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PRIDE 4

October 9, 2011 3 comments

It’s been far too long since I’ve done one of these posts, but I guess you could say that I’m recovering from a PRIDE 3 hangover.  Seriously, Kazushi Sakuraba vs. Carlos Newton has blown my mind.  As a huge grappling fan, I’m not sure that MMA can get any better than that for me.  Still, I must move on and look forward to other fights.

Like Sakuraba’s next fight!  Kazushi is back to take on UFC veteran and Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu ace Allan Goes.  That’s not all, as we have a very stacked evening of fights.  Gary Goodridge, perhaps one of the most experienced MMA fighters based on his time in the UFC and PRIDE, will take on a Ukrainian newcomer to PRIDE in Igor Vovchanchyn.  Fan favorite Akira Shoji will take on yet another former UFC fighter in Wallid Ismail.

We’ve got Mark Kerr and Marco Ruas, but perhaps the most interesting fight is a rematch from the main event of PRIDE 1.  Nobuhiko Takada will give it another shot when he goes up the legendary Rickson Gracie.  How fitting that this fight takes place on the very first anniversary of the PRIDE promotion!  Takada vs. Gracie was a fantastic spectacle, even if the original fight was slightly lackluster.  But hey, maybe Takada’s warm-up fight against Kyle Sturgeon was just what the doctor ordered!  [Insert joke here]

You know who else is fighting tonight?  Those two fuck faces that ruined PRIDE 2, Yuhi Sano and Sanae Kikuta.  Oh Jesus, this is like a nightmare.  Now what?  Is this when I kill myself?  Do I end this blog so I just don’t have to write about their fights?  I have to trudge through this, maybe they’ll both die in the ring.  Ugh, ugh, ugh.

Regardless, it’s still PRIDE and some of the fights will still be good.  It’s an anniversary!  It’s a celebration!  Our little baby PRIDE is now one year old, aww, how it’s grown!  I remember when it was yay high and in it’s weird little freak show phase.  Now…we’ll, the freak shows are maybe a bit more subtle.  Whatever, it’s just been a year.  Let’s carry on.

PRIDE 4 – October 11, 1998

Previous Editions

We kick off tonight’s event with a big one as heavyweights Igor Vovchanchyn and Gary Goodridge will square off.  Both men are around the 240 pound mark, except that Vovchanchyn is seven inches shorter than his opponent.  You read that right: the 6’3″ Gary Goodridge towers over his opponent, who stands a Cormier-ian 5’8″ inches tall.

Before we go any further, our favorites Stephen Quadros and Bas Rutten welcome us to PRIDE 4, back at the epic Tokyo Dome.  Bas has fantastic things to say about Vovchanchyn, saying he has fantastic knockout power and is very quick.  Bas isn’t kidding as Vovchanchyn has more than 20 knockout victories in less than three years of active competition, numbers that even put the heavy-handed Goodridge to shame.

Vovchanchyn opens up with a leg kick, but Goodridge rushes in with a punch and moves into the clinch.  Surprisingly, Goodridge drags Vovchanchyn to the mat and goes into his guard.  Vovchanchn has somehow been busted open and is pretty pretty badly right now.  Goodridge interestingly drops back for a heel hook and is unsurprisingly unsuccessful.  Vovchanchyn briefly moves into mount before Goodridge gives up his back and escapes fairly easily.

Rather than standing back up, Goodridge decides to stay on the mat and move back into Vovchanchyn’s guard.  He tries to pass guard but is initially unsuccessful.  Goodridge starts to throw some big punches from guard, but Vovchanchyn is able to push Goodridge away and gets back to his feet.  Goodridge again clinches with his opponent and drags him to the mat.  An interesting strategy from “Big Daddy”, who must feel like Vovchanchyn is too strong to compete with standing.

Goodridge is able to move into half guard, but he isn’t throwing a lot of strikes at this point – just maintaining control.  A bloody Vovchanchyn throws a little bit from the ground but doesn’t do any damage.  Goodridge postures up to punch, but is once again kicked away by the Ukrainian.  While standing over his downed opponent, Goodridge asks the official if he’s allowed to kick Vovchanchyn in the face.  Actually, what comes out of Goodridge’s mouth is, “CAN I KICK FACE!?  CAN I KICK FACE!?”  The referee shakes his head to this unintentionally hilarious request.  At least Bas is laughing.

Goodridge gives Vovchanchyn enough space to get back up and Goodridge gets tagged with a couple of quick punches.  Goodridge goes to clinch again but is tossed aside by Vovchanchyn and eats a couple of punches.  Goodridge successfully clinches but Vovchanchyn breaks the hold again and lands some more clean punches.  Goodridge and Vovchanchyn are now singing away and Vovchanchyn lands a couple of big lefts, dropping Goodridge against the ropes!  Goodridge’s legs are gone and Vovchanchyn moves in for the kill, but the official wisely stops this fight.

Goodridge looks perplexed by the stoppage, though I’m not sure if he disagrees with the fight being stopped or if he just doesn’t remember what happened.  Goodridge got tagged and was on spaghetti legs at that point.  I feel like Vovchanchyn could have done some serious harm to Goodridge and this was a good stoppage.  Vovchanchyn has taken a somewhat surprising victory but a win over Gary Goodridge has ensured that we’ll be seeing him once again in PRIDE.

This second bout should be another good one with Akira Shoji taking on Wallid Ismail.  Shoji has been one of the most impressive PRIDE fighters not named Kazushi Sakuraba.  He has two draws to his name, but he’s looked competitive in every fight and has the same kind of resilience that we’ve seen from Sakuraba.

The fight opens with Shoji and Ismail trading punches before Ismail drops down to take Shoji down.  Shoji grabs hold of Ismail’s head in a front facelock and even lands a knee to Ismail, but the Brazilian is able to push forward and come near completion on the takedown.  What say you, El Guapo?  “Where there’s a will, there’s a road, they say.  There’s a way!  Where there’s a will, there’s a way.  Oh good.  I know some American sayings.  That’s cool.”

Ismail isn’t quite able to complete the takedown with Shoji backed against the ropes, but the fighters adjust positions and Ismail briefly enters Shoji’s guard.  Ismail’s style of takedowns appears to be to put his head down and relentlessly drive forward without deviating from the plan.  Shoji is eventually able to stand, even with Ismail continuing to push forward.

Shoji is able to stay cool in collected, even with his opponent’s relentless takedown attempt.  This has been one long, continuous takedown that finally ends when Shoji accepts Ismail into his closed guard.  Ismail looks red and appears to have expended a lot of energy and he begins to throw some punches from the top, but Shoji defends by kicking Ismail away.  Without fail, Ismail recovers and takes Shoji back down, this time moving into half guard.

The referee is calling for action, as Ismail isn’t doing a ton from this spot.  He’s landing some punches that don’t have a whole lot behind them as we reach the half way point of this round.  Ismail’s transition attempts look similar to his takedown attempts as he just grabs Shoji and drives forward, hoping for the best.  This ends up being successful as Ismail takes the full mount.

Ismail begins to throw punches from the position, but you can hear him breathing heavy and sucking in air.  Shoji is able to buck Ismail and free himself completely, getting back to his feet.  Now Shoji unleashes, throwing big punches and stunning Ismail before he moves in again for another takedown.  Shoji is pinned against the ropes, but Ismail pursues the takedown and moves into side control.  He’s landing cleaner shots here, but Shoji seems cool and collected.

Ismail moves back to full mount and Shoji appears to be in trouble  Ismail is throwing, but misses with most of his punches from here.  As Ismail goes to throw more punches, Shoji nicely escapes by rolling out of mount and getting back to his feet.  Shoji goes to throw more punches, but Ismail drives forward with the takedown and backs Shoji against the ropes.  Ismail is successful and again moves into guard.  He at least tries to keep throwing punches from guard even if they’re not landing very cleanly.  The round ends with Ismail in guard.

After a brief break, the second round begins.  The referee quickly pulls a sponsor logo from Ismail’s trunks, as it had been falling off during the first round.  Bas jokes that Ismail will be getting less money after that gaffe.  Shoji opens the round with a nice low kick and some big punches that drop Ismail!  Quadros and Bas think that Shoji looks kind of out of it and they wonder if he ate a big punch that caught him off guard or if he’s just tired.

Ismail is trudging forward slowly and looks way out of it and he gets tagged by Shoji.  The fan favorite Shoji lands some big combos and wobbles Ismail, prompting the referee to step in and stop the action!  This was similar to the stoppage in Vovchanchyn vs. Goodridge in that Ismail wasn’t completely out, but seemed to be very dazed and stopped defending himself.  A big win for Akira Shoji!

And now a fight that might force me to take my own life as Daijiro Matsui takes on Sanae Kikuta.  You might remember Kikuta for being the most boring fighter of all time, putting on the worst fight in PRIDE history with Renzo Gracie.  I can tell you with supreme confidence that it was through no fault of Gracie’s that the fight was so bad.

I’m not the only one who remembers this fight, as Bas lets us all know that he hopes for more from Kikuta.  “Now hopefully he’s going to do more than he did in his last fight because if he’s going to fight the same fight as he did against Renzo Gracie, then I’m afraid this is not going to be very exciting.”  Yep, that sounds about right.  Quadros sounds unfounded optimistic, though he reminds us that there are more strict time limits in place now.

Kikuta opens the fight with a couple of quick punches and gets in the body lock with Matsui.  Kikuta attempts to pull Matsui away from the ropes for a takedown and is eventually successful  When he scores the takedown, Bas pleads with Kikuta to be active on the ground.  Quadros brings up examples of exciting ground fights like Newton vs. Sakuraba, saying that a fight on the ground doesn’t have to be boring

Kikuta postures up a bit and lands some punches from the top, but that doesn’t last very long.  Matsui struggles a bit from the bottom, working for a more advantageous position and even landing some punches from his back.  Kikuta responds with a hug, aww.  Oh, you mean he’s just laying there?  Well that’s no surprising.

Three fights in and we get our very first referee adjustment!  Kikuta and Matsui are pulled away from the ropes so Kikuta can be more centrally boring.  Actually, Kikuta and Matsui trade punches a bit before Kikuta postures up.  Matsui tries to push Kikuta away, but he regains guard and actually moves to half guard.  Matsui reverses positions and tries to get back to his feet, but Kikuta repeats with a body lock and a takedown.

Kikuta is quickly able to move into side control and you can hear one of the fighters gasping for air at this point.  I’m stunned to hear that so early and I can’t tell who it is, though it appears that Matsui might be the one.  Kikuta moves into mount and attempts a choke, but he’s shrugged back into side control.  Kikuta doesn’t do much before Matsui reverses and gets back to his feet, but again, Kikuta grabs the body lock and sweeps Matsui to the mat.

Kikuta finds most of his trouble when he tries to posture up in guard, as Matsui lands some big upkicks to the stomach.  Kikuta tries to regain side control, but Matsui reverses and takes side control himself.  He looks close to assuming north/south position, but Matsui will have to be content with side control  Matsui is landing some knees from this spot but doesn’t do any damage.  Matsui tries to advance position, but Kikuta shrugs him off and both men are on their feet.

Matsui is the slightly more active fighter on his feet, throwing some leg kicks and nice punches that land cleanly.  Matsui inexplicably stops pushing forward and stands in place as the round ends.  This first round wasn’t too bad at all.  Certainly I’ve seen more exciting, but this didn’t bore me to death.  These fighters seem evenly matched and have had varying levels of success early on.

Before the round begins, the referee has Kikuta’s corner wipe him down since he appears to be too wet.  Matsui starts the second round with what appears to be some kind of funky dropkick?  I can’t tell, but it definitely doesn’t land.  Matsui lands on the mat and this allows Kiktua to easily move into side control.  Quadros suspects that it’s Kikuta who is breathing heavy at this point.

Bas encourages Kikuta to, “crossface, pull yourself out, bangedabangedabang, and there you go.”  Kikuta has been pretty inactive from the top and hasn’t tried a ton of strikes, but Bas thinks Kikuta knees to try some knees.  Quadros and Bas consider out loud whether or not knees to the head are allowed against a grounded opponent and they tentatively conclude that they are legal.  Kikuta is now throwing a few weak punches from side control, but he’s not doing any damage.

Kikuta moves into full mount and tries to pull off a front choke or a mounted guillotine.  Matsui tries to arch out of the hold and is successful, though Kikuta is able to claim side control once again.  Quadros confirms what we’ve all been thinking by saying that Kikuta is not an exciting fighter.  Bas is a bit kinder and says that Kikuta is very talented, but doesn’t use it right.

Kikuta is able to move to mount again and the referees move the fighters away from the ropes.  Matsui tries to bridge out of mount but accidentally gives up his back in the process.   Kikuta gets too high and Matsui slips out from the hold and takes half guard.  Kikuta eventually reverses the position himself and moves into Matsui’s guard.  The second round ends from this position.  We definitely had a bit of a regression in this round, since the first round was actually fairly entertaining.  This one?  Not so much.

The third round opens quite predicably with a Kikuta bodylock, which inevitably leads to a takedown attempt.  Matsui grabs onto the ropes in an attempt to defend, but Kikuta is successful as he has been for most of the contest.  Kikuta is stagnant for sometime but moves into mount and attempt that same choke once again.  Matsui flips him over and moves into guard, freeing himself from the choke.

Matsui spends a few minutes in guard trading some weak punches with his opponent.  The only action comes right before the one minute mark, where the referees adjust the fighters away from the ropes, still my favorite thing about PRIDE.  The fight ends with Matsui on top having done very little.

Notice how the last ten minutes of this fight were condensed into two brief paragraphs?  It’s because absolutely nothing happened.  After a decent first round, I’ve been subjected to twenty minutes of garbage.  I feel like PRIDE made these fights solely to infuriate a part time MMA blogger 13 years down the line.  Because I am furious.  Personally angry at PRIDE.  The fight was ruled a draw, but really, who gives a shit?

If any man could lift my spirits after that mess, it’s Kazushi Sakuraba.  Lucky for me, the next fight will pit Kazushi Sakuraba against Allan Goes.  Holy shit, holy shit, this is going to be great.  Quadros reveals that Goes is teammates with Marcus Silveira, who Sakuraba defeated at UFC Ultimate Japan, so there could be a degree of payback in this contest.

Sakuraba throws a front kick to open up the fight and then scores an ankle pick takedown.  Here’s where things should get fun.  Sakuraba works to pass Goes’ guard, but the Brazilian defends the attempt very well.  Goes is landing punches from his back as Sakuraba struggles in Goes’ modified butterfly guard.  Goes tries to sink in a guillotine but Sakuraba passes into side control.  The choke appears to be tight, but Sakuraba slips out and stands back up.  Sakuraba’s ear appears to be busted open, but it’s no big deal at this point.

Sakuraba is throwing kicks to his downed opponent, while Goes is trying for some lunging up kicks.  Sakuraba tries an awesome cartwheel to move into an advantageous position, but Goes lands a big up kick that catches Sakuraba flush in the face.  A lot of this fight is being spent with Sakuraba standing over goes, but it’s actually been pretty entertaining.  Sakuraba is involved, how on earth could it possibly be boring?

Sakuraba eats a couple of up kicks to move into guard and Goes seems desperate to keep Sakuraba away.  He flails wildly, throwing kicks as if he’s a child being put to bed.  Seriously, Goes’ strategy resembles nothing I’ve ever seen in mixed martial arts.  He’s just laying on his back with the legs in the air, kicking in and around the area where Sakuraba might be standing.  As usual, the unflappable Sakuraba holds his position and tries for a knee bar or ankle lock, but Goes escapes.  He actually stands back up and tries to drag Sakuraba to the mat, but Sakuraba somehow reverses and ends up in side control.

Sakuraba is quickly back into guard, again with both of Goes’ butterfly hooks in.  Sakuraba stands up and Goes tries the up kicks again, but Sakuraba is not deterred with just three minutes left in this round.  Goes is wisely using his legs to defend from Sakuraba and he actually scores a nice sweep on Sakuraba, who without missing a beat, stands back up and hovers over Goes.  Sakuraba is eventually taken down by Goes and Sakuraba tries for an arm, but Goes is able to sink in a rear naked choke!  Unfortunately, Goes doesn’t get his hooks in and can’t secure the hold, allowing Sakuraba to stand back up.

Goes has been having some success with those sweeps from off his back, picking Sakuraba’s ankle and dragging him down.  This time, Goes is able to gain control and goes for another choke but Sakuraba slips out and moves back to guard.  The first round ends and in a great show of sportsmanship, Sakuraba helps Goes back to his feet.

This was a very good first round, though it didn’t match the evenness and the drama of what we saw in Sakuraba vs. Newton.  I’ve still enjoyed this thoroughly and I’m anxious to see who will take control in the next round.  Goes spend a lot of time on his back and has yet to figure Sakuraba out, though he did come very close with some of his choke attempts.

Similar to the first round, Sakuraba scores an ankle pick takedown.  I’m sure Goes could defend this hold more capably, but he seems much happier fighting on the ground even if that means he’s on his back.  Goes is working to control Sakuraba’s left arm, but Sakuraba is able to free himself as he works to advance into side control.  Goes defends and Sakuraba is forced to stay in guard.

Sakuraba tries again to transition, but Goes scores a nice reversal and moves into Sakuraba’s guard!  Saku briefly considers an armbar but gives up on that idea pretty quickly.  Sakuraba has been bloodied by some of Goes’ strikes at this point.  Goes is able to advance into more of a north/south position and Bas suspects we’ll see some knees from Goes.  Sakuraba sees fit to give up his back and attempt to roll into some kind of arm bar, but is unsuccessful.  Goes tries yet another rear naked choke, but Sakuraba escapes and is back in guard!

The referee warns Goes for striking Sakuraba on the back of the head and heeds said warning.  Sakuraba attempts to transition which allows Goes to sink in a choke, but Sakuraba tries for a roll through into a kimura!  Goes is able to defend the hold and actually ends up back in guard.  Sakuraba gives up his back as he is wont to do and he eventually rolls through and ends up back on top.  Goes kicks Sakuraba away and Sakuraba is back on his feet.

Goes is very active with some varied up kicks but doesn’t have a ton of success.  The round ends with Sakuraba standing over his opponent in what was another very entertaining ten minute period.  Goes seemed to be in more control during that round, though Sakuraba scored a number of his patented reversals and escapes.

