Newman’s Take: PRIDE 3

-Again this is another card I know next to nothing about, although checking the wiki tells me it has Sakuraba vs. Newton which is meant to be a classic and NO GRACIES VS. JAPAN! Word.


Tokyo, Japan

-Your hosts are Stephen Quadros and Bas Rutten.

Daijiro Matsui vs Akira Shoji

This was of course prior to both guys gaining reputations as the stereotypical Japanese Tomato Can for their later fights against the likes of Murilo Ninja and the ilk. Quadros tells us Matsui is out of the same camp as Sakuraba which means he might be another pro-wrestler who can actually fight.

Fight begins and I suddenly realize that Matsui here looks like a Japanese Anthony Pettis in the face. Takedown attempt fails for Matsui and Shoji clocks him with a left, forcing him to shoot again. Shoji stuffs it and grabs a front headlock as suddenly I’m struggling to take Bas seriously. I had his Lethal Street Fighting stuff on Youtube at the weekend with my buddies, see. YOU try taking Bas seriously after hearing BANG BANG BANG, never underestimate the kick to the groin. Oh, the fight. They trade off with some strikes and go to the ground where Shoji gets the back and lands some punches. Matsui stands and ends up leaning out of the ring, taking more punches as Quadros mixes the two up. I guess the Japanese DO look alike, in a nice world where no political correctness exists. Anyway the ref brings them back in and they circle out before Matsui shoots again. Shoji hits a super-quick sprawl and takes top position in side mount. Little happens though and Matsui scrambles to his feet. Another takedown attempt follows but again Shoji sprawls and grabs a front facelock. Knee connects to the shoulder for Shoji. He also appears to be chin-butting the back, which is odd as f---. Back to the feet and Shoji lands a knee and then trips him right back down into half-guard. Beautiful transition from Shoji allows him to take the back but he’s too high and Matsui shakes him off. Shoji’s first up though and he lands a pair of soccer kicks to the body as Matsui tries to grab an ankle. Shoji decides to let him back up and they circle before clinching and Shoji gets another takedown into guard. Couple of punches to the body from Shoji but the action’s definitely slowed up now. Man I wish PRIDE would’ve had a clock on screen for these shows so you can tell how long is left. Upkick from Matsui and he escapes to his feet. They look gassed now too. Round ends as Matsui fails on a takedown.

Second round begins with a takedown to guard from Shoji. Little action from there so Shoji stands over him and leaves Matsui down in the crab position. Matsui jumps up and we’re back to standing. Bas and Quadros are treating this like an amazing fight but I dunno, it kind of sucks. I guess their standards dropped after PRIDE 2 and those Gracie horror shows. Takedown attempt from Matsui is stuffed and Shoji takes the back, but doesn’t have hooks in. Matsui does a tremendous job of spinning over and he winds up on top in Shoji’s guard. But a right hand. Quadros is marking so badly for this. I think someone’s paying him extra. Takedown attempt from Matsui is again stuffed and Shoji takes the back once more. Nothing happens from there as Matsui traps Shoji’s arm. Shoji works the right arm free to drop some punches, but they don’t seem to have much effect. Matsui spins over to guard and eats some flush punches as Shoji passes into mount. Bas sounds like he’s saying Shoji should be “kneeing the cat”, but I’m unsure what he’s meaning to say. Matsui gets half-guard back and the action slows up. Reversal from Matsui and he goes for a takedown of his own, but Shoji of course blocks it and gets a front facelock. Matsui manages to work up to his feet but ends up in the same spot again as Shoji sprawls. Round ends there.

Matsui’s corner seems to be letting him drink from a garden hose between rounds, which is odd even for PRIDE. He has a funnel of some kind at least. Third round is delayed as the ref wipes Matsui with a towel. They finally get going with a trade of punches for a moment. Neither man cleanly lands. They circle for a while before another trade leads to a Shoji takedown into full guard. Very little happens from there before Matsui muscles Shoji off as he tries to pass the guard. I just don’t get why Bas and Quadros are creaming over this stuff. Back to the feet and it’s BACK TO CIRCLING. These guys cannot punch for the life of them as they exchange some awful-looking stuff. To be fair Shoji has power though as he stuns Matsui with a crude right hook. Matsui rushes him though and tackles him to the ground in guard. Guillotine attempt by Shoji but it doesn’t look tight to me. Matsui pops his head free seconds later. Action slows down before a scramble sees them leap up, and Shoji throws a flurry that largely misses. Matsui goes down anyway and Shoji stands over him posturing. Matsui shoots again but Shoji grabs the front facelock off a sprawl as Bas advises him to knee the shoulder. Better than kneeing the cat, dude. They come back to their feet and Matsui shoots but Shoji once again sprawls, takes the back and this time he slaps both hooks in. He makes the error of crossing his feet though and Matsui tries for that footlock variant that Joe Rogan goes on about so often. Round ends in that position.

Fourth round of how many I don’t know. Ah, Bas says it’s one extra round. Well, lucky us! Head kick (!) misses for Matsui. Shoji blocks another takedown attempt and grabs the front facelock, then lets Matsui stand. Announcers are coming to the conclusion that this is definitely going to a draw. Brief, crap punching exchange breaks up the circling for a moment. Baseball slide for some reason from Matsui and he ends up in the crab while a confused Shoji stands over him. Back to the feet and Shoji clocks him with some crude power punches, then sprawls to defend the takedown. Back to the feet and Shoji lands with a flurry before sprawling again. Knees to the shoulder land for Shoji and he connects on some punches to the side of the head too. They come back up and hopefully there’s not long left. Three minutes according to Bas. Wild flurry from Shoji and he gets a slam down to guard. Shoji gets full mount but Matsui bucks and tries to get out, almost slipping out of the ring in the process. Ref calls them back up to their feet to avoid that and they circle out. Takedown attempt from Matsui is naturally defended and a scramble sees them back on their feet. Takedown from Shoji and they go flying out of the ring. Thankfully they don’t land on the floor or anything and the refs call them back inside where the fight ends.

No judges here so it’s a draw. Decision would be Shoji’s easily but it doesn’t really matter. I hated this fight, sorry. There wasn’t much action considering it was 40 minutes and when there was action it was really repetitive. It wasn’t anywhere near as offensively bad as Kimo/Severn or Gracie/Kikuta or one of those fights but it definitely stunk.

Daiju Takase vs Emmanuel Yarborough

Aw man, CLASSIC freak show stuff here as Takase is 169lbs while Yarbrough – best known for fighting Keith Hackney at UFC 3 in a ludicrous fight – is tipping the scales at 600lbs or so they say, and looking at him I believe them. Only in Japan, folks!

Fight begins and Takase literally sprints around the ring to avoid being cornered by the fat dude. Yarbrough is moving like he’s waddling through treacle. He makes a couple of swipes for Takase but can’t seem to reach him due to the speed difference. Dude makes Takase look like Ben Johnson or something. We’re about three minutes in here and nothing has happened and yet it’s still fascinating due to the size difference. Bas mentions that Yarbrough is looking gassed already, which is insane. Body punch from Takase. One of Yarbrough’s swipes almost catches Takase and he has to dodge out of the way. He’s lunging in with overhand punches now which is risky as f---. Running punch lands for Takase as Yarbrough appears to be sucking in serious wind. Looks like he might even slump himself in the corner as he’s so f-----. Alright, so this is beginning to suck now. Quadros is reduced to making Humpty Dumpty jokes and all sorts. Literally nothing is going on here. Takase does manage to land a couple of glancing punches but nothing major. Round mercifully ends there.

