PRIDE or DIE: The History of PRIDE Fighting Championship - PRIDE 5
Posted by Randy Harrison on 05.13.2008
Kazushi Sakuraba faces the buzzsaw that was Vitor Belfort and Nobuhiko Takada and Mark Coleman in one of the most infamous main events in MMA history...
It's April 29, 1999 and we're in Nagoya, Japan for PRIDE 5, the first event that seems to have been called PRIDE and the first event that was run fully by Dream Stage Entertainment. The show already looks a lot more like the PRIDE we knew and loved, with the PRIDE logo plastered proudly in the middle of the ring. This was still during the phase where PRIDE did a lot of touring around and played to some less than full houses before they realized that limiting themselves to one or two venues that they could fill would be smarter than having shows in half-full arenas all over the country. This is one of the better looking early PRIDE cards actually, with two solid striker vs. grappler match-ups, one of which features the PRIDE debut of Vitor Belfort, along with a main event featuring perennial PRIDE loser, Nobuhiko Takada going up against the seeming perennial loser of the UFC, Mark "The Hammer" Coleman in a main event that will live in infamy. Let's get to the Rainbow Hall in Nagoya for all the action!!
We open with the ring surrounded by huge white curtains with the PRIDE logo on two sides and Dream Stage Entertainment's logo on the other two. A light and music show leads to the curtains being raised to show the ring bathed in red light before a HUGE spotlight engulfs the middle of the ring. Not sure why that was on there, but it looked pretty damn cool if I do say so myself.
Minoru Toyonaga vs. Egan Inoue
Toyonaga is billed as being a submission fighter by Quadros, and he talks about how accomplished a submission grappler that Inoue is, which tells me that this one will probably be contested on the ground. Toyonaga is another of the many fighters from Takada Dojo that filled the early PRIDE shows.
They tentatively start out with a leg kick from Inoue leading to a takedown attempt from Toyonaga. Inoue stuffs it and takes Toyonaga's back, with both hooks in. He tries to soften up Toyonaga for the rear naked choke, throwing a couple of punches here and there and landing them squarely. Inoue gets the choke but it's not locked in all the way and Toyonaga escapes it and they scramble back to their feet and clinch for a moment before they separate. High kick BARELY gets blocked by Toyonaga and they exchange some strikes before Toyonaga shoots in, missing the takedown but pulling guard. Inoue takes his back again with no hooks in and Toyonaga is able to escape, eating a kick as he gets to his feet. Leg kick followed by a combination from Inoue and he sprawls out of another Toyonaga takedown attempt, leading to a standing clinch in the corner. Toyonaga runs away for a bit and ends up falling to his back, allowing Inoue to land some punches and pass the guard with a swing pass. Inoue is on top and in side control, but Toyonaga gives up his back again. Inoue lands a couple of short punches and has bloodied up Toyonaga's nose with them. They scramble and the fight gets back to its feet with Inoue landing another low kick and stuffing another takedown attempt, moving to grab a front facelock and pushing Toyonaga's head into the mat. Inoue rolls him over and lands a couple of hard strikes and Toyonaga looks like he's hurt after taking a shot in the eye or something and the referee stops the fight.
Winner: Egan Inoue, TKO (strikes) at 5:53 of Round One
Bas thinks that Inoue is a guy that they'll be hearing about for a long time to come in PRIDE and Quadros agrees with him as they get to a replay of the finish of the match. Quadros figures that Toyonaga felt like he was a beaten fighter and just wanted to give things up, which Bas agrees with completely. He looked beaten and actually looked like the last punch really hurt him.
Satoshi Honma vs. Francisco Bueno
Honma is coming in hot off of his last performance at PRIDE 4 and he looks completely different having cut his feathered hairstyle off into a buzz cut. Bueno is apparently a striker as well according to Quadros and they say that he has at least a twenty pound weight advantage. They talk about Honma's confidence and whether it will be his downfall or not.
