Japan's Finest: The Pride FC Review: Pride 2
Posted by John Wilson on 10.20.2008
Following on from a somewhat lacklustre first event, the Pride Fighting Championships is back with its second show, featuring the Pride debut of arguably Japans greatest ever fighter as well as UFC veteran Mark Kerr in a crazy main event.
Pride 2 Review
This show is coming from the Yokohama Arena in the March of 1998, a full six months on from the first show. Again it’s the Quadros/Rutten combination on commentary for the event. We open with a fight featuring the third member of the Gracie family to fight in Pride.
Royler is entering the fight undefeated with two rear naked choke victories in Vale Tudo to his name. Sano is coming out of professional wrestling with a name change from Naoki to Yuhi and fights out of the Takada Dojo. He is also much bigger than his opponent, although Royler is outweighed in the majority of his fights so is unlikely to be fazed by this.
Round 1: The first minute sees not a lot as they clinch with the Gracie eventually sweeping nicely after taking it to the ground to end up in the unlikely top position given the size advantage. Mount is gained briefly by Royler but Sano manages to buck and sweep for a reversal to top position, only to fall straight into a triangle attempt. The hold is released as Yuhi stands up to escape and the fight goes back to standing. Another clinch ensues with a failed Royler takedown attempt resulting in him on his back in a butterfly guard. A large period of time passes with not a lot going on, Sano is just on his knees doing absolutely nothing which someone watching the fight would consider being aggressive. If Royler was a fighter with decent strikes, Sano would have been finished by now. Gracie eventually is able to secure another sweep back to top position and this time half guard. Side choke from Royler is stifled by the ultra-defensive tactics of Sano, who continues to do not a lot but grapple and use his superior strength to prevent his opponent from completing any manoeuvre.
More time passes with even less action occurring in the ring, to the point that the commentary team begin to start their banter again, with Quadros even asking Rutten if he thinks that the fight is boring. I know a few people who are not particularly keen on their commentary together due to the tendency to stray from the fights every now and again but I like them. Their knowledge of the sport is obviously very good and when you have a fight like Kimo – Severn who’s to blame them for not calling the non-existent action? More minutes pass, the only thing worth mentioning is that Royler has again been pushed from the full mount position although has managed to retain side control. About six minutes later (although it feels like it could easily be about ten or fifteen) and Royler is back into the full mount and the two are actually exchanging strikes on the ground, although the chances of anyone taking damage from them is, shall we say, minimal. Yet another sweep takes place as Sano goes back to top position and continues where he left off, showing next to zero offence. In fact, the much smaller Brazilian is the only fighter doing anything at all. His strikes from the bottom have improved and he continues with a submission threat from the triangle. I assume Royler is giving his arms a rest as he goes for up-kicks and then returns to the ground strikes.
The end actually seems to be in sight a few minutes later as the strikes from Royler have began to bloody Sano, mainly from the nose. This just gets worse for him as the up-kicks continue to come his way as well as the strikes. Sano is a beaten man. The final sweep of the match comes and Royler is in full mount looking for an armbar. Sano is so fatigued that his only defence at this point is to give up his back, which has no effect as Royler sets up with a couple of strikes, then is able to complete the armbar anyway. The tap is elementary and we have a winner. Winner: Royler Gracie by armbar submission in 33:14 of Round 1. Sano offered absolutely nothing in this fight other than consistent defence which not only ruined the fight but dragged it out so much that it actually makes Royler look bad too. If Sano didn’t have the weight advantage then I think the fight would most likely not have lasted much longer than five or ten minutes, let alone half an hour.
Fight 2: Juan Mott (Jiu-Jitsu, 2-1) vs. Akira Shoji (Jiu-Jitsu, 1-1-2)
Mott is coming off a pair of victories over a guy called Yasunori Matsumoto while Shoji should be riding a wave of confidence and fan support following his draw with Renzo Gracie in the first Pride event.
Round 1: The fight gets underway with both men in the centre of the ring and an exchange of leg kicks takes place. Juan lands another leg kick but fails with a punch and Shoji returns fire with a jab and a takedown to some cheers as Mott has a half-hearted guillotine choke prevented. From the mount it becomes all Shoji as he scores with some nice strikes that Mott doesn’t like so much to the point that he gives up his back in a bid to evade them. Akira continues to drop some bombs to the head of his opponent though, which provides the perfect set-up to a textbook rear naked choke and the submission. Winner: Akira Shoji by rear naked choke submission in 3:47 of Round 1. A much better showing from the Japanese fighter this time around, as he showed off some good all-round offence to go alongside the defence highlighted in the Renzo fight in Pride 1.
Fight 3: Vernon ‘Tiger’ White (Submission Wrestling, 11-20-1) vs. Kazushi Sakuraba (Catch Wrestling, 1-1)
Vernon White is the much more experienced of the two, albeit with a fair few losses to his name. He is coming off an ankle lock submission win however, while Sakuraba is returning to action after somewhat controversially defeating Conan Silvera in the Ultimate Fighting Championships: Ultimate Japan.
Round 1: The fight kicks off with a good low kick from Saku, cracking off the inside of Whites right thigh. Twenty seconds later and Vernon responds with a clean left hand straight to the face of Sakuraba, who in the split second after being hit looks like he might be out. He recovers quickly though and is even able to secure a single leg takedown into the guard, then make the pass to side mount. Kazushi looks for an armbar but it’s defended and he ends up back in side mount albeit on Vernon’s other side. Sakuraba spends the next minute or so looking for a kimura which is defended by White, who refuses to stay in one position and turns in a circle on the floor, making it a bit tougher for his opponent. Eventually Vernon pops up back to his feet and quickly sprawls to avoid the attempt at a takedown from Sakuraba. Saku continues to drive for it though, and after a period of grappling ends up in Whites half guard. Sakuraba then transitions into the mount, as Quadros states that Sakuraba is a much more impressive fighter than either Takada or Sano who all share the same gym. Based on the evidence given so far in these two Pride events, its nigh on impossible to disagree with him. Sakuraba moves high up in the mount in a bid to get an arm, but Vernon sees the opportunity and bucks out to go back to standing while Kazushi stays on the canvas, throwing the odd up-kick.
Eventually Vernon lets him back up to his feet and now has the fight where he wants it, hitting a glancing right jab. Saku immediately goes back in for, and gets, the single leg takedown which is praised by Quadros for its effectiveness. White actually ends up with Sakurabas arm in between his legs, although Kazushi spins round and is back in side mount. Vernon works hard to get back to guard, and then suffers the demoralising sight of Sakuraba going straight back to side mount with seemingly next to no effort whatsoever. Some more movement from both guys sees Sakuraba come really close to getting the armbar as Vernon is on his knees although White is able to pull out of it before it’s too late. Saku then gives up his back as if it means nothing to him but White forgets to put the hooks in on a rear naked choke and is flipped over so that Sakuraba is now on top in a North-South position.
Another minute of scooting ends with Kazushi back once again in the side mount as the commentary team talk about UFC veteran Tra Telligman being in Vernon Whites corner for the fight. Saku puts a knee across the waist of White as he contemplates his next move, perhaps another armbar attempt. We get nothing though as the fight is manoeuvred back to the middle of the ring by a team of referees in one of Prides more interesting rules, that when the fight gets too close to the edge of the ring it’s put back to centre. After this Saku backs out and goes to his feet, while Vernon throws some up-kicks from the ground. With ease Whites guard is passed by the Japanese fighter, who ends up rolling to try and get another armbar. Good defence from Vernon though, who is actually able to reverse positions and get on top, with Sakuraba quickly giving up his back for the second time in the fight. Vernon does nothing from here except throw one punch to the side of the head before backing off, despite Sakuraba offering no resistance. He’s made to pay for it quickly though, as Kazushi gets, surprise surprise, the single leg takedown as Telligman drops an F-Bomb in the background. Quadros says this is probably in a bid to try and fire Vernon up for the final minute. Nothing else really happens as a good first round closes out with some funny pretzel based nonsense from the commentators. Sakuraba is definitely looking like the more dangerous fighter out of the two.
Round 2: The round opens with a little bit of striking as opposed to the grappling which dominated the first, as Saku swings well wide with two kicks and Vernon connects with a nice jab. Another brief exchange of strikes follows before Sakuraba shoots in and although White sprawls at first, Saku ends up again in side mount. A quick transition to full mount now as Sakuraba throws his first strike from the ground. Vernon defends another arm submission attempt from Sakuraba and for the third time in the fight is given his back with no resistance offered. A good shot connects to Sakurabas head and White goes for another rear naked choke…again without the hooks in…again failing…and again falling prey to a single leg. Quadros points out that Sakuraba has a unique style which Vernon is unlikely to have seen before, as the two continue to grapple on the mat. Sakuraba looks for a kimura from standing, and then pulls off a sensational roll forward to take the two to the mat all the while maintaining the hold. White defends against this and they get back to feet only for Sakuraba to nearly perform a carbon copy of the roll with slightly worse results, prompting Stephen Quadros to drop one of my favourite MMA quotes, “Oh! Sakurabas got MOVES!!!”
It all gets a bit complicated with legs and arms tangled up for a short while, before Sakuraba again gives his back up, showing he’s not particularly worried by whatever White has to offer from that position. As you probably guessed, another choke attempt fails and they go back to Sakuraba in the guard and then side mount. Armbar attempt No.348 is defended against and once more White fails to take advantage of his opponents exposed back although he does score with a powerful sounding knee to the body. Back to standing for both of them and Sakuraba quickly gets another takedown, and the round comes to a close with Vernon on Sakurabas back having escaped from the bottom well through the back door. Interesting comment from Quadros who says that this might be the most technical fight he has seen in MMA up to this point. I’m inclined to agree, as off of the top of my head at least, I can’t think of a fight in the UFC, Pride or my admittedly limited Pancrase knowledge that matched this in terms of grappling. Had there been judges I think it would have been hard to score this round as both fighters got in good positions, Sakuraba had the submission threat but Vernon had the slightly superior strikes.
Round 3: The round starts with a Saku leg kick, and it has to be said that he is looking much worse off than Vernon White with a banged up face. A White high kick is blocked by Saku who returns the favour with a body kick. More kicks and this is a fun turnaround to a fight that has been fantastic grappling so far. Another takedown courtesy of Sakuraba and he ends up in side mount once again. The common MMA ‘chess match’ phrase is tossed in by Bas as both men consider their next moves. Sakuraba moves into mount now although Vernon doesn’t seem too worried about strikes and is concentrating primarily on avoiding the armbar. A rare few moments of inactivity is ended when Sakuraba goes for? Correct, the armbar, although a beautiful spin from Vernon to escape reminds me of when I was younger and being amazed when Owen Hart used to utilise elaborate rolls to escape a wristlock. The great escape puts White in side mount for a change as the commentary team discuss how to the general public this technical master class might be perceived as dull despite ‘aficionados’ loving it. Then after a few brief moments of not a lot happening, White actually rolls right into an armbar from Sakuraba, and after fighting it for a few seconds, has to tap out to end a great, high energy and entertaining fight. Winner: Kazushi Sakuraba by armbar submission in 6:53 of Round 3. A top draw fight that really shouldn’t be missed by fans of grappling and submission wrestling.
Renzo is looking to show his finishing skills in this fight after his time limit draw with Shoji at Pride 1, and so this fight will be unlimited rounds. Kikuta is on a winning streak, perhaps his most notable victory so far coming against Egan Inoue, brother of Enson.
Round 1: We start with a clinch, followed by Kikuta going to guard. With Renzo unable to pass, we’re back to a clinch in the corner as Kikuta does well to reverse a takedown into one of his own and gain top position from which he does absolutely nothing for a few minutes. This is actually how the round closes out, with Renzo throwing the odd strike in there to show that they are in fact still alive. That’s right, a ten minute round in three sentences, which should say a lot.
Round 2: Second round kicks off with some trading of jabs, of which Renzo looks much more proficient. He sprawls to stifle Kikuta and his takedown, and they move back to the corner where Gracie hits some good knees that Kikuta doesn’t like. More strikes thrown from Renzo as they break away but both soon end up clinched again in the corner, till Kikuta flips and then trips Renzo to the mat. Apart from some leg kicks thrown by Kikuta, the rest of the round is spent with zero activity from the guard. Kikuta does not look like an exciting fighter and its starting to get to the commentators too, which should be interesting given that this fight is scheduled for unlimited ten minute rounds.
Round 3: Right from the bell Kikuta goes forward and takes it the ground, then follows up by proceeding to do…absolutely nothing whatsoever. I imagine having sat through Severn-Kimo last time out that Quadros and Rutten are used to long periods of inactivity by now, but they soon begin to show frustration. Renzo is trying to be active from the bottom and work to improve his position but Kikuta just holds on to prevent anything whatsoever. Another lull of action passes as Kikuta actually moves to side mount and is dragged back to half guard by Renzo. That’s how interesting the fight is, something which is considered as an afterthought in most fights is one of the rounds highlights in this one. As in round two, Kikuta breaks another period of inactivity by standing up and hitting a few weak leg kicks and then it’s back to no action in the guard once more. The round peters out to crowd restlessness and Bas being typically blunt by stating that this fight ‘could kill the sport’. It’s almost impossible to tell who is winning the fight at this point due to having next to nothing to score it on. The fans are definitely the losers though.
Round 4: Some early striking opens the round but it doesn’t take too long before we’re back in the same clinch in the corner. Kikuta is able to hit the ‘flip and trip’ takedown throughout the fight, although that seems to be the limit of his abilities. In the guard again with slightly more action than in previous rounds as Kikuta is throwing some sporadic strikes which are having no effect on Renzo. Gracie later in the round tries for a submission, but Kikuta avoids and goes back to full guard. The round ends with the two trying to exchange strikes after the fight is stood up due to illegal strikes to the back of the head from Kikuta.
Round 5: The fight, and I use that word in the loosest possible sense, begins and as I imagined it would, goes straight into the corner for what seems like a ten minute round in itself. In time Renzo manages to lock in a guillotine choke attempt and some nice knee shots to the head and upper body. After a particularly good shot, Renzo tries to take advantage by falling back with the choke in place. Kikuta pulls free on the bottom though and decides he’s going to see out the round by playing it safe after taking some good strikes and a submission attempt. Apologies here for the lack of analysis, but I can only write about what’s happening. Maybe I should make it up instead?
Round 6: We begin as Kikuta just explodes out of the corner with a flying knee for the five second KO! I’m just kidding of course, although he does actually rush out at Renzo. It doesn’t quite have the success of a flying knee KO though, as Gracie gets another guillotine and falls back to the mat and it’s sunk in deep. Kikuta tries to fight it but has to tap with nowhere to go, bringing it to a close just over fifty minutes in. Winner: Renzo Gracie by guillotine choke submission in 0:43 of Round 6. Not a good fight.
Fight 5: Marco Ruas (Ruas Vale Tudo, 6-1-2) vs. Gary Goodridge (Arm Wrestling, 7-5)
Goodridge is returning to Pride after knocking out Oleg Taktarov in Pride 1 to face another UFC veteran and winner in Marco Ruas. Ruas is coming off a 39 second submission victory of UFC veteran Patrick Smith.
Round 1: Goodridge kicks off the round with a nice combination that rattles Marco into going for a takedown. This is stuffed though and Goodridge hits a knee to the face and Ruas decides to back off and have a rethink. After just over a minute of trading leg kicks and jabs, Gary traps Ruas in the corner of the ring and starts scoring with some pretty heavy rights and lefts to the ears and so the Brazilian goes in for a takedown unsuccessfully. Almost straight after though Goodridge seems to fall forwards and is flipped up and over his opponent landing in side mount. Good action so far from standing, but Gary might not do as well on the ground, as the camera zooms out to show a cut above the left eye of Ruas. It doesn’t seem too bad however and Marco is remaining calm regardless of the damage.
Twenty or thirty seconds later though and Goodridge is leaning back from the half-guard and dropping some big bombs, looking to open that cut even further and end the night quickly. Ruas is able to get full guard now and somewhat control Gary’s arms, slowing down the rate of strikes coming towards him. Realising that his striking is being stifled well by his opponent and after nearly falling into a triangle attempt, Goodridge decides to lean back and appears to be looking for some sort of leg lock, which would be a shock if he pulled it off. Ruas is far too smart and experienced to let that happen though and Goodridge decides to work for side mount instead and gets it momentarily before being pulled back to half guard. A couple more strikes land for the heavy hitter as the fight slows down a touch, both fighters considering their next move. Eventually Goodridge decides to back out of the guard and they go back to standing to applause from the crowd, who are happy just to see two fighters who want to work after the previous debacle. Marcos eye is swollen pretty badly but both guys are moving well and exchange some strikes in the corner, before Goodridge dumps Ruas to the ground with a single leg. Goodridge loses his concentration for a second as he goes toward Ruas and gets caught in what looks like a heel hook. The submission is fought for a short period but Ruas has turned and locked it in, forcing a tap out before any serious damage can be done. Winner: Marco Ruas by heel hook submission in 9: 09 of Round 1. A good win for a patient Ruas, but Goodridge will likely be disappointed after controlling the fight up until that point. Post fight and Bas Rutten can be spotted in the ring, which suggests to me that the commentary isn’t taking place when they want you to think it is. Another famous face in the ring, although not at the time, is Pedro ‘The Rock’ Rizzo. Despite not showing up on a Pride card till 2005, Rizzo would go on to be a big player in the UFC’s heavyweight division under Ruas’ tutelage, providing some highlight reel KO’s along the way.
Main Event: Branko Cikatic (Kick Boxing, 0-0) vs. Mark Kerr (Freestyle Wrestling, 7-0)
Branko is back for some reason after being involved in a no-contest at the first Pride. I didn’t include the fight in my review due to it not being an MMA fight; instead it was pure kickboxing against a guy called Ralph White. Anyway, Cikatic hit an illegal kick to the head of White while he was down and a fist sized lump appears instantly, ending the fight. Kerr on the other hand is undefeated in MMA at this point, having dismantled all in his path in the UFC in super quick fashion. He’s in Pride now though, having decided not to fight anymore in the tournament format. I imagine his takedowns are going to be far too much for the kick boxer in this one.
Round 1: Once again Bas Rutten is on-screen so it’s just Quadros commentating on this one to start with. Touching gloves to begin and Kerr spends the opening minute or so deciding how he’s going to get close for the takedown, given the KO power that Branko has. Finally Kerr comes in for the double leg and scoops up Branko, who manages something I’ve never seen done before or since, as he breaks three rules in about five seconds. Firstly he either panics or gives in to instinct and starts hitting lots of illegal elbows to the back of Kerr’s neck, then grabs onto the ropes to prevent the takedown, then ignores the referee to stop what he’s doing. The fight is finally restarted seemingly without a warning to Cikatic who has a crazy look on his face to match his actions. This time Kerr looks for a single leg and Branko just does the exact same thing again. Rather than wait for the referees to restart this time though, Kerr snaps and just starts beating down on Cikatic in a move which would likely have got a different reaction in the USA than Japan. We then hear someone shout ‘That’s it!’ as the crowd boos and the bell rings. Winner: Mark Kerr by disqualification in 2:14 of Round 1. Rutten is back in the ring now whilst also on commentary, shattering the illusions left (if anyone had any) that the commentary is live. They hug to a shocked reaction from the crowd, before Kerr apologises to the crowd for the result and Branko spouts some nonsense about wanting to fight.
The 411: Definitely a step up from the first event, with a fight that still holds up today in Sakuraba – White, as well as an entertaining bout from Goodridge – Ruas. The score is dragged down however by the lengthy fights from the two Gracie’s, albeit not through their own devices. Sano and Kikuta worked together to provide an hours worth of inactivity that must have turned people away when it originally took place. The main event, while entertaining for the wrong reasons, is primarily worth seeing for the crazy antics of Cikatic, which are amazing to this day.