MMA Review: #72: Pride 25: Body Blow Dec29

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MMA Review: #72: Pride 25: Body Blow

Pride 25: Body Blow

03/16/03

Yokohama, Japan

-Your hosts are Stephen Quadros and Bas Rutten. You don’t know how weird it’ll be to never type that again once I reach Pride 27 – even weirder now both of them are gone from Pride. They hype the two huge matches of Fedor/Nogueira and Rampage/Randleman, and run down the card.

Kazuhiro Nakamura vs Antonio Rogerio Nogueira

I love Lil’ Nog almost as much as his brother, so excuse any biases here. This was actually Nakamura’s MMA debut as well as his debut in Pride, continuing with the trend of Pride bringing in random judokas for their MMA debut. Hidehiko Yoshida corners him, but unlike his trainer he takes his gi off pre-fight.

They get underway and Nakamura eats some knees as he tries to clinch, but finally he secures Nog and gets a nice belly-to-belly throw, down to Nogueira’s guard. Nakamura stands momentarily and takes a couple of kicks at Nog’s legs, then goes back down into the guard, where Nogueira tries an oma plata that Nakamura avoids by standing. Back into the guard, and Nogueira works for a triangle, then transitions for the oma plata, but Nakamura stands out again and the official calls Nog back to his feet. They restart and Nogueira lands a crisp one-two, and then blocks a takedown, landing a knee. Nakamura goes for the takedown once more, but this time Nogueira changes levels and gets his own takedown into Nakamura’s guard. Nog passes into half-guard and works the body, but Nakamura then reverses over and avoids a leglock, getting back to his feet. He goes right back into the guard, narrowly avoiding a triangle again, and then unleashes his first real offensive, landing a flurry of lefts, but this opens him up and Nogueira tries an oma plata/toehold combinaton (ala Rodrigo Nogueira vs. Enson Inoue).

Nakamura manages to slip out of that too, and stands again, but immediately goes back into the guard, where he gives up the triangle choke AGAIN, this time using a short slam to get out. Clearly Yoshida didn’t tell him not to let Nogueira clear his shoulder. Nogueira lands an upkick and gets the triangle again, but once more Nakamura manages to escape. Nogueira now tries an armbar, constantly attacking from the guard, as Nakamura avoids, but only lands some short, chopping strikes. They come back to standing to end the round, where Nogueira avoids a takedown.

Into the 2nd, and Nogueira opens by looking to strike, but Nakamura shoots in for a takedown. Nogueira blocks, and gets on top, only for Nakamura to pull out an excellent reversal and take top position himself. Nogueira gets full guard, so Nakamura stands up and invites Nogueira to join him. Nakamura clinches again, but Nogueira breaks, and blocks the following takedown, so Nakamura pulls guard to get it to the ground instead. Nogueira immediately works from the top, landing some good punches. He works to pass the guard, and does, taking Nakamura’s back, before floating over into a BEAUTIFUL straight armbar for the tapout.

Really great ground-based fight to open the show, as Nogueira pretty much dominated the entire fight, even when Nakamura had him on the bottom. Nakamura showed some excellent escapes, but he consistently gave up the triangle when he was on top, and thanks to Nogueira’s hyperactive guard, was unable to mount any real offense from the top either. Still, it was a decent debut from him and he’s improved leaps and bounds since. The finish was simply a work of art, showing again why Nogueira is, like his brother, the most dangerous submission artist in his weight class.

Akira Shoji vs Alex Stiebling

Pre-fight Stiebling explains that while he’s known in Japan as the ‘Fighting Brad Pitt’, his teammates have nicknamed him the ‘Fighting Al Bundy’ due to his love of watching TV with his hands down his pants. You’ve gotta love Stiebling. Both of these guys were looking for a win following a pair of nasty losses in their last Pride appearances.

They exchange low kicks and some feeler strikes to open the 1st, before going into the clinch where Shoji gets a nice inside trip down to guard. He works to pass, getting into half-guard, and then side mount. Shoji tries to crucifix the arms to land some punches, but Stiebling avoids, and works to get full guard back. Shoji gets right back into half-guard and then into the north/south position, but Stiebling blocks the knees well and works back into half-guard. Stiebling gets full guard back as the action really slows for a while, with Shoji landing some short strikes as Stiebling blocks his attempts to pass guard. Finally Shoji gets into a side mount, trapping Stiebling’s arm and landing some nice punches, but Stiebling manages to reverse and they come back up into the clinch to end the round.