Second round and they pick up where they left off, with Takase almost slipping out of the ring after eating a swipe from Yarbrough. Yarbrough’s picking up the pace here but he’s going to gas any second. Sure enough he instantly slows down and is now barely able to move. This absolutely sucks. Referee gives TAKASE a warning for stalling which is pretty ridiculous. What the f--- is he supposed to do? It must be noted that when the ref stepped in Bas’s first thought was that Yarbrough needed oxygen. Takase decides to risk it all and go for a single leg off the restart, but of course the big man lands on top. Crowd go APESHIT as Takase sits up though to land some punches as he desperately tries to wriggle free. He does manage to trap an arm and then sits up to land some more punches and Yarbrough just looks DEAD. But it’s dead weight that’s holding Takase down. Takase decides to punch the legs now and then he slips free and lands punches to force the tapout.

Erm, not sure what to say here. It was watchable I guess just for the freak show factor and the comedy of the announcers but on the other hand it was literally one of the very worst fights I’ve ever seen. I’m leaning more on the side of “it sucked” just because of the sheer length of it.

Kazushi Sakuraba vs Carlos Newton

This is a super-famous match for those who haven’t heard about it before and I believe it’s the one that really put Sakuraba over the top as a major star and also made a name for Newton (although he’d fought in UFC already at this point). First time I’ve seen it so I’m pretty pumped. Pre-fight Bas presents both guys with flowers and then gets on the mic to hype a possible fight in the future with Rickson Gracie, which would’ve RULED, for the record. I guess the announcing is live on this show too as Quadros seems to be on his own and then Bas rejoins him and asks how he did.

Fight begins and Sakuraba opens with a pair of low kicks. Newton shoots on a takedown but Sakuraba blocks it and they end up clinched on the ropes, then move across the ring before Sakuraba uses a sick whizzer to avoid a trip and land on top in guard. Sakuraba looks to pass and they spin around as Newton blocks, before Newton bucks his hips and Sakuraba jumps right into an armbar attempt! It look deep but Newton manages to stand and defend brilliantly, working into side mount for good measure. Sakuraba rolls over into donkey guard but Newton slips out of that and takes side mount again. Reversal from Sakuraba and now he’s on top in guard. Toehold attempt from Sakuraba but Newton avoids and gets the back before taking top position. This is AWESOME. Side mount from Newton and the crowd are applauding. Sakuraba gives his back, but then switches it into a single leg and gets back into top position. Outside of the low kicks at the beginning this is basically a pure grappling match. They spin again as Sakuraba aims to pass the guard, and then leaps over right into an armbar. Newton flips his way out though and takes top position but Sakuraba grabs a single leg as Newton rides him. Takedown from Sakuraba and he’s back in Newton’s guard. Again neither guy is throwing any strikes at all. Sakuraba decides to let Newton to his feet and tries some sort of jumping kick that glances. Takedown attempt from Newton but Sakuraba shows sick wrestling and balance and defends to take top position again. Toehold attempt from Sakuraba and it looks like he’s got it locked, but Newton somehow sits up and yanks his leg free to take Sakuraba’s back. He gets one hook in and gets the other too, but he can’t seem to control Sakuraba. Great job by Sakuraba to shake Newton off and he’s back in Carlos’ guard. He passes into side mount but Newton works to regain guard right away. Nice punch from Sakuraba surprisingly enough but he doesn’t follow it up. Newton looks for a triangle but Sakuraba slips out and looks for side mount, and they come back to their feet. Left high kick from Sakuraba is blocked. Takedown from Sakuraba on the bell. Tremendous round.

Second round and Newton catches a kick and gets a rear waistlock, using it to trip Sakuraba down. Sakuraba immediately goes for a kimura but Newton defends and keeps the waistlock before going for the hooks. Sakuraba blocks and they spin around on the ground and end up with Newton still having the back. This is perhaps the best grappling match I’ve ever seen in MMA. Good knee from Newton lands to the body but Sakuraba still seems pretty chilled. Body punch from Newton and it looks like he wants to get the hooks in but is super-wary of being reversed. Reversal from Sakuraba but Newton turns it on him and locks up the right arm with his legs in almost a crucifix. Sakuraba rolls and gives his back again. Flurry of punches from Newton and he avoids a kimura to keep the back control. He gets a hook in but Sakuraba immediately escapes and turns into Newton’s guard. These guys are so technical it’s unbelievable really. Pass from Sakuraba and he locks up an armbar, but Newton evidently has rubber limbs as he avoids it and then spins over the top to get his arm free. That was a ludicrous escape. Newton again gets the back but he still can’t get the hooks in. He decides to sit back in an attempt to get the hooks….but that allows Sakuraba to isolate the left leg, roll over right into a kneebar and FORCE THE TAPOUT!~!

Phenomenal stuff. That was probably the best extended grappling sequence I’ve ever seen in MMA, period, and I mean, I’d heard there were rumors of a gentleman’s agreement to do grappling only, but they did throw some strikes so I guess that can’t be true. Just a tremendous contest between two of the most technical fighters to ever set foot into the ring and I have new respect for both of them after watching it. This was literally like five years ahead of its time in terms of what these guys were doing when you compare them to, well, anyone else on the PRIDE roster at this point.

Gary Goodridge vs Amir Rahnavardi

Goodridge is usually good for a fun fight so you’ll never see me complaining about his presence on one of these cards. Amir for those who haven’t heard of him is a Bas Rutten student, so naturally El Guapo sounds quite pumped to see him in PRIDE. Goodridge is ludicrously huge here.

Fight begins and Amir connects on a low kick, then bulls into a clinch where he eats some solid punches and a couple of nasty knees to the body. They break off and Amir decides to clinch again, where he botches a trip and winds up on the bottom with Goodridge on top. Big right hand from Goodridge as he looks to posture up in half-guard. Flurry lands for Goodridge but Amir manages to tie him up eventually and the action slows down a bit. Couple of right hands do get through for Goodridge but they’re pretty sporadic to say the least. Goodridge tries to posture up, but in the process Amir goes for a leglock. Looks like he might have it as he goes for a kneebar, but the leg isn’t in deep enough and Goodridge manages to pull free to get back on top. Nice triangle attempt by Amir but Goodridge manages to posture free. Amir keeps his hips high and tries for it again, but winds up flipping over and Goodridge takes his back and lands a couple more punches. He rolls and Goodridge remains on top, and this time he starts yelling at Amir wildly to hit him. This is bizarre to say the least. Amir gets full guard and obliges though, but obviously he doesn’t have much power as he’s landing from the bottom. Goodridge on the other hand DOES have power, and so he postures up and drops some SLEDGEHAMMERS that knock Amir into next week. Holy s---.

Decent fight with a couple of slow points, but holy s--- what a knockout. Between this and the Taktarov knockout, Goodridge looked like a scary dude at this point in his career when he wasn’t losing to guys with a bit more skill than him. Thankfully for Amir he doesn’t go out on a spineboard like Taktarov did.