I’m having a hard time figuring Sakuraba out.  Specifically, what makes this guy so good?  He’s not a BJJ master with years of training and he’s still a relative newcomer to MMA.  Sakuraba must have some inherent knowledge of the human body and has an innate sense of how to make the best out of each and every situation.  You don’t seem someone with this kind of talent every day and to a certain extent, this has to be something he was born with.

We’re not even at the end of this fight and all I want to do is wax poetic about Sakuraba and his exploits.  I don’t know that there’s been another fighter like Sakuraba, where there’s no situation to sticky or no hold too dangerous.  I never feel like Sakuraba is in danger or is in a bad spot just because I know he’ll escape or reverse to a more advantageous position.  This man is superhuman in his grappling and he has singlehandedly turned MMA into an art form.

The third and final round begins with the competitors touching gloves.  Sakuraba goes for a single leg which is now defended by Goes, who ends up in guard.  The fighters trade punches but are near the ropes, forcing the referees to adjust the fighters.  Immediately after the restart, Sakuraba works for an armbar that doesn’t end up coming to fruition.  Goes maintains top position and takes Sakuraba’s back as he works to advance positions.  Goes wants another choke but Sakuraba turtles up and won’t allow that to happen.

Goes actually has Sakuraba’s right leg grapevined, which briefly prevents Saku from advancing or moving into a more advantageous spot.  Sakuraba tries to work back to his feet and ends up getting caught with a deep choke!  Sakuraba is grimacing as Goes maintains the hold, but Sakuraba escapes and moves into Goes’ guard!  Incredible!!

The bloodied Sakuraba stands over his opponent once more, throwing more leg kicks than he had in previous rounds.  Goes is also more inactive and isn’t throwing the up kicks we had seen in previous rounds.  Goes stands back up but is almost immediately taken down by Sakuraba.  In no time at all, Sakuraba is standing back over Goes.  Now Goes is working some kicks, using an up kick stomp to Sakuraba’s gut.  Goes is also attempting some push kicks at Sakuraba’s bandaged knee.

The fight ends from this position and is declared a draw.  I’m not sure what the current judging situation is like, but I guess a draw here can’t be argued with.  Sakuraba thanks Carlson Gracie, Goes’ trainer, after this contest.  Gracie seems to praise Sakuraba after this great contest, which is well-deserved.

I really enjoyed this fight, but it certainly wasn’t as transcendent as the Sakuraba vs. Newton fight.  Frankly, I thought that Goes looked a little more impressive than Sakuraba.  He came close to finishing the fight on multiple occasions and always seemed able to take control.  I felt like Goes dictated more of the pace, though Goes and Sakuraba were both equally interested in a grappling war.  That isn’t to take anything away from Sakuraba as both fighters looked good, but Goes put on a very impressive performance here.

We go from a couple of great fighters to one fighter who has pissed me off in Yuhi Sano, who will be fighting Satoshi Honma.  Sano, much like Sanae Kikuta, put on an awful fight with a Gracie at PRIDE 2.  This one was against Royler Gracie, who couldn’t muster up the guts to make his fight with Sano not suck.

Honma opens up with a low kick and some strikes and he ends up catching Sano quickly with a clean right hand!  Sano is dropped and Honma attempts to follow up, but Sano is back to his feet.  Honma is very confident and tries for more strikes at this point, but Sano easily dumps Honma to the mat and scores a takedown.  Sano spends a little time in guard before Honma escapes and gets back to his feet.

Once he’s back up, Honma comes out swinging with some punches.  He lands some standing elbows on Sano and then opens up with a leg kick.  Sano tries to answer back with some punches, but misses badly and eats some punches and kicks from Honma.  Sano clinches when he’s backed against the ropes to avoid any further damage from his opponent.  Honma lands some quick knees as the clinch is broken, both men back in the center of the ring now.

Sano sees fit to try some more strikes, to which Honma incredulously replies with a wild flurry of punches that stumbles Sano.  Honma uses the clinch to land some punches and knees and he’s very quick to move in and out of positions.  The bloody Sano is off guard because of Honma’s varied striking, but also because he has no clue what he doing.  Sano also has a stupid fat face and I don’t like him.

Honma is punching Sano at will at this point.  Sano is doing his best do defend, which isn’t particularly good.  Honma is landing whatever he wants, scoring punches to the head and body along with low kicks.  Sano’s weak punch attempts are just pathetic and they leave Sano open for even more abuse from Honma.

Sano is so bloody at this point that Bas suggests he has his face sprayed with a yet to be invented super glue spray.  He says that Sano could put cucumber slices over his eyes, have the spray adhered to his face, and then he could remove the cucumber slices so that his cuts will be sealed and he’ll still have full use of his eyes.  Bas makes no specific mention of Sano’s mouth, which will inevitably be glued shut.

Honma and Sano are now trading wildly and Honma is getting the best of the action.  After the exchange, the referee stops the action and has doctor’s look at Sano’s cuts.  The fight is restarted after Sano is wiped down, as his cuts don’t look all too bad right now.

Honma throws some big punches and leg kicks after the restart.  Sano eats multiple knees to the face and Honma is chopping him down with leg kicks.  Quadros says that Sano is getting his “ass kicked” as Honma continues to land knees and punches that go completely unanswered.  Sano continues to bleed out of his multiple cuts as Honma throws knees and punches and is finally able to chop Sano down with a low kick.

Somehow, the referee refuses to stop the action despite Sano being dropped to the mat.  Honma jumps back on his opponent and throws a series of punches until the referee finally stops the action and declares Honma the winner.  Thank God for Satoshi Honma, who was able to liven this fight by beating the shit out of the completely worthless Yuhi Sano.  I’m so glad this one is done, though I found some perverse joy in watching Sano get dismantled.

This next battle should be quite interesting.  UFC and PRIDE veteran Marcos Ruas will take on Alexander Otsuka.  Otsuka is a Japanese professional wrestler who will be making his PRIDE debut here.  He’s certainly being thrown right into the fire having to battle Ruas.  But don’t fear, it appears that Tiger Mask is in Otsuka’s corner.  So he’s got that.  Otsuka adopted his wrestling name “Alexander” from Olympic great Alexander Karelin.

The fighters briefly feel each other out to start the fight.  Otsuka shoots in for a takedown but eats a really hard kick in the process.  He’s able to finish the takedown and move into guard, quickly transitioning into half guard.  Bas is shown in the corner of Ruas early on in this fight.  I hope Bas and Tiger Mask get involved, that would be a fun tag match.

Otsuka maintains control in guard and is landing some punches, but he’s generally staying inactive here.  Ruas is trying to control Otsuka by grasping around his back, but Otsuka not only breaks the hold but also gets back to his feet.  Otsuka is throwing some leg kicks toward his downed opponent, landing some foot stomps as well.  Otsuka only spends a little bit of time standing before moving back into guard.  Ruas almost rolls through, but Otsuka maintains top control and moves into half guard.

Ruas is amazingly able to sweep Otsuka and reverse positions into full mount, which is bad news for Otsuka.  Ruas tries to land some strikes from mount and there’s just one minute left in the round.  Otsuka gives up his back and Ruas gets his hooks in!  Ruas is interested in sinking in a choke but Otsuka turtles up to prevent the damage.  Ruas sinks in the choke and it appears to be over Otsuka’s mouth and not under his jaw.  The bell rings and Ruas is forced to give up the hold.  Otsuka’s nose is bloodied, but he survives that first round.

Bas reveals that Ruas was injured when sparring with Mark Kerr prior to this fight and it sounds like it was a pretty bad knee injury.  Rather than treating the injury locally, Ruas decided to take anti-inflammatory drugs which Bas doesn’t agree with.  He makes it sound like this injury could hamper Ruas’ performance, though that remains to be seen.

The second round opens and both men seem exhausted.  Otsuka was on the defense for a lot of that first round while Ruas’ injury is potentiall debilitating.  Otsuka shoots in for a takedown that Ruas easily defends, but he’s really sweating and gasping for air here.  Otsuka gives up the takedown and gets back to his feet, where he throws a few punches and clinches with Ruas.  They spend quite a bit of time in the clinch before Otsuka is able to sweep Ruas to the mat.

Otsuka is landing some punches from the top and Ruas can’t do a whole lot to defend or respond to these strikes.  Otsuka spends a significant amount of time on top of Ruas and the Brazilian fighter is bloodied and exhausted with just one minute left in the round.  Otsuka is really getting into it and swinging wildly, working to finish the second round strong.  Otsuka has controlled the duration of this round and Marco Ruas just hasn’t looked like himself.  The round ends and Ruas struggles to get back to his feet.

Ruas is keeled over in his corner and being attended to by doctors and his cornermen and he ends up stopping the fight!  Ruas cannot continue and Alexander Otsuka has upset Marco Ruas!  Otsuka backflips off the ropes and pumps up the crowd after his victory.  Knowing about Ruas’ injury situation puts this in perspective, but it’s still a big win for the wrestler.  Since this win is not without controversy, Otsuka is only presented with a very small trophy.

This next contest will be between two veterans in Mark Kerr and Hugo Duarte.  Bas, who trains with Kerr, says this is the best shape that Mark Kerr has ever been in.  I guess that he’s timed his cycles just right going into this fight.  Good for him!

Kerr opens the fight with a high kick that misses.  Duarte follows up with some quick punches but is taken to the mat by Kerr.  Kerr spends a couple of inactive minutes in the guard before backing off and moving to his feet.  Kerr throws some leg kicks at his downed opponent before rushing back into guard.  It actually looks like Duarte invited Kerr back into guard and Kerr was glad to oblige him.

Bas Rutten makes dolphin noises.  No context will be provided.

The referees back Kerr and Duarte away from the ropes and Kerr begins to throw some big punches.  He again stands over his opponent and throws these big chopping kicks, though Duarte doesn’t seem to be hurt.  Kerr rushes back to the mat and throws some punches before entering the guard again.

The fighters are again pulled from the ropes and Kerr again answers back with some punches.  He throws some heavier shots on and off and stands back up over Duarte with just one minute left in the first round.  The first round ends rather uneventfully.  That didn’t look like the Mark Kerr we all know, as Hugo Duarte didn’t have his entrails ripped out through his asshole.  Mark Kerr usually opens up violently to try for a win.  Maybe this is a new, more patient Mark Kerr.

Bas is hilarious as he pretends to be going back and forth from ringside to the announcer’s booth.  Bas is shown cornering Kerr while talking at the same time, fooling absolutely nobody.

To start the second round, Kerr quickly takes Duarte to the mat and lands some big punches.  Duarte’s right eye gets busted open pretty badly and the referee has the doctors look at the damage.  After some time, it is decided that the fight will be restarted on the mat with Kerr in control.

Kerr is landing some punches from the top while Duarte is just shouting out while on his back.  I have no clue what Duarte is trying to say, but he sounds like a concerned deaf man.  Duarte’s Portuguese yelling doesn’t seem to be understandable to both the Japanese referee and his American opponent.

Kerr leans in from guard and lands a headbutt and Duarte reacts as if he’s been shot.  He shouts out in pain and writhes around the mat as the referee stops the contest.  Duarte is laying on the back as if he’s dying and this is really disingenuous on Duarte’s part.  Kerr did absolutely nothing to prompt this reaction and the announcers feel the same way.  Bas wonders if Duarte’s, “nose bone shot into his brain.”

The men are restarted on their feet and Kerr rushes in, which prompts Duarte to fall backwards.  He’s able to coax Kerr into guard, but Duarte hasn’t been able to do anything with Kerr thus far.  Kerr gets back to his feet and stands over Duarte, but again moves into guard when it’s clear that Duarte has little interest in engaging.  The very bizarre second round has ended and I have no clue what we might see in the third.

The fighters tough gloves to start this third round and, amazingly, Duarte falls backwards to begin the round.  The crowd jeers at Duarte for his actions and, even as Kerr backs away, Duarte refuses to get back to his feet.  Bas shouts out “Jesus Christ, man!” and compares this fight to Antonio Inoki vs. Muhammad Ali, though it’s noted that Inoki was actually active off of his back.

Kerr decides to follow Duarte to the ground and angrily assaults his opponent, who dives through the ropes like a coward.  Duarte is really struggling and is rolling around on his back like a baby.  The referee is trying to coax Duarte to his feet and he falls backwards as he attempts to stand.  He doesn’t appear to be hurt, but that’s what we’re dealing with.

Bas Rutten hums the theme for the X-Files.  No context will be provided.

Kerr decides to go into guard with Duarte if only to pound on his opponent.  The Japanese crowd is fed up with Duarte as they chant the name of Mark Kerr.  Duarte slinks through the ropes whenever Kerr is on the offensive.  The referees attempt to restart the fight away from the ropes, but Duarte is clearly working to get into the ropes.  Duarte is trying to escape the ring and the referee has no choice but to stop this fight!

I have no fucking idea what we just saw, but I wonder if it was the mental breakdown of Hugo Duarte.  Mark Kerr is given a lovely crystal trophy for his troubles while Hugo Duarte will be committed to a mental institution, never to compete in PRIDE again.  What on earth was that??

This last contest of the night is appropriate, given this is the one year anniversary of PRIDE.  Rickson Gracie will take on Nobuhiko Takada in a rematch of the fight that started it all.  We’re still unsure what PRIDE is and what form it will take, but Gracie vs. Takada started it for better or for worse.

The crowd cheers wildly for Takada before the ring announcements.  Takada is wearing an absolutely fantastic rope that I wish I had in my personal collection.  Gracie is clad in white as we’ve seen him before.  These Japanese people are firmly behind Takada, though it didn’t mean much during his first contest with Gracie.

The fight opens with Rickson shooting into the clinch and Takada utilizing the double underhook.  The fighters exchange knees and Takada almost drags Gracie to the mat, but he’s able to maintain control.  Bas and Quadros both feel like Takada has no choice but to strike with Rickson in this fight and I tend to agree with that.  It’s just a matter of whether or not Takada can execute that gameplan.

Takada breaks the clinch and throws some punches, but Gracie moves in close again.  Takada has Gracie backed against the ropes in the clinch and Rickson is throwing some punches to his opponent’s body.  Rickson is definitely getting the better of the strikes while Takada is just interested in maintaining control.  The crowd is chanting for Takada, who seems way too timid to get anything done right now.

Gracie is pinned in the corner but he’s still landing more strikes.  Takada is throwing some light knees but Gracie is landing cleaner shots to the body before trying to utilizes his own underhooks for a takedown.  Takada is throwing a series of knees while pushing Gracie along the ropes, but I can’t see any way those are hurting Gracie, who is throwing knees of his own.

Rickson drops to the mat after a knee from Takada, but it looks like that was a ploy to bring Takada into his guard.  Bas thinks that Rickson is really hurt, but methinks he’s doing just fine right now.  Takada spends a little more time standing before he drags Takada down into his guard.  Quadros is adamant that Takada needs to stand back up, but he’s perfectly content in Gracie’s guard.  He’s also a damned fool.

Now let’s try to figure out what Takada is going to do for here.  Is he posturing up to strike Gracie?  No, that doesn’t look right.  Is he trying to stand and escape?  Maybe, that seems like it would be the prudent decision at this point.  What on earth is Takada doing?  He couldn’t possibly be dropping back for a heel hook, could he?

Oh, that’s exactly what this prideful fucking idiot is doing.  Why not grab hold of the ankle of one of the best grapplers in the world and try to submit him?  What could possibly go wrong here?  Well, lots could go wrong.  Perhaps Takada didn’t think forward to the point where this move is obviously unsuccessful and Gracie is able to take over because that’s exactly what happens.

As Takada falls back with the heel, Bas and Quadros both shout out “No!  No!” and implore Takada to get back to his feet, but it’s too late.  Gracie quickly gains control and takes mount, but Takada bucks Gracie off.  Gracie is again successful with the mount and is fully in control.  Bas is amazed how improved Takada is at this point, which I think just means he’s pleased that Takada isn’t dead.

From mount, Gracie sinks in a crossface and is really going for an armbar as Takada tries for another heel hook!  Gracie takes mount at will and finally sinks in the armbar that ends the fight, but Takada’s effort was certainly stronger than it was during their first fight.

After the contest, Gracie gives an interview saying that he’ll be looking for a tough opponent after this contest.  Bas mentioned during PRIDE 3 that he would like to fight Rickson and I wonder if that’s not the tough opponent he’s alluding to.  Rickson says he’s pleased to spend his time in Japan and will continue fighting in Japan.  I think he also says he enjoys the food, but I might have misheard that.

Well that’s a great way to end PRIDE 4: Rickson Gracie talking about Japanese food!  The outcome of that fight was unsurprising, but I have to be fair and say that Takada was slightly improved.  That could have just been Gracie toying with him, but I thought that Takada looked like a better fighter all round.  He went from being a terrible fighter to being a capably terrible fighter.  Good for him!

PRIDE continues to improve with each event as I thought that PRIDE 4 was the best yet.  There wasn’t an individual fight that measured up to Sakuraba vs. Newton, but the card as a whole was very strong and was quite entertaining.  Also, Yuhi Sano is a piece of shit and makes me very mad.

Though it’s been just one year, this is the last PRIDE event that will be taking place under the KRS banner.  I’ll go into more detail during the PRIDE 5 write-up, but this is a pretty big change that will influence the direction of PRIDE going forward.  We’re going to see some very interesting debuts and I’m very excited about Sakuraba’s next fight, but we’ll have to wait until next time to see how that goes!

