MMA Review: #73: Pride 26: Bad To The Bone Dec31

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MMA Review: #73: Pride 26: Bad To The Bone

Pride 26: Bad To The Bone

06/08/03

Tokyo, Japan

-Your hosts are Stephen Quadros and Bas Rutten…for the FINAL TIME. They hype the Mark Coleman/Don Frye rematch, as well as Mirko Cro Cop’s first real challenge in Heath Herring, and the returns of Quinton Jackson and Fedor Emelianenko.

-We go into the arena for the fighter introduction, and all the fighters are in the ring, surprisingly enough, except Fedor and Fujita who stand in the aisleways.

Kazuhiro Hamanaka vs Nino ‘Elvis’ Schembri

Hamanaka is a Japanese wrestling champion making his MMA debut here, and interestingly enough he’s a teammate of Kazushi Sakuraba, who was controversially knocked out by Schembri on the show before this one. Elvis’s sideburns are OUT OF CONTROL here.

They begin and Elvis tries a front kick, but Hamanaka throws a combination and takes him down. Hamanaka gets back to his feet rather than stay in the guard, and lands some kicks to the legs, before Elvis comes back up and pulls guard immediately. Hamanaka lands some hammer fists from the top, before Elvis attempts a submission that Quadros identifies as a go-go plata (apparently invented by UFC fighter Marcio Cruz – imagine half an oma plata, but with the shin guillotining the throat – really hard to imagine, to be fair), and then transitions into the full oma plata, but Hamanaka manages to pull out and land some shots from the top. Hamanaka goes back to standing again, and the official stands Elvis, so he pulls guard again, eating some punches on the way. Elvis looks to prep a triangle choke, but Hamanaka stands out before he can attempt it, and Elvis comes back up too, landing a glancing high kick. They trade, and suddenly Elvis lands a BIG Muay Thai knee, putting Hamanaka down to his knees! Elvis follows with a couple more knees and looks for the takedown from the clinch, as Hamanaka’s nose is bloody.

Elvis pulls guard again, and looks for the go-go plata once more, but Hamanaka pulls out and gets into side control, before grabbing a front facelock as Elvis looks to escape. Hamanaka lands a knee, then they come back out and exchange punches, where Hamanaka lands, bloodying Elvis up. They circle off and Hamanaka lands a stiff combo, so Elvis jumps guard into the koala position, only to get pinned to the ropes and eat some heavy punches. They go down into Elvis’s guard, and Elvis pulls the leg up for the go-go plata again as Hamanaka works the body. Hamanaka stands again and Elvis follows, where he tries a high kick, into a flying triangle attempt (!), but Hamanaka drops him back and kicks the legs. The official calls Elvis back up, where he pulls guard and tries a kimura, but Hamanaka pulls out and lands some punches. He stands back up, and the official calls Elvis up, where they press to end the round. Hell of an opening round there.

Into the 2nd and Hamanaka works the low kicks, but Elvis pulls guard quickly. Elvis looks for a sweep, leaning right over to the side, but Hamanaka lands some elbows to the body. Elvis looks for the go-go plata again, but Hamanaka pulls out once more and lands some more punches from the top. Hamanaka starts to really open up, landing some very good punches as Elvis looks to roll into a sweep. Elvis is really bloody and his face is badly marked up as he continues to eat punches to end the round.

Third and final round, and both try low kicks to open, before Hamanaka rocks Elvis with some heavy punches, causing him to pull guard. Hamanaka works the ground-and-pound from the top, as Elvis tries to pull his leg up for a submission attempt. It slows down a little, and the official calls them up and shows both a yellow card. Didn’t think that was really warranted, but ah well. Elvis drops to his back off the restart and Hamanaka kicks the legs, refusing to go to the ground. Elvis gets stood, and Hamanaka avoids the guard pull, but then enters the guard anyway and continues to work him over from top position. Hamanaka stands, and Elvis follows, but drops to his back again. Back up, and Hamanaka lands some punches to end the fight.

We’re going to the judges, and the winner via unanimous decision is Hamanaka. Unsurprising decision as Hamanaka avoided all of Schembri’s submission attempts with relative ease, and worked him over nicely from the top, doing a lot of damage facially in the first and second rounds especially. Pretty entertaining fight that was a lot like watching a Lite version of Fedor/Nogueira, as Hamanaka took a leaf out of the Russian’s book and was able to work Elvis over inside his very dangerous guard.

Daiju Takase vs Anderson Silva

In the pre-fight package the announcers pretty much assume that Silva’s going to kill Takase based on what he’s done in his Pride tenure so far. I could be wrong, but I believe this was the last fight that Anderson fought under the Chute Boxe banner.

They circle to open and Silva avoids a couple of early takedown attempts, causing the announcers to cry doom for Takase already. Silva looks to strike, waiting to pick a shot, but Takase then gets the takedown and works right into half-guard. Silva gets his guard back and works the body triangle again, trying to keep Takase close as they grapple for position with few strikes thrown. Silva looks for a sweep as Takase works into half-guard, but Silva then works a guillotine variant with the arms crucifixed, never seen that one before but it looks effective. Takase looks in trouble for a moment but then manages to escape and attempts a kimura, which gets him into side mount as Silva defends and manages to slip out of the hold. Takase holds him down and it looks like he’s trying to trap the arm using his leg, ala Matt Hughes vs. Carlos Newton, but Rutten then identifies it as more of an attempt at a reverse triangle choke. Silva looks safe defending, but Takase continues to control him, and then suddenly hooks in the triangle from the top perfectly, rolling over to bottom position to tighten things up, and after a moment, Silva taps out! Holy shit, what an upset.

This was a REALLY weird fight to watch as Silva just didn’t seem himself, and Takase pretty much owned him in all aspects of the fight once it hit the mat, finishing with one of the slickest submissions I’ve seen in Pride. Not to take anything away from Takase as he fought a perfect fight, but from what I’ve seen of Silva, he seems to be one of these fighters where, if he’s on, he’s practically unbeatable, but if he’s not (and he wasn’t here) he seems susceptible to a submission. Pretty entertaining fight, although it would’ve been more entertaining to see Silva knock Takase’s head off, obviously.

Alistair Overeem vs Mike Bencic

The announcers press that the winner of this one gets a slot in the 2003 Middleweight Grand Prix. Overeem was coming off an impressive victory in his Pride debut over Volk Ataev, while Bencic was basically an unknown, getting his shot based on the fact that he was (at the time – he’s since been fired) Mirko Cro Cop’s trainer.

Bencic clinches to open and drops to guard immediately, trying a triangle choke that Overeem easily avoids and uses to pass into side mount. Bencic gets his guard back, and sits up for some reason, so Overeem lands a couple of knees to the face before standing. Overeem goes back down into the guard and nothing really happens, before Bencic tries an armbar that Overeem avoids easily and again gets into side mount. He stands back up, and this time Bencic follows, but it turns out to be a big mistake as Overeem comes forward and lands a nice jumping knee to the body. Bencic crumples, looking hurt, and Overeem quickly lands a flurry on the ground that causes Bencic to tap out. Looks like he maybe cracked his ribs or something, and Overeem advances to the Grand Prix.

Not really Overeem’s most entertaining fight here as Bencic seemed inept and was completely overmatched for the most part, even on the ground, and once it came back to standing Overeem made him pay with the flying knee.

Quinton ‘Rampage’ Jackson vs Mikhail Illoukhine

This was originally planned to see Rampage challenging Wanderlei Silva for the Pride Middleweight Title, but Silva had to have knee surgery and got taken out of the equation, and Rampage ended up waiting for over a year until he could get a title shot. Illoukhine is probably best known for controversial submission victories over Igor Vovchanchyn (he shoved his chin into Igor’s eye) and Randy Couture (submitted him with a kimura as the official called for a restart in the center of the ring), and he hadn’t fought in over a year before this, so I have no clue why Pride brought him in to fight here. During the staredown Rampage actually pulls out a yellow card from his shorts and shows it to the official before the fight begins!~! You have to love Quinton.

They begin and Rampage blocks a takedown attempt early, and they go down into Illoukhine’s guard, where Rampage lifts him up for a slam attempt, but Illoukhine avoids the impact and comes back to standing, where they go into a clinch. Illoukhine tries a guillotine choke, but Rampage manages to pull out and they go down into Illoukhine’s guard again. Illoukhine ties him up, and looks for a kimura, as Rampage works the body. This goes on for a while, before finally Illoukhine gets the kimura, only for Rampage to roll through and come back up to standing. They clinch up and Rampage lands a big knee, and follows with some uppercuts that send Illoukhine down to the canvas. Rampage tries to follow with some knees, but Illoukhine rolls through the ropes to avoid. BOO! This guy IS a dirty fighter I guess. The official restarts them and shows Illoukhine the yellow card, and Rampage presses, causing Illoukhine to drop to guard. Rampage pounds away momentarily, then stands, and they come back up where Illoukhine shoots in, eating a knee on his way down into guard. Back up, and Rampage lands some punches, blocking another takedown, and they go down into Illoukhine’s guard where Rampage avoids a triangle choke and passes into side mount. Rampage works him with some knees to the head, and finally a big right knee to the body, which causes Illoukhine to tap out. Another fight ending with a body shot.

Not the greatest performance from Rampage, but he got the job done and did it with minimum difficulty, as Illoukhine also looked overmatched. It was merely a case of Rampage getting into a dominant position, and once he did, it was all she wrote for the Russian.

-Post-fight we go to a pre-recorded interview with Rampage, where he pretty much accuses Wanderlei of ducking him. Much bleeping follows.

-They show a recap of the show so far. Strange spot to place a recap, but I believe it was because Frye/Coleman actually went on after Rampage/Illoukhine, and was followed by Herring/Cro Cop and then Fedor/Fujita, but the US producers swapped the order of the fights around to make Frye/Coleman the final match.

Fedor Emelianenko vs Kazuyuki Fujita

This is a non-title fight, and Rampage joins us on commentary, calling Fedor a “bad m…an”, which greatly relieves Bas who was expecting a different term. Quadros, Rutten and Rampage all pretty much agree that Fujita’s going to take a beating here, and wonder how many shots from Fedor his legendary Iron Head can take.

Fedor avoids a half takedown attempt early, and they circle off, where Fedor cracks him with a big right hand, throwing Fujita down and following with a hard left and a soccer kick! Fujita comes back up and tries a single leg, but Fedor shows some SICK balance and avoids, really impressive considering Fujita is a hell of a wrestler. Fedor closes in swinging, but Fujita counters with a wild right hook that LANDS ON THE TEMPLE AND STUNS FEDOR!~! HOLY SHIT, Fedor is WOBBLED as the crowd explode, and even Fujita looks stunned! Fedor clinches out of desperation, and Fujita tries to land some punches, then gets a takedown to guard. Fedor is badly cut over his eye, but he manages to tie Fujita up from the bottom. They come back up, and Fedor gets a headlock, so Fujita attempts a slam, almost getting it, but Fedor lands on his feet, still looking badly wobbled. They circle, but Fedor suddenly lands a BIG LEFT KICK to the body, and follows with a HARD LEFT-RIGHT COMBO on the button that decks Fujita! Fedor quickly pounces on his back as he goes down, and applies a harsh rear naked choke for the tapout.

Post-fight Fedor still looks wobbly, but the image of a bloody Fedor, one fist raised in the air in celebration is one of THE defining images of MMA for me. Replays show that Fujita’s punch caught Fedor directly on the temple, and Quadros coins the classic ‘fish dance’ line in reference to the way Fedor was wobbling. Awesome, ridiculously exciting fight, and it’s made even better when you consider that this is probably the only time you’ll ever see Fedor look really vulnerable in his whole Pride career. Sure, Herring, Randleman and Cro Cop had their moments, but Fujita was like…this close to finishing Fedor. And even then, Fedor STILL destroyed him a few seconds later. The man is truly something else.

Mirko Cro Cop vs Heath Herring

This was Cro Cop’s first fight under full Pride rules, and also his first against a proven top-level heavyweight, so the announcers discuss how he’ll probably be ranked in the top ten if he gets past Heath. Herring for his part looks in phenomenal shape, probably the best I’ve ever seen him in I think. Both guys look pumped for this one.

They begin and Herring comes charging in for a takedown, but Cro Cop avoids him, sidestepping and dancing around him like a matador avoiding a charging bull. Herring attempts a front kick, and Mirko shoves him right down to his back, and then waves him up when Herring tries to initiate a ground fight. Herring shoots in, but Mirko shoves him aside again matador-style, and waves him up once more. Heath comes forward and lands a nice leg kick, before blocking the deadly left high kick of Cro Cop. Herring continues to press, but he seems too edgy, and telegraphs a shot, with Cro Cop showing an excellent sprawl and scramble into a front facelock. Mirko lands a couple of knees to the head as Heath looks to block, and finally escapes to standing, where Mirko lands a clipping high kick. Herring comes in for another takedown attempt, but again Cro Cop hits a perfect sprawl, and waves Heath up as he goes to his back. Herring tries the takedown once more, but again Mirko avoids, and this time when he waves Heath back up, he NAILS him with a BIG LEFT KICK TO THE BODY. Herring steps back with a look on his face like ‘What the hell have you just done?’, and then CRUMPLES, and Cro Cop follows up with a flurry on the ground for the stoppage! We get some replays of the kick, and boy, did that look painful.

Really impressive performance from Mirko and it was the one that catapulted him into the upper echelon of the HW rankings, but really for his part, Herring came out with a horrible gameplan, as he looked nervous and edgy throughout, which caused him to telegraph everything he was doing. He didn’t set up his takedown attempts with any strikes, choosing instead to charge forward wildly, making it relatively easy for Cro Cop to avoid the shots, and this meant that it was probably only a matter of time before Mirko caught him with a fight-ending strike. As a Herring fan I’d like to think a rematch would look different, but in reality Mirko is probably the worst matchup possible for Heath. Still, an entertaining fight with ANOTHER finish due to a bodyshot!

-Video packages on Frye and Coleman are shown, as Frye’s brought in Frank Shamrock to help him train for the fight. This one’s been seven years in the making, remember, as up to this point Frye only had two losses, one to Coleman and one to Yoshida. Coleman promises that the outcome will remain the same as the original.

Mark Coleman vs Don Frye

Frye gets a MONSTROUS pop coming out for the fight, playing the crowd like he’s Russell Crowe in Gladiator or something. Coleman gets a decent reaction too. Good staredown between the two, albeit not on Frye/Shamrock levels (but what could be?).

They begin and Frye presses, but Coleman swings a left hook out, then shoots in for the takedown. Frye blocks well and grabs a front facelock, landing a couple of knees to the head as Coleman continues to try to get it to the mat. They go up into the full over/under clinch, where Frye works the body, but the fight is definitely at a slow pace even compared to Frye’s fight with Shamrock. The official breaks them up, and they restart, where Coleman lands the left hook as Frye comes forward, and then gets the takedown to guard. Coleman stacks up and works the body and head with some slow ground-and-pound, landing some decent shots but doing no real damage. It looks like he’s trying to conserve his energy. Into half-guard, and Coleman gets full mount momentarily, but Frye reverses and goes for a single leg. Coleman blocks and elbows the body, then manages to pull Frye over, and they end up back in Don’s guard. Coleman continues the show ground-and-pound to end the round.

Into the 2nd, and Frye presses, but Coleman shoots in for a takedown again. Frye tries to hook in a guillotine to block, but Coleman keeps coming, and gets the takedown into side mount. He works the body, as Frye lands some knees from the bottom, using his arm to block Coleman from getting into north/south. Frye tries a unique tactic of clamping his hand over Coleman’s mouth and nose to make him struggle for oxygen, but Coleman easily gets out and manoeuvres into north/south. He lands some knees to the head, nothing really brutal though, and continues to work the knees to end the round. Coleman seems to be dominating in terms of position, but he’s clearly worried about his cardio so he’s fighting very conservatively.

Third and final round, and Frye presses, but Coleman clinches and then changes levels, getting a takedown into side mount. He lands some knees to the body, and then gets a full mount, as Frye realizes he’s in trouble and holds on. Coleman lands some chopping punches from the top, and Frye’s face looks marked up at this point. Coleman leans forward, trying a variant of a smother choke, but he can’t get it completely on, so he gives up and lands some nice shots from the top, finally opening up with some heavy punches that really bruise Frye’s face up. Coleman continues to work from the top with punches to end the fight.

We’re going to the judges, and Coleman picks up the clear decision victory. Post-fight Coleman gets on the mic, and says he’s only halfway back, but he’ll keep working hard to improve and promises to get his HW title back.

The more things change, the more they stay the same I guess, as the fight played out pretty much like the first one, with Frye unable to gain any sort of positional advantage over Coleman. The difference here was that Coleman was uber-conservative with his offense, clearly worried about using all his energy, and it sadly made for a slow-paced, boring fight for the most part. Not the most upbeat way to end the show, that’s for sure.

Final Thoughts…

Pride 26 is a solid show, not on the levels of Pride 25, but then what could be? Fight of the night honours belong to Fedor/Fujita, which is a really exciting fight with a surprising turnout, especially with everyone and their dog seemingly thinking it would be a one-sided massacre. A lot of the fights are one-sided, but most of them are entertaining enough, especially Cro Cop/Herring, which is somewhat of a coming out party for Mirko, and if you’re into Cro Cop you’ll absolutely love it. Coleman/Frye is a really disappointing fight to end the show with though, and I’d have to say that unless you’re a huge fan of Coleman, it’s not really worth a watch. Recommended show, but unless you’re a Coleman mark, stop the DVD after Cro Cop/Herring.

Coming Soon…

Pride: 27, 28 and Bushido 9.

UFC: 55 and 56.

Cage Rage: 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13 and 14.

WFA: 1, 2 and 3.

King of the Cage: 18, 23, 30 and 32.

IFC: Shogun

The Very Best Fights in TKO History

Best of Shooto 2003 vols. 1 & 2.

Until next time,

Scott Newman:

OratoryNewman@gmail.com