MMA Review: #47: Pride 23: Championship Chaos II May03


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MMA Review: #47: Pride 23: Championship Chaos II

Pride 23: Championship Chaos II


Tokyo, Japan

-Your hosts are Stephen Quadros and Bas Rutten, and we open with a skit involving Bas betting on some Japanese horse racing despite not being able to read Japanese, and losing Don Frye some money. Wouldn’t recommend that, I don’t think. They run down the card, highlighted by the Silva/Kanehara title match, and the HW elimination fight between Fedor and Herring.

-Into the arena for the fighter introduction, and the only notable thing really is Don Frye entering wearing a Judo gi, as he’s fighting Yoshida tonight.

Hirotaka Yokoi vs Jerrel Venetiaan

This was Yokoi’s debut in the Pride organization, while Dutch K1 champ Venetiaan was making his return following his victory over Matsui at the Shockwave show. Venetiaan actually stares Yokoi down in his own corner, which is something I’ve never seen before. Yokoi isn’t impressed.

They circle to open and Yokoi gets a quick takedown to half-guard. He quickly moves into side mount and lands some knees to the body, then gets into the 69 position for some more knees, but Venetiaan gets the half-guard back. Yokoi tries a kimura, but Venetiaan blocks, so he passes into a full mount instead. Venetiaan gets the half-guard back, but Yokoi quickly mounts again, and lands a flurry of punches as Venetiaan covers up. Venetiaan almost bucks him off, but ends up back in the half-guard instead before Yokoi passes into a side mount, and then the full mount again for some more pounding. Venetiaan blocks some punches, so Yokoi goes back to the side mount and looks to prep an armbar, but Venetiaan manages to get back to half-guard. Yokoi mounts him AGAIN and looks for the armbar once more, but Venetiaan blocks again so Yokoi just punches him instead. Back to side mount, where Yokoi controls him for a while with no strikes, then goes back to the full mount. He starts to land some more punches, nothing heavy though, and then almost gets an armbar as the round ends.

Into the 2nd, and Yokoi blocks a high kick to begin things. Venetiaan tries a low kick, but Yokoi gets double underhooks, and takes him down to half-guard, then quickly mounts again. Yokoi lands some punches, then tries a kimura that Venetiaan blocks, as Yokoi switches to side mount. Yokoi tries an armbar, but Venetiaan manages a nice escape and stands, only for Yokoi to take him down again. Into side mount, and Venetiaan lands some knees from the bottom, but Yokoi mounts him again, and this time applies a textbook armbar for the tapout.

Not the most exciting opener, although Yokoi looked good. Venetiaan seemed lost on the ground, and couldn’t prevent Yokoi from gaining whatever position he wanted, and it was only a matter of time before it cost him the fight. Yokoi was impressive here, but after another impressive display in losing to Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira, he’s been a bit exposed in his last two Pride outings by Heath Herring and Mario Sperry, who both TKOd him with knees.

Kevin Randleman vs Kenichi Yamamoto

Pre-fight Randleman promises an exciting beatdown. This was coming off his horrible fight at Pride 22 with Ohara, so he was clearly desperate to put on a show for the fans. This Yamamoto isn’t the awful Yamamoto that was KOd by Cro Cop, et al (that’s Yoshihisa Yamamoto), but his record isn’t much better, with losses to numerous guys including Alexander Otsuka of all people.

Round 1 gets underway, and Randleman quickly grabs a front facelock, landing a knee before bringing Yamamoto down to side mount. He tries a neck crank, but can’t finish, and goes for a keylock instead, torquing the arm of Yamamoto badly. Yamamoto gets his head between his arm and Randleman’s arm though, preventing him from locking it out properly. Randleman abandons it and moves into the 69 position, where he holds him down and lands some punches to the body. Randleman uses a head and arm cradle to control him in a side mount, then tries the keylock again, but again can’t finish it off properly. He mounts instead, and tries the keylock from there, bending Yamamoto’s arm at a SICK angle, but Yamamoto manages to flip him over, and they come up to standing, where Randleman DECKS him with a hard left hook! Randleman goes down into half-guard and then jumps right into the side mount, looking for a keylock again, but he can’t get it on cleanly once more, and Yamamoto escapes. Randleman tries it again, but Yamamoto continues to block it, eating some knees to the body along the way, before managing to get full guard back to end the round. Randleman really should’ve finished him there.

