Marius Zaromskis: The Next Mousasi, a Mini Cro-Cop, or Mixture of Both?
This time last year, many fight fans were unfamiliar with an Armenian-born, Dutch fighter known as "The Dreamcatcher."
Then, Gegard Mousasi made an impressive run through the DREAM Middleweight Grand Prix, defeated Denis Kang in the opening round, Korea's Dong Sik Yoon six weeks later, and finally disposing of both Melvin Manhoef and Ronaldo "Jacare" Souza in one night to win the tournament and the DREAM Middleweight title.
Since then, the 23-year-old has continued to impress and garner more and more attention, earning a win in the first round of the DREAM Super Hulk Tournament and a place opposite Renato "Babalu" Sobral on the Affliction: Trilogy Main Card on Aug. 1.
With his impressive display last evening in the Saitama Super Arena, is Marius Zaromskis set to make a similar splash in the world of Mixed Martial Arts?
The Lithuanian with the funny-yet-fitting nickname "The Whitemare" has followed the first steps laid out by Mousasi, working his way through the DREAM Welterweight Grand Prix en route to claiming the DREAM Welterweight title.
Admittedly, I was one of the many without much knowledge of Zaromskis heading into yesterday's two rounds of fights, and believed he would be dispatched by the more experienced Hayato "Mach" Sakurai in their semifinal clash.
Following a stoppage to deal with a cut on Sakurai's face, Zaromskis delivered a deadly headkick and dropped the man who once faced Matt Hughes in the UFC before finishing things off with a flurry of punches.
In the finals, a similar lethal headkick spelled the end for Jason High, who had advanced via split decision victory over then-undefeated Andre Galvao.
While the path looks similar to the course charted last year by Mousasi, the impressive finishes via deadly kicks to the head is reminiscent of Mirko "Cro Cop" Filipovic.
Despite my use of headkicks as finishers on UFC Undisputed, you just don't see that many fighters utilizing the technique that much any more and no one has ever done it better than "Cro Cop" during his glory days in Pride.
Last night, Zaromskis delivered knockout blows to both Sakurai and High with expert timing, the MMA-equivalent of two no-doubt home runs in baseball, especially the one that wrapped up the tournament against High.
You never know where you're going to find great fighters; sometimes they just suddenly appear on the radar.
Winning streaks start in the most inauspicious ways.
Nothing is guaranteed for Marius Zaromskis now that he's the DREAM Welterweight Champion; while the path he's now embarking on is similar to that of Gegard Mousasi and his performances last night reminded fans of a younger, smaller "Cro Cop," this could be the highlight of his career.
Or it could be the beginning of something great.
Only time will tell.
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In other DREAM news, "The Old" Paulo Filho showed up, as the Brazilian weathered a couple of flurries from Melvin Manhoef before securing an armbar before the three minute mark of the First Round.
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