They circle with Bueno on the outside and neither man seems to willing to get down to throwing hands. Honma backs off while Bueno scratches his back or something, which is odd to see someone do in a fight. A minute in and no one's thrown a punch, with Quadros already starting to complain. A low kick from Honma gets checked by Bueno and they're right back to circling. Honma is goading Bueno and pointing to his chin before he throws another quick leg kick. Another leg kick from Honma and there's been four strikes thrown in two and a half minutes of action. Total. Quadros mentions that Bueno might be a little tense either from seeing Honma's highlights against Sano, or because of him fighting in such a big fight. Bueno continues to circle from the outside as Quadros calls it a dance contest. I don't think it's a real dance contest until I see Rickety Cricket with his robotic legs or Mac and Dennis cheating. There's already a bruise on the back of Bueno's thigh from the low kicks and Bueno finally throws a leg kick of his own that lands. Bueno connects with a punch and rushes forward and they sloppily exchange for a few seconds before realizing what they're doing and going right back to circling. Bueno lands another couple of leg kicks but looks really uncomfortable throwing them. he lands a couple of shots and Honam is looking staggered against the ropes. They're throwing WILD PUNCHES and not a lot of them are landing for either man, with Honma backpedalling to avoid most of them. Bueno TAGS HIM with a hard right hook on the chin and DOWN GOES HONMA! DOWN GOES HONMA! The referee steps in as soon as Honma drops and this fight is done.
Winner: Francisco Bueno, TKO (punch) at 4:59 of Round One
Well, once he got busy Bueno showed he had the power, but he still looked like a really clumsy striker that needs to do a lot of work on his boxing to keep from getting his ass beaten by a good counter-puncher.
Igor Vovchanchyn vs. Akira Shoji
This would be another match in the line of matches where Shoji would fight just about anyone, regardless of how badly he was expected to get his ass kicked. You've got to respect those giant, Japanese balls. Shoji and Vovchanchyn both get flowers in their corners before the match, which they both discard soon enough.Vovchanchyn has about forty pounds on Shoji and this is a classic grappler vs. striker match-up. Shoji has Caol Uno in his corner and a neat little fade haircut, which was the style at the times. No onion on his belt though.
They circle as Quadros talks about Shoji having to avoid any striking exchanges and that he has to circle away from Igor's power. Vovchanchyn tries to cut Shoji off in the corner a couple of times but can't get it to happen and has to continue the chase. The referee gives them the signal to fight as the crowd gets a little antsy in the pantsies and makes some noise, which is rare for a Japanese crowd. Vovchanchyn lands a stiff jab and then catches a low kick, landing an overhand right while throwing Shoji to the mat. He backs off and lets Shoji back up with Quadros figuring that the mutual respect is from Vovchanchyn having seen Shoji's previous fights. They clinch for a moment with Shoji trying the takedown but there's nothing there and Vovchanchyn stuffs it. Vovchanchyn stuffs another takedown attempt and Shoji ends up on the mat in butt-scoot with Vovchanchyn standing above him. Vovchanchyn throws a leg kick or two but nothing happens and they end up getting the fight restarted on their feet. More heavy circling and feinting from both men and Vovchanchyn throws a jab with Shoji throwing a leg kick but pulling it back. Vovchanchyn's leg is already reddened from the couple of leg kicks that Shoji landed and Vovchanchyn rushes forward with a great combination that ends with a solid body kick. Just as quickly, they go right back to circling and Shoji lands a short left hook out of an exchange. Shoji throws some wild punches that miss and then ducks and covers to keep Vovchanchyn from landing any counter shots. Vovchanchyn tries a combination and Shoji just runs to get away from it, before Shoji lands a couple of HARD punches and just misses another, though none of them looked to hurt Vovchanchyn at all. Good leg kick lands from Shoji right as the bell sounds to end the round. Hard to say who came out ahead on that one in terms of landing strikes, though Vovchanchyn gets the slight nod. If it comes down to aggression, Vovchanchyn was coming forwrad the entire round so he would get it, and in my opinion I think he won the round, if things were being scored that way.
They start the second round by circling the same way they did the first, and they both look really fresh, probably due to the lack of punishment inflicted in the first round. Vovchanchyn backs Shoji into a corner and misses a combination, which Shoji counters with a hard leg kick. Vovchanchyn throws Shoji down to the mat off of a clinch and they end up with Vovchanchyn standing above Shoji again in the middle of the ring. Vovchanchyn almost goes down into the guard but thinks better of it and stands back to land a hard leg kick. The referee stops things to allow Shoji to get back to his feet and they continue to circle in the middle with Shoji trying to avoid being cornred. Vovchanchyn with a combination before Shoji can get too far away, but then they're right back to the circling. Shoji had a standing front facelock, nearly a half-guillotine, but Vovchanchyn just flings him to the mat and lands in side control, landing a couple short punches before Shoji gets out the backdoor. Overhand right lands for Vovchanchyn and they circle a little before hiting a clinch and trading knees. Shoji tries a takedown but slips off onto his back and misses an up-kick attempt, putting the fight right back to Vovchanchyn standing above a prone Shoji. The referee brings Shoji back up and they're back to circling and trading leg kicks and jabs and things before Vovchanchyn hits that overhand right again and just misses a push kick. Vovchanchyn catches a whole lot of those giant Japanese balls with an inside leg kick and Shoji has to take a minute for a breather. Leg kick from Shoji as Vovchanchyn misses a HARD right hook and they just go right back to the circling. Good left hand lands on Shoji and puts him off-balance and down, with Vovchanchyn JUUUUUSST pulling back on a kick to the face, allowing for the rules at that particular time. Shoji remains in butt-scoot and Vovchanchyn tries to get down and pass the guard, but they scramble out of that with Vovchanchyn taking Shoji's back standing and both fighters trading punches wildly. Shoji grabs a clinch in the corner with a minute left in the round and doesn't do enough with it to keep it and they restart in the middle. Vovchanchyn continues to stalk Shoji down and Shoji JUST misses a hard combination before Vovchanchyn lands a hard right hand that puts Shoji down to the mat again, right at the bell to end the fight. This looks like an easy decision for Vovchanchyn and it looks like the judges agree with me.
Winner: Igor Vovchanchyn, Unanimous Decision
Not a lot of action in the fight, but that's understandable I suppose, with Shoji respecting the power of Vovchanchyn and Igor not wanting to get down into a grappling submission game with Shoji. Vovchanchyn deserved the win though because he just kept coming forward for the entire fight.
Match Four: PRIDE Freakshow Match
Soichi Nishida vs, Enson Inoue
Nishida is wearing some crazy-looking MC Hammer parachute pants and apparently he has a lot of karate experience. Inoue is a BJJ fighter and is actually about 100 pounds lighter than Nishida, making this a bonafied freakshow match. Inoue was already known in Japan for his work in Shooto.
Inoue lands a right hand and Nishida drops to his stomach, covering his face and looking like he's competely overmatched. Inoue throws a few more rapid-fire punches and lands them all, forcing Nishida to give up his neck and Inoue hops on his back to lock in the rear naked choke.
Winner: Enson Inoue, submission (rear naked choke) at 0:24 of Round One
The replays show that the two punches that dropped Nishida actually barely glanced off of his head and Bas just BURIES Nishida on commentary. There was really no need for this fight to take place and it was almost sad to see Nishida flopping around like he was.
After that debacle, it's a Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu exhibition with both Royler Gracie and Rickson Gracie in the ring, with them showing various moves and techniques. They do all of it in the gi's and do it at about half-speed, with it being interesting to see, but nothing earth-shattering. I would have rather seen some type of Jiu-Jitsu submission grappling match or something where there was actual competition going on, but I guess, it is what it is. Very cool to see some of those techniques though.
Kazushi Sakuraba vs. Vitor Belfort
Belfort was already a legend in the world of NHB and MMA, running roughshod through everyone not named Randy Couture, while amassing a 6-1 record, including his demolition of Wanderlei Silva at Ultimate Brazil. Sakuraba is Sakuraba, working at building his own legend both with his Ultimate Japan tournament win, as well as his displays of grappling prowess in the early days of PRIDE. This is like the main course of grappler vs. striker, with Vovchanchyn/Shoji being the appetizer. Belfort has about twenty pounds on Sakuraba, which will probably play a small factor in this fight. Belfort has Carlson Gracie in his corner for this one as Bas calls Belfort's hands the fastest in all of NHB and MMA.
Belfort finally gets his mouthpiece in and the bell rings to start the fight, with the crowd yelling their approval. Both men start out tentatively and Sakuraba fakes a shot attempt before landing a leg kick. Another kick lands for Sakuraba and they go back to circling on the outside with Sakurba throwing in a spin for good measure. High kick attempt gets blocked by Belfort and Sakuraba shoots for a takedown but gets stuffed, with Belfort trying a takedown of his own. They scramble back to their feet and Belfort throws a SHIT-TON of punches that get mostly blocked by Sakuraba and Sakuraba tries to shoot again, finally getting a nice single-leg takedown after nearly getting killed with punches. Working from the full guard and holding onto Belfort's hands to avoid any more damage, Sakuraba postures up then falls right back into the guard. Good right hands and ground and pound from Sakuraba and he backs out of the guard, standing and trying a swing pass that gets defended well. Hard body shot lands from Sakuraba and Belfort tries to kick out at the knees while on his back. Sarkuraba leans in and almost eats an up-kick and then backs out a little while holding both of Belfort's legs still. A couple of solid leg kicks land for Sakuraba while Belfort is on his back and he tries the cartwheel guard pass but Belfort just pushes him away with his feet. They stay in this position for quite some time with Sakuraba landing the odd leg kick to the thigh, but the referee should probably be thinking about standing this back up. Belfort's legs are welted up from the leg kicks and he's not really offering up any defense to them at all, taking more of them as the round wears on. Finally, Sakuraba pounces over the guard with a flurry of punches and ends up landing a few, forcing Belfort to get back to his feet and they end the round clinched against the ropes. Belfort's left thigh is almost purple and Sakuraba looks REALLY happy between rounds. He should be happy because I have him winning that rond with all those leg kicks and the positional control.
The round begins with a glove touch and Sakuraba fakes a leg kick, landing a straight right hand and then fakes a takedown into another solid punch. Spinning back kick lands HARD to the body of Belfort and he drops to the mat after a moment, but the referee just stands him right back up. Belfort falls back to his back again and Sakuraba goes with more chopping leg kicks to the left thigh. Sakuraba looks PISSED and is just hammering those kicks in with a ton of confidence. The crowd is buzzing and there's a noticeable electricity in the arena after that spinning back kick. His pace finally slows and the referee decides that it's time to stand Belfort back up, which he does. Sakuraba almost seems to be trying to fire Belfort up into exchanging but he won't and so Sakuraba lands another back kick and ANOTHER!!! Sakuraba loads up another one but doesn't throw it and they both end up circling in the middle of the ring before Sakuraba lands another nasty leg kick. Another leg kick makes Belfort wince noticeably and he blocks a head kick attempt by Sakuraba before taking a push kick to the body. Belfort looks lost as Sakuraba is just dominating the pace of this fight. Another push kick lands for Sakuraba and he's doing damage while keeping enough distance to avoid getting put to sleep by any of Belfort's power punches. Combination of punches lands for Sakuraba and he's right back to the outside before Belfort just drops to his back again. That left thigh looks HIDEOUS and Sakuraba tries to pass the guard, ending up with Belfort rolling to his feet and grabbing a single-leg attempt. He holds onto it but doesn't really give it a solid attempt, leading the referee to separate them and restart them. Belfort falls right back down to his back and Bas can't believe what he's seeing. Axe kick attempt from Sakuraba and another HARD leg kick lands as he's looking really mad now. Leg kick to the right thigh and it's starting to look a lot like the left one and he mocks Belfort a little with some hooks and punches to the thigh until the referee makes Belfort get back up. Vitor almost looks afraid here and is backing up and flinching every time Sakuraba even fakes a kick. Right hook lands from Sakuraba and Belfort flops down to his back again as Sakuraba tries the JUMPING GUARD PASS!!! Double stomp nearly lands and he throws a couple short kicks that miss. ANOTHER JUMPING GUARD PASS!! This time the stomp grazes off of Belfort's head, right at the bell.
Winner: Kazushi Sakuraba, Unanimous Decision
Dominating performance from Sakuraba and he just completely took Belfort out of his gameplan and then took his heart. Quadros questions whether Belfort might have hurt one of his hands early in the fight because he stopped punching VERY early in the first round and that was about it. A big win for Sakuraba which served to legitimize him as a complete mixed martial artist, as opposed to just a strong grappler.
Mark Coleman vs. Nobuhiko Takada
Yeah, it's THIS match. We get to see highlights of Takada's fight with Rickson from PRIDE 1, as well as the rematch from PRIDE 4, where Takada did better and actually held the advantage for a moment, but finally succumbed to another straight armbar. We even get some highlights from his "win" over Kyle Sturgeon at PRIDE 2. Coleman was coming off of three straight UFC losses and was trying to get his career back on track in PRIDE, and Quadros talks about how Coleman's losses were to three of the best strikers around in MMA at the time. Takada is not one of those types of strikers.
They circle and Coleman bullrushes Takada, clinching him against the ropes and picking up a single-leg as Takada has his arm hooked in the ropes. The referee gives him a yellow card for breaking the rules and then restarts the fight in the middle of the ring. Coleman with a deep, DEEP double-leg takedown into a short slam and he's on top in Takada's guard, cross-facing Takada and landing a couple of punches. Takada controls the arms of Coleman and holds on for dear life, though Coleman does get a hard shot to the body. Short right hook to the head lands for Coleman and another body shot follows that up. Coleman has a neck crank attempt but he lets it go to try and pass the guard, but he can't do it, ending up in full guard. Bas and Quadros aren't sure why Coleman let go of the neck crank attempt but it looks good for him now as he passes guard into side control, kneeing at Takada's hips and tailbone. We get a shot of Mark Kerr, nattily attired in a grey suit, who is in Coleman's corner for this fight. Elbow to the body from Coleman and he's told by the referee that that's not a legal strike, which just prompts Coleman to throw more knees to the body. Coleman takes the full mount and lands some punches to the ribs before Takada turns his back to Coleman. They scramble back to their feet into a clinch and Takada pulls guard before Coleman slams him to the mat. Takada works a closed guard, keeping Coleman's arms pinned and trying to avoid damage. Bas ends up doing a little foreshadowing, saying that the only way that Takada could win is if he was able to get a leglock on with Coleman's wrestling shoes on, but both he and Quadros dismiss that possibility as ludicrous. Coleman finally postures up out of the guard and lands some good ground and pound, working both the body and head of Takada. He tries to pass the guard but just ends up stacking up Takada in the middle of the ring as Takada finally gives up the side control. Elbow to the body by Coleman and he tries to get to the mount again before Coleman grabs a side headlock crank. Takada fights it off and tries the smother technique on the face of Coleman and Coleman lands some punches before Takada gets free for a moment. Coleman pounces and takes him right back down though, landing some knees to the body. Coleman looks for a keylock but JUST runs out of time and the round ends. Knowing what I know now, and even watching it for the first time, a lot of those strikes looked pulled. The knees at the end and some of the punches were especially obvious.
Coleman sits on his stool with a look of disgust between rounds and Takada comes out throwing low kicks to Coleman's massive thighs, landing a few of them solidly. Coleman bullrushes again with another deep double-leg and he goes into the guard with Bas wondering what the hell he's doing. They can clearly see that he is able to pass the guard, he's just choosing not to. He even GAVE UP a position to get abck to guard. Coleman punches at the thighs of Takada before he leaves his leg hanging out and Takada grabs it. Both Bas and Quadros are wondering what the fuck he's doing, but I know what he's doing. Takada grabs a "heel hook" and Coleman even does the pro wrestling move of FIGHTING IT AND FIGHTING IT!!! Then he taps out like a bitch and Takada gets the win.
Winner: Nobuhiko Takada, submission (supposed heel hook) at 1:44 of Round Two
What a load of horseshit. Quadros says that it defies reality and that he would have never thought this fight would end this way. What a fucking joke. I hope that check was big enough to pay off your house, Mark. An absolute disgrace. Quadros and Bas run down some of the action and that's it for PRIDE 5 from Nagoya. Bullshit.
The 411: It's half up and half down for me because the rest of the card was decent to good, the Belfort/Sakuraba fight was a great surprise and really the coming-out party for Sakuraba, but the show is completely tainted by the main event. The Takada/Coleman match is one of the most famous works in MMA history and honestly the entire fight looks terrible in hindsight. A disgrace to MMA and a match that almost sickened me to have to watch for the review. I won't paint the rest of the card with that brush though, so I'll go with a middle of the road grade that should be a little higher..