Into the 2nd, and Yamamoto tries some kicks, but drops to his back for some reason and Randleman takes a side mount again, landing some hammer fists to the face. He holds Yamamoto’s arm down and lands some nice shots, then goes for the keylock, but Yamamoto escapes AGAIN and eats more hammerfists. Another keylock attempt follows, but Yamamoto manages to block it again. You’d have thought Randleman would learn by now. Randleman works the body, and then ties up the arms again to land some solid punches. Into the 69 position, and he drops a couple of nasty knees to the head before Yamamoto escapes, but Randleman gets a front facelock, and lands some knees to end up back in the side mount where the round ends.

Final round, and Randleman presses to open, throwing Yamamoto down into the side mount. Into the 69 position again, and Randleman finally opens up with some HUGE knee strikes, then LEAPS INTO THE AIR and lands some DOUBLE KNEE STRIKES TO THE HEAD!~! for the stoppage. Jesus, that was a hell of a finish there. Fight took Randleman way too long to end, as Yamamoto posed no threat, but once he decided to finish it, he really did finish things with one of the most brutal stoppages I’ve seen in Pride. Announcers talk about Randleman vs. Wanderlei Silva, a fight that never materialized.

Ricardo Arona vs Murilo Ninja Rua

This should be good. Pre-fight interviews play up on the huge Brazilian Top Team-Chute Boxe rivalry, with both guys promising to teach the other some respect. Staredown is intense as hell, too.

They get underway, and Ninja charges right out of the gates with a HUGE FLYING KNEE, but it only grazes Arona’s head, and Ricardo deflects it and puts him down into side mount. Ninja works back to his feet quickly, but they clinch and Arona trips him right back down to guard. Arona works to pass, and despite Ninja scrambling like crazy, gets into side mount. Ninja gets his guard back as Arona tries to pound, and keeps scrambling from the bottom before finally escaping to his feet. They exchange some knees standing, and Ninja sprawls into a front facelock, but Arona reverses into a rear waistlock and Ninja spins around into the clinch. They exchange some knees, but the official breaks them up. Arona lands a hard leg kick, and then ducks a punch, into the clinch where Ninja lands some good knees as they muscle for position. The official breaks them again, and they exchange some strikes before Arona gets a takedown to guard. Ninja tries some up kicks, but Arona spins right over and takes his back, going for a rear naked choke! Ninja rolls desperately, and manages to escape into Arona’s guard, peppering him with some strikes. He keeps busy, but does no real damage, and the official stands them back up and shows Arona the yellow card.

Into the clinch again, and Arona blocks a takedown, before the official breaks it up again. They restart and Ninja lands a good high kick, into a brief exchange, but Arona grabs him and bounces him off the ropes down into half-guard. Ninja gets full guard back, but Arona works away with some punches, and then drops back for an Achilles hold, almost finishing it off as the round comes to an end! Damn good opening round there.

They open the 2nd by pressing with some jabs, and Arona lands a hard low kick, and gets a trip to side mount. He almost mounts, but Ninja gets back to half-guard, where Arona works to pass. Ninja reverses him by sitting up and using a crotch lift, getting under and out, but Arona grabs a guillotine as they come up, and jumps into guard, looking for the finish. Ninja looks in trouble, but slowly works and manages to escape. Restart in the center of the ring in Arona’s guard, and they pepper each other with strikes, with Arona looking tired now. Ninja passes into half-guard and elbows the body, but Arona works to get full guard back. Arona pushes him off with his legs, and blocks a stomp attempt to end the round.

