promised to “put on the best fight of the night,” while his onstage antics – blowing kisses to the audience, cracking puns in pigeon Japanese and assuming a karate pose – did not appear to unnerve the stoic Jacare.

“Mayhem is a joker,” said Jacare, “but he’s right about one thing – it will be the best fight, and I’m going to give 100 percent to make sure of that.”

When Croatian fighter Zelg “Benkei” Galesic met Taiei Kin in October 2007, he powered in the strikes to beat the Japanese fighter by TKO in just 36 seconds. In advance of tomorrow’s rematch, Kin has revenge on his mind.

“I have no excuses, he is quick and I lost totally,” said Kin. “But I don’t want to lose twice to the same opponent, and tomorrow I won’t.”

“I’m happy to be back to fight my friend again,” said Galesic, “last time was too short and I know he can show more so it won’t be easy. I’m sure the crowd will enjoy it.”

The last of the Middleweight Grand Prix quarterfinals features Dutch boxer Gegard Mousasi and Korean judoka Dong Sik Yoon.

Said Yoon, “I will make sure and win.”

Replied Mousasi, who made an impressive Dream debut this April with a submission of Dennis Kang, “I’m just happy to be back here, I’m going to make a good fight and that’s it.”

The winners in these four bouts will advance to the Dream Middleweight GP Final at the Saitama Arena on Sept. 23.

Tomorrow’s card also features a Dream Lightweight GP qualifier. Shinya Aoki of Japan will take on compatriot Katsuhiko Nagata for the right to advance to the Lightweight GP Final on July 21 in Osaka.

Said Nagata: “The fight will end in a KO.”

Aoki told the assembled that he had “a dream” to win it all this year. “I love to fight and I love mixed martial arts.”

In a couple of single bout heavyweight fights, Alistair Overeem of Holland will step in against Tae Hyun Lee Republic of Korea; and Brazilian Ralek Gracie will meet Gadzhiev Alavutdin of Russia. All the fighters pledged to do their best to make their fight the best of the night, Gracie adding, “it will be fun to fight a Russian.”

Finally, in a featherweight single bout, it will be Japanese grappler Hideo Tokoro versus jujitsu fighter Darren Uenoyama of the United States.

Dream Producer Keichi Sasahara said he was looking forward to “tough and severe” second round contests, and announced that the matchups for the July 21 Dream Lightweight GP Final in Osaka will be determined by a drawing in the ring tomorrow.

The Dream 4 Middleweight Grand Prix 2008 2nd Round kicks off at 5 p.m. locally in Japan on Sunday, June 15 at the Saitama Super Arena. The event will be broadcast live in Japan on SkyPerfect TV Pay-Per-View, and live in the United States on HDNet Fights. It will be delay-broadcast across Japan on the TBS Network.