Mark Kerr vs Pedro Otavio

This was Kerr’s second fight in PRIDE following that disastrous debut against Branko Cikatic at PRIDE 2. Otavio is better known as THE PEDRO and I believe he’s remembered mainly for a fight with Gary Goodridge where Goodridge squeezed his balls. No, really. He’s a big dude actually but he has nothing on THE SPECIMEN.

We get underway and the Pedro pushes forward and avoids a couple of kicks. He throws a ton of feints, but it doesn’t help him as Kerr hits an easy takedown into the half-guard. Pedro tries to reverse out but I mean, how are you going to do that to THE SPECIMEN? Brutal punches to the body land for Kerr. Kimura attempt on the left arm from Kerr and he uses BRUTE CAVEMAN FORCE to twist it up for the stoppage. Post-fight Pedro absolutely flips out saying that he didn’t tap but dude, Kerr would’ve f------ torn that arm off had the ref not stepped in.

Kerr was terrifying at this point. Just a giant, aggressive, steroid-enhanced monster. Total squash.

Nobuhiko Takada vs Kyle Sturgeon

One look at the name ‘Nobuhiko Takada’ in MMA instantly draws suspicion and of course, a quick check of Sturgeon’s record tells us that this was his lone MMA fight. Odds on this fight being a total and utter work have to be high, then. I guess Takada needed to rebuild his credibility from somewhere after being thoroughly embarrassed by Rickson Gracie at PRIDE 1. Sturgeon is a big dude who looks mean, but that’s about it.

They circle around to begin and Sturgeon throws a kick that Takada avoids. A second one lands to the head and drops Takada but it looks suspicious. Low kick from Sturgeon but Takada fires back with one of his own. Takedown from Sturgeon into the guard but Takada reverses and they stand. I’m calling it now, this is a f------ work. Takedown from Takada into Sturgeon’s guard. Sturgeon clings on and lands some short punches while grunting and making MEAN FACES. Takada drops back for a heel hook, barely cranks it and Sturgeon TEASES THE TAP and then taps just like a pro-wrestler.

Fun enough to watch as it was quick and action packed but s---, if that was a legit fight I’m Wayne Rooney. Still, I’d rather see a work than something shitty like Kimo/Severn I guess so there is that.

-Show ends promptly there. Literally no credits even, just boom, show over.

Final Thoughts….

Well, this was far better than the previous two PRIDE shows simply by the existence of Sakuraba/Newton, which is a genuine classic that any self-respecting MMA fan needs to see. Outside of that though the rest was surprisingly okay too. Sure, Shoji/Matsui stunk and Takase/Yarbrough was freakshow nonsense, but neither fall under the umbrella of “possibly the worst fight ever” like a couple of the fights on the first two PRIDEs and then the other three fights at least have decent finishes even if they’re two squashes and a blatant work. Worth a thumbs up for Sakuraba/Newton, but skip over the first fight.

Best Fight: Sakuraba vs. Newton
Worst Fight: Shoji vs. Matsui

Until next time,

Scott Newman:
[email protected]
The Oratory
TJR Sports

Newman’s Take: PRIDE 2

-No introduction for this one sorry as I legitimately know nothing about this event! I’ve been told it’s somewhat of a bust though so we shall see. We have two Gracie fights on tap as well as the PRIDE debut of Kazushi Sakuraba.


Yokahama, Japan

-Your hosts are Stephen Quadros and Bas Rutten.

Royler Gracie vs Yuhi Sano

Quick Google search tells me that Sano was a pro-wrestler, so I guess he was following in the footsteps of Nobuhiko Takada in challenging a Gracie, this time the smaller Royler, who like most Gracies at this time was both undefeated and greatly feared. No clue on rounds or timing. Gracie’s giving up 50lbs according to Quadros.

Fight begins and Royler circles while Sano stretches out like he’s prepping to do some bench presses. They go into a collar-and-elbow tie-up of all things before Gracie pulls guard. Sano tries to stand but Royler pulls him right into a butterfly guard using double underhooks. Sick sweep follows and Royler is on top in Sano’s half-guard. Quick pass to full mount follows and methinks Sano might be in trouble. Sano tries a mad attempt at bucking him off and manages to get half-guard for a second before Royler passes back into side mount. Back to full mount and this time Royler stays low to avoid the Japanese fighter bucking him off. Sano uses his size to roll him anyway but Royler goes for a triangle. Sano lifts him up though and shakes him off and we’re back to standing. Sano again goes for the collar-and-elbow tie-up and again Gracie pulls guard. Sano tries to pull out, but Gracie keeps hold of him as Quadros calls Takada the Hulk Hogan of Japan. Ha. Nothing is happening here, dude. Triangle attempt is again avoided by Sano. Couple of sweep attempts are also avoided. This is basically a grappling match as I don’t think either guy has thrown a strike yet. Sweep from Gracie puts him back on top in side mount. Full mount follows again. Then back to side mount. Then back to full mount. Royler gets his right knee onto Sano’s left arm for a while but he doesn’t do anything with it. Sano might be gassed here as he isn’t really moving. Arm triangle choke is right there but Royler doesn’t seem to want to commit to it.

Announcers are now openly complaining about the fight as Royler’s not doing anything from the top and Sano isn’t doing anything from the bottom either. It isn’t Kimo/Severn yet but this does suck. Quadros asks Bas “Is this fight boring?” and Bas is like “Yes, yes it is”. Ha. Fifteen minutes gone already, good lord. Sano finally tries some sort of reversal and almost gets to guard, but Royler passes right away and gets back to side mount. Full mount unsurprisingly follows and we’re right back to square one. Sigh. Couple of strikes land for Royler now though at least. It’s knee-on-belly for Royler now but we’re still no closer to a submission. This is one of the worst fights I’ve ever seen. Reversal from Sano suddenly puts him back into top position, but it’s Royler who lands punches from the bottom as Sano just f------ kneels there. Looks like Sano might be putting himself in a triangle, but Royler doesn’t really go for it as Bas starts cracking jokes about going down on a chick. Upkick lands for Royler and finally pops the crowd. Fight slows down again though as Rickson at ringside looks more intense than either guy in the ring. Some wild shots have Sano’s nose busted up at least. Couple more good shots from Royler and Sano decides to stand out of the guard. After taking some more shots he drops back in, where he takes some more punches. Weird moment as Royler sort of swings off Sano’s arm and then allows him to stand. Ref calls time to get rid of some loose tape on Royler’s glove, and they restart with Royler in the crab position. Sano runs away for a moment and then drops back into the guard. Sweep from Royler and he easily avoids a crap guillotine attempt. Full mount follows and Sano gives his back before rolling back into the full mount. Armbar finally follows and it’s over. Thank God.

Well, that’s half an hour of my life that I’ll never get back. Sano just sucked terribly and did basically nothing outside of the odd reversal, while Royler took waaaay too long and played with his food like a kid trying to avoid eating vegetables or something. Terrible stuff.

Akira Shoji vs Juan Mott

Shoji had gone to a draw with Renzo Gracie at the previous PRIDE show which to be fair was pretty impressive for this time period. Sherdog tells me Mott currently has a record of 3-4. Google tells me via some site rating BJJ instructors that Mott is a “total fraud”. We shall see I guess.