Into the final round, and Arona lands a hard leg kick, and then barely misses a beautiful Capoeira spin kick! They clinch and exchange some knees, muscling for position, before the official restarts them, and Arona gets a big takedown to guard. Arona works for position, and starts to land some good shots, then stands and NAILS him with a roundhouse kick to the head. They clinch and now Ninja tries a takedown, but Arona blocks and gets a big takedown of his own into half-guard. Arona smothers him, then takes Ninja’s back as he tries to scramble out. Ninja works and rolls back over into half-guard to end the fight.

We’re going to the judges, where Arona picks up the unanimous decision. No surprise there as Arona controlled Ninja nicely, and despite doing no real damage, got the better shots in and also had some good submission attempts. Really strong fight here, it did have some slow points, but overall the skill level was really high, and we saw some great exchanges. Post-fight the announcers talk about Arona vs. Silva, ANOTHER tough fight for Wanderlei that never materialized.

Fedor Emelianenko vs Heath Herring

Hard to believe that Herring was actually the huge favourite going into this one. Fedor’s only appearance before this was the uninspiring victory over Semmy Schilt, though. Heath’s hair is looking cool here, with red stripes at the back going into some black diamonds at the front, and he’s also looking in incredible shape, probably the best I’ve ever seen from him. Winner here gets Nogueira in a title fight down the road.

Round 1 begins, and Herring charges right out with a kick attempt, but Fedor catches it and slams him down to side mount. Herring scrambles and tries a kneebar, but Fedor avoids and ends up in Heath’s half-guard. Fedor stands, then passes through to a side mount, where he lands a couple of good lefts and a right as Herring gets his guard back. Fedor passes to side mount again, but Herring gets the guard back, so Fedor NAILS him with a HUGE RIGHT HAND, and Heath turtles up, looking hurt. Fedor pounds away with some VICIOUS lefts, and keeps hammering away as Herring tries to scramble away, but ends up back in the turtle position. Fedor keeps slugging away, as Herring rolls onto his back and then turtles up again. Fedor stands, then drops a HUGE PUNCH down onto Heath, who rolls through the ropes, desperately trying to avoid the onslaught. The official shows Heath the yellow card, then stops the fight to check a nasty cut under his left eye.

The doctors check the cut over, then they restart, and Heath throws some high kicks, but Fedor avoids, grabs him, and delivers a BIG GERMAN SUPLEX. Herring scrambles, trying to get on top, but Fedor sprawls back, causing Herring to roll over into guard, eating more punches along the way. Fedor lands some more hard lefts as Heath covers up, then passes into the full mount. Herring spins out nicely, but Fedor gets a side mount, landing a HUGE LEFT HAND. Herring turtles up and Fedor hammers away at him again, lord, this is getting horrific at this point. Herring rolls for a kneebar out of desperation, but Fedor avoids it easily and stands up, then goes back into Herring’s guard where he lands another big right. Fedor controls him with a headlock as he tries to escape, and passes into half-guard. Fedor tries a mount, but Herring blocks, so he opens up with punches again, nailing him with the right hands, and passing through the guard. Herring turtles up again, but then gets mounted. Heath manages to escape, but can’t stand up, and Fedor mounts him again, and pounds away. Fedor goes for a rear naked choke, but you CAN’T SUBMIT HEATH and he reverses into Fedor’s guard! Herring passes into the 69 position and starts landing some knees, as the crowd go APESHIT. Into a side mount and Herring opens up with some pounding of his own, then lands some more knees, but there’s blood EVERYWHERE at this point, all coming from Heath’s face. Round ends, and despite Herring seemingly having turned the tide, the doctors stop the fight for the damage done to his face, which is a serious mess.