Into the 2nd, and Stiebling works the left jab to open, stunning Shoji with a hard right hand in a brief exchange. Stiebling continues to work some nice standing combinations, clearly getting the better of Shoji, but they go into a shootout, and Shoji DECKS HIM WITH A RIGHT! Shoji pounds away into side mount as Stiebling desperately tries to get his guard back, but Shoji continues to land and mounts him. Shoji tries to land from the mount, but Stiebling suddenly gets a reversal, and a mount of his own! It’s PAYBACK TIME as Stiebling pounds away, with Shoji looking out for a second, but he somehow holds on and gives his back instead, as Stiebling looks to secure a rear naked choke! It looks like he’s got it locked on, but he can’t close the deal, and changes tactic, landing some hard, unanswered punches to end the round, which in reality should’ve stopped the fight given that Shoji wasn’t really offering any defense.

Into the 3rd and final round, and Stiebling presses the action, working the left jab and solid, crisp combos as Shoji looks tired and unable to mount any offense. Stiebling continues to land the combos, looking for the finishing touch throughout the round, but he can’t end things, as Shoji simply looks too tired to really fight back. Shoji starts swinging for the fences towards the end, but Stiebling continues to land more, and cleaner shots, as the fight comes to an end.

We’re going to the judges, and the winner by split decision is…Shoji? C’mon, that’s a bogus decision if I ever saw one, especially with Pride’s system of judging. Granted, Shoji controlled the first round, but he did zero damage, and both came as close as one another to finishing it off in the 2nd. The third round though was completely one-sided as Stiebling picked Shoji apart standing, and as far as I was aware, Pride judges tend to favour the guy who finishes the strongest. Well, unless the other guy is a Japanese favourite I guess.

Anderson Silva vs Carlos Newton

Quadros hypes this up pre-fight as a dream match between the classic striker and the classic grappler, and I can’t blame him – I love both of these guys. Newton was coming off his submission of Pete Spratt in UFC, while Silva was coming off back-to-back wins in Pride over Stiebling and Alexander Otsuka.

They circle and exchange jabs to begin, before Newton gets a quick takedown to guard. He works to pass quickly, and does so, ending up in side mount. Newton works his way over into full mount, and then lands some punches. He looks for the armbar, and then tries a kimura instead, but Silva manages to work his way back to guard and uses a body triangle to keep Newton in tight. They grapple inside the guard and exchange some short strikes, but thanks to the body triangle Newton can’t work anything from distance, and the action slows down before the official calls for the stand-up, showing Silva the yellow card for good measure. Didn’t think that was really warranted, but ah well. They circle from the restart, with Silva looking for a chance to strike, and suddenly Silva comes forward and lands a HUGE FLYING KNEE!~! NEWTON IS OUT!~!

Holy shit, total highlight reel worthy KO there. Replays show that Silva threw the knee just as Newton ducked for a takedown, and that caused the top of Silva’s shin, rather than the knee, to strike his temple, knocking him into next week. Post-fight the announcers discuss the possibility of Silva fighting Dan Henderson at 185lbs, and it’s such a pity that that one never came off. Good fight with a ridiculously exciting ending.

Dan Henderson vs Shungo Oyama

Pre-fight Quadros interviews Henderson and talks about how he actually gained more than he lost in his submission loss to Rodrigo Nogueira on the last Pride show, as he put in a great performance against the best guy in almost two weight classes above him. Everyone pretty much agrees that Hendo should run through perennial whipping boy Oyama here.

They get underway and Hendo rocks him immediately with a big right hand, and they TRADE WILDLY as Henderson lands BOMBS and rocks Oyama silly. Oyama somehow survives, and tells Henderson to bring it on, as Hendo works the left low kick to set up the sledgehammer right, only for Oyama to come back and land a combination to stun him! Into the clinch, and Oyama gets a hip throw, but Hendo comes right back up and they trade into a clinch, where Hendo gets a takedown to side mount. Oyama ties him up from the bottom and then works his way back to his feet, but Henderson comes right forward with a SLEDGEHAMMER RIGHT TO THE CHIN, right into a HARD BODYSLAM and lands a flurry for the KO!~!

Well, it only lasted three and a half minutes, but I’ll be damned if that wasn’t one of the most exciting fights I’ve ever seen in MMA. Both guys just threw caution to the wind and went at it, and the end result was a crazy, exciting little war. When Henderson’s fighting like this, there’s very few people I’d rather watch.

-We get a plug for the Pride video game, as Quadros faces Renzo Gracie while Rutten tries to talk over the top. Pretty funny stuff and sometimes I wish they’d added Renzo as a third commentator during this period.

Nino ‘Elvis’ Schembri vs Kazushi Sakuraba

After taking a couple of vicious beatings at the hands of bigger fighters, and getting an uninspiring win over Gilles Arsene at Pride 23, Sakuraba was fully expected to run over Elvis Schembri, a smaller, BJJ-based fighter with little to no striking skill. As showman-like as ever, Sakuraba enters wearing TWO lucha masks and wielding nunchuka.

Sakuraba opens with a high kick, and clearly looks to strike, landing punches as Elvis looks nervous. Saku works the low kicks, before landing a flurry, avoiding an attempt by Schembri at jumping into guard. Elvis drops to his back, so Sakuraba kicks away at the legs until the official stands Elvis back up. Elvis comes forward and manages to get into a clinch, jumping into a standing guard in what is now known as the Koala position. Sakuraba works the body with some unanswered shots as Elvis hangs on, blood trickling from his nose at this point. Finally the official breaks things up and has a doctor check Schembri’s nose, but he’s okay to go and they restart, with Sakuraba continually working the leg kicks and landing another flurry. More of the same follows, as Elvis’s leg looks badly bruised at this point. Elvis finally tries to fire back, but Sakuraba rocks him badly in the exchange, and he backs away. Sakuraba comes forward with an attempt at a double overhand chop, but Elvis suddenly NAILS him with two Muay Thai knees as he comes in, dropping him to the mat, where Elvis pounds away with some flailing punches and a pair of soccer kicks for the stoppage! Ouch, talk about a bad break for Sakuraba. Naturally, Elvis celebrates like a madman.

Post-fight, replays reveal a blatant clash of heads as Elvis brought his head upwards from ducking a punch, cracking right into Sakuraba’s chin, but somehow the announcers don’t spot it and continue to talk about Elvis landing the knees from nowhere. Very, very unlucky break for Sakuraba as he was clearly on his way to an easy win at that point, although he’s since avenged the loss. Another exciting fight on the card though, which hasn’t really seen a slow fight thus far.

Quinton ‘Rampage’ Jackson vs Kevin Randleman

Pre-fight Jackson explains that he likes Randleman, but isn’t happy with his presence, as he wanted to be the only ‘token black’ in Pride. Both guys look ULTRA HYPED coming into this one, as the winner had apparently been promised a crack at Middleweight Champion Wanderlei Silva on the next show.

They get underway and Rampage gets a quick takedown, but they immediately pop right back up and go into the clinch, muscling for position. Rampage shows some incredible takedown defense, blocking any attempt by Randleman at getting it to the mat, and landing knees for good measure. The official breaks things up, and Randleman comes forward with an overhand left that Rampage deflects with his forearms, before giving Randleman a smile. He deflects another combo, then blocks an attempt at a single leg, into the clinch where they muscle for position until the official breaks them again. Restart and they go right back into the clinch, where Rampage continues to block the takedown and works knees to the body. Rampage breaks it off with a right hand, and Randleman answers with a left, before Rampage blocks another takedown attempt well. Into the clinch, and they muscle for position again before the official breaks them once more. They go right back into the clinch and Rampage blocks another attempt at a takedown, and this time the official breaks them and shows both guys yellow cards.

They pick up the pace now, with both landing stiff jabs, and go back to the clinch, but this time Rampage lands a BIG KNEE TO THE HEAD, and follows with a HEAVY RIGHT UPPERCUT and a left hook that sends Randleman crashing to the canvas! Rampage leaps on him and gets full mount, and as Randleman tries to hang on, Rampage bombs on him with some heavy punches for the stoppage. Great finish to a somewhat uneventful fight, but I’m not really complaining – the finish came from nowhere and more than made up for the excessive clinching beforehand.

Post-fight Rampage gets on the mic and challenges Wanderlei Silva, who decides to answer the challenge RIGHT NOW by stepping into the ring and getting into a shoving match with Jackson. A crazy, pull-apart fracas follows, setting up a rivalry that would ignite Pride’s Middleweight division for the following year and half. And as if THAT wasn’t enough on this show…

Pride Heavyweight Title: Fedor Emelianenko vs Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira

…we’ve now got the Heavyweight Title fight between two of the best pound-for-pound fighters in the world. Both competitors come out to their personalized entrance themes, and we get an extended introduction with both the Russian and Brazilian national anthems playing, as it’s a title fight and all. For probably the last time in his fighting career, Fedor was actually coming into this one as the underdog, despite smashing Heath Herring in his last fight, as Nogueira had looked practically unbeatable for two years atop Pride’s HW division. As Quadros says pre-fight, this is a dream match.

We get underway, and Nogueira shoots in for the takedown immediately, but Fedor shows some sick balance, dropping to one knee but ultimately avoiding the takedown. Fedor suddenly comes forward with a BIG RIGHT HAND, stunning Nogueira, and they go down into Nogueira’s guard. Fedor lands some lefts from the top as Nogueira looks to control his wrists, ready to set up for his triangle choke. Fedor suddenly drops some big punches from the top, stunning Nogueira, but the champ stays calm and continues to look for a chance at a submission. Fedor works the position from the top, landing short, hard punches, avoiding a triangle attempt as he does so. Nogueira tries a kimura instead, but Fedor pulls out and they stop momentarily to fix a problem with Fedor’s glove. Fedor lands some more punches off the restart, avoiding another kimura. Nogueira tries it again, but Fedor pulls out and lands a big left hand. The Russian avoids some more submission attempts, continually landing from the top as they slowly move towards the corner of the ring. Nogueira goes for a triangle choke and it looks like he’s almost got it, but Fedor manages to escape once more, and follows by landing some HUGE BOMBS TO THE HEAD, bouncing Nog’s head off the mat like a football! Nogueira suddenly looks in DEEP TROUBLE as Fedor keeps bombing away, and Nog’s face is now badly swollen and bruised, with blood trickling down his right cheek and a fat lip. Nogueira tries the triangle choke again, but Fedor avoids and just continues to bring the pain with some more heavy punches. Finally Nogueira reverses somehow, getting on top in side mount, but as he tries to pass into full mount, Fedor reverses THAT and ends up back in Nogueira’s guard, where he lands some more punches. Nogueira lands an up-kick and looks to prep the triangle again, but the round ends there.

Between rounds the announcers talk about how nobody’s ever been able to survive in Nogueira’s guard, but Fedor did and was also able to score huge damage points. Both agree though that Fedor can’t stay in the guard for much longer, or it’s only a matter of time before he gets caught.

They begin the 2nd, and Nogueira tries a takedown, transitioning to a single leg attempt, but Fedor shows sick balance, avoiding both, so Nogueira simply drops to his back and goes to the guard. Fedor shows no fear and goes right into the guard, landing some heavy, chopping shots as Nog lands some of his own from the bottom. Nogueira tries to use a half-guard to escape from the bottom, but Fedor goes right back into full guard, avoiding a triangle attempt with ease, and landing some more hard punches. Fedor continues to land from the top, including two piledriver rights, simply sitting up to avoid any submission attempts from Nogueira, who looks completely lost for once. Suddenly Nogueira gets a nice sweep over to Fedor’s guard…but again the time runs out before he can do a thing. Oooh, bad break for Nog there.

Third and final round and time is slowly running out for Nogueira now, as Fedor gets a takedown to side mount. Nogueira gets his guard back quickly, but eats another right hand in the process. Nogueira almost gets an oma plata, then desperately grabs at Fedor’s leg, but the Russian pulls out before Nogueira can even attempt a sub. Fedor re-enters the guard, and lands some more shots as Nogueira looks to reverse. Nog goes for the leg again, but Fedor pulls out once more and then goes right back into the guard. He continues to work from the top, avoiding a triangle with ease once more. Nogueira’s face is a MESS as he seems unable to do a thing, and Fedor continues to land shots to end the round and the fight.

Post-fight Nogueira looks like a completely broken man, as Mario Sperry comforts him like a parent hugging a child. We go to the judges, where Fedor gets the clear decision victory, crowning him the NEW Pride Heavyweight Champion. Despite being a one-sided, dominating victory for Fedor, this was still one of the most, if not THE most epic heavyweight fight you’ll ever see, as up to this point, whatever trouble he’d been in (see the Sapp fight for instance), Nogueira had always been able to pull something out of the bag to get the win, but here, he was completely unable to solve the riddle of Fedor, who simply sat in the firing line – Nogueira’s guard – and landed bomb after bomb while avoiding any submission the champion attempted. This was truly the passing of the guard, as the greatest heavyweight that MMA had ever seen up to this point was beaten mercilessly by probably the most complete fighter in the sport’s history. An adequate fight to top off this card.

-We end with a recap of the Rampage/Silva fracas, plugging Pride 26 for June.

Final Thoughts…

I’ve called this the greatest MMA show I’ve ever seen in the past, and I still think that holds true. Final Conflict 2003 is perhaps better for the sheer drama of the Grand Prix finals, but in terms of a top-to-bottom card, you simply won’t find a better show than this. There’s not one fight that I’d even be able to call ‘slow’ in good conscience, and while other classics like UFC 40 (too many one-sided fights), UFC 49 (nothing of real historical significance) and Critical Countdown 2004 (a couple of slow fights) have their flaws, this show has practically none. You’ve got slick groundwork, incredible highlight reel KOs, standing shootouts, mad comebacks, and probably the most epic title fight you’ll ever find from Pride. This is MMA’s equivalent to Wrestlemania X7 – find a copy at all costs. Highest recommendation possible.

Coming Soon…

Pride: 26, 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