Fight gets started and they circle with Mott throwing out some Gracie-esque short front kicks. Leg kick connects for Mott. Shoji looks pretty chilled, circling around on the outside. Couple more kicks from Mott. Takedown from Shoji and he dumps Mott down and takes full mount. Big punches rain down for Shoji and Mott gives his back. More punches land and then Shoji locks up the choke and forces the tapout.

Total squash but it was a fun one as Shoji was actually a decent fighter before he got really thrown to the wolves a bit later on in his PRIDE run. Mott unsurprisingly wasn’t very good at all.

-Kickboxing match between Ralph White and William van Roosmalen follows. I’m not play-by-playing it because, well, I’m an MMA guy not a kickboxing guy and there just isn’t the comical freakshow aspect to this one that PRIDE 1’s White vs. Cikatic fight had. Fight is alright I guess. Standard kickboxing match as van Roosmalen picks White apart and then puts him away with a knee to the body in the fourth round. Next!

Kazushi Sakuraba vs Vernon White

This was Sakuraba’s first fight in PRIDE (well, duh) and his first one following his UFC tournament win, too. Imagine how different things might be had he stayed with UFC at that point? Anyway, despite a spotty record, I believe Vernon White at this point was still pretty highly respected as one of Ken Shamrock’s top students in the Lion’s Den, so this would’ve been a pretty interesting fight.

Fight begins and Sakuraba lands a nice low kick as White pushes forward. Big left hand from White rocks Sakuraba badly, but he manages to drop for a single leg and gets White onto the ground. Leglock attempt from Sakuraba but he gives up on it and takes side mount instead. Sakuraba’s cauliflower ears are pretty epic even here. Kimura set-up from Sakuraba but White grabs his own hands together to defend. Sakuraba almost twists it up, but White pops free and explodes to his feet. Nice single leg from Sakuraba brings him right back down. White reverses and looks to escape to his feet, but Sakuraba manages to force him back down into half-guard. Pass to full mount follows and it looks like he’s considering an armbar, but he gets too high up and Vernon bucks him off and escapes to his feet. Low single leg from Sakuraba and he gets White down again and takes north/south this time. White regains guard but Sakuraba immediately spins into half-guard. Nice pass to side mount from Sakuraba and he goes after an armbar and turns belly-down. White grimaces and tries to pull his arm free but this looks deep. White stands with Sakuraba hanging off his arm, and somehow he does a tremendous job of escaping and taking Sakuraba’s back! No hooks though and Sakuraba shakes him off and takes side mount. Sakuraba stands over him for a second and then grabs a foot to attempt a possible heel hook, but gives up on it right away to go back to side mount. Knee on belly from Sakuraba but he doesn’t go for full mount for whatever reason. Instead he stands over Vernon and then goes back down after White throws some sharp upkicks. Into side mount for Sakuraba and he appears to be prepping for a kneebar, but he gives that up to look for another armbar. He rolls into it, but White again defends tremendously, escapes into top position and then takes the back. White stands and throws a big kick that Sakuraba ducks under, and seconds later he’s on his back again courtesy of a beautiful takedown to side mount. He looks to be setting up a possible submission, and then steps over to full mount, but the round ends there. Really nice round.

Second round and White clips him with a right hand early on. Action gets a bit slow before Sakuraba shoots in and plants White on his back under side mount again. Action slows down again from there and then Sakuraba easily takes full mount. White looks to roll and Sakuraba goes for the armbar, but he doesn’t have the arm deep enough in and White looks ridiculously calm in there. Sure enough Vernon escapes and takes the back with no hooks. Good punches from White to the side of the head and Sakuraba looks like he might be a bit stuck. White looks to sink the choke, but Sakuraba avoids and hits a reversal to take top position again. White manages to get to guard and it looks like he might be going for a triangle for a second, but Sakuraba avoids and settles into the guard. White pops back to his feet and Sakuraba goes for the single leg again, but a reversal from Vernon allows him to take the back. Sakuraba then goes for what would become his trademark move – the kimura – and drops and rolls for it. White manages to fight it off but Sakuraba gets the arm extended for a second, but somehow Vernon slips free and stands. Sakuraba goes right back to the rolling kimura and they end up twisted up on the mat like a pretzel. Another reversal from White though sees him take the back again. This time he gets one hook in, and he tries a choke. Sakuraba avoids though and gets back on top in guard. Into side mount for Sakuraba and Vernon rolls and gives his back, and Sakuraba looks to attack the arm again. Vernon avoids that and takes the back again, where he lands a couple of punches with no hooks. Reversal from Sakuraba and he pretty much crawls his way into a takedown attempt, but White prevents it with almost a neck crank attempt with the head trapped down and both hands locked around Saku’s arms. He gives it up for some reason though to drop some knees to the body from a front facelock. Sakuraba pops back up, but White has his back. Again Sakuraba goes for the kimura, but this time Vernon spins out and we’re back to standing. Beautiful takedown from Sakuraba and he gets into half-guard. Full mount follows. Few punches connect for Sakuraba but Vernon slides out the back door and escapes, taking the back once again. Sakuraba grabs the right ankle to pull him over, but the bell sounds there. This is actually a really good fight.

Third round and they exchange some kicks early on. Hard body kicks are blocked by both men. Sweet single leg from Sakuraba plants White on his back. Sakuraba had a ridiculously fast shot at this point. He stands over the guard of Vernon and looks to pass, getting into half-guard. Into side mount for Sakuraba and he waits for a moment before stepping over to full mount. Good punches from Sakuraba and White covers up. Looks like Sakuraba’s setting up for an armbar as his legs are really high on White’s chest. Armbar attempt as White bucks, but Sakuraba can’t quite lock it up and Vernon escapes nicely and takes the back with no hooks again. Sakuraba locks up the kimura again and rolls for it, but again White shows tremendous defensive skills to avoid. Couple of hammer fists land for White but he still doesn’t bother with the hooks. Face crank attempt from White is easily avoided by Sakuraba and he manages to roll Vernon over when he tries for the hooks, taking north/south in the process. Scramble from White but Sakuraba goes for a kimura and then turns it into an armbar as White rolls. Looks like it might be deep this time, too. He rolls again, but Sakuraba straightens out the arm to force the tapout. Nice.

Super-long fight but I actually enjoyed it a ton as it was great to see really early Sakuraba before he was ruined by fighting giant guys, and yeah, he showed absolutely tremendous skills that were way ahead of his time more than anything, with a super-fast shot, incredible grappling skills and total serenity whenever he was put into a bad position. White put up a good fight too and it made for a great technical grappling match.

Renzo Gracie vs Sanae Kikuta

We all know about Renzo of course and he was coming off his draw with Akira Shoji on the first PRIDE show here. Kikuta meanwhile had fought in some promotion called the Lumax Cup, with his lone loss coming in the Vale Tudo Japan tournament in 1996. No idea on rounds or time limits but as it’s a Gracie fight it’s bound to be a bit strange I’m sure.

We get underway and Kikuta bulls into the clinch, but Gracie works for a trip right away and forces him into the corner of the ring. Takedown from Renzo into Kikuta’s guard. Kikuta ties him up right away and nothing happens until he gets an escape to his feet. Renzo charges forward and Kikuta looks panicky and quickly grabs a clinch. Knees to the body connect for Gracie, but Kikuta tries a trip and gets it in a nice move, landing in Renzo’s half-guard. Renzo gets back to full guard and we slow down to a crawl as they lay in the guard for AGES. You know, I get the idea of the Gracie system of BJJ and self-defense and what-not and I respect it, but damnit it has no place on an MMA show. It was fun to see Royce tap dudes in the UFC because those guys stunk, but in these early PRIDE shows the Japanese guys at least knew enough to avoid rudimentary submissions and we end up with THIS RUBBISH. For f------ hours on end. Round One ends there. Quadros helpfully tells us this but doesn’t tell us how many rounds this is going for.

Second round and Kikuta throws some punches out but they look really amateurish, like he’s just started training. Excellent left hand by Gracie and Kikuta clinches, but Renzo quickly forces him into the corner of the ring. Kikuta blocks the takedown and they muscle for position with the Japanese fighter defending a trip. Knees land inside for Gracie. They break off but it’s only brief as Renzo clinches again and we’re back to Kikuta defending trips. Takedown from Kikuta puts him into Renzo’s guard as the ring announcer kindly tells us there’s five minutes to go in the round. Very little happens from the guard, unsurprisingly, as Kikuta’s got enough of a base not to be simply armbarred but not enough skill to actually do anything offensively. Finally Kikuta decides to stand free of the guard, leaving Renzo in the butt-scoot position. Ref ought to call Renzo up but he doesn’t and so Kikuta dives back into the guard, horrifying Quadros. Man, how Quadros and Bas sat through these shows without losing the will to live I do not know. More nothingness from the guard follows until the round ends. This sucks.

Third round and Kikuta sprints out into a clinch and trips Renzo down into the guard. Odds on the whole round being Renzo tapping him with rabbit punches from the bottom while Kikuta lays there seem pretty high. Next time someone says like, Ben Askren is boring, show them a fight like this. Bas says he’s speechless but what the f--- would there be to say? The announcers are the best part of this fight as they’re just openly ragging on Kikuta’s gameplan, or lack of one. And this goes on FOREVER until Kikuta somehow slips into half-guard and then decides to stand over him. Gracie won’t get up and so Kikuta dives back into the guard. Sigh. He passes into half-guard as Bas tells us this has been going now for almost 30 minutes, causing me to shudder. Gracie regains full guard and Kikuta lays there. Bas and Quadros now debate the point of these types of fights, saying it isn’t entertaining and hell, it’s not really sport either. Another painful round in the books.

Fourth round and Bas is asking Quadros how many rounds this is, almost pleading with his voice for Stephen to say just four. But it’s actually UNLIMITED ROUNDS. Takedown attempt from Renzo is blocked and we’re back into a clinch. Trip takedown from Kikuta and he actually lands a punch, stunning Quadros. But unfortunately it’s pretty much all he does as we’re back to laying in the guard. I think the shots of Rickson at ringside might be more exciting than this fight. I feel dirty typing this because I love Renzo and the guy is a legend but this is absolutely one of the worst fights I’ve ever seen. Quadros mentions that the fight would be far better if it didn’t have these unlimited rounds. Ref calls a stand-up which is odd, but apparently Kikuta got hit with some sort of illegal punch. They restart standing and maybe that was the ref’s idea? Good leg kick from Kikuta as they throw out some crude strikes to end the round.

Fifth round and Kikuta bulls into the clinch and we start just like the other rounds. This time though Renzo manages to work into a standing guillotine choke, but it doesn’t look like he can get the tap from it or anything. He pulls guard though and evidently thinks he’s got it, but Kikuta manages to get his head free for some ground-and-pound. Oh, wait, I got that wrong. He gets his head free to allow him to LAY THERE DOING NOTHING. Which goes on for the WHOLE TEN MINUTE ROUND. F--- this nonsense.

SIXTH ROUND and this fight is pushing a f------ HOUR, dude. Seriously. Bas is just f------ sick of this by this stage and rightfully so. Fight gets stopped before anything happens to fix Kikuta’s glove. They restart and Kikuta charges in for a takedown, but Renzo grabs a guillotine. He pulls guard and this time it looks deeper, and KIKUTA F------ TAPS TO SAVE US ALL. Quadros and Bas are both like THANK GOD after the fight.

Another one of the worst fights of all time then; somehow this was WORSE than Royler vs. Sano from earlier in the show. I don’t think I ever want to watch another non-Rickson Gracie vs. a non-Sakuraba Japanese fighter EVER AGAIN. Now I know why I was told to avoid these early PRIDE shows!

-Another kickboxing match follows and it’s Tasis Petridis vs. George Randolph. For those who care, Petridis wins a decision. I however don’t care so I’m skipping it entirely.

Marco Ruas vs Gary Goodridge

Goodridge’s previous fight had seen him KO Oleg Taktarov in absolutely criminal fashion; one of the most horrific knockouts I’ve ever seen, while Ruas was making his Japanese debut after winning the UFC 7 tournament and then beating up some other early UFC veterans (Steve Jennum, Pat Smith) elsewhere. I love Ruas and he’s one of my favourite early MMA pioneers, so hopefully this will be fun.

Fight begins and Goodridge swings some heavy leather that Ruas manages to avoid. Takedown attempt from Ruas but Goodridge stuffs it and hits him with a knee to the body to break off. Roundhouse kick and spinning backfist miss for Ruas. Takedown is blocked aain by Goodridge. Leg kick glances for Ruas and Goodridge narrowly misses a right hand sledgehammer. Goodridge has no form on his punches at all but holy s--- they’re powerful. Takedown attempt from Ruas basically out of desperation to avoid the haymakers, but Goodridge manages to get on top in half-guard. Ruas looks badly cut over his left eye. Big shots connect for Goodridge from the top and Ruas looks stunned. He manages to get to full guard but man Goodridge throws with some force. Action slows down a bit as Goodridge looks tired, but he does at least try to pass the guard, working into half-guard. Ruas to his credit has remained super-calm in the face of this storm from Goodridge. Gary finally decides to stand out of the guard and we restart on the feet. Ruas circles as Goodridge stalks forward, then corners Ruas with some punches, but as he rushes in his leg buckles and he slips, allowing Ruas to land a right hand and force him into the ropes. BRUTE STRENGTH from Goodridge allows him to throw Ruas to the ground, but Ruas right away goes for a heel hook and after a bit of a struggle he locks it up for the tapout.

Fun fight that wouldn’t have looked out of place in like UFC 8 and probably would’ve been one of the better fights on a card like that, too. Post-fight a young Pedro Rizzo celebrates with Ruas. Fun enough, no complaints from me here as they actually came out and fought!

Mark Kerr vs Branko Cikatic

From what I know, at this point Kerr was like the most feared man in MMA as he’d smashed up everyone he’d faced to this point, winning two UFC tournaments as well as a Vale Tudo tournament in Brazil, and his blend of brute strength, great wrestling skill and developing striking was pretty much unheard of at this point, like an evolved Mark Coleman pretty much. Cikatic for those who have forgotten was a legendarily dirty kickboxer who had landed a soccer kick and caused Ralph White to have an alien grow from his head on the first PRIDE show. Not sure how this ended up as a main event but I guess Kerr was like a marquee signing for PRIDE or something.

Ring introductions show BAS RUTTEN in Kerr’s corner. So Quadros is going solo I guess. They begin…and yet Bas is commentating? S---, that means these poor guys had to watch this show TAPED and commentate over the two Gracie matches? Kerr is roided out of his f------ mind here. They circle with no strikes thrown and Kerr shoots, but Branko fires some shots at the back of the head while gripping the ropes. Tons of referees rush in to break this up and Cikatic WON’T LET GO OF THE ROPES. They pull him off and restart and Kerr looks f------ FUMING. ROID RAGE!~! They restart and Kerr shoots again, and once again Branko grabs the ropes and begins to drop VERTICAL ELBOWS TO KERR’S SPINE. Holy f--- this guy is dirty. Refs pour in but this time Kerr’s had enough and begins to land punches to Branko too. Three guys have to pull Kerr away. This is totally out of control. Bell sounds and the fight’s thrown out. Wild stuff. Total pro-wrestling. And it’s beyond hilarious to hear Bas commentating on this while he’s also in the ring with Kerr! Decision is finally made to disqualify Branko for the second time in two shows, and they bury the hatchet and HUG IT OUT. Audience are furious. And the show ends there.

Final Thoughts….

Even for 1998 standards this was a terrible, terrible show. Sakuraba vs. White was fun enough and Goodridge vs. Ruas was decent too, but they were offset by a totally useless main event that descended into chaos and two of the worst fights I’ve ever seen in Gracie vs. Sano and Gracie vs. Kikuta. Now I understand why I was told to just start with PRIDE 10 and move on from there. Hopefully PRIDE 3 will be better but I’m not exactly getting my hopes up. High recommendation to avoid.

Best Fight: Sakuraba vs. White
Worst Fight: Gracie vs. Kikuta

Until next time,

Scott Newman:
[email protected]
The Oratory
TJR Sports

Newman’s Take: PRIDE 1

-Alright, so the original plan was to continue with the UFC reviews where I left off, which meant UFC on Fuel 7 from London in February was next. Buuut plans change and drqshadow’s been pestering me for a while to do these old PRIDE shows so here we are. Basically I’ve got a bit of a confession – sure, I’m as hardcore an MMA fan as you’ll find….but I’ve never actually seen the early – pre-2000 Grand Prix – PRIDE shows. Why? Not sure really – I blame the guys who got me into MMA in the first place as I’m sure I remember them saying to start with PRIDE 10 and run from there. I could be wrong. Anyway I never got around to getting hold of the older PRIDEs until I spotted that FightDVD were selling them very cheaply last month, so I ended up picking up the double-disc sets for PRIDE 1 to 8. And here we are. Bear in mind, I know approximately squat about Japanese culture and/or Japanese pro-wrestling, and so I’ll be trying my absolute best not to come off as a racist or a bigot. Ignorance? Yeah, you might be able to accuse me of that! Here goes.


Tokyo, Japan

-We begin with this weird video that shows shots of Rickson Gracie (I think!) intertwined with shots of a Chinese dragon. No intro segment which is odd for me as the older PRIDE shows I’ve seen always had Quadros and Bas breaking down the card. Instead we go right into the first fight.

-Your hosts are indeed Stephen Quadros and Bas Rutten. Bas’s English sounds, well, slightly shaky here I think compared to how he became later on.

Kazunari Murakami vs John Dixson

Never heard of either of these guys. Quick check of Sherdog tells me Murakami was 3-3 coming in with both a loss to and a win over Akihiro Gono which is WILD. I legitimately had no clue Gono was around in 1996. Dixson was 3-5 with losses to Igor Vovchanchyn and Dan Severn which at this point weren’t exactly bad losses. Dixson is wearing a t-shirt in the ring which is never good.

Fight begins and they bull into an early clinch before Dixson breaks and glances on a high kick. Single leg from Dixson and he lands in the guard. Looks like it’s half-guard actually. Murakami appears to be going for a sweep, but Dixson is a big dude and he avoids it. He chooses to stand and they come back up to their feet. Couple of jabs from the Japanese fighter but Dixson clinches. Big hip throw plants Dixson on his back though and from there Murakami takes a straight armbar and extends it for the tapout.

Perfectly acceptable opener around the same level as your standard midcard UFC fight of this time period I guess. Throw and armbar were nice at least.

Gary Goodridge vs Oleg Taktarov

These two were of course coming over from the UFC where they’d seen some decent success, with Taktarov winning the UFC 6 tournament and Goodridge making the finals of UFC 9. Goodridge is HUGE here, not steroid-looking huge, just like a very strong dude who pushes very heavy weights. Looking at his record this was quite a while after Oleg’s UFC run actually – right after that loss to Renzo Gracie where Renzo KOd him with an upkick.

They begin and circle around a little, with Goodridge really hanging his hands low for some reason. Nothing happens for a while before Goodridge lands a low kick but stumbles back, and Oleg quickly closes in and trades for a second. They back out and Goodridge pops Oleg with a right hand that cuts him under the left eye. Action slows right down as Goodridge continues to drop his hands. One-two misses for Goodridge. This is swiftly becoming a staring contest. A really bloody one as Oleg has this movie-esque trickle of blood coming down his face. Oleg closes in, but eats a short right hand that drops him. Another one follows and Oleg looks in trouble as he turtles up and eats some more clubbing blows. Knee to the head and Goodridge lands some wild hammer fists before Oleg rolls onto his back again. Goodridge decides to stand over him, then kicks the legs hard as Oleg can’t seem to decide what to do. Dude is still chilled though. He gets back up and goes back to circling. Lot of blood covering Oleg’s face now. Takedown attempt from Taktarov but Goodridge sprawls nicely and avoids it. Jab glances for Goodridge. Oleg attempts to clinch, but Goodridge counters with a HEAVY RIGHT HOOK and the Russian goes down face-first, totally unconscious. Wow. Goodridge adds two really cruel shots for good measure before the ref can stop him. Post-fight poor Oleg goes out on a stretcher like this is a Van Damme movie.

Man, that was a pretty vicious knockout actually. Punches on the ground were horrific as Oleg’s body was knocked across by the force of them as he was already out. Not much of a fight prior to that if I’m honest as it was a ton of staring, but who cares when you’ve got a knockout like that?

Renzo Gracie vs Akira Shoji

Comical stuff prior to the fight as Quadros is like, this is Shoji’s MMA debut….oh, actually it isn’t, he’s fought a couple of times before. No clue if someone suddenly clued him in or he just forgot, or what. He’s more accurate when he describes Renzo as one of the most feared men in martial arts, as he was unbeaten at this point and from what I know had a reputation second only to Rickson himself, as he was far more violent than his cousin Royce and had won several fights with strikes.

Fight begins and Shoji circles around as Renzo stalks forward. Renzo gets a clinch and looks for the takedown, but Shoji leans all over the ropes to avoid. Pretty blatant stalling tactic from Shoji as he keeps grabbing the ropes whenever he can. Eventually Renzo muscles him down and then takes full mount in a scramble. Looks like he might be looking for an armbar as Shoji keeps flailing his arms, but the ropes are in the way. Refs move them into the center of the ring and Renzo has the mount really tightly locked in. Shoji gives his back and Renzo lands some punches and goes for the choke, but Shoji stands with Renzo clamped to his back! Koala position reference from Quadros, word! Eventually Shoji gets desperate and DIVES OUT OF THE RING and of course there’s tons of confusion over this. Can’t believe some idiots STILL maintain the ring is better than the cage for MMA. Anyway this being Japan they decide to restart the fight standing. Good knee from Renzo and Shoji shoots into the clinch and muscles him into the ropes. They jockey for position and the ref CONSTANTLY has to mess around with the ropes to keep them off the fighters. Headbutt from Renzo which is evidently legal, and then he gets a guillotine variant but can’t quite lock it up. Commentary is hilarious as they’re barely even speaking at points. You can tell Bas is REALLY green at it actually. Renzo finally goes for the arm-in guillotine and jumps to guard to attempt the finish, but Shoji works his head free to a big pop. Gracie looks to hold him from the guard now as Shoji punches the body. Fight has now lulled into a ludicrously slow pace. Bell sounds for the end of Round One and that seems to shock Quadros, who perhaps wasn’t aware this was a multi-round fight? Who knows.

Into the 2nd and they circle and look to exchange some punches before Renzo shoots for a takedown. Shoji blocks it and so Renzo pulls guard. They exchange some punches and more headbutts from there and then Gracie looks to be setting up for an oma plata. Announcers totally no-sell that for ages by the way until it’s almost locked. Shoji manages to slip free nicely and stands over him, leaving the Brazilian in the butt-scoot position. Renzo gets back up and stalks forward as Shoji stays on the outside but doesn’t really throw much. Punches largely miss for both men but Gracie does land with a nice chopping leg kick. Shoji answers with one of his own so Renzo shoots for a takedown. Shoji defends with a sprawl and a possible guillotine pops the crowd, but he doesn’t go for it. Ref calls a “stop! Don’t move!” deal to get them out of the ropes but at this point evidently they hadn’t perfected it as it takes FOUR GUYS to move them. They restart and Renzo gets the single leg and puts Shoji on his back in guard. Renzo passes to mount and Shoji bucks, but gives his back in the process. Armbar attempt from Gracie as Shoji slips out the back door and it looks locked, but somehow the Japanese fighter slips free! Wow. Crowd are going crazy over this. Renzo stays in the butt-scoot position again and Shoji stands over him, but does nothing. We’re getting basically zero action outside of a couple of crappy kicks from Shoji here which sucks. Bell sounds to end the round and Bas is outright like, thank God for that. Ha.

Third round and unfortunately the announcers don’t mention how many rounds this is. Good leg kick from Shoji as they circle around. Body kick from Renzo answers. Renzo closes the distance and looks to clinch but Shoji shrugs him off. These guys are literally throwing one strike at a time. Shoji does land a pair of nice leg kicks though. This is becoming painful to watch and the worst part is there’s no on-screen clock so I have NO IDEA HOW LONG IS LEFT. Takedown attempt from Renzo but Shoji blocks and grabs a front facelock to land some knees to the head with Renzo in the turtle position. Ref warns Shoji for that as apparently they’re illegal. Renzo decides to pull guard anyway. He wraps Shoji up and the action slows to a crawl as Shoji lands some short punches to the body. Couple of solid knees to the tailbone land for the Japanese fighter. Renzo works for the possible oma plata again, but he actually uses it to hit a sick sweep into full mount. Shoji gives his back though…and then slips out the back door to standing. Crowd pop loudly for that and the announcers love it too. Renzo’s leg is horribly marked up from the kicks. Nothing happens for a while as Shoji makes some INTENSE FACES towards Renzo but doesn’t throw any punches. Low kick from Shoji and Renzo shoots and then pulls guard. Short punches from Shoji on the ground and Renzo kicks him away and narrowly misses an upkick. Shoji stands over him again and the bell sounds to end the round. Bas then reveals that it’s the end of the fight, too.

Judges score it….well, there are no judges I guess so it’s a draw. Decision probably would’ve been Gracie’s but whatever. There was some good action in this fight actually, but the problem was that added together it would’ve lasted for like five minutes and the whole thing was THIRTY MINUTES. Which made it a real chore to sit through. Still, I’ve seen worse fights from this period. Granted I mean Severn/Shamrock II and Gracie/Shamrock II, but the point still stands!

Koji Kitao vs Nathan Jones

You might remember Kitao from a brief UFC run where he had his nose broken by Mark Hall. He’s a sumo guy for those wondering. And yeah, you might remember Australian Nathan Jones from his brief WWE run as the COLOSSUS OF BOGGO ROAD!~! which was a character I thought had some potential until it became obvious the dude couldn’t wrestle worth a lick. He was also infamous for being detained in an airport after cracking a shoe-bomb joke from what I remember. Non-wrestling fans might recognize him from the beginning of the movie Troy, as he’s the big dude in the opening scene that Brad Pitt offs. Jones does not look anywhere near WWE shape here, that’s for sure.

We get underway and Jones springs around on the outside as Kitao stands in the center of the ring with his hands way low. Spinning crescent kick misses for Jones. Left high kick also misses and Kitao clinches. Jones grabs a front headlock but doesn’t really go for the guillotine, instead just holding the sumo. Couple of knees from Jones but Kitao grabs the leg and drops him to the ground, landing in side mount. Jones starts grunting and it sounds like he might be panicking a bit. Kitao looks to lock up an arm and gets a keylock for the tapout. Huh. Didn’t even look locked up correctly to me but I guess Kitao is a big, strong guy.

Don’t really know what to say there. Really odd fight. Nathan Jones in MMA is about as good as Nathan Jones in pro wrestling I guess. It was a curiosity fight and it didn’t last long so hey, no complaints from me really.

Branko Cikatic vs Ralph White

This is apparently a kickboxing bout according to Quadros. Cikatic was the first ever K-1 World Champion which is obviously a big achievement and he KOd Ernesto Hoost to win that title which is an even bigger achievement. A look at his record shows he fought DENNIS ALEXIO too. For those unfamiliar with that name, he’s Van Damme’s brother in Kickboxer and was a top level kickboxer in the 80’s and early 90’s. No clue about White, sorry. He’s a big intimidating-looking black dude, though.

First round (?) begins and Branko FAKES A GLOVE TOUCH TO LAND A SPIN KICK TO THE BODY! Boo! White fires back with a combo but it doesn’t land cleanly. Branko looks unbelievably calm here. Couple of jabs and a low kick from White. Chopping low kick connects for White. Nice right hand lands for Cikatic and he drops White with a left hook before NAILING HIM WITH A SOCCER KICK! In a kickboxing match, yeah. OH MY GOD says Bas and Quadros questions the legality. Well yeah.

White gets up and there’s a HUGE LUMP STICKING OUT OF HIS HEAD. Holy f------ s---. Looks like he’s growing horns like a demon or maybe there’s an alien growing under his skin or something. Announcers are cracking the same jokes as me here which is brilliant. Well, it would be, except poor Ralph White has this sick deformity coming from his head! Seriously, Quadros is coming out with all sorts of stuff here, making jokes about everything from Rocky (doing a Mickey impression) to cracks about Clearasil. The lump is GETTING BIGGER SOMEHOW as Bas discusses Branko’s filthy reputation. Ralph has about four or five doctors checking him over. The officials take forever to decide what to do as Quadros keeps on cracking jokes about Ralph starring in a horror movie. Finally they decide to DQ Cikatic and he throws a hissy fit which is ridiculous. He SOCCER KICKED A GUY IN A STAND-UP FIGHT. Branko finally apologises and that’s that.

Calling this weird would be the understatement of the century, seriously. It’s must-see if only for the freakishness of the lump coming from poor Ralph White’s head and for the bizarre and hilarious commentary of the whole thing. I’m lost for words here, honestly.

Dan Severn vs Kimo Leopoldo

Like Goodridge and Taktarov these pair had obviously made their name in the UFC, although both men had fought elsewhere since. Severn looks in really good shape for this fight and Kimo is his usual intimidating self. I’m guessing Severn would’ve been the favourite here as Kimo has always seemed more hype than substance to me.

Fight begins and they exchange some punches early on before settling into a circling pattern. Decent right lands for Severn as Kimo pushes forward. Kimo is swinging some really wild hooks here. Takedown attempt from Severn and he forces Kimo into the corner of the ring. Kimo defends and they spin around a couple of times before breaking off. Wild right hook glances for Kimo. This striking exchange is awful. Left hook connects for Kimo and forces Severn back. They continue to circle with little action before Kimo avoids a half-hearted takedown attempt. Haymaker right misses for Kimo. Severn appears to be throwing slaps almost. Really horrible exchange comes for a second before they break off. Low kick from Kimo. Terrible striking continues. Couple more leg kicks land for Kimo. He’s dropping his hands totally and swinging wild haymakers that keep missing. Ankle pick from Severn and Kimo goes down for a second before popping up. Blatant low blow from Kimo but the ref ignores it for some reason. Bas suddenly realizes that Severn looks like Freddie Mercury. More bad striking follows as the announcers come to the conclusion that there’s too much respect between the two. Bas outright says he’s getting frustrated. This is getting worse by the second.

Severn connects on a right hand but it doesn’t do much. Finally Severn goes for the takedown but Kimo does a very good job of defending it. I’m legitimately struggling to stay awake watching this now. Granted I’m tired but god damn. I don’t know how to play-by-play this really as there’s so little action, it’s like the shoddiest kickboxing match you’ve ever seen. Pair of body kicks from Kimo. Both guys look exhausted. Kimo tries a flurry but it doesn’t land clean and so we’re back to throwing the odd haymaker and staring. Kimo’s cut somehow and I have no idea how it happened. Normally I’d be bothered about that and rewind to find out but there’s NO WAY I’m doing that here. Severn lands with a right hand and the announcers are amazed. Takedown is blocked by Kimo. Kimo appears to be getting the better of these exchanges but I mean, it’s not like he’s landing a ton. AWFUL flurry from Severn backs Kimo up for a second but it doesn’t last long. Finally Severn catches a kick and gets Kimo down, but he falls through the ropes and the ref decides to restart them standing. Urgh. Quadros calls it a “marathon of inactivity”. Amen! You know a fight is bad when the commentators are doing nothing but cracking sarcastic jokes. Worst bit is that I have NO IDEA how long is left. Could be a f------ year or anything. Lame punching exchange continues between longer portions of DANGEROUS STARING. Single leg from Severn but Kimo sprawls out to avoid and grabs a front facelock. Naturally he lets go and they pop back to their feet, DISGUSTING Bas who is all like JESUS CHRIST. At least it’s funny at this point. More crap striking follows. Severn starts to push the pace but he’s still throwing his terrible slapping punches. He manages to bull Kimo into the corner and goes for the takedown, but can’t get it and slaps him around instead like his name is Chris Brown. Takedown FINALLY from Severn and he gets side mount where he lands some shots. Few knees from Severn and I wonder why the hell he didn’t do this earlier? Bell sounds there and we’re done, thank the lord.

Fight is called a draw and well, I guess that’s fair as neither man warranted the win. This was a horrible, HORRIBLE fight and it felt like the longest 30 minutes ever. I’d compare it to Shamrock/Severn II or Shamrock/Gracie II in fact. Which is the worst? That’d involve me rewatching them and I’m not doing that in a million years. My head hurts.

Rickson Gracie vs Nobuhiko Takada

This was the fight that the whole PRIDE promotion was built around putting on – top Japanese shoot-style pro-wrestler Takada stepping up to face the most feared member of the Gracie family, Rickson. There’s a longer backstory that involves one of Takada’s students (Yoji Anjoh) getting the hell beaten out of him by Rickson in a dojo, but I’m not that hot on that type of history and you’re better off searching for Jonathan Snowden’s (or someone of that ilk) explanation on it. Needless to say Rickson looks like a bad dude. We get full national anthems pre-fight here which almost makes up for the Kimo/Severn debacle as the Brazilian one is a great piece of music.

Fight begins and Takada circles on the outside as Rickson stands dead in the center of the ring with his hands pretty low. Gracie just looks totally unfazed by anything Takada might do. Right hand glances for Rickson. Low kick answers for Takada but doesn’t land cleanly. Rickson manages to close the distance and forces Takada into the corner of the ring, where he grabs the ropes to stop a takedown. Ref calls a break which is shady. They restart and Rickson throws a couple of jabbing-type kicks at Takada before going for the takedown. Takada actually defends and lands a knee to the head, but Rickson isn’t affected and he hits a HUGE SLAM and lands in side mount. Full mount follows immediately and Takada is in deep trouble. He tries to hold on for dear life, but Rickson breaks free and lands some shots to the body. Takada looks lost from his back. Armbar from Rickson and he extends it comfortably to force the merciful tapout.

Well, there can be no doubt that Rickson Gracie looked like a total killer there. Got to question the opposition of course as Takada well, sucks, but hey, he didn’t play with his food and he got Takada out of there quickly and probably got paid a fat cheque, so what does it matter? It is, however, a real pity that we never got to see him step up and fight Sakuraba when Saku was on his Gracie killing run as that would’ve been an INCREDIBLE fight.

-Show ends abruptly with Rickson celebrating in the ring.

Final Thoughts….

I’m not really sure what to say here. By today’s standards, or by the standards that PRIDE would eventually reach in the early 00’s, this show undoubtedly stinks. But really, it isn’t fair to judge it against a later PRIDE show or one of today’s UFC cards. Remember this was 1997 and MMA was still largely a spectacle rather than a sport. With that said though, even by 1997 standards this was not a good show. You expect cards full of crude squashes in that era and while this had a couple of those (the opener, Goodridge/Taktarov, Kitao/Jones) it also has two of the worst fights I’ve ever seen in Renzo/Shoji and particularly Kimo/Severn which is a strong contender for worst MMA fight of all time. It’s super-interesting to see Rickson Gracie in action and as the first PRIDE show it’s worth a look for historical reasons alone, but don’t go into it expecting greatness. And if you value your sanity, skip over Kimo/Severn. Mild recommendation. (Note – I won’t be giving star ratings to these old PRIDE cards as it isn’t fair to compare them to modern stuff I don’t think)

Best Fight: Gracie vs. Takada
Worst Fight: Kimo vs. Severn

Until next time,

Scott Newman:
[email protected]
The Oratory
TJR Sports