This was an incredible beating, just scary stuff from Fedor. Herring up to this point had never been physically dominated (not even by Nogueira who controlled him and had a lot of sub attempts, not damage), but Fedor threw him around like a rag doll, and pounded on him until his face was practically mush. Part of me wishes that he hadn’t done *so* much damage as it looked like he was a bit gassed towards the end, and the 2nd round would’ve been interesting, but I think the doctors made the right call. Probably the most vicious showing of ground and pound I’ve ever seen. This fight is a must-see for anyone who doesn’t understand why Fedor is the scariest man alive.

Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira vs Semmy Schilt

Originally this was going to be a title shot for Semmy, but he lost to Fedor at Pride 21 so they jettisoned that and made it non-title instead. Schilt was the second ‘giant’ that Nogueira was hoping to overcome, after defeating Bob Sapp in his last outing.

Round 1, and Nog shoots in to begin, and drops to his back as Schilt avoids. Back up, and Schilt tries a front kick, but Nogueira catches it and goes for the takedown, with Schilt defending it surprisingly well. They clinch and exchange some knees, and Nog pulls guard, but Schilt blocks a sweep attempt and stands back up. Schilt lands a left kick, and Nog attempts a single leg, but Schilt ends up mounting him. Nogueira escapes quickly and avoids a soccer kick as he stands. Semmy throws some kicks, but Nog lands some crisp jabs, and then finally gets the takedown to guard, passing to half-guard quickly. Into a side mount, and Nog lands some punches, then works over for the full mount. Schilt tries to buck him off, but can’t, so Nog works with some punches, and then in one of the most beautiful submissions I’ve ever seen, fakes an armbar, causing Schilt to turn…right into Nog’s favourite triangle choke, and Nogueira tightens it up to avoid a powerbomb. Schilt taps out swiftly.

This looked like it was going to be tough for Nogueira, but once he got it to the ground, it was business as usual, and the finish was another incredible show of skill from him. There’s so much you can learn about submission from just watching Nogueira fights that it’s ridiculous. Exciting, short fight.

Wanderlei Silva vs Hiromitsu Kanehara

This is a title match, incredibly, given that Kanehara was making his debut in Pride and was only carrying a record of 10-7-1. Ah well, that’s Pride’s matchmaking for you. Typical Silva intense staredown before the fight.

They begin and exchange some wild punches, with Silva rocking him immediately, before DROPPING him with a hard left high kick. Silva tries to pound inside the guard, then stands, and Kanehara follows. Kanehara presses, but Silva gets a takedown to half-guard and works to pass, then stands back up, and the official stands Kanehara too. Kanehara presses and they exchange again, with Silva dropping him with a vicious left hook this time. Wanderlei pounds away in the guard, then stands and waves him back up. Kanehara tries a takedown, but Silva blocks and lands a soccer kick, putting Kanehara on his back. Silva waves him up again, then drops him with another combo, and pounds away, before standing and landing a soccer kick and a SICK STOMP TO THE HEAD as the towel comes in from Kanehara’s corner.

Nasty business as usual from Silva, as it was clear that Kanehara didn’t belong in the same ring as him, and Silva made that clear with this beating. Entertaining, as is the norm with Silva vs. Random Japanese Fighter, but really these guys shouldn’t be fighting him in the first place.

Hidehiko Yoshida vs Don Frye

This was Yoshida’s debut under full MMA rules, as his only Pride appearance up to this point was the controversial ‘win’ over Royce Gracie. Pre-fight, Frye promises to break Yoshida’s arm. Frye actually enters wearing a gi top here, but removes it before the fight starts.

They begin and Yoshida immediately shoots in, and gets a takedown to guard, trying the head and arm choke that he used on Gracie. Frye escapes, but Yoshida takes his back and tries a gi choke, working for it for a while, but Frye somehow manages to escape into Yoshida’s half-guard. Frye works the body as Yoshida holds on to close the distance, and then gets his full guard back. Yoshida tries an armbar, and Frye attempts to roll out, but instead worsens his position, and Yoshida has it extended perfectly. Frye refuses to tap out, so the official comes in for the stoppage.