Greatest Fights of PRIDE 4

  1. Kazushi Sakuraba vs. Allan Goes
  2. Igor Vovchanchyn vs. Gary Goodridge
  3. Akira Shoji vs. Wallid Ismail
  4. Alexander Otsuka vs. Marco Ruas
  5. Satoshi Honma vs. Yuhi Sano
  6. Rickson Gracie vs. Nobuhiko Takada
  7. Daijiro Matsui vs. Sanae Kikuta
  8. Mark Kerr vs. Hugo Duarte

Top Ten Fights Through PRIDE 4

  1. Kazushi Sakuraba vs. Carlos Newton – PRIDE 3
  2. Kazushi Sakuraba vs. Allan Goes – PRIDE 4
  3. Kazushi Sakuraba vs. Vernon White – PRIDE 2
  4. Akira Shoji vs. Renzo Gracie – PRIDE 1
  5. Akira Shoji vs. Daijiro Matsui – PRIDE 3
  6. Igor Vovchanchyn vs. Gary Goodridge – PRIDE 4
  7. Akira Shoji vs. Wallid Ismail – PRIDE 4
  8. Gary Goodridge vs. Oleg Taktarov – PRIDE 1
  9. Gary Goodridge vs. Amir Rahnavardi – PRIDE 3
  10. Marco Ruas vs. Gary Goodridge – PRIDE 2

Greatest Fighters of PRIDE 4

  1. Allan Goes (0-0-1)
  2. Kazushi Sakuraba (0-0-1)
  3. Igor Vovchanchyn (1-0)
  4. Akira Shoji (1-0)
  5. Satoshi Honma (1-0)
  6. Rickson Gracie (1-0)
  7. Mark Kerr (1-0)
  8. Alexander Otsuka (1-0)
  9. Gary Goodridge (0-1)
  10. Wallid Ismail (0-1)
  11. Marco Ruas (0-1)
  12. Daijiro Matsui (0-0-1)
  13. Sanae Kikuta (0-0-1)
  14. Nobuhiko Takada (0-1)
  15. Yuhi Sano (0-1)
  16. Hugo Duarte (0-1)

Top Ten Fighters Through PRIDE 4

  1. Kazushi Sakuraba (2-0-1)
  2. Rickson Gracie (2-0)
  3. Akira Shoji (2-0-2)
  4. Mark Kerr (3-0)
  5. Igor Vovchanchyn (1-0)
  6. Satoshi Honma (1-0)
  7. Renzo Gracie (1-0-1)
  8. Allan Goes (0-0-1)
  9. Alexander Otsuka (1-0)
  10. Carlos Newton (0-1)
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Categories: Ranking PRIDE

PRIDE 3

September 8, 2011 4 comments

Three months after the last PRIDE event and just one month after the last UFC event, we’ll be seeing the return of PRIDE with its third card.  So far, I’ve not been pleased with the PRIDE promotion.  They’ve definitely had some exciting contests, but at the same time, I’ve also had to sit through Severn vs. Kimo from PRIDE 1 and the miserable Gracie fights from PRIDE 2.  Yuhi Sano and Sanae Kikuta are absent from this card, meaning that we won’t have the pleasure of being completely underwhelmed by their presence.  Unfortunately, this will also be the first PRIDE card without any Gracies.

We’ll see the PRIDE return of Nobuhiko Takada after unsuccessfully challenging Rickson Gracie at PRIDE 1.  Kazushi Sakuraba, who has had success in both the UFC and PRIDE thus far, will make an appearance at this event.  Akira Shoji will also compete after putting on impressive performances at PRIDE 1 and 2.  There will also be a number of familiar faces from the UFC including Mark Kerr, Gary Goodridge, Carlos Newton, and Emmanuel Yarborough.

Wait, Emmanuel Yarborough?  You mean the fat guy who fought Keith Hackney in a David vs. Goliath fight?  Yes, he’s apparently yet to die of complications from diabetes or getting trapped in a hot air balloon basket as a balloon ascends endlessly toward the heavens.  I have very low expectations for this card, which will somehow have to be good in spite of the presence of such a huge, useless man.  Dare I proceed?  I guess I don’t have a choice at this point…

PRIDE 3 – June 24, 1998

Previous Editions

As with previous PRIDE events, there’s little if any fanfare or waiting prior to the fights.  However, we do get some brief highlights for the fighters in the first contest between Daijiro Matsui and Akira Shoji.  Though the fighters are very evenly matched physically, Shoji showed us great spirit in his initial fights while this is Matsui’s PRIDE debut.  I think that Matsui has a big hill to climb to score the victory here.

Stephen Quadros and Bas Rutten are back, this time welcoming us to the Nippon Budokan arena in Japan.  Budokan houses concerts, martial arts, and professional wrestling events in Japan and is perhaps best known in music circles for Cheap Trick’s live At Budokan album.  I fully expect Bas to make some kind of Cheap Trick joke or reference before the third fight is over.

Bas is optimistic about Daijiro Matsui’s chances, stating simply, “I hear good things about this guy!”  Quadros goes on to tell us that Matsui trains with Nobuhiko Takada and Kazushi Sakuraba, so perhaps he has some kind of professional wrestling background?  Quadros also informs us that Shoji has been training with Shooto’s Caol Uno, a fighter who we’ve yet to see in either PRIDE or the UFC.  Uno will be in Shoji’s corner for this fight.

The fight opens up quite tentatively, as we might expect between a pro wrestler and Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu practitioner.  Quadros clarifies that Matsui is in the black trunks and Shoji is in the multicolored trunks (black and orange), to which Bas says that the trunks are only multicolored if you consider black a color.  Um…yes?

Shoji lands the first blows of the night landing a nice 1-2 combination cleanly on Matsui, who responds by lunging for a takedown which Shoji easily avoids.  From the sprawl position, Shoji throws some knees to the body and then allows Matsui to stand back up.  Matsui quickly points out that Shoji’s glove is damaged and the referee briefly halts the action to correct the problem.

Shoji lands some more nice punches and Matsui responds with a body kick and another takedown attempt, but Shoji successfully defends it yet again and takes Matsui’s back.  As Matsui stands back up, he ducks his head through the ropes but that doesn’t deter Shoji from throwing some punches during this unusual tangle.  Matsui throws some strikes back at Shoji but the referee restarts the action.  By restart, I mean that the referee pulls Matsui back in the ring while Shoji punches him.  Shoji gives up Matsui’s back and walks back to the center of the ring.

Bas suggests that Shoji and Matsui attend the same boxing school, since both men are fighting with their hands down at various points of the action.  It seems like Matsui has more to be worried about with Shoji being slightly more aggressive and on point with his strikes.  As Shoji throws a left, Matsui shoots but can’t get the takedown.  Shoji and Matsui adjust positions and Shoji is able to take side control.  Shoji works to move into full mount, but Matsui rolls out and gets back to his feet.

With both men being relatively inactive on the feet, the only recourse from the referee is to occasionally interject himself by yelling “FIGHT!” at both men.  This doesn’t do much since Matsui seems more interested in circling his opponent between weak takedown attempts.  Matsui’s fourth takedown attempt is greeted with a sprawl and some knees to the body and shoulder from Shoji.  Matsui stands back up but eats some knees to the body before being taken down by Shoji.

Akira Shoji is in half guard and quickly moves to full mount, but Matsui gives up his back to Shoji!  Shoji gets too high and Matsui slips out from the position and briefly takes Shoji’s back before he explodes out, dropping Matsui to his knees.  Shoji throws a couple of kicks to the body of his downed opponent and Matsui crawls forward for a takedown, but Shoji wants to stand with his opponent.

After a prolonged period of no striking, Matsui rushes into the bodylock with Shoji and then pulls guard for the first time in this fight.  Shoji has some success from guard, landing some punches before standing up and going back to his feet.  Bas and Quadros have high praise for this fight so far, calling it “action packed.”  I agree to a certain extent, though the lack of striking is disconcerting.  There have been some pretty nice ground exchanges and this hasn’t been nearly as bad as some other fights in PRIDE’s limited history.

As good as the grappling has been, the striking in this fight has been very poor.  I could probably count on one hand how many strikes have been thrown between these two fighters and since Matsui is unable to take Shoji down, it seems like we’re stuck here for now.  Matsui unsuccessfully pushes for another takedown as the first round of the fight ends.  Matsui actually sticks up his back leg to keep Shoji from kicking him while on the ground, a wise move given the abuse he’s taken thus far.

The fighters touch gloves at the start of the second round and both seem anxious to get back to work.  Matsui opens with a low leg kick, and then after another 30 seconds, he follows up with some punches but ends up clinched with Shoji who scores the takedown.  Since the fighters are near the ropes, we come to my favorite part of PRIDE events: the referees adjusting the fighters!

I really hope this tradition carries into the later PRIDE events.  I would love to see fighters adjusted away from the ropes all the way into 2007, though I suspect this practice will go away sooner rather than later.  You know, when the officials realized there’s a more efficient way to do this than by physically moving the fighters.

After the restart, all that happens is that Shoji rests and then stands up out of guard.  Matsui is more hesitant to stand at this point, knowing that Shoji is liable to attack him even while on the mat.  Back on the feet, Matsui is a little more aggressive with kicks, throwing a few body and leg kicks.  Matsui tries another shot that Shoji sees from a mile away and Shoji takes Matsui’s back.  Matsui hits a slick roll and ends up in Shoji’s guard for the first time during the fight.  I’m anxious to see how Matsui does from this position.

Matsui actually postures up and lands some nice punches before Shoji shoves Matsui out of guard and gets back to his feet.  As Shoji stands up, Matsui moves in with a body kick and lands a right hand on Shoji!  It looks like Matsui may have stunned his opponent, but he fails to capitalize on this and is still very quick to stand back and let Shoji regroup.  It’s nice to see a little more fire from Matsui at this point in the fight.

Matsui is now working the leg kick a bit more, though the referee is still forced to encourage the fighters to strike.  Matsui isn’t giving up his weak takedown which allows Shoji to take his opponent’s back in the inevitable event that he successfully defends the attempt.  The fighters are near the ropes again, but this isn’t worthy of a restart.  Rather, it just means Matsui won’t be able to pull off another roll to reverse positions.  Shoji is landing some punches with his free right hand since Matsui has trapped Shoji’s left.  The exchange brings the fighters closer to the ropes and prompts a quick restart.

Matsui works for an ankle pick to try and reverse positions, but he’s just too close to the ropes and Shoji maintains his opponent’s back.  Matsui eventually rolls into the corner on his back and Shoji lands some big punches with three minutes left in the round.  There is still no fight clock, but Bas was nice enough to translate the edict made by the ring announcer.  This is a very bad position for Matsui, though he lands a couple of decent punches from the ground.  For the third time, the referees restart the action after moving the fighters away from the ropes.

The position seems to be less hazardous for Matsui after the adjustment as Shoji isn’t at all postured up.  Matsui works out of the position as Shoji appears to attempt a transition to full mount, but Shoji maintains control from the sprawl position.  Matsui attempts to escape with just one minute left, but Shoji is maintaining control and throwing some knees from this spot.  Matsui bursts forward to try for a single leg takedown but is unsuccessful, Shoji maintaining sprawl control until the second round ends.

The fighters touch gloves again to begin the third round, but the referee halts the action to wipe down an excessively wet Matsui.  Once the action restarts, we see some more strikes from Matsui who rushes in with a very slow 1-2 combo.  He feints some kicks, but stays generally inactive.

Shoji rushes in to strike, but Matsui starts throwing some big punches.  Unfortunately for him, Shoji gains control and takes Matsui down.  Matsui has had luck escaping from the ground in earlier exchanges, so it will be interesting to see what he does from guard.  Shoji is simply throwing weak strikes and trying to maintain control at this point.  But sure enough, Matsui is able to shove Shoji off as he attempts to advance positions.  Matsui is again hesitant to stand with a threatening Shoji standing over him.  He throws some low kicks from the crab position before springing up without incident.

We see some exchanges at this point with Matsui rushing in with a slow combo, followed by Shoji landing some heavy shots with Matsui against the ropes.  Shoji inexplicably backs off and Matsui attempts another takedown, this time having success with the ankle pick.  Matsui finally lands his first takedown and is now in guard after a quick referee adjustment.

Matsui starts throwing some punches from the closed guard and Bas confirms that these strikes “won’t do anything.”  Matsui quickly gets to his feet and starts throwing punches at his downed opponent but Shoji is up quickly and throws Matsui down to the mat, landing some punches of his own.  Shoji is again on his feet with Matsui not wanting to stand, but this time, Matsui works for a takedown instead of trying to stand back up.  Though Shoji defends the takedown, it was a really crafty attempt by Matsui to gain control.

Shoji backs off from the sprawl position and tries to land some punches, but Matsui avoids the exchange and pushes himself away from Shoji.  Both men are back on their feet and are receiving encouragement from the referee to get busy.  Matsui moves in for another takedown but eats some punches in the process.  This time, Shoji cleanly takes Matsui’s back with just one minute remaining in the round!

You can see above that Matsui is trying to take advantage of this position where Shoji has his legs crossed.  Matsui tries to secure an ankle crank by stretching his right leg over one of Shoji’s feet, which would effectively put some serious torque on Shoji’s leg if applied correctly.  Matsui gets his leg in the right position but he can’t get the necessary leverage.  He tries to cinch his legs together and stretch forward, but Shoji gets his leg out as the round ends.  I should note that these rounds are all ten minutes long, meaning we’re 30 minutes into this fight right now.

And now it seems like we’re going to see a fourth and final “extra round” for this really fun grappling contest.  Bas isn’t sure how long this round will last, but he does seem confident that this is the last round of the fight.  Based on the first 30 minutes, I’m not sure that either fighter will be able to end this contest barring exceptional circumstances.

Shoji opens the period looking for some punches, but Matsui immediately drops and works for a takedown.  We’re back in a familiar spot with Shoji controlling and throwing knees from the sprawl position.  Matsui grabs for a potential ankle pick, which is enough to prompt Shoji to stand back up.  Matsui is able to get back to his feet without incident.

Matsui moves in on Shoji with some punches, but Quadros doesn’t think they do any kind of damage.  It’s very clear that both fighters are uncomfortable with their striking, as any exchanges come in short bursts.  Very little damage has been done by either fighters’ strikes and that doesn’t seem to be changing…

So Matsui decides that an Antonio Inoki style sliding sweep/kick combination is the best offense at this point.  And why not?  It’s something different and you never know when a fighter could get incapacitated by light strikes to the leg.  Needless to say, Matsui gives that up after not too long and is back on his feet – but now Shoji pushes forward with some punches and he’s putting some muscle behind them!  Shoji appears primed to do some damage, but Matsui quickly drops for a leg in desperation.

Shoji gets his sprawl on, just like he’s done for most of this fight thus far.  He actually spends a few minutes here before Shoji stands up with just three minutes remaining in the fight.  Bas now only thinks this is the last round, which is somewhat scary.  What if he’s wrong and this fight will never stop?

With both men standing, Shoji rushes in for some punches and Matsui grabs Shoji’s head in a weak guillotine position.  Shoji slams Matsui to the mat and is now in Matsui’s closed guard.   Matsui is throwing some kicks to Shoji’s back from the closed guard, but Shoji pushes forward and tries for full mount.  Matsui struggles and briefly gives up his back before exploding out from underneath Shoji.  It looks like Shoji briefly tries for an arm as Matsui falls through the ropes and onto the ring apron.  That was an interesting exchange that seemed like it was going somewhere before Matsui fell out of the ring.

The fight is restarted with both men on their feet and Matsui quickly resorts to another takedown attempt.  Shoji sprawls and works to take Matsui’s back, but Matsui rolls out of the position and away from Shoji.  Matsui is back up on his feet and lunges with some punches before Shoji tackles Matsui with both fighters tumbling through the ropes!  That is effectively the end of the fight as both fighters embrace before a draw is announced.

I do think that Shoji was in control for more of this fight and I’m unsure what the judging situation is at this event, but I’m not going to argue with a draw.  That was a pretty fun fight with lots of turns, even if neither fighter was close to ending the contest.  And to think, I’m only one fight in and I’ve already typed more than 2,800 words.  I could be in for a long night…

Okay, so at least this fight won’t last very long.  Emmanuel Yarborough will take on Daiju Takase in the second match of the evening.  Forget skills – the only thing that matters in this fight is weight.  As in Yarborough weighs three times more than his opponent.  He is a gigantic man with gigantic man breasts.  Yarborough gets a very nice hand from the crowd and all Bas can muster is “Oh…my…God!”  Yarborough is wearing some very fashionable red shorts that appear to have at one time been a canopy.

Yarborough is holding court in the center of the ring as Takase desperately circles away from his opponent.  Takase lunges in with a left hook that doesn’t appear to connect, but Takase is understandably hesitant to engage.  When Yarborough gets close enough to Takase, he will throw punches that inevitably miss as Takase ducks away.

The Fight Professor is stunned by Yarborough’s size, saying that he has never seen a man this large in his life.  Takase leans in for a body punch, but Yarborough responds immediately with a punch that misses.  Whenever Yarborough punches, Takase runs.  Takase cuts it close at one point and gets caught with a punch near the ropes and Takase is almost smiling because even he knows he cut it a bit close.  Takase runs toward Yarborough and I’m not sure what he was trying to do, but it looks like he bounces off of a brick wall.

This fight is awesome.  The referee is calling for action, but I’m not sure what he expects.  Takase gets some action going by doing a forward roll to avoid Yarborough, who is now standing like a statue in one of the corners.  I think all of this walking has probably wiped him out right now.  Somehow, we’re already five minutes in and not a lot has happened.  Bas remembers the line from Rocky III where Mickey and Rocky banter about how much a guy like Thunderlips eats in the morning.  He wonders if Yarborough might legitimately eat 200 pounds worth of food in the morning.

Quadros suggests that Takase sprint in circles around Yarborough in the hopes that he would get tired and dizzy and fall down.  I think Yarborough might respond to that by standing still and swinging his fists outward in the hopes that he disrupts Takase’s circular path.  Bas thinks Takase should either go for a single leg takedown or slide under Yarborough’s legs, an idea that terrifies Quadros for fear of Takase getting squashed.

Bas is now calling for Takase to kick Yarborough and Quadros points out the obvious by saying this is a silly match-up.  Like that needs to be said?  Of course it is, Emmanuel Yarborough is fighting – what do you expect?  The round ends and…well, that was something.  The crowd is jeering a bit as both men go back to their corners.  Bas and Quadros feel like it’s inevitable that Yarborough will get tired or have a heart attack sometime soon.

At the start of the second round, Yarborough is getting more active and the crowd is getting behind him.  He gets Takase pinned against the ropes a couple of different times, but he doesn’t land any significant strikes.  Still, it would have been enough for Yarborough to just grab and smother his opponent.  That early burst may have been the last bit of energy Yarborough had as he’s standing still with his hands on his hips.

The referee stops the action for what Bas says is oxygen for Yarborough.  Believe it or not, we’re seeing the first ever yellow card in PRIDE history!  The referee adamantly waves the card in Takase’s face warning him to pick up the pace and the crowd is pleased to see this.  Maybe this will be enough to light a fire under Takase, though it’s not an easy task to get a man to march to his own death.  He did sign on for this fight, so I guess that’s half of the battle.

The fight is restarted and oh…no.  Takase actually tries a single leg takedown.  How on earth does a yellow card mean take this gigantic man down to the mat??  In an absolutely terrifying moment, Yarborough falls on top of his significantly smaller opponent almost crushing his head and neck.  Takase thankfully avoids any serious damage, but his legs are now pinned under his massive opponent.  Here is Stephen Quadros’ take on the situation.

“No!!  Don’t go for the single!!  You’ve gotta be out of your mind!!  No!!  This is horrible!!  This is like…this is like Jaws!  This is like Jaws!  This is like Jaws!  Where Robert Shaw was sliding off the boat into the jaws of the shark…this is the exact same thing!  You’ve got this huge behemoth…if he gets on top of Takase, it’s going to be harmful!  It will be harmful!  He’s gotta get out of there and fight for his life!”

Seriously, this is happening and it’s pretty scary.  All the while, Takase is struggling to escape the grasp of his huge opponent.  Takase is striking Yarborough’s head and appears to be working for an armbar, though I’m not sure he has that kind of strength.  Takase is punching his opponent in the legs to try and break free and Yarborough appears to have been busted open by his opponent’s punches.  Takase is finally able to escape and punch his grounded opponent enough to force a submission due to strikes.

My goodness, this was a complete mess.  Absolutely awful in the best possible ways.  I’m really thrilled to have been witness to this fight, but now I just feel sad.  Bas compares Takase’s terrifying experience to sinking in quicksand which seems appropriate.

In perhaps the most disappointing turn of events, Takase is presented with a rather small trophy for his victory.  I thought we clarified in earlier posts that the bigger your opponent, the bigger your trophy when you win the fight.  At 6’8″ and more than 600 pounds, a victory over Emmanuel Yarborough is at least worth an 8-10 foot tall trophy.  Takase should have been presented different trophies every day for a month, though I wonder if the yellow card automatically reduces the size of your trophy.  Ah yes, that must be it.  Theory intact!

This next fight is going to be great, and not just because the two men combined weigh 250 pounds less than Emanuel Yarborough.  Veterans Kazushi Sakuraba and Carlos Newton will square off in what would be equivalent to a modern middleweight fight.

Hey look, it’s Bas!  In the ring!  The Japanese crowd gives El Guapo a lovely hand as he presents flowers to Carlos Newton and Kasushi Sakuraba.  I wish Bas Rutten would give me flowers.  Not in a romantic way, but like…you know, how dudes give each other flowers when they’re best friends.  We’ll plan to go see a baseball game or bowling and Bas will just give me some flowers because he thinks I’m cool.  It’s not gay, it’s a perfectly normal way for men to say, “Hey, I like you and I wouldn’t mind taking my shirt off with you.”  IT’S NORMAL, LEAVE ME ALONE.

Bas briefly takes the microphone and drops two huge pieces of news: he’ll fight Randy Couture for the UFC Heavyweight Title at the next UFC event in October and then he’ll fight Rickson Gracie in PRIDE once his UFC contract expires.  History, unfortunately, does not quite unfold in that way and it’s quite sad as I would have loved to see Bas in both of those fights.  Maybe instead of Rickson Gracie, he meant Ruben Villareal.  And instead of PRIDE, he meant a WFA event almost a decade later.  Sigh.

I love the crowd’s reaction when the translator reveals that Bas wants to fight Rickson Gracie.  If awe had a noise, that would be it.  This man comes into a PRIDE ring and tells the world of his ambitions to fight one of the most legendary fighters in all of combat sports.  And Bas was just totally cool about it, almost as if he was going to get ice cream after the show.  It’s no big deal to him…fight a Gracie, make some bucks, move on.  That’s my man.  Bas and Quadros play it off as if they’re cageside for the fights and Bas just returned to the announcing booth.

When the bout begins, Sakuraba is the early aggressor with some low kicks before Newton rushes in to the clinch.  Newton goes to hip toss Sakuraba, but amazingly, Sakuraba maintains his balance and lands in Newton’s guard!  Sakuraba very quickly tries to spin around Newton and as the Canadian tries to defend, Newton is somehow able to lock in an armbar!!

This looks extremely tight but Newton somehow fights out of this hold.  An odd struggle leads to Newton in side control, but Sakuraba amazingly reverses positions effortlessly and moves into guard.  Sakuraba goes for a heel but this doesn’t work and Newton ends up on top again in side control.  Sakuraba turns over onto all fours and goes for Newton’s leg, pushing forward and moving back into guard.  This is incredible.  We’re only a few minutes in and I’m in awe of Kazushi Sakuraba.  Honestly, I’ve not seen a lot of these early PRIDE fights and I’m completely delighted by how this man grapples.  Of course, Newton’s no slouch himself.

Sakuraba is trying to figure a way to submit Newton from this spot while Newton is working hard to control his opponent’s hands.  Sakuraba spends some time working for an armbar while Newton spins with Sakuraba in defense, but he eventually locks the hold in again!  Newton is quick to escape to a standing position, but Sakuraba again goes for the leg and pulls Newton to the mat!  WHAT ON EARTH IS HAPPENING!?  Kazushi Sakuraba’s brain is not normal, but in the best possible ways.  People shouldn’t be able to do these things.

Sakuraba is trying to fake Newton out in an attempt to go for a heel hook, but Newton keeps up and stays out of trouble.  Sakuraba stands back up and in a show of respect, Sakuraba allows Newton to get back to his feet without issue.  Sakuraba isn’t as active with his leg kicks this time and Newton lunges in for a big punch, but Sakuraba is able to take Newton down again and gets back into guard.

Sakuraba goes for a punch and quickly locks in a toe hold, but Newton is able to escape after a struggle and take Sakuraba’s back!  Newton sinks in both hooks and is going for a choke – this doesn’t look good for Sakuraba, but I know not to doubt the man at this point.  Sakuraba adjusts and moves to all fours so Newton’s grip is loosened.  Newton throws some weak punches, but Sakuraba is able to shrug Newton off and move into his guard!

Sakuraba lands a big right hand from guard, but leaves it as just the one punch at this point.  Sakuraba moves into side control and briefly takes Newton’s back, but Newton stands back up and backs Sakuraba off with a punch.  Sakuraba moves in with a quick takedown and the bell rings to end the first round.  This was perhaps my favorite round of MMA since beginning these UFC and PRIDE recaps.  I don’t know that I’ve ever seen grappling like that in my life, Sakuraba is super-humanly talented.

Round two starts with Newton shooting in on Sakuraba after a a low kick attempt.  Newton takes Sakuraba’s back and drags him to the mat, but Sakuraba somehow grabs onto Newton’s arm and goes for a Kimura.  Newton frees himself and takes Sakuraba’s back and is able to maintain position after a brief struggle that sees Sakuraba almost splayed out in a crucifix position.  Newton postures up above Sakuraba and throws a couple of knees to the body.

At this point, Newton has been able to maintain control longer than at any point in this fight.  He’s held Sakuraba’s back for a while, but now Saku reaches back for Newton’s leg but Newton manages to figure-four Saku’s right arm.  Bas says that if Newton were to crossface Sakuraba and torque his neck to the left, that would probably be the end of the fight.  The hold would resemble Chris Benoit’s Crippler Crossface submission hold, just with less child murder.  Sakuraba quickly pushes forward and avoids that position, though he freely gives up his back once more.

Newton comes back with some punches while postured up over Sakuraba landing some of the best ground and pound this fight, though that’s not saying a lot.  Sakuraba rolls back onto Newton and is able to turn into his guard.  You can hear Newton’s corner urging him on to submit Sakuraba, though that’s a task much easier said than done at this point.  Sakuraba quickly advances positions and locks in a really nasty looking armbar, but Newton is somehow able to escape and take Sakuraba’s back again!!  That was wild, I thought the fight was done!

Newton attempts to sink in his hooks to take Sakuraba’s back, but he inadvertently leaves his ankle free.  Sakuraba quickly grabs hold of Newton’s leg and locks in a knee bar, rolling forward and gaining maximum leverage!  This is very bad news for Newton who is quickly forced to tap out!  What a stellar fight and an amazing finish!  Sakuraba was working for submissions all fight and it seemed inevitable that he would finish one.  Newton made this mistake and ended up paying for it.

After the fight, Sakuraba and Newton pay each other respect and receive a great hand from an appreciative crowd.  Sakuraba and Newton appear to be laughing and joking like old friends once this fight is done and it’s great to see.  These two men put on an incredible fight and should be extremely proud of this.  I’m proud of it and I just sat on my ass and typed all sorts of nonsense.  This is exactly the kind of fight that makes me so happy to be an MMA fan.

I should note that Sakuraba’s trophy appears to be only a few feet tall, though I think at this point, some kind of statue should be erected in his honor.  Seriously, between this and his fight with Vernon White, Sakuraba has completely won me over.  I WANT HIM TO FIGHT AGAIN RIGHT NOW.

Gary Goodridge will now fight Amir Rahnavardi in a fight that has a very tough act to follow.  Then again, this fight could be Harold Howard vs. Jesus Christ and it wouldn’t be a tenth as good as Sakuraba vs. Newton.  If I could travel time, I would go back to PRIDE 3 so I could witness Sakuraba vs. Newton in person.  That was a god damn masterpiece, Goodridge vs. Rahnavardi is a heap of vomit in comparison.

But it could still be a good fight!

Goodridge will be making his third PRIDE appearance in this fight and we know his reputation as a smashing striker who can bust out the arm wrestling if needed.  Bas reveals that Goodridge was originally supposed to fight Kimo, but the Hawaiian blew out his knee and Rahnvardi took the fight on one day’s notice.  Rahnvardi was actually going to corner Kyle Sturgeon, who will be fighting in the main event tonight.

Surprisingly, Rahnavardi opens the fight swinging but Goodridge clinches and throws some big uppercuts and knees.  I wonder if Rahnavardi is thinking twice about this strategy?  He actually quickly lunges in for a punch and clinches with Goodridge.  He tries for a judo throw, but Goodridge blocks the throw and ends up on top.  Goodridge is in half guard and throwing some punches from this position, but he’s mostly trying to maintain control and advance positions.

Okay, so I think Stephen Quadros spoils the outcome of this fight during the commentary?  He tells a story about how he was getting phone calls from Rahnavardi when he was in Japan and when he accepted the fight with Goodridge.  Quadros then, for whatever reason, finds it necessary to say that Ranadvardi loses the fight.  I listened back to this three times and I still can’t make sense of it.  I wondered if the two had fought previously, but that doesn’t appear to be the case.  Umm, so I guess Goodridge wins, but we’ll have to wait and see for sure.

Bas notes that all of Goodridge’s punches sound different from one another, which is an interesting thing to say.  All of his punches just sound violent to me, but I guess Bas just has an ear for these things.  Goodridge’s punches are coming sparingly, though Rahnavardi is working hard to control Goodridge’s wrists here.  He’s holding onto Big Daddy and I wonder if he’s just trying to survive deep into the fight until Goodridge gets tired out.

Goodridge postures up and tries to strike his opponent, but Rahnavardi locks in a kneebar that appears to be close!  He loses the grip after struggling for the hold and Bas shouts warnings to Rahnavardi to let go of the leg and get on top of his opponent.  Unfortunately, Goodridge escapes the hold and moves into guard.  Rahnavardi attempts to catch the transitioning Goodridge in a traingle, but Goodridge avoids that submission as well.  Bas and Quadros seem very impressed with Rahnavardi, especially having taken the fight on short notice.

Goodridge moves from guard into side control and basically folds Rahnavardi in half.  Goodridge works for a key lock, but Amir tries to lock in an armbar of his own.  Unfortunately, he turns onto all fours and takes a big right hand from Goodridge before turning back over.

At this point in the fight, Gary Goodridge goes insane.  He shouts to Rahnavardi that this fight is “child’s play” and encourages Rahnavardi to hit him again and again.  He continues to shout “woo!!” and “again!!” as Rahnavardi throws some strikes that appear to do little damage from the bottom.  Goodridge has gone nuts and now he’s landing some big blows from Rahnavardi’s guard.  After just a couple of punches, Rahnavardi appears to go out and the referee stops the contest!  Goodridge has knocked Rahnavardi out and won his second fight for PRIDE.

Goodridge is celebrating with huge howls while clutching his newly won trophy.  He’s also celebrating with a man wearing a black bandana who I initially mistake for Jesse Ventura.  I think that because it’s 1998 and nobody else in the fucking world wore a bandana aside from “The Body”.  Nonetheless, Gary Goodridge is your winner – and he is also crazy.

We move on to another massive heavyweight with UFC and PRIDE experience as Mark Kerr takes on Pedro Otavio.  Quadros reveals that Otavio’s nickname is “The Pedro”, which is fantastic.  I hope Kerr is at least nice enough to not crush The Pedro’s head like a grape.

It looks like The Pedro wants to touch gloves but Kerr opens up with a leg kick.  I get disoriented since we see Mark Kerr throw a leg kick, but also because he looks noticeably trimmer in this fight.  He doesn’t look quite looks like the illegitimate child of Alistair Overeem and a tractor anymore.

Kerr throws a high kick this time, showing off a bit of his improved striking.  Quadros warns that The Pedro likes to put on a show, but as he says that, Kerr shoots in for a takedown and moves into half guard.  Kerr postures up and throws some knees to his opponent’s head as The Pedro grabs onto Kerr’s waist for dear life.  Kerr starts throwing some huge body shots but then lays back down on The Pedro.  As The Pedro tries to escape, Kerr grabs on to his left arm and torques it deep behind his back.  This looks really frightening and Otavio starts to scream as the referee stops the fight!

But wait!  Was The Pedro actually screaming out in pain?  After the fight, he immediately hops up and disputes the stoppage.  Kerr is a strong guy and I feel like him locking in a submission like that is a definite way to rip somebody’s arm out of socket.  The Pedro is adamant that fight shouldn’t be stopped and Pedro keeps shouting “NO!  NO!”  Bas also feels like The Pedro was screaming out in pain and that the stoppage was warranted.  Kerr gets his trophy and is celebrating…with Bas Rutten?  Even more evidence that Bas and Quadros are recording this commentary long after the fact.

Time for the main event of the evening pitting Nobuhiko Takada against Kyle Sturgeon.  We all remember Takada from not even coming close to defeating Rickson Gracie at PRIDE 1.  He is, however, a Japanese hero and has the firm support of this crowd.  Sturgeon indeed has Amir Rahnavardi in his corner, but also Thomas Denny, a man who has been fighting pretty much forever.

Bas and Quadros don’t know a lot about Sturgeon.  Quadros says that Sturgeon fought in Pancrase style fights in California while Bas says he’s never heard of the guy.  Way to play it up, Bas.  I’m sure you could have said something generic like “hey, I’ve heard good things” or “he’s a tough guy.”  Instead, Bas denies the guy before the fight even begins.

I don’t like how this fight starts.  Sturgeon throws a pathetic looking high kick that Takada blocks.  Takada then taunts Sturgeon to do it again and he obliges, Takada selling the kick like death when it appears to barely graze his head.  Quadros wonders aloud if the kick hurt Takada, but it’s pretty clear that he’s putting on a show here.  That’s a polite way of saying that the first 20 seconds of this fight have been fake as shit.

Sturgeon throws some weak low kicks and Takada fires back.  Sturgeon is successful with the most transparent takedown attempt ever and Quadros notes that Sturgeon is bouncing around quite a bit.  I wonder if he’s not working the fight, but instead, is super high on meth.  He looks like he could possibly be a meth head and I think he trains with Kimo, so both of those could be bad signs.

Sturgeon stands and seems interested in a leg lock of some kind, but forgets to grab hold of the leg as Takada shoves him to the mat and gets back to his feet.  Now Takada moves in for a takedown of his own and moves into guard.  Bas is trying to get a good look at Sturgeon’s tattoos but can’t make out what they mean.  Sturgeon is throwing some punches from the bottom while Takada is just holding his position.  Bas says that Sturgeon won’t win any fights with these “rabbit punches”.  He then proceeds to make the “ribbit” noise briefly confusing a rabbit and frog.  God, I love Bas.

Takada stands up, grabs Sturgeon’s leg, and falls back into a heel hook with very little resistance.  He locks in a pretty unconvincing submission hold and Sturgeon taps out to the hold.  Bas notes that this was “a fast one” and Quadros and Bas says nobody would have expected this.  I think this is all a nice way of saying that this fight was a work.

Well, what a great way for this night of fights to end.  I turned on an MMA event and ended up with a pro wrestling match.  I guess that’s what you expect when Takada fights a guy who doesn’t have a Wikipedia page (though the Takada/Coleman fight is another story).  Takada was unimpressive in victory, but to the Japanese, he’s a hero

But it looks like one of Takada’s teammates is becoming a more legitimate hero to the Japanese people and that’s Kazushi Sakuraba.  Sakuraba put on one of the best performances that I’ve ever seen against a super tough opponent in Carlos Newton.  Sakuraba’s grappling was magical and I feel privileged to have seen this fight.

PRIDE 4 is coming up on what will be the first anniversary for the promotion.  We’ll see a lot of familiar faces from the first three PRIDE events and there will be one big name rematch that should turn a lot of heads.  It will have a difficult show to follow as PRIDE 3 was the promotion’s strongest offering yet.  There was still a bit of the freak show element here, evident in the Takada and Yarborough fights, but we also saw some really great mixed martial arts action.  I’m looking forward to PRIDE 4 to see what the promotion will have to offer on its first big milestone.

Greatest Fights of PRIDE 3

  1. Kazushi Sakuraba vs. Carlos Newton
  2. Akira Shoji vs. Daijiro Matsui
  3. Gary Goodridge vs. Amir Rahnavardi
  4. Mark Kerr vs. Pedro Otavio
  5. Nobuhiko Takada vs. Kyle Sturgeon
  6. Daiju Takase vs. Emmanuel Yarborough

Top Ten Fights Through PRIDE 3

  1. Kazushi Sakuraba vs. Carlos Newton – PRIDE 3
  2. Kazushi Sakuraba vs. Vernon White – PRIDE 2
  3. Akira Shoji vs. Renzo Gracie – PRIDE 1
  4. Akira Shoji vs. Daijiro Matsui – PRIDE 3
  5. Gary Goodridge vs. Oleg Taktarov – PRIDE 1
  6. Gary Goodridge vs. Amir Rahnavardi – PRIDE 3
  7. Marco Ruas vs. Gary Goodridge – PRIDE 2
  8. Rickson Gracie vs. Nobuhiko Takada – PRIDE 1
  9. Mark Kerr vs. Pedro Otavio – PRIDE 3
  10. Kazunari Murakami vs. John Dixson – PRIDE 1

Greatest Fighters of PRIDE 3

  1. Kasushi Sakuraba (1-0)
  2. Akira Shoji (0-0-1)
  3. Daijiro Matsui (0-0-1)
  4. Carlos Newton (0-1)
  5. Gary Goodridge (1-0)
  6. Mark Kerr (1-0)
  7. Amir Rahnavardi (0-1)
  8. Nobuhiko Takada (1-0)
  9. Daiju Takase (1-0)
  10. Pedro Otavio (0-1)
  11. Kyle Sturgeon (0-1)
  12. Emmanuel Yarborough (0-1)

Top Ten Fighters Through PRIDE 3

  1. Kazushi Sakuraba (2-0)
  2. Rickson Gracie (1-0)
  3. Marco Ruas (1-0)
  4. Renzo Gracie (1-0-1)
  5. Akira Shoji (1-0-2)
  6. Daijiro Matsui (0-0-1)
  7. Carlos Newton (0-1)
  8. Gary Goodridge (2-1)
  9. Mark Kerr (2-0)
  10. Royler Gracie (1-0)
Categories: Ranking PRIDE

PRIDE 2

July 30, 2011 2 comments

Five months removed from the first PRIDE event, KRS is back with the second ever event for the new MMA promotion.  The very first event was a mishmash of UFC fighters, members of the Gracie family, kickboxers, and Japanese professional wrestlers in what was a very unusual and somewhat entertaining spectacle.

Unsurprisingly, PRIDE 2 will feature a mishmash of UFC fighters, members of the Gracie family, kickboxers, and Japanese professional wrestlers.  Gary Goodridge, Renzo Gracie, Akira Shoji, and Branko Cikatic all return from the promotion’s inaugural event, while we’ll also see the debut of UFC fighters Mark Kerr and Kazushi Sakuraba.  Renzo Gracie’s cousin Royler, another Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu great, will also make his PRIDE debut on this event.

Looking at the card, I get the feeling that PRIDE 2 isn’t going to be much different from PRIDE 1, as KRS is following the same formula from their first event five months ago.  The most notable difference is that I won’t have to sit through a fight between Dan Severn and Kimo, but there’s always a chance that some other fight could take its place as the worst in PRIDE history.  I’m not saying it’s likely, I’m just saying there’s a chance.  Let’s cross our fingers that we won’t see anything like that on PRIDE 2.

PRIDE 2 – March 15, 1998

Previous Editions

PRIDE 2 is taking place in the Yokohama Arena, the same arena that housed the UFC’s last event.  We’re joined again by “Fight Professor” Stephen Quadros and Bas Rutten.  I feel very close to Bas and Quadros after we three sat through the torture of Severn vs. Kimo from PRIDE 1.  It’s almost like we’re all best friends.  Bas even gave me cable provider advice on Twitter recently, so we’re pretty tight.  You can’t get closer to a person than by watching shitty fights and exchanging 140 character notes about how I can get HDNet.

We get right into the action as Royler Gracie fights Yuhi Sano in an openweight contest.  At 202 pounds, Sano is more than 50 pounds heavier than his opponent in this contest.  Sano is also a professional wrestler for the Kingdom promotion, which likely means he’s at a serious disadvantage against a grappling great like Gracie.  He’ll need every bit of that 52 pound weight advantage in this fight.

Gracie opens the fight by touching gloves with his opponent.  Sano stands flat-footed with his hands at his waist while Gracie stands straight in front of him shuffling his feet.  Neither fighter looks at all inclined to strike and this fight has just begun.  Sano looks more than one inch taller than Gracie.  Sano’s weight advantage is great and he appears to be the much stronger fighter, but will he be able to put that advantage to good use?

Sano and Gracie clinch and Gracie makes a very lazy attempt to pull Sano into his guard.  Gracie slowly sits down on the mat and tries to drag Sano to the mat.  Despite his weight advantage, Sano is unable to free himself from Gracie’s grasp before the Brazilian uses a nice sweep to move into Sano’s guard.  Gracie easily moves into full mount with little resistance from Sano, who’s now just trying to hold Gracie close to avoid any offense.

Sano tries to use his strength to buck Gracie off, but he merely forces Gracie back into side control.  Sano might have a weight advantage, but he has little clue what technique he should utilize to maximize this advantage.  Gracie moves back into the full mount and he holds onto his opponent reverses positions and Sano ends up on top.  Gracie almost immediately locks in a triangle, but Sano picks Gracie up and lightly drops him to the mat to escape the hold.  After a brief struggle, both fighters are back on their feet.

Sano and Gracie clinch again and we see Royler try to pull Sano into guard again.  We’ve yet to see a single strike thrown in this fight, meaning that Sano is probably equally uncomfortable on his feet as Royler Gracie.  Gracie tries to move into the butterfly guard and sweep Sano again, but Sano is too big and strong for Royler.  Sano is oddly clinching with Royler while on his knees, showing he has little clue how to grapple.

So wait…Yuhi Sano doesn’t know how to strike and he doesn’t know how to grapple.  He has spent the duration of this fight following Gracie around and doing the least amount possible to stay active.  I’m really confused why Sano is even participating given what we’ve seen out of him thus far.  Knowing that he’s supposed to be fighting, we’ve seen nothing from Sano but some incompetent idleness.

Quadros wonders what Sano’s gameplan might be and suspects that Sano is a grappler based on the lack of strikes.  If Sano really is a grappler, then why does he look so clueless while grappling?  The only reason he’s still in this fight is because he ways 33% more than Royler Gracie.  From the butterfly, Gracie pulls off another sweep and is in side control once again.  Gracie comfortably rests in this position with little resistance before moving back to full mount.

The Fight Professor notes how quiet the crowd is, prompting Bas to sing some of Simon and Garfunkel’s “Sound of Silence” as only El Guapo can do.  I make a note of this not only because it’s funny, but because there is nothing happening in this fight.  Gracie in mount, Sano being mounted, crowd sitting quietly.  Bas sings a little more Simon and Garfunkel and I wish he would continue to do so all fight.  This has been pretty uninteresting thus far.

It looks like Royler might be trying for an arm triangle but he doesn’t get close to ending the fight.  Sano’s defense is just to hold Gracie down and keep the BJJ practitioner from finishing the fight, though something tells me Gracie could finish this fight easily if he were a little more motivated to do so.

Quadros uses this as an opportunity to ask Bas if this fight is boring.  Bas responds with “Right now, it is.  Yes, it is.  Ask me something else.”  At the fifteen minute mark, Bas and Quadros start betting upon the outcome of the fight.  Quadros offers to bet Bas one million dollars that the fight won’t end in a knockout.  Both announcers reveal that they, in fact, don’t have one million dollars to bet.

Sano works to sweep Gracie but is unsuccessful.  He at least gets Gracie to move back into side control, but he quickly gets back to mount where he’s spent a significant portion of the fight.  Gracie is starting to throw some very weak punches that don’t do any damage and Sano answers back with weak punches of his own.  Bas Rutten starts speaking in a Hispanic voice in what seems to be a Tony Montana impression.  It’s a really bad sign that Bas is punchy just twenty minutes into this event.  I wondered previously if any fight can match Severn vs. Kimo and in the first fight of the evening, we have an early contender.

Bas jokes that fatigue is kicking in at this point in such a “high energy” fight.  Quadros says that MMA needs to take some lessons from boxing and professional wrestling to become more entertaining.  He says that fighters should be mindful that fans are paying to be entertained and that fighters need to oblige the fans.  Bas says that he makes a point of being active in his fights and suspects that he has so many fans because of that.  He neglects to mention that he’s also awesome, but maybe that’s just because he’s humble.  But can somebody nicknamed “El Guapo” be humble?  Fuck, I don’t know.  This fight is giving me a headache.

Gracie has been in full mount doing absolutely nothing for about fifteen minutes.  Out of nowhere, Sano sweeps Gracie and moves into the butterfly guard.  Unsurprisingly, Sano doesn’t do a thing with the position.  He doesn’t strike, he doesn’t try to advance position, he doesn’t try to submit Gracie.  Not only is Sano in the butterfly guard, but he’s leaning over with his head between Gracie’s legs.  Sano is eating some punches to the face and is doing nothing about it.  Why is this man even fighting?  How is Yuhi Sano even a successful pro wrestler?  He has to be the most boring and useless athlete I’ve ever seen in my life, this is miserable!

As Sano backs away, Gracie lands some really nice upkicks.  Gracie is now turning up the heat and is throwing some really big strikes.  Royler has to be keenly aware that Sano is doing absolutely nothing to stay competitive and he’s really doing some damage to Sano, whose nose appears to be bloodied.  Gracie is in control of this fight, even while laying on his back.  He’s facing the most passive, timid, awful opponent in MMA history, so how is it that this fight has gone 30 minutes without a finish?

Sano’s face is covered in blood and Gracie continues to throw kicks while laying on his back.  Bas wonders out loud what Sano’s gameplan was for this fight, while Quadros says Sano can get a job at Everlast as a heavy bag.  Quadros and Bas correct that and say the 200 pounds Sano should just be a light heavyweight bag.  Sano is leaning forward with his face squeezed between Gracie’s knees, prompting Quadros and Bas to recall the Kids in the Hall head crushing skit.  This fight has devolved into some kind of strange fever dream where Stephen Quadros is doing a Mark McKinney impression.

Gracie adjusts positions and lands some additional upkicks to Sano, who inexplicably kneels in front of Gracie which does nothing but allows Sano to be abused.  Sano slowly moves into guard and Gracie quickly reverses position and takes full mount.  Gracie pounds on Sano before mercifully sinking in an armbar for the submission win.  Holy shit, this was a terrible fight.  If this fight wasn’t 35 minutes long, I would wonder if the fight was fixed.  That’s how bad of a fighter Sano is.

Yuhi Sano is a miserable fighter.  He is a terrible person for putting me through this, though I hold KRS responsible for booking the fight.  Royler is also not off the hook, since it shouldn’t have taken him this long to finish such a massively inferior fighter.  Still, I place the blame on Yuhi Sano.  Yes, he was fighting a dangerous opponent, but don’t sign for the fight if you’re scared of getting hurt.  Sano got busted up and looked like a fool.  This is a total fail by Sano, who is now perhaps my least favorite fighter of all time.

To Gracie’s credit, he really worked hard for the last 5-10 minutes of the fight.  He used some heavy strikes and did some damage to his opponent, so I’ll at least give him the credit for picking up the pace and finishing the fight.  Royler Gracie is presented a medium sized trophy for defeating a medium sized opponent and this fight is officially in the books.

Fight number two is between Juan Mott and Akira Shoki.  We’ll remember Shoji from a very fun fight with Renzo Gracie at PRIDE 1, where Shoji showed great spirit and very good ring awareness against a very tough opponent.  I was really impressed by Shoji in his first fight, since it would have been very easy for him to collapse against a very dangerous opponent.

Mott opens the fight with a pawing front kick that he seems to be using as a jab.  He’s really taking his time and measuring Shoji early on, while Shoji appears to be doing the same right now.  Shoji fakes a jab and lands a nice leg kick, but Mott responds with an inside leg kick of his own.  Shoji moves in with a nice jab/takedown combination and moves into full mount, a very dangerous position for Mott right now.

Mott is holding Shoji down in this position, while Shoji waits a bit before posturing up and throwing some big punches.  Mott quickly gives up his back to try and defend the punches and Shoji sinks in both hooks and locks in a rear naked choke.  Mott waits quite a while and Bas worries that he’s going to pass out, but Mott taps out to the choke giving Shoji a submission win.  A pretty unspectacular fight, but Akira Shoji looked good in scoring a quick victory.  After a draw against Renzo Gracie and this win over Mott, Shoji has the potential to make a name for himself in PRIDE.

It’s now time for kickboxing and a fight between William van Roosmalen and Ralph White, who we remember from PRIDE 1 for having his head turned into big lumpy mess.  These are two big men with van Roosmalen at 6’4″ and White at 6’3″, so I expect to see another serious hematoma in this contest.

This ring announcer is awesome.  It’s like if Michael Buffer were Asian and wore an ascot.  I can’t understand a thing he says, but he announces with serious authority.  Also, he has a really sweet ascot.  He appears to be somewhat confused by the microphone, which leads me to believe that he doesn’t typically announce at events like this.  The crowd also seems amused by what the announcer says, so perhaps he’s some kind of funny man.  Rutten says he used to be a bouncer at the same bar as van Roosmalen, so he’s automatically my pick in this fight.

White opens up the fight with some nick low kicks and a big push kick to the body.  The fighters are trading low kicks and White is definitely getting the best of these exchanges.  White has quickly seemed to time van Roosmalen’s punches and is landing some nice counter strikes.  White is definitely landing some nice kicks in this one, though van Roosmalen is landing some strikes of his own.  White clinches, but van Roosmalen lands some very nice knees from the clinch.

After the clinch, van Roosmalen seems to be more comfortable landing some nice punches and a really great low kick/body kick combo.  White seems a bit more tentative now and van Roosmalen is having more success, though White backs his opponent against the ropes and lands some big punches.  The first round is over with both fighters having success early on.  Between rounds, Koji Kitao is shown in the crowd with a really ugly blond streak in his hair.

The second round is another close one and is pretty even, though White threw more strikes in the round.  His shots seemed to land more cleanly though van Roosmalen had some nice punches and more knees in the clinch.  The Dutchman van Roosmalen had the nicer combos and was able to string together some nicer kick.  White had more success toward the end of the round, though Quadros suspected that White was limping back to his corner after the bell.

This man is shown between innings and Bas simply calls him a samurai.  For a moment, I worried that Lemmy turned Asian.

White opens the third round with some big punches, though van Roosmalen has more success in the clinch.  White is eating some low kicks, but insists on clinching with an opponent who has proven to be dangerous in close.  White is knocked down by van Roosmalen with a low kick/shove combination.  White must be tired as he keeps draping himself on his opponent.  White is still throwing some shots, but now van Roosmalen is in control with big knees to the legs and body of his opponent.  Most of White’s shots are being blocked at this point and he doesn’t appear to be 100% as this round ends.

Quadros suspects that White won’t come out for the third round, but he does indeed come out.  White comes out swinging and the fighters trade some punches.  When back in the clinch, van Roosmalen lands a very powerful knee to the body and White is dropped!  He fails to answer the ten count and William van Roosmalen is the winner of this contest!  When the bout is complete, the winner helps White to his feet and is very gracious toward his opponent in victory.  The replay shows that the knee was very heavy and landed right on White’s midsection, a devastating knockout!

Back to MMA action and we’ll see Vernon White take on Kazushi Sakuraba, who we last saw winning the UFC Ultimate Japan heavyweight tournament.  Sakuraba is the lighter fighter by 20 pounds, so he’s at a bit of a weight disadvantage here.  We’ve yet to see Vernon White in action so we’ll get a good idea where he stands against a tough fighter like Sakuraba.

Sakuraba opens up with a low kick, to which Vernon White responds with indignation.  White answers back with a huge left hand that appears to stun Sakuraba, who promptly responds with a takedown.  A struggle ends with Sakuraba in side control as he tries to pull White’s arm away from his body for a submission.  Sakuraba is close to locking in the key lock but White escapes and gets back to his feet, only to sprawl on top of Sakuraba.  White looks interested in some kind of submission or he possibly wants to take Sakuraba’s back, but is unsuccessful.

Sakuraba is able to regain top position and is in half guard and transitions into full mount while White tries to control Sakuraba’s head.  White bucks Sakuraba and rolls Sakuraba onto his back and White moves back to his feet.  Sakuraba attempts a single leg takedown and it looks like White has it defended, but Sakuraba is able to position himself into full guard and then side control.  Bas and Quadros are surprised by Sakuraba’s success, as he transitions almost seamlessly from position to position against a tough opponent.

Sakuraba positions himself for a potential armbar but White successfully escapes after threatening to slam Sakuraba from a standing position and then just yanking his arms from the hold.  After a struggle, Sakuraba gives up his back and White tries for a rear naked choke.  Unfortunately, he doesn’t sink the hooks in and Sakuraba casually shrugs White off and takes north/south position.  Sakuraba doesn’t spend more than a moment there and he adjusts positions multiple times ending up in side control.

From side control, Sakuraba places a knee on White’s stomach and seems interested in an armbar, but gives that up.  The fighters are too close to the ropes and we have the first awkward adjustment of the night.  Three officials gently shift the fighters back to the middle of the cage, where White kicks Saku off of him.  Sakuraba is persistent and follows White back to the crowd, trying for yet another armbar as they approach the ropes yet again.  A nice exchange sees White trying to roll through and Sakuraba briefly maintaining position before White breaks free and takes Saku’s back yet again!

White doesn’t spend much time there, throwing a single punch to Sakuraba’s head before backing off.  As Sakuraba sits up, White feints a soccer kick and Sakuraba backs off.  Sakuraba is then able to pick White’s ankle and score a takedown bringing White back to the mat.  You can hear someone in White’s corner, potentially Tra Telligman, telling White to “move his fucking ass” and to get aggressive.  Quadros and Bas echo these sentiments.

Sakuraba is able to move back into side control and he works for a potential kimura.  He ends up giving up on the hold and moves to full mount just as the first round ends.  I should note that I have no clue how long these rounds are, but that seemed to be about ten minutes long.  At this point, I don’t even know what rules we’re following.  Gracie vs. Sano didn’t have rounds, so why does this fight have rounds?  Were rules chosen using a dart board?  Is it possible we’ll see two competitors later in the evening fight in some kind of crazy Japanese rules death match with exploding barbed wire covered boards?

Sakuraba tries some low kicks to start the second round, but White avoids both attacks.  Sakuraba has no fear of White’s striking as he’ll keep his back turned for extended periods of time after missing his kicks.  Sakuraba is successful with another takedown and is back in side control, then effortlessly transitions to full mount.  White works to buck Sakuraba but his opponent nicely maintains his position.  White ends up giving his back and the moment he does, Sakuraba tries to lock in another armbar.  As we’ve seen before, the hold is unsuccessful and White has Sakuraba’s back yet again.

Vernon White does a really poor job from this position, though Sakuraba is keeping a nice, compact base to keep White from sinking in his hooks.  White tries maybe one punch, but insists upon working for a choke that seems unlikely to succeed.  Indeed, Sakuraba reverses positions with White sitting too high and he reclaims top position.  White tries to escape, but Sakuraba pounces and tries for another takedown.  Sakuraba gives up his back once more and is now working for an armbar with White’s hands around his waist.  Sakuraba is able to roll through from this spot and claim side control yet again, all the while working for a submission.

This is probably the closest Sakuraba has come pulling off the submission, but White escapes and has Sakuraba’s back again.  I feel like I keep writing the same paragraph over and over, but Sakuraba is absolutely relentless.  He seems like a really unpleasant opponent since he’s a crafty fighter who absolutely does not stop working for a submission.  White’s defense has been good considering Sakuraba’s constant grappling onslaught, but he’s really had no offense of his own thus far.

Sakuraba tries to roll through on White with an armbar but White defends by grapevining one of Saku’s legs.  White now sinks in a a hook on Sakuraba and goes for the rear naked choke, but Sakuraba breaks free once more and moves to full guard.  Saku moves to side control, White gives up his back, and Sakuraba tries for another armbar.  White breaks free and takes Sakuraba’s back once more, but I don’t have any confidence that White can do anything from here.  Quadros notes that Sakuraba seems absolutely fearless in giving up his back so regularly.

White is able to position himself where he can lock in a double underhook on Sakuraba.  Bas suggest that White stand and level Sakuraba with some big knees, but White inexplicably gives up the hold.  It doesn’t look like there was a lot of resistance from Sakuraba.  White uses this opportunity to knee Sakuraba in the body before both fighters stand.  After another submission attempt, the fighters break and are now standing.  Unsurprisngly, Sakuraba scores a takedown and ends up in half guard and moves to mount once more.

This fight has been a remarkably technical grappling contest and very few strikes have been thrown all fight.  Sakuraba has attempted maybe a dozen or more submissions and has been busy for the entire fight, keeping his opponent on defense.  White is hanging in there, but he’ll have to mount some more offense to stand a chance of winning.  With Saku in guard, White goes out the backdoor and slips out from underneath Sakuraba and takes his back just as the second round ends.  This has been a very fun fight through twenty minutes.

Sakuraba opens the third round with some kicks that land and he’s really putting some muscle behind these strikes.  As White goes to feint a kick, Sakuraba rushes in with a takedown.  A struggle sees Sakuraba move into side control and then he transitions to mount after a brief rest.  White tries to escape the position like he did at the end of the second round, but Sakuraba postures up and lands some punches to soften up White.  Sakuraba is grabbing for an arm and is very interested in an armbar at this point.  White breaks free, but Sakuraba again works to soften up his opponent in anticipation of a potential submission.

White goes to escape and seems to put himself into more danger, but White explodes out from the armbar and moves into side control.  Sakuraba turns his back and tries to roll through on White, but White maintain position.  He’s no longer trying to submit Sakuraba from his back since he knows those attempts would likely be futile at this point.  Quadros and Bas think this fight should be ruled a draw at this point, which is a ridiculous assertion.  Sakuraba has been more aggressive and has controlled this fight and I see nothing that White has done to warrant a draw.  Successful defense is great, but an aggressive fighter like Sakuraba needs to be rewarded for his frequent attempts to finish the fight.

With White on his back, Sakuraba rolls through and tries to move into side control, but White keeps working and tries to maintain what little control he has over Sakuraba.  Sakuraba gains the upper hand as White adjusts and gives up his back, Sakuraba again working for the arm.  White works to roll out of the hold, but White looks to roll himself into trouble!  Sakuraba’s position is even better than it was before and he sinks in a very deep armbar!  With little hesitation, White submits to the hold and Kazushi Sakuraba has taken the victory!

After more than 25 minutes of a grappling war, Sakuraba has come out victorious in impressive fashion.  Bas and Quadros marvel at Sakuraba’s success and are openly stunned about how good this professional wrestler has looked in MMA thus far.  White may not be the best MMA fighter with an 11-20-1 record coming into this fight, but Sakuraba has implemented a very successful grappling style in his very young MMA career.

We’ll now see the second PRIDE appearance for Renzo Gracie as he takes on Sanae Kikuta.  Gracie was challenged by Akira Shoji in his PRIDE debut so we’ll see how things go against Kikuta, a judo practitioner with kickboxing experience.  Kikuta is the heavier fighter by 15 pounds in this contest.

As the bell rings the fighters almost immediately clinch with Gracie backing Kikuta into the corner.  Kikuta appears to pull Gracie into his guard and Renzo has been quick to throw some punches in this contest.  Renzo immediately threw some punches from guard before Kikuta grabbed onto Gracie’s head for defensive purposes.  Kikuta escapes from the ground, but Gracie rushes his opponent when he gets to his feet and backs Kikuta into the corner again.

Gracie is throwing some punches to the body from clinch, but Kikuta is successful with a takedown near the ropes and moves into half guard.  Immediately after the takedown, we get yet another comical readjustment of positions before the round is restarted.  Kikuta is extremely inactive from this position, as he’s likely and justifiably worried about Renzo’s grappling ability.  Quadros says there needs to be some kind of rule where fighters are stood up after being inactive, which we’ll eventually see somewhat implemented with PRIDE’s card system.

The remainder of the first round is spent with Renzo on his back and trying to box his opponent’s ears while Kikuta is pretty much turtled in fear of being submitted.  Kikuta seems interested in transitioning toward the end of the round, but he doesn’t make a very strong effort to advance.  Renzo throws some body shots that sound punishing and he’s at least trying to stay busy here.  The bell sounds and that’s the end of the first round.

Kikuta misses each of the four punches he throws to open the second round while Renzo lands a really nice straight left.  Kikuta immediately freaks out and clinches, where Renzo backs him into the corner.  Kikuta works for a trip takedown, but Renzo defends the attempt and moves back into the corner.  Renzo is throwing some knees from this spot while Kikuta is just trying to either break free or score takedowns.

The first five minutes of this round have basically been spent in the corner.  As Kikuta tries for a takedown, Gracie lands some punches before Kikuta moves in for the clinch again.  When they move back to the corner, Gracie tries for a hip throw that is reversed by Kikuta, who ends up in full guard.  Kikuta is a very boring fighter from this position and a highlight comes when the officials once again move both fighters away from the ropes.  Gracie kicks Kikuta off of him and back to his feet.  Kikuta stands over the downed Gracie but is very hesitant to attack.  He lands a couple of kicks to Gracie’s legs, but somehow thinks going back into the guard is a good idea.

Kikuta rests in guard, Kikuta rests in guard, Kikuta rests in guard, Bas offers to tell a joke to entertain the masses.  He actually doesn’t tell the joke since the announcer says there is just one minute left in the round.  I think El Guapo is relieved to hear that there is little time left in the round and nothing exciting happens up to the bell.

Kikuta scores a quick trip to start the third round and is back in Gracie’s guard.  Quadros wonders if Gracie tickling Kikuta might be a good strategy at this point.  Hey, anything else would be more interesting that this.  Kikuta keeps a very, very boring guard and this fight hasn’t been very good so far.  Maybe four or five minutes into the round, Renzo is finally able to free himself from Kikuta and force his opponent to his feet, but Kikuta rushes back into guard again.  If he’s this willing to fight on the ground with Renzo Gracie, he must not be much of a striker.

This entire round consists of Kikuta laying on top of Gracie and the third round comes to a close.  Bas suspects the fight will now be ruled a draw, but wait…this fight will continue?  Quadros begins to wonder out loud what both fighters’ strategy will be and you can hear a confused Bas trying to figure out what on earth is happening.  Quadros finally stops talking and Bas asks how many rounds this fight is, with the Fight Professor clarifying that the fight is unlimited rounds until a fighter wins the contest.  Bas doesn’t have the heart to respond to this and I think I’m going to throw up.  This fight will last forever.

The fourth round opens with Renzo trying a quick lateral drop takedown which is defended by Kikuta.  Both fighters move back into the corner where Bas says he sees no way that Kikuta can win this fight with unlimited rounds.  So far, I’ve given Kikuta 38 red cards and he now owes me a significant portion of his fight purse.  Just as I say that, Kikuta lands yet another takedown and is in Gracie’s guard.  Oh no, here we go again.

I just skipped ahead four minutes and nothing changed.  Thankfully, I stopped at a place where Bas says the longest fight in history was a prolonged battle with his ex-wife, but that it was largely a mental battle.  The referee stops the fight and calls for a restart after Kikuta lands some strikes to the back of Gracie’s head, though they were very weak strikes.  Now that both men are on their feet, they’re throwing strikes a bit more and Kikuta is actually looking a bit more aggressive at this point.  And now the fourth round is complete.

Bas says “there are no words right now” and is very hopeful that the fight ends in this fifth round.  I should note that these aren’t five minute rounds, but insanely long ten minute rounds.  I’m 40 minutes into this fight and I’m ready to pull a Hideki Irabu here.  This is miserable.  I thought Gracie vs. Sano was unpleasant, but this is really something else.

Fifth round opens, fighters clinch in the corner.  Kikuta drops down for a takedown, but Gracie defends the hold and actually locks in a guillotine.  While he’s sinking in the choke, Gracie throws some knees to Kikuta’s head and Kikuta is desperately trying to defend.  Gracie tries to pull guard with the guillotine, but unfortunately, Kikuta pulls out and is in guard and out of danger.  Bas can only exclaim “oh my God” out of disappointment that this fight isn’t over.

I swear to God, the rest of this round is spent with Kikuta hanging out in guard.  This is really terrible and I’m so thankful I can skip ahead, but I feel so bad for Bas and Quadros.  Bas gets all nihilistic about this fight and says that “there is no point” to this competition.  This fight is really sucking the life out of El Guapo and it makes me so sad.  I really hope these guys can survive.

Now it’s the sixth round, which now means we’re 50 minutes into the fight.  The fight is briefly stopped to repair the tape on one of Kikuta’s gloves.  Kikuta charges after the restart and goes for a takedown, but Gracie catches him and tries for another guillotine choke.  This one is definitely a lot tighter and Kikuta is forced to tap to the arm-in guillotine!  Both announcers exclaim “thank God!” since this fight is now over.  Quadros says nobody in the audience reacted to the victory since they were all asleep.  Let us never speak of that fight again.

It’s time for another kickboxing contest, this between Tasis Petridis and George Randolph.  Petridis is at a serious disadvantage here being six inches shorter and 73 pounds lighter than the American Randolph.  The 6’7″, 287 pound Randolph is just a massive specimen.  He’s also very pale.  The ascot wearing announcer is back and I wonder if they just bring him out for the kickboxing fights?  Either way, I’m glad he’s here to class the joint up.

Both fighters come out swinging heavy blows and Randolph scores early with a nice trip that knock Petridis to the mat.  Petridis is very quick to clinch his bigger opponent, who lands some really big shots with Petridis backed against the ropes.  Randolph lands some heavy knees and punches which look scary coming from a near 300 pound man.

Randolph definitely has a huge reach advantage here, but I don’t know that Petridis has been that badly impacted by the difference.  The first round is pretty even with both fighters landing big strikes before the round ends.  That one was a little too close to call, though I worry about Randolph getting gassed as this fight goes on.  The replays show Randolph landing some crisp punches and knees in that first round.

The action slows a bit in the second round, though Randolph already seems to be gassing.  Petridis looks more active circling his opponent and landing big punches, while Randolph is flat footed and not throwing nearly as much right now.  Petridis is throwing some leg kicks, but Randolph starts to get a second wind and is rushing Petridis.  Randolph actually drops Petridis to the mat twice, though they both look more like knockdowns.  Toward the end of the round, Petridis begins to land some really big shots and more leg kicks that appear to damage the winded Randolph.  The second round ends and it was a clear Petridis round.

Randolph is aggressive coming out in the third round with some punches, but Petridis is the one pushing the pace here.  He’s moving in with combinations and keeping Randolph off guard.  The bigger fighter is also moving in to hug Petridis with great frequency, appearing very tired even in the early parts of this round.  Randolph is still landing his shots in large part because of his size, but Petridis’ leg kicks and punches look much cleaner.  With one minute remaining, Randolph has a noticeable limp and is just swatting at his opponent.  Petridis finishes the round strong with leg kicks and a huge left hook.

The fighters touch gloves to start the fourth round.  Petridis is quick to back away when Randolph throws his punches and Randolph is trying his best to pursue his smaller, quicker fighter.  Petridis lands a huge right that appears to rock his opponent and he’s in control now.  Quadros is convinced that Randolph is rocked, but it definitely could be fatigue coming into play.  Randolph is no longer throwing shots from the clinch, instead using that as an opportunity to catch his breath.

Petridis is the one pushing the action and he lands a massive head kick at the end of the round!  Petridis follows up with some punches before Randolph clinches to stop the onslaught.  Petridis uses a big knee to end the fourth round, another one for Petridis.  Replays show some really devastating punches from Petridis during the round and big George Randolph is taking a lot of damage.

The fifth and final round begins and Petridis’ weapon seems to be the low kick right now.  Randolph looks really hurt and is basically limping around the cage at this point.  Petridis’ kicks have been dangerous all fight and we’re seeing evidence of this.  Randolph is still hanging in there and eating shots, but he’s out of it.  At one point, he falls on top of Petridis during a clinch.  Petridis’ corner offers this brilliant strategy: “don’t let him fall on you!”  Quadros totally telegraphs a spinning back kick from Petridis that lands.  Petridis is finishing this fight strong with really big punches and Randolph finishes the fight with a knee to the groin.  He also is working very hard to suck in enough oxygen to power his massive frame.

Petridis is declared the winner via decision, which comes to a surprise to absolutely nobody.  That was not a bad fight and was pretty entertaining, but I’m not sure how it compares to other kickboxing matches.  I’m not at all familiar with the sport, but I definitely enjoyed this one.

This should be a very interesting fight between UFC veterans Gary Goodridge and Marco Ruas.  We haven’t seen Ruas since the Ultimate Ultimate 1995, but he’s stated active in Vale Tudo competitions.  We last saw “Big Daddy” knocking out Oleg Taktarov at the very first PRIDE event, but Ruas will be another challenge for the Trinidad and Toboggan.  Wait, is that right?  What do you call somebody from Trinidad and Tobago?  I’ll just stick with my idea.  Goodridge is the bigger fighter by 30 pounds, but we all remember Ruas taking an exciting win over giant at large Paul Varelans in the UFC.

Goodridge opens up with some big punches that catch Ruas and then lands a big knee.  Ruas follows up with a roundhouse kick and a spinning backfist, both of which miss.  Ruas is favoring the low kick early on and he likes to follow those up with spinning backfists.  Goodridge backs Ruas in the corner and starts to land some big punches.  Ruas tries to pull Goodridge down into guard, but Goodridge ends up falling into half guard.  Goodridge has some very strong ground and pound and this could be trouble.

We can see that Marco Ruas is already cut around his left eye from some of the punches that Goodridge has thrown.  Goodridge postures up after a brief rest and is throwing some really strong punches.  Ruas appears to block some of the shots, but Goodridge lands a number of big right hands from this position.  Goodridge tries to use his strength and position to leverage a neck crank on multiple occasions, but Ruas breaks the hold and never looks to be in serious trouble.  Ruas adjusts and moves Goodridge into the full guard.

As we’ve seen before from “Big Daddy”, he’s really tired just five minutes into this first round.  He’s still landing some big punches, but the flurries are coming with less frequency and less power.  Gary Goodridge briefly considers going for a leg lock, but abandons that idea and transitions into side control instead.  Ruas is able to reposition himself and pulls a very tired Gary Goodridge into his guard.  Goodridge is making effort to move forward and advance positions, but he can’t do a whole lot based on his increasing exhaustion.

Goodridge decides to stand up from guard and Ruas follows to his feet.  Ruas is circling the flat footed Goodridge, but Goodridge corners his opponent and throws some big punches.  At that time, Goodridge appears to slip and possibly jams his right leg.  He grabs for what appears to be his knee and now Ruas moves in with punches and knees of his own.  Goodridge throws Ruas to the mat, but Ruas grabs his opponent’s left leg and sinks in the heel hook.  Goodridge struggles briefly, but he’s forced to submit to the hold!  A nice submission victory for Marco Ruas!

It should be noted that Goodridge’s potential injury didn’t seem to factor into Ruas’ victory.  He pulled off the heel hook on the left leg, while it was Goodridge’s right that appeared to be injured.  This was a pretty enjoyable fight between two fighters who tend to have more exciting bouts.

Now it’s time for the main event pitting Branko Cikatic against Mark Kerr.  This will be Branko’s first MMA fight in PRIDE, as he competed against Ralph White in a kickboxing match at PRIDE 1.  Kerr will be making his debut with the promotion here after a successful run in the UFC.  Kerr is billed at 255 pounds and his muscles appear to be growing muscles at this point.  His back appears to be covered in acne, the poor guy!  He needs to get some Proactive or something to clear that up!

The fighters feel each other out a bit to start this fight and there’s a prolonged period of initial inactivity.  Kerr is the first to act when he shoots in for a takedown and Cikatic reacts like he’s trying to fight off a wild animal.  He starts throwing downward elbows to the back of Kerr’s head while also hooking onto the ropes with his other arm.  The referee immediately tries to stop the action and Cikatic keeps trying to throw elbows like a mad man!  It takes multiple officials to stop the action and separate the fighters and the fight is restarted from a standing position.

Kerr again goes for a takedown and Cikatic does the same thing once again!  He grabs onto the ropes and throws these elbows to the back of Kerr’s head despite the fact that the fight was just stopped for that 30 seconds ago!  Not only is Cikatic breaking the rules, but he has really pissed off Mark Kerr.  Kerr gives up the takedown and starts punching wildly at Cikatic until the referees stop the fight once more.  Cikatic is laying on the mat and Quadros says that Kerr kicked Cikatic while he was down.  I don’t know who says it, but somebody says in broken English, “Come on, bastard…fuck off you!”  Fuck off you, indeed.

The bell is sounded and this fight is apparently over.  Both Kerr and Cikatic seem ready to fight, but I think the two separate flagrant rule violations have led to this fight being stopped.  It becomes evident that Quadros and Bas are recording their commentary after the fact when you see Bas standing in the ring while Bas is simultaneously on commentary.  Bas in in Cikatic’s corner, which explains his presence.  Branko Cikatic is disqualified for his rule violations and the crowd is very unhappy about this.  Kerr gets on the microphone and tries to thank the fans and is met with a smattering of applause.  Branko gets on the microphone to…I don’t know, slur?  He is met with overwhelming jeers.

Well that’s a nice way to end PRIDE 2 – a Croatian lunatic being disqualified from a fight for violating the same rules twice in the span of 30 seconds.  I came into this event with admittedly low expectations: I just didn’t want to see another fight as bad as Kimo vs. Dan Severn.  Well even that was defied since I saw two fights that were just as bad, if not worse!  And not only that, but those were two fights featuring Gracies!  We really need to get some better competition for the Gracies – Sano and Kikuta shouldn’t have been anywhere near those fighters.

PRIDE 2 was an unmitigated disaster.  We saw a good fight between Sakuraba and Vernon White, but the card was pretty lackluster otherwise.  It’s still early for KRS, but they really need to make some changes going into PRIDE 3 to make this product more acceptable.  If that means Sakuraba has to fight in every fight, then so be it.  I’m keeping my expectations low going into PRIDE 3 and I can’t see another card being this bad, but in a promotion with unclear rules and round structure and unqualified fighters, you never know what might happen.

Greatest Fights of PRIDE 2

  1. Kazushi Sakuraba vs. Vernon White
  2. Marco Ruas vs. Gary Goodridge
  3. Akira Shoji vs. Juan Mott
  4. Mark Kerr vs. Branko Cikatic
  5. Royler Gracie vs. Yuhi Sano
  6. Renzo Gracie vs. Sanae Kikuta

Top Ten Fights Through PRIDE 2

  1. Kazushi Sakuraba vs. Vernon White – PRIDE 2
  2. Akira Shoji vs. Renzo Gracie – PRIDE 1
  3. Gary Goodridge vs. Oleg Taktarov – PRIDE 1
  4. Marco Ruas vs. Gary Goodridge – PRIDE 2
  5. Rickson Gracie vs. Nobuhiko Takada – PRIDE 1
  6. Kazunari Murakami vs. John Dixson – PRIDE 1
  7. Akira Shoji vs. Juan Mott – PRIDE 2
  8. Koji Kitao vs. Nathan Jones – PRIDE 1
  9. Mark Kerr vs. Branko Cikatic – PRIDE 2
  10. Dan Severn vs. Kimo Leopoldo – PRIDE 1

Greatest Fighters of PRIDE 2

  1. Kazushi Sakuraba (1-0)
  2. Akira Shoji (1-0)
  3. Marco Ruas (1-0)
  4. Renzo Gracie (1-0)
  5. Royler Gracie (1-0)
  6. Mark Kerr (1-0)
  7. Vernon White (0-1)
  8. Gary Goodridge (0-1)
  9. Juan Mott (0-1)
  10. Branko Cikatic (0-1)
  11. Sanae Kikuta (0-1)
  12. Yuhi Sano (0-1)

Top Ten Fighters Through PRIDE 2

  1. Kazushi Sakuraba (1-0)
  2. Rickson Gracie (1-0)
  3. Marco Ruas (1-0)
  4. Renzo Gracie (1-0-1)
  5. Akira Shoji (1-0-1)
  6. Royler Gracie (1-0)
  7. Kazunari Murakami (1-0)
  8. Gary Goodridge (1-1)
  9. Mark Kerr (1-0)
  10. Koji Kitao (1-0)
Categories: Ranking PRIDE

PRIDE 1

June 26, 2011 Leave a comment

PRIDE – one of the most legendary promotions in mixed martial arts history.  Still revered and loved by fans of MMA to this day.  It is the hope of many that PRIDE will never die and fighters like Fedor Emelianenko, Mirko Cro Cop, and the Nogueira brothers are still living remnants of a once thriving promotion.

Much like my Ranking the UFC series, I will be recapping all PRIDE events dating back to the very beginning.  However, I’m surely more ignorant about PRIDE than I am about the UFC.  I’ve been enjoying the UFC for many years, but I was years behind on PRIDE.  I’m certainly familiar with a number of the fighters and the more classic fights, but a lot of this great MMA action is very new to me and I’m looking forward to what lies ahead.

Before I begin, some background on PRIDE.  Kakutougi Revolution Sports, a Japanese entertainment company, was working to create some kind of combat sports showcase.  Initially, the goal was to create a series of matches between the Gracie family and Japanese professional wrestlers from the Kingdom wrestling promotion, once known as Union of Wrestling Forces International or UWFi.

The Gracies have long been considered the first family of Brazilian Jiu Jitsu and the legend only grew with Royce’s success in the UFC.  Meanwhile, professional wrestling in Japan may have been staged, but the matches were much stiffer and more realistic.  Japanese wrestlers have been revered as legitimate warriors and stars for many decades, so this competition only seemed natural.

Professional wrestlers like Kazushi Sakuraba and Koji Kitao seemed to be natural fits in such a format, but it was UWFi founder Nobuhiko Takada who was prominently featured at the first PRIDE event.  And rather than a series of matches against the Gracie family, Takada would square off against the legendary Rickson Gracie, son of Helio Gracie.

From there, the initial card would be filled with stars from around pro wrestling and mixed martial arts.  In matches featuring UFC fighters, Oleg Taktarov faces Gary Goodridge and Dan Severn fights Kimo Leopoldo.  Another Gracie, Renzo, will be in action against Japanese fighter Akira Shoji.  Professional wrestlers Nathan Jones and Koji Kitao will also square off, while there are a number of other matches planned for this initial card.  Unlike the UFC, these early contests will be individual, non-tournament fights.

It should be noted that PRIDE was not solely an MMA organization.  Early on, you would see kickboxing matches, grappling exhibitions, and even professional wrestling style contests.  In fact, some of the “legitimate” mixed martial arts contests were also suspected to be fixed.  For the sake of these rankings, I will only be ranking fights and fighters from legitimate mixed martial arts fights.

I will definitely take the time to review the other special rules contests since they are all very important to the evolution and history of PRIDE itself.  But my goal in the rankings is to determine which MMA competitors and competitions were the best of the best.  That’s no disrespect to the kickboxing and grappling contests, but these rankings are solely for MMA contests.  Though a number of bouts are potentially worked fights, I won’t make those judgement calls and will accept all recorded MMA fights as legitimate.

One last note is regarding PRIDE rules.  Eventually, the rules would evolve to what is detailed here.  The rules for PRIDE were historically more lenient in regards to violence and would encourage fighters to be active with potential purse deductions.  It seems that these early events somewhat closely resemble these rules, though the round structure changed quite a bit initially.  I’ll do my best to note rule differences and unusual circumstances as they occur, though I’m sure most everything will be clearer upon viewing.

Without any further adieu, I present PRIDE 1.

PRIDE 1 – October 11, 1997

This event opens with Japanese house music blaring over images of a fighter shadow boxing in a warehouse.  Jesus, this is already better than the first 16 UFC events combined and I haven’t seen any fights.  We’re actually a mere six days away from the Ultimate Fighting Championship’s next event, UFC 15, which may present some conflicts for some of these fighters.  I’ll go into that later.

We’re greeted by a very formal sounding Stephen Quadros who is joined by Pancrase veteran Bas Rutten, who will be handling the English commentary on this event.  Bas points out that this event is taking place in the famous Tokyo Dome, where nearly 48,000 people have congregated to watch this first PRIDE event.

The PRIDE promotion means business as we go straight to the first fight between John Dixson and Kazunari Murakami.  Dixson and Murakami have both spent some time fighting in MMA and Vale Tudo events around the world.  Murakami, a judo practitioner, holds a notable win over Akihiro Gono and also fought reigning UFC Heavyweight Champion Maurice Smith in March 1997.

Meanwhile, Dixson lost to Anthony Macias, the guy who was rag-dolled by Dan Severn at UFC 4 and who potentially threw a fight against Oleg Taktarov at UFC 6.  I already like Murakami’s chances in this one.  Then again, Murakami is at a 60+ pound weight disadvantage in this bout.

As this contest begins, I should note that unlike the UFC, PRIDE bouts take place in a traditional ring.  It’s definitely a difference, as I believe fights can be broken if fighters are tangled in the ropes.  Similar to the UFC, ropes cannot be grabbed for a strategic advantage.

Anyway, time for the fight.  Murakami comes out swinging and backs Dixson into a neutral corner.  Dixson clinches Murakami and then throws a body kick when releasing clinch.  Dixson catches a kick from Murakami and takes his opponent down.  Dixson is now in half guard position and is resting his body weight on Murakami, who is working for a sweep.  Dixson postures up and throws some body shots before standing up and moving out of guard as a whole.

Dixson works to clinch again and tries to catch a knee from Murakami, but Murakami avoids Dixson’s grasp and throws a very nice hip toss!  Murakami kneels over his prone opponent and quickly grabs Dixson’s left arm.  He starts punching Dixson in the ribs and stomach in an attempt to soften his opponent up for an armbar.  Murakami locks in the straight armbar and John Dixson is very quick to tap out!  A nice submission win for Kazunari Murakami in the very first PRIDE fight!

After the contest, Murakami is presented with a lovely trophy.  Well that’s nice!  It’s such a big trophy, but I guess that’s because he submitted such a big man.  Is that how it works in Japan?  The bigger your opponent, the bigger the award when you defeat him?  I bet that Japanese trophy and engraving shops are on red alert when Hong Man Choi is fighting.

We’re treated to the very first witticism from El Guapo: “That’s a beautiful thing about fighting in Japan – you get big trophies.  Unless you’re fighting for Pancrase, that is.  You fight for your honor, I guess.”  Poor Bas, maybe we should take a collection to get Bas 25 different trophies for each of his Pancrase wins.  If anybody deserves to have a couple of dozen trophies in his den, it’s Bas.

Stephen Quadros brings us down as he takes a sobering look at fighting.  He says that Dixson lost honorably, which is far better than being brain damaged or dead from a boxing match.  I don’t think Quadros was trying to say that all boxers are either brain damaged or dead, but I think he’s just pointing out that you don’t have to maim an opponent to win a fight (unless your name is Shinya Aoki).

Onto to second fight of the night and this should be a good one between UFC veterans Gary Goodridge and Oleg Taktarov.  These two never squared off in the octagon, so they’ll have to see who the better man is in the PRIDE ring.  This is a serious contrast in styles, as Gary Goodridge loves to strike and Taktarov will desperately try to bring this fight to the ground.

The fight starts with both fighters feeling each other out.  Bas notes that Oleg spent a lot of time working on his boxing prior to this fight and suspects that the Russian will make an effort to strike in this fight.  We’ll have to see if Bas’ speculation is accurate.  This fight has gone a minute with no strikes landed.  Goodridge attempts a jab, but Taktarov backs away and avoids contact.

Goodridge gets the action going with a big leg kick, but Taktarov lands a nice counter left that staggers Goodridge!  Taktarov moves in to follow-up on his opponent, but Goodridge swings wildly and forces Taktarov to back away.  Oleg moves in with a nice 1-2 combo and does some damage with a left hook.  There appears to be a cut under Taktarov’s eye, but it doesn’t look to be serious.

It looks like Goodridge is trying to encourage Taktarov to strike by dropping his hands to his waist, but Taktarov has been patient thus far and is choosing his spots.  When you’re in the ring with a striker like Gary Goodridge, it might be best to avoid positions where he can punch you very hard.

Oleg’s bleeding appears to be some kind of joke, as I’ve never seen such thick streams of blood in such odd places.  How on earth does Oleg have such a perfect trail of blood coming out of his sideburn like this?  Is his skin made of paper?  Is his blood at a viscosity level beyond that of normal humans?  If you give Taktarov face paint and long hair and turn the blood from red to black, it would look just like the Ultimate Warrior oozing after Papa Shanga put a spell on him.

Back to the fight, we’re dealing with a lot of nothing here.  The exchanges we’ve seen have been very fast paced, but there has been very little action thus far.  Goodridge moves in with a combo of his own, but Taktarov manages to avoid contact.  Goodridge drops Taktarov with a big right hand and Oleg is in a heap!  Goodridge is swinging at Taktarov on the mat and lands another big right when Oleg tries to stand.  Bas comments that the fight should be stopped, but this referee is letting the action continue!

Taktarov rolls to his back and Goodridge is throwing some heavy hammer fists that are doing serious damage.  Goodridge backs off with Taktarov in a seated position.  Oleg wants to get back to his feet, but it’s awful hard with a monster like “Big Daddy” Gary Goodridge stalking you.

Goodridge takes advantage of his opponent’s position and throws a big kick to Taktarov’s head.  Goodridge throws a couple more kicks, but Taktarov is able to get back to his feet.  Taktarov shoots for a takedown, but Goodridge sprawls nicely and both men are back to their feet.  Goodridge feints a few punches, but he’s been uncharacteristically patient in this fight.

Goodridge and Taktarov exchange and briefly clinch, but Goodridge lands a huge right hand that knocks Taktarov out!  Goodridge lands a couple more shots before the referee can stop the fight, but Oleg Taktarov is unconscious!  That was poor work from the referee who really should have known that Taktarov was out from his position.

That was a really impressive performance from Gary Goodridge, who fought patiently and landed the shots he needed to win.  Of course, his opponent wasn’t exactly a premier striker.  Goodridge is lucky that Taktarov decided to stand and box with him for as long as he did, though the takedown defense immediately preceding the knockout was definitely big for Goodridge.  I want to see more fights like that from Gary Goodridge, so PRIDE needs to make sure that Goodridge only fights average strikers with over-inflated opinions of their striking abilities.

After the fight, it appears that Goodridge has broken his foot.  Quadros and Rutten speculate it’s from the kick to Taktarov’s head.  Oleg is taken from the ring on a stretcher in a very frightening scene.  Goodridge sees Taktarov being taken away and remarks to his corner, “carry the fucker out on a stretcher.”  Gary Goodridge may have a number of good qualities, but I can confirm that compassion is not one of them.

Onto the third fight of the night pitting Akira Shoji against Renzo Gracie.  This is the first of two Gracie matches and it should get a pretty big reaction from the crowd.  Of course, Japanese crowds are far more reserved than American crowds, but Gracies are massive stars in Japan at this point.  Shoji spent parts of 1996 and 1997 fighting in Japanese MMA/vale tudo events, but I’m not sure if he’ll have an answer for Gracie’s Brazilian Jiu Jitsu.  Bas talks about Renzo’s willingness to take on any opponent and says that he has a great deal of respect for Renzo.

This fight starts somewhat slowly, but Gracie moves in with some quick strikes to set up the clinch.  Renzo has Shoji pinned against the ropes, but Shoji is very liberally holding onto the ropes.  The referee warns Shoji multiple times about holding the ropes, but Shoji only obeys commands very briefly.  When Shoji lets go of the ropes for good, Gracie scores a quick takedown and ends up in full mount.  Renzo is working to control Shoji’s arms for a potential submission while Shoji is making an attempt to either buck Gracie off or move himself further under the ropes for a potential break.

This is now my seventeenth event recap that I’ve written for this site and I don’t know that I’ve seen anything weirder than what is pictured above.  In the most unusual restart I’ve ever seen, the referee calls two of his colleagues into the ring to drag Gracie and Shoji toward the center of the ring to move the fighters away from the ropes and to maintain position.  Could the referee perhaps remember the position and make fighters assume the position in the center of the ring?  Regardless, we’re treated to this combat sports oddity of referees moving two fighters.

Shortly after the restart, Shoji gives up his back and Gracie works a rear naked choke after a few light punches.  Shoji now stands up with Gracie on his back!  This is a remarkable feat of strength, even if Shoji is using the ring ropes for leverage.  Quadros compares this to the “battle of koala bears”, which prompts Bas to laugh and talk about having seen that before in Australia.  Well then you should have made the comparison yourself, Bas!

In a very clever turn of events, Shoji is able to lean between the ropes which causes both fighters to fall to the floor below.  Shoji used very good strength and awareness to break a potential rear naked choke, but also, both fighters will now be restarted on their feet.  I thought Shoji was doomed when Gracie took his back, but that was a pretty nifty maneuver to turn the tide of the fight.

When the fight restarts, Renzo attempts a front kick that Shoji catches before landing a nice right of his own.  Shoji pushes forward for a takedown, but Renzo clinches Shoji.  Renzo has underhooks on Shoji and both fighters use this as an opportunity to rest.  After a prolonged struggle in the clinch, Gracie lands a glancing high knee and Shoji throws some headbutts.

Gracie then works for submissions, trying to pull off a guillotine and then a shoulder crank.  Gracie just doesn’t have the leverage to pull off either of these submissions.  Bas throws out a hilarious story about how he was admonished for talking too much to his corner during Pancrase fights, so Bas would have his trainer sitting in the back of he arena shouting instructions.  Because the crowds were so silent, Bas could hear the instructions without a problem and didn’t have to worry about actually talking to his cornerman.  Only Bas.

Gracie ends up pulling guard in an attempt to sink in a guillotine choke, but one of Shoji’s arms is in and the submission seems unlikely.  Shoji’s neck is in an uncomfortable spot, but he’s able to pull his head out and move out of danger.  Shoji is throwing some body shots, but they seem very weak.  These fighters are very close to the ropes and another restart wouldn’t be surprising at this point.

Shoji continues to throw the body shots while Renzo doesn’t do a whole lot of anything at this point.  Quadros suspects that we’ll see a restart in the center of the ring, but out of nowhere, the bell rings for the end of round one.  I say out of nowhere because there are no fight clocks and the announcers even seem surprised by the end of the round.  If the powers that be say that’s the end of round one, then we have no reason to argue with that.  I have no idea how long that first round was, but I’m going to guess ten minutes.

We cut right to the beginning of round two and Bas notes that Renzo looks pretty comfortable on his feet.  Gracie doesn’t necessarily throw any punches, and in fact, he gets caught with a nice right by Shoji.  Gracie works for a takedown, but Shoji sprawls and comes close to taking Renzo’s back!  Gracie works to avoid giving up his back and he pulls Shoji into his guard.

We don’t have a lot of action, so we’re treated to another fun Bas story.  Bas talks about the first time he used the heel hook submission.  He says that he was walking around in Tokyo and saw a man using a heel hook on a billboard.  Bas thought it looked cool and used it the next day to break his opponent’s shin.  I believe he’s talking about his fight with Kazuo Takahashi, but he doesn’t mention his opponent by name.

Back to the fight and Gracie is actually utilizing the rubber guard at this point.  He actually transitions into a triangle, but Shoji quickly stands out of it and backs away from his opponent.  Shoji doesn’t seem interested in going back to the ground with Gracie.  Renzo is tentative, but he eventually works back to his feet without incident.

Now that both men are on their feet, the action has stalled.  Renzo and Akira Shoji aren’t really throwing any punches at this point, but Renzo is utilizing an occasional low kick.  Renzo moves in with a left hook that is blocked and then answered by a leg kick from Shoji.  Renzo then moves in for a takedown, but Shoji sprawls again and avoids the takedown.  The referees again stop the fighters and move them back toward the center of the ring, which is quickly becoming my favorite part of this event.

Now that they’re away from the ropes, Gracie was able to push harder with the takedown and he ends up in Shoji’s guard.  Gracie attempts to move to mount, but Shoji bucks Gracie off and gives up his back in the process!  Shoji shrugs Gracie off his back, but Renzo works for an armbar!

As the submission is applied, Shoji stands out of the hold which forces Renzo to release.  Shoji has shown very good strength and has kept his composure despite multiple submission attempts from his opponent in this bout.  Shoji is again back on his feet with Gracie laying on the mat, but Shoji is wise to avoid Gracie in this position.  The crowd is really fired up for the first time tonight and they seem to be behind their native son, Akira Shoji.

Gracie seems more unwilling to move back to his feet now than he was earlier in the fight.  Renzo is urging Shoji back to the mat, but Shoji is motioning Gracie to stand back up.  Shoji is unwilling to give Gracie the space he needs to stand up safely and Shoji seems happy enough throwing kicks at Gracie’s legs as the second round ends.  “Thank God for that”, exclaims El Guapo.  I have the feeling that these reviews are going to be dominated by Bas Rutten being amazing.

The third round begins with the fighters tapping gloves.  That’s the first time I’ve seen that in my early MMA watching and I’ve been waiting to see where this happens.  I’m very unsurprised that it has taken place in Japan, since a lot of the early UFC fighters are neanderthals who would take that opportunity to catch their respectful opponents off guard with a sucker punch.

Shoji opens up the third round with a nice low kick, but he’s not throwing much at all.  He should probably try to put some combinations together here.  Renzo Gracie throws a body kick of his own, but again, there’s no follow-up.  Gracie rushes Shoji for a takedown, but Shoji lands an uppercut and Gracie backs off.  All of this is happening over a 90 second time span – the action here is very slow.  I wonder if both men have worn down a bit?

Shoji’s occasional low kicks have really bruised up Renzo’s left thigh, but he needs to take advantage of this!  Come on, Akira Shoji!  Renzo shoots for another takedown, but Shoji dodges the takedown and now he takes Gracie’s back in the sprawl position.  Shoji throws a couple of knees to Gracie’s head, but the referee warns that there are no knees to the head.  Stephen Quadros is as surprised about this as Akira Shoji, meaning I’m not the only one learning the rules as we go.

Gracie is able to pull guard from this position and I suspect we’ll be here for a while.  It looks like Gracie might be maneuvering for a submission, but Shoji is keeping his body close to Gracie’s.  Renzo ends up pulling rubber guard and throws some punches from this position.  Bas is unsure what Renzo is trying to do with this position, but as Shoji leans in, Gracie is able to reverse position and he takes full mount!  Shoji bucks as Gracie throws punches, giving up his back and then shrugging Gracie off of his back!  An amazing exchange that has lead to both men back on their feet.

It’s amazing how much busier this fight has been on the mat than when both fighters were standing.  Quadros speculates that Shoji might have trained heavily in ground work and is just as uncomfortable striking as Renzo Gracie.  It seems like we’re close to the end of the fight as both fighters have upped their pace.  Renzo moves in for a takedown, but Shoji blocks it again and ends up in half guard.  Shoji tries to move into mount, but Renzo shoves him off and Renzo is back on this feet.  Shoji urges Renzo to stand up, but Gracie seems content laying on the mat.

The bell rings and Stephen Quadros is unsure if that’s the end of the fight or the end of the round.  Bas clarifies that the fight is over and the referee raises both fighters’ hands declaring this fight a draw.  After the fight is over, Shoji grabs a microphone and begins shouting in Japanese.  Needless to say I have no clue what he’s saying, but he does seem awfully animated.

I enjoyed that fight as the ground exchanges were a lot of fun.  The striking left a lot to be desired, but I thought that Akira Shoji showed a lot of resiliency while under attack from a world class BJJ practitioner and a member of the Gracie family.  If I had to choose a winner of the fight, I think I’d give it to Renzo.  He was a bit more aggressive with takedown attempts, though Shoji was able to avoid a number of them.  Renzo also was in advantageous positions more often than Shoji, but it was indeed a close fight.

Now it’s time for a fight between two massive men as Nathan Jones fights Koji Kitao.  The Australian Jones is 6’9″ and 345 pounds and the Japanese Kitao is 6’7″ and 390 pounds, truly a super heavyweight contest.  Kitao is a sumo and professional wrestler while Jones is an ex-convict and an Australian strongman.  Nathan Jones’ head is also way too small for his body.

Bas tells a story about Koji Kitao accidentally striking the wife of a very high ranking individual in the sumo community, resulting in the woman having a broken arm.  This forced Kitao to give up his spot as a yokozuna and Kitao would never practice sumo again.  Thankfully, that means we get to see Kitao in a fight of giants at the first ever PRIDE event!

The fight begins and Nathan Jones is staying very wide of Kitao.  He’s at a significant distance from his opponent and seems hesitant to engage.  Jones ends up throwing some crazy jumping kick that, fortunately for Kitao, is off target.  Jones goes for a high kick and Kitao rushes in for a takedown.  Jones defends the attempt easily and grabs hold of Kitao’s head.

Jones is holding Kitao’s head in a front face lock, but he doesn’t seem inclined to try a guillotine for some reason.  Jones throws a knee that Kitao catches and uses to take Jones down.  Kitao moves into side control and Jones has no chances of bucking his nearly four hundred pound opponent.  Kitao is working on Jones’ left arm and he easily cinches in a keylock for the win!  Jones was caught and the big trophy goes to Kitao!  Jones seemed pretty helpless in this position and Bas speculates that Jones could have tapped out of fear for injury before the hold even hurt.  The keylock didn’t seem too tight so that’s definitely a possiblity.

It’s now time for a kickboxing contest between American Ralph White and Croatian Branko Cikatic.  Cikatic is perhaps one of the most decorated kickboxers in the world with over 80 wins over fighters such as Andre Mannaart and Ernesto Hoost.  It will be great to see a premier fighter like Cikatic in action, even though this will be contest under kickboxing rules and not MMA rules.

Cikatic and White touch gloves and Cikatic immediately follows up with a cheap spinning back kick.  And here I was speculating that we would see such actions in the UFC and not in PRIDE.  For shame, Branko!  Ralph White answers immediately with some punches and kicks to the body.  White is more of the aggressor in the very beginning, putting together some combinations and trying to keep Cikatic at a distance with kicks and jabs.

White lands a very nice leg kick that seems to buckle Cikatic.  The fighters trade body kicks that are of no consequence.  Cikatic winds up and lands some very big punches that drop White!  As White hits the mat, the referee tries to stop the action but Cikatic sneaks in a huge soccer kick to White’s head.  That is definitely illegal under these rules, but thankfully, White is standing after the devastating illegal blow.

Oh, except that Ralph White has an egg growing out of his forehead.  The hematoma formed almost immediately after the kick and this doesn’t look good for White.  What does Bas have to say about this?  “Oh my God!  Something’s gonna come out!”  Quadros and Bas have a fun time with this, comparing the injury to something out of Scanners, Alien, or Rocky.  Quadros throws out his own funny comment; “It’s a good thing John McCain didn’t see this fight!”

It seems like they’re having some trouble determining how to proceed with the fight.  White seems to be in good health aside from the hematoma, but it was clearly caused by a very illegal kick.  Rutten makes it sound like this is common place for Branko, who has previously used illegal tactics against Ernesto Hoost.

It sounds like somebody is trying to argue on Cikatic’s behalf that the kick didn’t cause the injury, prompting outrage from White’s team.  You can overhear Dale Cook from White’s team clearly state “he kicked him while he was on the ground!  You can’t give him a win for that!  It’s a disqualification or a technical draw, it’s the only choice you’ve got!”  Yes, except this is Japan and all bets are probably off at this point.

Cook is growing increasingly animated as it sounds like his protests are falling on deaf ears.  This has taken about five minutes and the fight is apparently ruled a no contest.  I guess that’s the right decision, though it makes more sense as a disqualification since a fighter couldn’t continue due to an illegal strike.

Back to MMA action, it’s time for the fight between UFC stars Kimo Leopoldo and Dan Severn.  Having never seen this fight, I’m predicting most of it will be spent with Severn laying on top of Kimo.  Since Kimo is now outweighed by Severn by around 20 pounds, I’m not sure he has the strength or the ability to keep Severn from imposing his will.  Kimo and Severn both get nice hands from the Japanese crowd prior to this fight.

Kimo and Severn start the fight with some ugly striking exchanges that do little, if any damage.  Both fighters look extremely tentative on their feet, but both fighters seem content striking for the early portion of this fight.  Severn and Kimo land a handful of punches each, but it’s nothing to impact the fight.  Severn works for a takedown after setting it up with strikes, but he gives that up and moves into the clinch.  They spend some time there doing nothing until Kimo breaks the hold and shoves Severn away.

Kimo winds up with a huge right hand and Severn ducks the blow.  Kimo tries it again but Severn backs up and the punch misses again.  Kimo throws a glancing left hook but it doesn’t seem to phase Severn.  I think that Severn is landing more with weaker strikes, while Kimo’s power punches have been pretty inaccurate.

So this fight is pretty boring.  Both fighters would probably have a better time grappling, but neither fighter is working to bring the fight to the ground.  We’ve had a lot of circling and jabs for the first five minutes of this fight.  Kimo backs Severn into a neutral corner and the fighters trade wild, sloppy punches that all appear to miss.  I’d expect nothing else from these fighters.

Bas Rutten uses Kimo as an example of weight training gone wrong in MMA.  Says Bas, “It’s good to do it, make a lot of reps, but not mainly weight training.  You’re fighting…you’re not fighting a weight.”  Quadros follows this up by calling this contest “anything but an exciting fight”.  That is very accurate.

At one point, Kimo throws a low kick and Severn unsuccessfully attempts a takedown.  Bas Rutten compares Severn to Queen frontman Freddie Mercury, prompting Quadros to point out that Tank Abbott already made that comparison in a more derogatory way.  The comparison is no less accurate.

Holy shit, do I have to watch this entire fight?  This is really terrible.  We’re still in the first round and the fighters are weakly trading strikes.  Bas states that he is growing frustrated with this fight and who wouldn’t be?  This has really been unpleasant and I hope that one of these fighters is capable of ending the fight, but that doesn’t seem likely right now.

Severn finally tries another shot, but Kimo sprawls and avoids the takedown.  After a bit of a scramble, both men are again on their feet.  Quadros points out the obvious when he says that Severn isn’t much of a striker.  Even in 2011, I think Quadros would be able to say that.  Of Dan Severn’s 99 wins, only 16 have come by (T)KO and eight of those were stopped by the doctor or the losing fighter’s corner.  It’s amazing that Severn has yet to die in his nearly 20 years of MMA fighting as such a one dimensional fighter.

This must be what hell is like.  Watching a terrible fight that doesn’t even have a fight clock.  Is this fight infinite?  Am I currently dead?  Quadros calls this fight a “marathon of inactivity” and both announcers seem exacerbated by the action in this fight.  Thank goodness this is a polite Japanese crowd or else they would be booing and throwing garbage into the ring.

Severn will occasionally work for a takedown, but he doesn’t have a lot of luck.  Kimo actually sprawls on Severn and has some room to throw knees or body shots if he wants, but he allows Severn to stagger up.  Kimo stalks Severn as if he wants to strike, but he just allows Severn to adjust his knee pads.  Here is Bas Rutten calling the action; “Oh my God, keep going now!  He should do something now!  Jesus Christ!  You’ve gotta keep going!  He shouldn’t stop!”  Thank goodness for Bas, who is bold enough to say what all fans feel about this fight.

Toward the end of the contest, Severn clinches with Kimo and trips him down to the mat!  Severn is in side control and is throwing punches and knees at Kimo.  The fighters are tied up in the ropes and we would likely see a restart, but the bell rings to end the fight.  The Japanese crowd is actually booing these men and I’m stunned to hear this.  Japanese crowds are typically more reserved, but I guess this fight would bring out the worst in any person.  This was an absolutely miserable experience and I hope I never have to watch that again.

The highlights for the fight are hilarious, as Quadros derides the clip by wondering what on earth could be a highlight from this fight.  He calls the action as Severn misses every one of his punches before landing a takedown.  Poor Bas and Quadros at least got paid to watch this fight.  I did this shit for nothing!

Thankfully, we still have the marquee fight remaining between Rickson Gracie and Nobuhiko Takada.  As the Brazilian national anthem plays, Bas provides some insight into Takada’s training at the Beverly Hills Jiu Jitsu club and he says that he doesn’t think Takada will win this fight.  Certainly not a good sign for the Japanese professional wrestler, but he is facing one of the most legendary BJJ practitioners in the world.  I’m not sure what other outcome you’d expect from this confrontation.

During the Japanese national anthem, Stephen Quadros compares Nobuhiko Takada’s popularity and status in Japan to that of Hulk Hogan in America.  Quadros and Rutten emphasize that the bulk of Takada’s experience is in professional wrestling and he’s in a different world in this fight with Rickson Gracie.

As the fight begins, Rickson keeps a very stiff stance with his hands at his waist while he makes very slow and very short steps toward Takada, who is circling on the outside of the ring.  Takada is extremely hesitant, as is evidenced in the fact that Takada hasn’t thrown a single strike.  He finally unleashes with a leg kick that doesn’t seem to do anything to Rickson.  Gracie throws some kicks of his own and then clinches with Takada in a corner.

Takada is grabbing onto the ropes so flagrantly that the referee stops the action and restarts the fight, but out of the clinch.  I have to think that this is some kind of favoritism for the Japanese fighter.  In the Shoji/Gracie fight from earlier, all restarts were done so fighters carefully maintained position.  Takada grabs the ropes for five seconds and the fighters are back in the middle of the ring.  How does that work?

Rickson is using a front kick to keep Takada at a distance and then he shoots for the takedown.  Takada defends and gets back to his feet, throwing a knee at the head of his downed opponent.  The crowd is audibly excited every time Takada mounts his offense, but now Gracie follows up the knee with a solid takedown.  Worse for Takada, Gracie is in full mount.

Rickson uses body shots and a nasty crossface to punish Takada.  Bas and Quadros suspect that Gracie is setting up an armbar, and low and behold, Gracie pulls off the armbar victory.  Takada tries to hold on, but the armbar is extremely tight and Takada has no choice but to submit.  Gracie celebrates this victory with his corner as Takada quickly makes his way out of the ring.  True to form, Rickson gets a massive trophy covered in streamers.

And that’s the end of the first PRIDE event.  It was definitely an interesting card with a weird mix of matches.  It’s interesting to me that the most boring and terrible fight on the card involved two of the marquee names from the UFC.  I think that’s in large part because Severn and Kimo didn’t mesh stylistically and it shouldn’t be taken as an indictment of the UFC as a whole, but PRIDE 1 did feel fresh compared to the last few UFC events.

Another note regarding Dan Severn is that he is scheduled to fight for the UFC in less than one week.  Severn is the top contender to Maurice Smith’s UFC Heavyweight Title and is scheduled to fight at UFC 15 on October 17, 1997.  He just went thirty minutes against Kimo without incident, so it seems like that fight will go off without a hitch.

It remains to be seen what the future holds for KRS and the PRIDE promotion.  The first event perhaps wasn’t the spectacle it was intended to be, but it definitely had its moments.  We’ll have to wait and see what PRIDE has in store for us in the near future.  I hope that we’ll see more Gracies and less Dan Severn and Kimo, but that remains to be seen.

Greatest Fights of PRIDE 1

  1. Akira Shoji vs. Renzo Gracie
  2. Gary Goodridge vs. Oleg Taktarov
  3. Rickson Gracie vs. Nobuhiko Takada
  4. Kazunari Murakami vs. John Dixson
  5. Koji Kitao vs. Nathan Jones
  6. Dan Severn vs. Kimo Leopoldo

Greatest Fighters of PRIDE 1

  1. Rickson Gracie (1-0)
  2. Gary Goodridge (1-0)
  3. Kazunari Murakami (1-0)
  4. Renzo Gracie (0-0-1)
  5. Akira Shoji (0-0-1)
  6. Koji Kitao (1-0)
  7. Oleg Taktarov (0-1)
  8. John Dixson (0-1)
  9. Nobuhiko Takada (0-1)
  10. Nathan Jones (0-1)
  11. Dan Severn (0-0-1)
  12. Kimo Leopoldo (0-0-1)
Categories: Ranking PRIDE