Surprisingly dominant performance from Yoshida, as even though Frye was coming to the end of his career here, he’s still a dangerous fighter and Yoshida did a great job of completely dominating him en route to the stoppage. The ending was a little strange, but Frye’s ridiculously tough, and it doesn’t surprise me that he didn’t tap out, even to a completely extended armbar.

Kazushi Sakuraba vs Gilles Arsene

After Sakuraba’s nasty losses at the hands of Wanderlei Silva and Mirko Cro Cop (as well as a bruising battle against Quinton Jackson), Pride were looking to feed him somewhat of an easier opponent here, and they came out with French jiu-jitsu fighter Gilles Arsene. Announcers know pretty much nothing about Arsene, other than he’s a primarily jiu-jitsu guy. This fight is pretty infamous on the MMA message boards, so let’s see how bad it is…

Round 1 begins, and they press with some strikes from distance with Sakuraba looking most comfortable. Sakuraba finally steps inside and opens up with a combo, and Arsene…bends forward and covers up in a panic. Good God. Arsene finally drops to his back and Sakuraba holds him in half-guard, then passes to side mount, where he slaps him a few times. Sakuraba manoeuvres into the 69, then back to the side mount for some more slaps, as Arsene just lays there, no attempt at improving position, no sub attempts, nothing. Action really slows up as Sakuraba does nothing but tap him a few times, seemingly toying with him as there’s tons of submission opportunities, and yet he tries nothing. Round, after seeming like an age, finally ends with Sakuraba in side mount.

Into the 2nd, and Arsene comes out throwing some crude hooks, but as soon as Sakuraba starts punching again, he leans forward and covers up in horror. This is seriously pathetic. Arsene pulls guard, but only gets a half-guard and Sakuraba passes into the side mount and holds him again, landing more pointless taps. The armbar or kimura are WIDE OPEN here, but Sakuraba just lands some short punches to the face, causing Arsene to cover up in panic again. Arsene finally tries to escape, but can only make it to a front facelock and back into the side mount, and the round ends there. Rutten and Quadros are quite disgusted at this point, saying that if Sakuraba doesn’t finish this guy, it’ll harm his reputation badly. They even go as far as comparing Arsene with Michiyoshi Ohara, and you KNOW you’re doing a bad job if you get compared to that lump.

Third and final round, and Sakuraba drops him with a weak right hand, then lands some Mongolian chops on the mat. I can’t believe that punch actually dropped this guy. Sakuraba mounts him as Arsene covers up in horror, but Saku only lands some slaps, then FINALLY finishes him off with a simple armbar. Why he waited until Round 3 to do it, I don’t know.

Awful, awful main event. Arsene clearly had no idea how to fight, and seemingly had never taken a punch before – despite the announcers claiming Jerome Le Banner was his kickboxing trainer. Worse still, unlike some clueless fighters in the past (Takayama for example), Arsene had no intentions of actually trying to put up a fight. Instead he was content to cover up to avoid any strikes, and laid there without even attempting a reversal. Why Sakuraba didn’t try to finish him off in the first round, I have no idea. I’d put him at fault almost as much as Arsene for the debacle, as he seemed more content with toying with his opponent than putting on a show for the fans, which is surprising given Sakuraba’s nature.

Final Thoughts…

Awful main event notwithstanding, this card is really strong. There’s no real bad fight here as such, and Arona/Ninja, Fedor/Herring, and Nogueira/Schilt are definitely worth going out of your way to see. Nothing else on the card is essential though, so I’m not going to recommend this show very highly unless you’re a huge fan of Fedor, or enjoy seeing Wanderlei Silva squash useless Japanese fighters. If you do pick up this show…switch off before the main event, unless you’re looking for a way to defeat insomnia.

Coming Soon…

Pride: 24, 25, 26, and Bushido 4, 5 and 6.

UFC: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, and 52.

Cage Rage: 7, 8, 9 and 10.

IFC Global Domination: LHW tournament including Renato Babalu, Jeremy Horn, Mauricio Shogun and Forrest Griffin.

Until next time,

Scott Newman: